Today’s guest post is by Tracy Paden.

A recent mobile ad campaign for one of my clients wasn’t performing as well as I’d hoped.

Despite the ample number of impressions, click-through rates were down.

I turned to our advertising partner for some insight, and I was less than pleased to hear back, “Well. . . your app just isn’t that interesting.”


Are you saying the mobile app that we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars developing and promoting isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread?

You helped us develop it – and now you’re telling me it’s not good enough for people to bother downloading?

Needless to say, I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. And I’m still not. It was a total cop-out.

With a little time, I’ve realized the reason I was so aggravated by that answer wasn’t just because the vendor was dodging responsibility for a poorly performing campaign. It was also because I was being told I wasn’t part of the “in” crowd. I was told point blank, “You’re not cool.”

But you know what? Not everyone is cool, and that’s OK.

Hangin’ With the Cool Kids

I know – it’s tempting to try to be one of the “cool kids.” The biggest brands have everyone’s attention, and the media coverage and buzz seems to go to these brands as easily as the most popular kids win superlatives in the yearbook.

If only we were Apple – we wouldn’t need to worry about “interesting campaigns.”

Fight the temptation. Think back to those painful middle and high school years when you so desperately sought validation from the popular crowd.

Remember the lessons from John Hughes‘ movies? They can serve you well in adulthood too.

1. Be yourself. Not everyone can be captain of the football team or a rich kid with a brand new sports car and great clothes. The sooner you find out what makes you unique, the closer you are to making a real contribution to the world. In marketing terms, that means not everyone is going to be Apple or Coke or any other slick consumer brand. Make peace with that, figure out what makes you, your product or your service great, and be confident in it.

2. Don’t change just to get the girl (or guy). This is a corollary to the first lesson. In the marketing world, we’re all competing for the love of the same people – at least to some extent. The competition is tough, and it makes it extremely tempting to emulate the brands that are getting a lot of love.

It seems harmless enough – just a tweak here or there to make your organization look a bit more like the top-performing brands. But if you’re not careful, you can put yourself on a path of constant imitation. Once you identify yourself as “just like them!” it’s hard to escape the shadow of comparisons. Before long, your marketing energy is focused on emulating your competitor instead of building your own brand.

3. There’s someone out there for you – and it may not be who you expect! There’s a reason there are so many variations on this classic movie plot: After overcoming conflict, the heroic underdog discovers true love had been in plain sight all along. Sixteen Candles, Say Anything… and The Breakfast Club all convey an important truth: Focusing on what you think you want can blind you to other opportunities.

If you find yourself facing a poorly performing campaign, don’t despair because your audience isn’t responding. Instead, take a step back and look at what the data is telling you, dig a little deeper, and find a niche (or two, or three) that will respond. A little bit of market research can help your brand find the target-audience equivalent of Lloyd Dobler, and you just might find marketing love in places you never expected.

Tracy Paden is vice president of Cookerly PR and has spent the last 17 years managing strategic communications campaigns for clients in industries ranging from transportation to real estate to food and beverage. She has extensive experience creating and executing public service campaigns for nonprofits and governmental agencies that build awareness, educate the public and drive behaviour change.