Out with the new, in with the old: The success of sticking with the familiar

Dave Jansen
By Dave Jansen | 30 June 2023
Dave Jansen.

While it’s essential for brands to seek new ways to remain fresh and relevant, Dave Jansen, Co-Founder and Partner at Connecting Plots, shares a recent lesson in swallowing creative pride and successfully revamping an established platform made by a competitor.  

What if I told you we won a pitch and went on to deliver results exceeding our clients’ expectations, all by using the same brand platform and assets they had been using for the past six years?

What if I also told you the initial gut reaction from the agency to the existing creative platform wasn't enthusiastic at all?

‘New’ is an all too common currency in the marketing industry. We’re obsessed with what’s next and looking for the shiny new toy. We chop and change campaigns to keep apparently “fatigued” audiences interested.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Agencies, when first appointed to new accounts, may choose to change the creative because they believe their ideas will perform better. But think about how destructive it would be if Nike suddenly pivoted away from "Just do it" or Maybelline from "Because you're worth it"?

There’s clearly a case to be made for keeping things the same, for not uprooting campaigns regularly.

First and foremost, in these budget-conscious times, maintaining the same creative assets will, ultimately, make your budgets go further. Measurement intelligence company, Analytic Partners, recently studied campaign wear out. The study discovered the cost of replacing creative outweighed the drop in performance, in 51,232 campaigns globally (Analytic Partners, 2022 ROI Genome report).

Just 14 of those campaigns had run their full course before the creative was changed. That means 51,218 went too early and wasted money replacing the creative that was working hard for them. Yikes.

Audiences really don't care about ads or brands - until they need something, that is. Consistency in tone of voice and positioning reinforces a brand's credibility and trustworthiness over time.

But how do you know when it’s time to stick or twist? Well - it may be unfashionable in some creative circles and intuitively against the premise of pure creativity, but creative testing can be incredibly valuable in making this call, if it’s managed in the right way.

Take the 'Find Your Happy Place' campaign for the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which has been a creative platform in place since 2017. It’s a celebration of childhood wonder and joy, and at its core is the well-known childhood song 'If you're happy and you know it’.

Connecting Plots was invited to pitch for creative duties for the show, which is the largest ticketed event in the country. For this campaign in particular, the Easter Show was looking to draw more families back to the annual event.

In any pitch, the temptation is to ignore what has come before, go back to the drawing board and throw in something new with your own delightfully clever spin. But, when you push ego aside, the most crucial thing an agency can do is guide clients in the right direction for their business, even if that means swallowing our pride.

We’ve seen this happen with brands like BCF and ahm Health Insurance, which have changed agencies but kept the brand platform and creative approach the same.

So, we partnered with creative testing agency Cubery to put the last campaign through its paces. The goal was to understand what the target audience, rather than people inside the industry, thought about the ad platform.

Using Cubery's framework, the existing ad was evaluated and found to be a strong performer. It successfully captivated viewers by creating an upbeat and family-friendly atmosphere, eliciting feelings of happiness and excitement.

The results were undeniable. So despite itching to go into the pitch with some brand new platform which would cost more time and money to create, we went armed with the data. We proved why iterating what the Easter Show was already doing, while diversifying the channels, was the best move.

The company decided to go with the approach and it paid off. This year’s Royal Easter Show had the highest-ever pre-sale tickets in history.

Why did it work? We were building on the heritage and creative direction already established in people's brains. The campaign tapped into the wellspring of emotions associated with this beloved event.

The campaign effectively linked viewers to what they already knew about the event, leveraging the brand's distinctive assets.

This connection resulted in a strong positive affinity towards the show, emphasising its fun and family-oriented nature. The campaign’s single-minded focus on the emotional side of the event provided clarity and resonated with the target audience.

This wasn’t us being clever. We simply looked at the data and put the customer at the heart of the thinking. And that’s something the industry often loses sight of in pursuit of creative accolades. The consumer.

Testing isn’t a pass or fail exercise, but an opportunity for iterative learning. Marketers need to bring consumers into the conversation, allowing their voices to be heard and considering their perspectives alongside other stakeholders.

After all, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute research has shown that marketers' ability to predict the sales effects of advertising is no better than chance. Following your gut may be popular, but it’s as good as tossing a coin. It emphasises the significant gap between creative agencies and the people they seek to influence.

Consistency is a driving force for long-term brand growth in advertising. By aligning with existing campaign directions and leveraging familiar brand assets, creative agencies can create impactful and memorable work. Additionally, consumer inclusion is vital for effective advertising.

It may not be the sexy or fashionable thing to do, but we are continually seeing the benefits of embracing consistency and including consumers in delivering business results for clients. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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