Ideas vs Activity

What drives better results? A great concept or a higher volume of activity? This is how you decide where to focus your energy.

This isn't your first rodeo.

Most of you, as experienced brand managers, have an idea of what will move the needle in the right direction for your company. But if you're like most of your peers, you'll probably need to make some tough decisions because budget limitations and sheer capacity are a powerful force.

Even if additional resources are required to make it happen, generally, you enter the quarter knowing at a high level what marketing objective or action item will make the difference. In order to have the most impact, you'll need to focus on the right things. So, how do you identify where to start first?

I like to start with a problem statement first so you know what you are trying to solve. Take a look at the following common challenges and the comments we hear from brand managers like you. Perhaps you can identify with one of them.

  • You need to bring your brand up to date. "We want to be more relevant to the times so we can have more impact."
  • You need a groundbreaking message. "If we do better at telling our story, we'll win more business."
  • You need to step up marketing activity to drive leads. "We need to go where our customers are, with more frequency, and start driving sales activity."

More than anything, you're looking for results, so how do you get the most out of your marketing communications investments? Do you need to invest in your brand image, develop your message, or increase your marketing activity?

You may have an answer for today that is unique to your current situation, but the global answer is simple. You need them all. But we all understand budgets and time constraints. You have to choose where to apply the most pressure. In today's newsletter, I'm going to talk about the role of each of these pillars of your marketing ecosystem to help you frame when to focus on what.


Your brand, for our purposes, is your identity. Customers identify you with basic information and visual cues. A brand can help identify you as the choice of a new generation or as grandpa's choice.

A smart investment in your brand will set you apart from other options. But a brand initiative also has the power to be completely overlooked. When a branding agency presents a killer logo in the forest, and no one's there to ask them to make it bigger, did the designer really make a sound?

That's a joke, but there's an important lesson there. Sometimes, brand managers – and, without question, their agencies – put so much emphasis on the brand that they create the most beautiful secrets in the world. These are ideas without activity.

You don't want to be a beautiful secret. You also don't want to be well known for the wrong things either. When you understand the problem, you'll know what to do next.

  • Are we a beautiful secret?
  • Are we known for the wrong things?
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Marketing campaigns are all about getting in front of customers. Your brand probably sells itself, so if we get it in front of the right people, everything will be great, right?

Not always.

Talk is cheap, especially if you don't have anything worth saying. But even cheap talk gets expensive when you start putting your ad budget behind it. That's why activating a marketing campaign needs a message first. Marketing without the right message is activity without ideas.

It's important to take the time to understand your customers and what matters to them. Then, you can build messaging around that. But don't start the campaign too quickly. Let's not start talking until we know what needs to be said.

  • What does your customer need?
  • What matters to them?
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Now, you've taken the time to identify some of the challenges you face as you manage your brand.

Frequency is critical in marketing. Getting your name in front of more customers tends to increase sales because of awareness alone. It's known as a numbers game, but you need to do it right. You need a great idea to get market attention, but great ideas won't get attention if they're alone in the forest, so you'll need the right activity to connect with your customers. It's time to start putting your message to work.

What you'll find is that an active marketing campaign starts to reveal all the flaws of your ideas. They reveal where you need to make updates. Is that design feature hard to read in a real-life setting? Is your message getting a different response than you expected?

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Activity is how you test your ideas. Now, it's time to get back to working on them.

When you put your big ideas to the test, start making changes to stretch, expand, and strengthen your message. But don't let those ideas sit in the research and development phase. Get them out into the world so you can make them better.

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