With the passing of Labor Day, most turn their attention to the end of summer and the excitement that fall brings. In the media agency world, scratching Labor Day off the calendar leads to one thing – next year’s planning season. This annual scrum is a highly orchestrated process where the account teams at Morgan & Co. chart a course for the initiatives on the horizon, including those well into 2021.
As a glimpse into our approach for planning season, below are a few areas the teams at Morgan & Co. will be diving into over the course of the next few months. One piece I want to stress when reading the below is that the actual planning is only part of the process. You must consider the key steps that get you to the planning phase. With that in mind, here’s a look at where we focus our attention, and hopefully you can walk away a little more prepared for the new year, which will be here sooner than you think.
Observations & Insight
For the brands we work with, reviewing and understanding data and information is a daily routine that drives recommendations and paves the path for many of the services and outcomes we create. At the core of this phase are two primary components of knowledge related to the data collected. The first is observations, or those take-aways a media team should gleam from current and past campaigns. Observations reveal the relationship between the creative, media and the brand’s purpose, including that which drives performance and campaign outcomes. When compiled correctly, it helps shape the foundations for future initiatives (read: planning).
The second component is insight, or the extraction of knowledge from extensive research across the category, market space, sales patterns, and through the dynamics of how consumers behave throughout their day and navigate the communication process. It is critical to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the information that is being gathered in this phase, and to look at the research holistically. For instance, sales data or a Simmons cross-tab run might indicate segments of people might buy hot, hearty meals during August in the South. Insight tells you why they eat hot dishes in the heat of August. Remember, success comes when reading between the lines and contemplating the bigger meaning behind what the information is telling you.
Countless articles have been written about strategy, including a piece we did recently shedding light on it through the lens of a media agency. So, this shouldn’t be foreign territory to marketers and those managing brands. But if there is one thing planning season should revolve around, it’s strategy. And let me be clear – strategy is not a flowchart. It’s a manifestation of the reading between the lines of insight and observation. Strategy is a directive of how to capitalize on opportunities (or challenges). Consumers have needs and wants, and strategy is a way to leverage those within the day-to-day chaos. Not through tactical means (e.g.: billboards or banner ads), but through a game plan that reasons why people and the brand should be brought together. An easy example is Corona beer. Consider their ads – are they pitching beer or hops or taste, like the rest of the category? No. Corona is selling a feeling – the beach, waves, sand, an escape. That is strategy, and when you think about it, a great strategy makes all the pieces fall into place – audience segmentation, message, media.
The challenge of planning is interpreting the observations and insights into something executable, measurable and accountable to both marketing and business goals. Add the extra hurdle of things like budget cuts during pandemics, and planning for 2020 and 2021 can test even the most seasoned team.
Media teams tend to switch hats in the actual planning phase. While the above is more investigative and hypothesizing, planning becomes the tangible implications of all those directives. The core being, how to bring preferred segments of consumers together with the brands in ways that are meaningful, measurable and efficient. Looping back to observations, previous well-run media campaigns will provide a hierarchy of tactics worth their weight in gold. Never rinse and repeat, but history is a great place to start. Modify those tactics based on the interactions the marketing goals dictate. Is the path to purchase getting longer? If so, incorporate more touchpoints that build upon one another. Has the brand’s offering become more complex? Maybe video and intuitive landing pages are needed.
Planning is never just planning. In fact, a tremendous amount of energy goes into effective planning, and it starts long before planning season. Analytics, reporting, audience analysis and segmentation all fuel a healthy and successful planning initiative. If successful planning is something your brand is looking for, contact Morgan & Co. for a talk on how and where to start.