Pain is a given. Pain relief is a choice. Identifying the source of pain in advertising is often determined by the role of the decision-maker rather than the brand he/she represents. While pain is generally traced to sagging brand Sales or Awareness, the agency that sees the pain through the lens of the decision-maker will effectively guide the planned SOLUTION.
“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain” – Aristotle
Examples of pain levels by decision-making role (0-10, lowest to highest):
- The Veteran Business Owner: Pain level is 0-2. This person has had success and earned money for generations. Of course, the owner wants to continue to make money and grow, but the lifestyle is not jeopardized if he/she doesn’t. This mindset may be more driven by ego and pride – keep the brand going, keep it relevant, just don’t make me look bad. The agency’s opportunity will come in freshening the brand to appeal to new opportunity target segments or introducing new technology/capabilities into the beloved name, without threatening the owner’s pride, nostalgia, and reputation.
- The Chief Marketing Officer: Pain level is 2-4. With “CMO” added to his/her resume, this person is officially a hired gun for rent. They may want to stay at their current employer with superior pay, culture, locale, or benefits, but they are confident another stellar job will come if this one doesn’t work out. However, at each stop, they want to make a mark, put a stamp on the brand that proves their time there was valuable and unique. The agency’s opportunity will come in helping guide that uniqueness – a new product, strategy, or metric that registers with the Board of Directors and makes for good presentations.
- The New Business Owner: Pain level is 4-7. This person may be protected by investors for “honeymoon period,” but make no mistake – they want to gain market share in short order. The introductory budget may be infused, but it will need quick ROI to earn trust. Whether family money, outside investor money, or bank-loaned money, the onus will be the owner’s soon enough. Impatience will rule, as expense grows and customers consider the new brand. The agency’s opportunity lies in patient-but-measurable planning. Expectations must be managed, but set to produce results. Just as this person’s pain level peaks, the ad plan should be optimizing to acceptance by lucrative customers, and future investment.
- The Brand/Ad Manager: Pain level is 7-10. This person is usually on a short leash and knows it. They are filling a “necessary evil” role to manage messaging, goals, budgets, etc., but rarely has a say in the determination of any. Tasked with leading ad plans they didn’t originate, they are often the liaison between one of the positions above and the agency. This person is expected to think like either side, and if he/she does not, the role is immediately challenged, “what are we paying you for?” The agency’s opportunity comes in lifting this person to prominence, educating why the plan will work, showing how to measure it, and letting them own it from an internal perspective. Now, he/she is not threatened, can advocate the plan as a leader to superiors, and be recognized for its success.
Of course, the agency has to provide a plan that achieves the given goal, no matter the decision-maker. The client-agency partnership that understands the source of the ever-present pain, and works a plan to alleviate it from that perspective, is the one that works.