I just met with a group planning to run a controversial ad campaign. That I am not a fan of the campaign was neither here nor there. The real question was, would the campaign accomplish the group’s objective?
So, I asked what the objective was. To keep this post simple, I’ll say they wanted to achieve Outcome A.
Trouble was, it seemed to me that the campaign was more likely to produce Outcome B instead. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that I had no better sense than to say so.
Their reply? “Yeah. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Hold on. Outcome B was at odds with Outcome A. I wasn’t smart enough to keep that to myself, either. Group members defended the campaign, pointing out that in other markets it had achieved Outcomes C and D.
Fine, except B, C and D bore no resemblance to their original, stated objective.
I may be slow, but I finally realized that they really liked this campaign. They just plain wanted to run it. In fact, running it was the objective. Any outcome would do.
Which was their privilege. And I have to admit, in no way would they end up disappointed. When any outcome will do, you cannot fail. Even when results are negative. Or nil.
But launching a campaign and devising ad hoc objectives to justify it after the fact is strategically backward. It’s like throwing a dart and then designating wherever it sticks as your target. Usually, the more productive course is to identify a target and then aim for it.