One of the mantras in the modern day marketing and public relations world is “Ship it now!” and its variants, based on the idea that a good idea in production is better than the perfect idea never produced. There is absolute truth to the idea that best is the enemy of good and that great ideas often die in committee, becoming watered down, mediocre ideas in the process.
However, as with all things, there must be balance, and the current environment for brands indicates a certain lack of balance leaning towards “ship the half-baked as long as it ships”. There have been a spate of high profile half-baked goods on the market, from automotive ads depicting attempted suicide to soda ads that leverage naked misogyny and racism to bestiality. All of these have one thing in common, besides patent offensiveness: all of these could have and should have been killed long before they reached the public audience.
While it’s impossible to know all of the conversations that led to these brand-damaging content pieces being released, one of the steps that went missing was clearly qualitative research: showing these ads to a test market and seeking their honest feedback. It’s difficult to imagine a properly run focus group not flagging any of these ads as offensive. My guess is that the testing phase was simply skipped in order to get to market as fast as possible, to ship, ship, ship.
Here’s a simple tip that can help you leverage the different partners you work with: the next time your ad agency comes up with a new campaign, before you go live with it, send it to your PR agency for feedback (especially since they’ll be the ones cleaning up the brand damage). Likewise, when your PR agency comes to you with the latest idea for a PR stunt, toss it over the fence to your ad agency and get some feedback about how it could be improved or tied into a concurrent ad campaign. Leverage the power of all of your partners to work on your behalf, to protect your brand equity, and to create positive impact. Ideally, get everyone sitting at the same table as frequently as resources permit so that you can get the maximum number of good ideas and smart people in the same room at once.
Bake something too long and it becomes an inedible brick.
Bake some halfway and it may be harmful to your health.
Bake an idea for too long and it’s unusable.
Bake an idea insufficiently and it can destroy your brand’s equity and adversely affect your bottom line.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Strategy