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What is a Marketing Campaign?

The True Definition of a Marketing Campaign

The phrase “marketing campaign” is one of the most overused terms in marketing and has come to mean just about everything marketers do. How often do you hear people say, “Let’s do an email campaign?” The definition of a marketing campaign has shifted.

First off, one email is an activity, not a marketing campaign. Secondly, if you have something you need to communicate, you don’t start with the marketing channel. Choosing the channel comes after knowing what you want to accomplish and with what audience.

So why has the definition of “marketing campaign” blossomed into this catch-all term that means marketers are doing some work? Blame technology vendors. Most marketing technologies were created by engineers who did not hold marketing positions. They needed to call activities executed in their software product something, so “marketing campaigns” became the term of choice. Now two decades’ worth of marketers uses the word loosely, resulting in a significant amount of bad marketing.

Marketing Campaigns, Defined

A marketing campaign is a message or set of messages to be communicated to a specific audience through various communication channels to achieve a goal.

When you build your campaign plan, you need to start with what you are trying to accomplish and whom you want to reach. If you don’t know what you want to get out of the marketing campaign and you don’t understand the audience and their needs, then it’s likely your campaign will fail. Although if you don’t have a goal, then what is failure?

To better understand the true definition of a marketing campaign, we turn to politics. No, we will not get political in this blog, but we want to use an upcoming presidential campaign as an illustration. A presidential campaign is one extensive and expensive marketing campaign. 

Marketing Campaigns Are Similar to Presidential Campaigns

Let’s use the upcoming 2020 campaign as a modern example. The candidates have a goal; they both want to be president of the United States. Their target audience is the American people. There are a set of messages that they want to communicate to the American people regarding issues such as healthcare, homeland security, and jobs. They both have a campaign theme. Then they will use a variety of marketing channels to push their messages and theme out to the American people.

Those marketing channels include press, events, advertising, social media, direct mail, telemarketing, bumper stickers, billboards, word of mouth, etc. They have a clearly defined timeline of November 2020. They both have marketing budgets in the hundreds of millions to work with to get their word out (marketers imagine the damage we could all do with that budget). And lastly, they have a measurement of success, votes.

We’ve only included the campaign plan essentials to simplify the presidential campaign example above. That said, you can add a lot more detail to a marketing campaign plan that will organize your strategy and tactics to ensure success.  

Defining Success For Your Marketing Campaign

Before you start writing your marketing campaign plan, ask yourself or your team the following five questions:

  1. What is the goal you are trying to accomplish?
  2. Who is the target audience of your marketing campaign?
  3. What are the messages you would like to communicate?
  4. What marketing channels would be most effective in communicating the messages?
  5. How do you measure success? Which marketing metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) should be measured for your marketing campaign.

If you can answer these questions first, you can test the feasibility and determine the best approach. Once you do that, you are ready to build your marketing campaign plan.

Related blog: The Importance of Marketing Campaign Management

Check out our free marketing campaign template, to help you plan your next campaign.

You can learn more about Planful’s marketing planning software and schedule a demo here.

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