When a great ad campaign resonates, its impact is enormous. Its colors, motifs, and tagline are recognizable anywhere. Think about the “I'm Lovin' It” jingle paired with the iconic golden arches of McDonald's or Apple's “Think Different” campaign, with its minimalist design and iconoclastic spirit. And just the mention of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in The World” makes us reach for a bottle opener.
For an ad campaign to resonate, every component needs to be cohesive. The consistent narrative, repetitive visuals, and striking design reinforce the campaign's message and make it stick.
Developing a cohesive, consistent message is one of the challenges teams face in creative campaign management. Creative teams need to make sure that they don’t miss any detail so that their campaign has a unified structure that resonates across all platforms.
What we'll cover
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Campaign message vs. brand voice
The first thing to keep in mind about the message that your campaign is trying to convey is that it’s not the same thing as your brand’s ‘voice’.
Your brand is the more significant, broader, strategic way you communicate with your audience. Brand voice will influence nearly every decision your marketing team will make. Your campaign’s message is more tactical, a carve-out from your broader creative strategy that will help you achieve a particular goal housed beneath the umbrella of your brand.
A major brand will likely run several campaigns yearly (seasonal promotions, product launches, tie-ins or partnerships with other brands, etc). So while a brand’s voice may not change for decades, a brand could introduce a unique campaign—and with it, a unique and distinct message—every quarter (and sometimes every month).
The perfect example of this is when a major retailer kicks off their creative campaign around the holiday season. “Target” is still “Target”, “Best Buy” is still “Best Buy”, and “Lexus” is still “Lexus”—their brand voices haven’t changed. But their familiar musical cues now have jingly bells added to them, and what was once a luxury automobile in the driveway of a million-dollar home now has a giant red bow on its roof.
How to define your campaign message
Creating a distinct message for your campaign while staying in the range of your brand’s voice isn’t so easy (just ask any writer or designer). While the primary objective of your campaign—let's say, boosting sales or launching a new product—may be straightforward, the core idea or value that your campaign is trying to communicate can be a different world altogether.
It's not just about selling a product or a service; it's about resonating with your audience more profoundly. To do that, your campaign should align with your brand's values and target audience's preferences. Consider your campaign an extension of your brand identity—it should reflect your brand's personality, ideals, and goals.
Fast-food and fast-casual restaurants are experts at crafting a unique campaign message within the confines of their brand voice. Think of Taco Bell’s “Nacho Fries” ad campaign centered around thriller films and movie trailers.
Taco Bell’s brand isn’t solely focused on crowdsourced material or spoofs of what you might see on the “big screen”. Only this creative campaign is. But Taco Bell’s brand is irreverent and youthful—and dare we say spicy—so the message of this campaign is aligned with and nestles perfectly within their more significant brand voice.
To align a creative campaign with your brand's identity and values, define your brand's essence. Ask yourself, “If my brand was a person, how would it talk? What would it say?” Don’t be afraid to build a persona (or multiple personas) for creatives to reference when developing a creative campaign.
From there, ask a follow-up question: “How does this campaign speak to my persona or personas without delivering a message that goes against what my brand is saying?” Or to ask it another way: “How does this campaign add to or embellish what my brand is saying?”
Answering these questions will help you define a distinctive message for your campaign that reverberates with—and amplifies—your brand's personality.
High impact campaign messaging
Developing a compelling and consistent campaign message begins with understanding your target audience and speaking their language. Remember that old creative adage, “Write what you know?” That’s what we’re talking about here.
For example, if you're targeting a millennial or Gen Z audience with a sustainability product, use language that aligns with their eco-conscious values and social responsibilities. Dig into your audience's aspirations, motivations, and challenges—conduct surveys, analyze social media trends, or host focus groups. Sprinkle these insights into your campaign's narrative.
And what about nailing the campaign’s message? Well, the secret is not-so-secret—you must lean on storytelling and emotional appeal. An example that comes to mind is Patagonia's “Don't Buy This Jacket” campaign. They leaned into an actual story—about the environmental cost of one of their best-selling jackets—to spark emotion and inspire action, which cemented their commitment to sustainability. Another great example is Airbnb's “Belong Anywhere” campaign. They used emotional appeal by sharing the personal stories of hosts and guests from different walks of life to create a sense of community and belonging.
Remember these (paraphrased) words of the great Maya Angelou when tackling your campaign messaging: People may forget what you said or did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel.
Message cohesion across campaign channels
With campaigns being delivered through various marketing channels, staying within the guidelines you’ve laid out around your campaign message is a challenge. Whether it's social media, email marketing, or traditional print ads, you should deliver your campaign's message consistently across all platforms.
Creating detailed campaign guidelines is the ace up your sleeve here. Set rules for tone of voice, language style, color schemes, and visual elements to ensure uniformity. Use tools that facilitate collaboration and consistency (ahem, Ziflow) where you can manage, review and approve all your creative assets in your campaign in a single platform.
And don’t be afraid to audit your campaign’s message in media res to ensure consistency across marketing channels. Throw a tagline or ad to key creatives and ask, “Is this right?” Gut checks throughout a campaign will create peace of mind and more robust work.
The crux of creating a great ad campaign is in the creative concept, but the effort of creative campaign management is in maintaining a consistent style and tone in the delivery of that campaign. The message of your campaign is more than just words—it's a tapestry of values, emotions, and stories that resonate with your audience. And it’s essential to nest your distinct campaign’s message within the context of your brand’s voice, ensuring the campaign is a piece of the bigger brand story.
With a clear definition of your campaign's message, a compelling narrative that aligns with your brand voice, and a consistent multichannel marketing strategy, you can create campaigns that leave an indelible mark on your audience's minds. So, close this blog article and go out there and turn your brand voice up to eleven with a campaign message that resonates.