I was in Italy in the middle of summer, and it was hot.
The Italian fashion brand I was meeting up with had gotten this idea that it would be great to add some “digital marketing” for their re-launch of their most iconic product ever. The problem was just that the launch was less than a week away. I wanted to help them get the word out, but how?
There wasn’t enough time to create any fancy campaigns, so I proposed another strategy:
“In all digital channels at your disposal, for four consecutive weeks, you won’t talk about anything except for the re-launched product.”
Not a single tweet, not a single post on Instagram, not a single press release, not a single interview with the media, not a single blog post, not a single Facebook update, not a single live event, not a single influencer activation, absolutely nothing went live during these four weeks unless it was about the product.
The regular marketing calendar had to be wiped clean and for four weeks the marketing team had to come up with whatever — as long as it was only about the product. We even added product messaging to each and every employee’s email signature. All regular brand messages were put on hold, which took quite some convincing on my part, all up until the end of those four weeks.
The real challenge, ironically, was to stop the brand from talking about the things they, according to the strategy, shouldn’t be talking about.
The strategy worked like a charm.
Without adding any specific online campaign activities, the message got through to their community, and people started talking and sharing about the brand’s iconic product again.
I’ve tried this approach many times since, and I call it the surround strategy.
“But won’t people get sick and tired of being exposed to the same message over and over again? And in every channel, no less? I know I would be.”
Yes and no.
Bombarding the target audience with the exact same message over and over again wouldn’t work.
However, the Italian fashion brand wasn’t sending out the exact same tweet five times a day for four weeks; it was always different types of updates with different images, different copy, and different call-to-actions. The only thing these updates had in common was that they all talked about the re-launch of their iconic product1.
The actual problem, it turns out, is that most online campaigns are too short. Due to algorithms and social graphs, the community simply has no chance to keep with the brand before the brand moves on to talking about something else.
The Surround Message
It’s often a creative challenge to put together so many variations of the surround message; especially if the brand haven’t tried this strategy before. But I’ve also seen how adding these types of constraint actually can spark even more creativity. It’s not useful to always think outside the box in communication — sometimes you have to add a box.
The difficult aspect of this strategy is, of course, to go dark on everything else!