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Be Brave, Embrace Risk
By: Kaitlin T. Gallucci
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Some of the best, most effective, and most memorable marketing campaigns are the ones that take risks. There are plenty of ready-made, established, “safe” concepts to choose from, but truly creative and innovative concepts only pop up once in a while. Why? Innovation is change – and change is scary. To differ from the mainstream is considered risky because the response is less predictable. We want our brands to be noticed, but not for the wrong reasons. However, we can’t expect to stand out from the crowd with recycled concepts that echo the same messaging audiences have heard before. Wouldn’t you say it is just as risky — if not more — to create a run-of-the-mill, predictable, and unremarkable campaign?

As stated by John O’Toole (Chairman of Foote, Cone & Belding Communications, Inc.) back in 1985, “Great advertising is risky advertising.”

If this is true, then why are so many campaigns so “safe?” Ted Page of Marketing Profs explains, “Ad agencies are asked by clients to come up with brilliant work that stands out in a crowd, but once in a while, the corporate higher-ups want work ‘toned down a bit’ so it doesn’t take any risks...This is a recipe for making campaigns bland and invisible.” He elaborates that, while it’s necessary and important for campaigns to be brand-appropriate, “too many companies opt for an ultra-safe route just because they are a little nervous about a concept — not because the campaign strays from the brand.”

The thing is, while change can be scary, change is often good! The world of marketing today has certainly progressed over time, and things that we take for granted today were risky innovations before they were accepted. Just a few years ago, the concept of social networking marketing frightened a lot of companies. Today, it’s not merely accepted, it’s expected, because someone took a risk and it changed the way brands communicate with audiences.

Additionally, a lot of modern campaigns feature “skin” or even sexual innuendo (tastefully or otherwise), while I’m sure that 60+ years ago a couple couldn’t even be shown touching, let alone kissing, showing skin, or implying a sexual relationship. Someone took a risk, and it changed the face of advertising.

Some of my favorite campaigns to date are those by Manhattan Mini Storage. Featuring mostly cheeky and, at times, sarcastic copy, I could easily see the creative team being asked to “tone it down.” But evidently they weren’t, and now these ads are some of the most liked, recognized, and memorable in the market.

As Palio states, “our challenge as marketing professionals is to reject the false comforts of the familiar — and embrace risk.”


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About the Author
Kaitlin T. Gallucci is a New York based direct and digital marketing strategist. She tweets here.
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