The concept of an integrated marketing campaign is nothing new. Since the 50’s, agencies have been combining print, out of home, TV and experiential placement to created a consistent brand message that increases brand recall and, ultimately, create the desired conversion.

Now we have new media: Digital. That includes social media, display advertising, original content, branded content, PPC advertising and social advertising. Each of those new media require a new level of understanding and expertise in order to plan an effective strategy to be executed in those places.

What hasn’t changed is the need for a Big Idea that brings all of the placements that are to be used in a campaign together to create a single coherent message. We don’t talk about TV strategy or print strategy in isolation, so neither should we consider digital or social media strategy separately from the overarching brand plan.

There have been some great successes in social media marketing since its inception: Dumb Ways to Die by Melbourne Metro Trains (agency: McCann Melbourne), Mayhem by Allstate Insurance (agency: Leo Burnett) and the Obama 2012 Election Campaign (agency: SS+K).

What I see in the digital industry is the people scrambling to duplicate the amazing content of Dumb Ways to Die, the shareability of Mayhem and the rallying cry of Obama 2012 into a single tactic that can be used to create the same kind of impact. The difference between those successes and the failures that you’ve never heard of is not the digital expertise of the person executing the tactics, or even the budget of the effort, it’s the Big Idea that drives the entire campaign.

Before any successful marketing effort considers the platforms, media or messaging of anything that it creates, it intentionally creates a single concept, one core message that it stands for and will communicate to everyone that it touches in every way that it interacts with them.

That is how the Pepsi taste challenge was created. It executed a tactic that is very much like what we now call social media: Create an interaction with one person and then give that person the opportunity to turn around and share it with his/her friends. That tactic was not the big idea, however. The core of the 90s Pepsi campaigns was the juxtapositioning of Pepsi vs Coke as a young, exciting brand that people prefer. In order to deliver on that messaging, Pepsi placed their Taste Challenges in young, exciting places like amusement parks, concerts, festivals and beaches. Regardless of the outcome of the individual challenges, the brand was showing up in the places that people loved, delivering its Big Idea and creating an experience around that idea that was shareable.

If Jones Soda, an inherently social brand, were to duplicate the taste challenge experience it would fail. Not because it is not cool enough, or even because the taste challenge concept is no longer original, but because the tactic does not communicate Jones’ Big Idea.

Possibly the most important element of the Big Idea is implied in its name: it is a single message. Any branded campaign, no matter how robust or integrated can capture only enough attention to communicate one core feeling, call to action or rallying cry. Efforts that attempt to achieve any more than a single core communication will fail, or worse, successfully gain the attention of many people and take no advantage of that attention – leaving the audience entertained, but no more educated about the brand message than they were before their experience. This is true of many manufactured Viral Campaigns.

New media has created a revolutionary possibility for brands of every size to communicate with hyper-targeted audiences, and create brand experiences at nearly every point in that target’s day and a massively more efficient cost per impression, but if that brand experience isn’t anchored in a Big Idea that captures the brand, communicates its single core message, and creates something memorable or remarkable, then the shareability and efficiency of the new media simply deliver a failed message to a larger, more targeted group of people.

When a strong Big Idea is developed, and the best of new media is used to spread its message, then the results can look like this:

Note: The budget for The Best Job in the World was roughly 10% of comparable Tourism campaigns.