For every famous advertising campaign ever created, there was a visionary client who made it happen — a modern day patron in the pedigree of Lorenzo d’Medici.
The Renaissance was one of mankind’s most productive periods. That productivity — which includes some of our greatest achievements in art and science — would not have been possible without patrons like Lorenzo d’Medici who provided the vision and the finance to make it happen.
Admittedly, much of what patrons commissioned was motivated in large part by vanity. But a modern parallel can be made if you consider that brand marketing is simply a means to build one’s reputation.
To become famous by doing famous work.
By famous, I mean head-turning… trending… viral… category defining… category creating. I mean earned media and exposure that’s a multiplier of your media budget. I mean part of Jimmy Fallon’s monologue and the social lexicon.
“The computer for the rest of us.”
“We try harder.”
These are just a handful of campaigns that were so popular that they define a moment when “the consumer becomes the channel,” as Forrester Research succinctly puts it.
They are ideas of their time that captured something bigger and deeper than commerce — they captured something about consumers themselves. This quality is what separates marketing campaigns that are regarded with affection from those that are regarded as a nuisance.
It also separates an average CMO from a modern-day Medici.
It takes a Medici to do great work. Both financially and intellectually. Famous work that becomes iconic and shapes opinion cannot be made pairing a stock photo with a blunt headline that shouts out a parity benefit.
But this is exactly the type of messaging that permeates the internet. Why?
Most CMOs are in over their heads trying to allocate budgets across a decentralized media landscape that requires on-demand consumers to pull content into their social circles for your brand to achieve any reach. This explains why most marketers become locked into an endless series of automated, tactical campaigns relentlessly measured under the banner of “digital intelligence.”
But where’s the intelligence when open rate and click thru numbers are on par with direct marketing of the 80s?
Despite all the promise of digital tools, most marketers are closing their eyes and pulling the trigger, hoping to hit what seems like an elusive target.
If we are honest, the only real advancement on the last forty years is in how quickly we can measure performance. Little or no impact has been made on the content itself.
The fact is marketing efficacy can’t be solved on the Marketo or Pardot dashboard. If your brand isn’t saying something inspired — something proprietary or relevant in a provocative way — you’re probably going to struggle getting traction. Much less become famous.
Which brings us to the sad truth that, while most marketers want to succeed, few want to be famous.
If you’re in marketing and you don’t want to be famous, you’ve chosen the wrong career. If you’re an agency owner or creative, don’t fall into the pit of despair just yet. There are still visionary marketers out there capable of creating legendary brand campaigns:
Nike’s “Just Do It.”
Dove’s “Real Beauty.”
Melbourne Metro’s “Dumb Ways To Die.”
The Dollar Shave Club.
These famous campaigns, and others like them, can never be completely validated up front and always involve risk. For these campaigns to see the light of day, the CMO needs two things: vision and conviction. Both client and agency must roll the dice on something they believe is powerful. Something that elevates their product and gives it meaning in a larger context.
This is why the first question we ask a prospective client is:
“State the goal of your company, without using numbers or dollar signs.”
This simple question forces you to confront something deeper than forecasts and sales funnels. It forces you to articulate why you exist. And not for existential kicks, but because that’s what consumers, employees and investors need to know.
When you crystallize this, then it informs everything you do: from product to messaging to work culture. Even how you decorate the office.
Having a crystal clear vision for your brand is how a CMO evolves to a Medici. There’s an element of mission involved. And it’s impossible to inspire others unless you’re inspired yourself.
My point is the great patrons of history were inspired. They saw something that was not yet and provided the means to make it real.
A 21st Century marketer can be very much the same. And I believe there are a few Medicis out there.
I’ve produced some famous work in my career, but I’ve presented a lot more that died because the client wasn’t inspired. They were managing an account and preferred to keep their head down. So the brand was robbed of fame.
If Lorenzo d’Medici was a modern day CMO, would he still be Il Magnifico? I think so.
Have you had it with moving your brand incrementally when there’s a world of possibility out there? Let’s talk. We help brands find a meaningful place in a world that’s looking for it… firstname.lastname@example.org