The #1 principle in creating effective advertising campaigns. Plus three handy tips.
It’s a fuzzy idea I named twenty-some years ago — the Possum Principle. And with the onslaught of new media and the ever-increasing number of messages trying to make their way into our heads, I think it bears a quick review. Simply put, the Possum Principle purports this: if something hangs out in the middle of the road, it has a pretty good chance of dying.
It’s why those of us in the business of creating ad campaigns work so hard to not only find a truly differentiating brand position, but then also work just as hard to develop branded, differentiating advertising to bring that position to life. Each little element of every communication is another opportunity to keep the critter out of the middle of the road, from the messaging to the visual idea, from the voice to the fonts to the tone … all of it. Being lazy or complacent about any single piece of the puzzle can have the unfortunate effect of letting the creature — step-by-step — wander dangerously toward the centerline.
Therefore, if your goal is to create a memorable advertising campaign that builds your brand in a positive way, just keep these tips in mind:
1. Throw a few cooks out of the kitchen. Building campaigns by building consensus almost always pulls things toward the middle.
2. Don’t play it safe. If it feels cozy and comfortable and familiar, it’s probably not very differentiating. There’s rarely anything safe about playing it safe.
3. Beware of little changes. They can make a big difference. Campaigns don’t usually get shoved into the middle of the road with one big change, but wind up there through a series of seemingly harmless little nudges.
I know, easier said than done. But just being aware of how good ideas can become road kill is the first step in protecting them. Share these thoughts with your team. They aren’t opinions. They are facts. And how tightly we embrace them is a matter of life and death.