brand, dark matter

In command and out of control as marketing strategy

In my last post, I talked about the idea that General Paul Van Riper called being “in command and out of control” as a corporate leadership strategy. But can you also apply the same principle as a marketing strategy?

A traditional marketing campaign usually looks something like this:

1. Build a campaign plan

2. Create campaign messages

3. Execute campaign

4. Track ROI, leads, sales directly driven by campaign

But what might an out of control marketing campaign look like?

1. Design a beautiful story

2. Repeat step 1 until it is really beautiful

3. Create a campaign seeding plan

4. Seed the campaign

5. Measure things that matter

I get so frustrated when I see marketing people spend tons and tons of time crafting a complex marketing campaign, only to think of the story itself as an afterthought. And if you are building a campaign that you want to see fly on its own, you have to have a compelling story.

Let’s look at a case study from a couple of years ago at Red Hat. We called this campaign “Real Technology Lessons” and it coincided with our Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 launch. The campaign started when one of my colleagues in the Product Management group called to say that he wanted to create a simple way to talk about the benefits of Enterprise Linux 5, and he didn’t want it to be the normal whitepaper/collateral kind of crap that most companies churn out.

Now that kind of project is music to my ears, when an internal customer comes with a gem of a problem like that and wants our help in solving it. Our team got to work and designed a very simple way to communicate the benefits of Enterprise Linux 5.

We actually based the idea on the old school filmstrips that they used to show all the time when I was in elementary school. Filmstrips rock. Then our designers took that idea out of the 20th century, developing a really simple “stick figure” look for the videos, and then writing a great piece of music to tie all the animations together. Next came the hard work.

As it turns out, the toughest part of these animations was taking the features and functionality of Enterprise Linux 5, and boiling each benefit down into around 30 seconds with a very tangible benefit. The editing down of the text while telling the story through the illustrations and the voice over at the same time is one of my favorite examples of simplifying a message that Red Hat has done.

realtechmetricsSo how did the campaign do? We ended up making about about 15 of these short animations (you can see them all here). The slide below reveals both our “in command” and “out of control” metrics.

The metrics that I find most interesting are the ones at the bottom. These are the ones that tell me we created stories with legs. I don’t know all of the places these videos have gone. I don’t know all of the places they have been posted and shown. I occasionally run into one with subtitles at the bottom that has been translated into another language. The truth is that I don’t know how far this campaign reached.

And I am OK with that.

We created compelling stories that explained what our product did in plain English. People liked them. They passed them on. Over and over. I still have people come up to me and tell me how much the like these things and how useful they have been with customers… almost 2 years after they were made!

If your stories suck, the best campaign planning in the world won’t get you the kind of legs we had with the Real Technology Lessons campaign.

So if you want to try to apply the idea of “in command and out of control” as a marketing strategy, focus on creating great stories first.

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.


One thought on “In command and out of control as marketing strategy

  1. good post, chris! i too have seen way too many “out of control” marketing managers who im pretty sure are functioning in a different planet. red hat was a good example to follow.

    Posted by new marketing strategies | May 9, 2011, 11:01 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Hey, I Wrote a Book!

The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World

Available now in print and electronic versions.

%d bloggers like this: