Konstantin Stanislavski, the great director, asked Sergei Rachmaninov what the secret of mastering the piano was. The brilliant composer replied, "Not touching the neighboring key".
Stanislavski appreciated that idea, and used it with his actors, teaching them to stay within the limits of their unique roles. I think it's great advice for marketers as well.
Everything we do in marketing and advertising should stay within the agreed-upon strategy; not blurring it. Nothing less, because then we're hurting our chances of meeting our goals. And nothing more, because we'll be diluting the force of our actions.
We've all seen commercials where the humor comes not from the product or competition, but from left field. They end with a joke that completely obliterates the message the advertiser was trying to get across.
Borrowed interest is another case of touching on the neighboring key. You know, the fashion ad where cold-looking models are poking at each other in a scene so overwhelmingly fascinating that we lose the focus on the artfulness of the clothes.
Analogies are also strategy diluters. "If you think the Grand Canyon is something, you should see our big new line." See how weak that is? Everyone's thinking about the Grand Canyon!
When your new fragrance is supposed to be the primal lure for your next mate, the free gift-with-purchase of a toothbrush tote somehow has a way of breaking the spell. Your strategy is designed to be your map to success; veer off it at your own risk.
On my first job, I was handed an assignment touted as the opportunity for greatness. The marketers of Lava Soap--- the gritty strong soap that farmers and factory workers use--- decided it deserved to be used by all women. Research showed it was a bad idea...such a campaign would dilute its very reason for being. To prove that point, I spoofed the idea with a commercial for "New Pink Princess Lava". The client got the idea, and changed the strategy.
On the other hand, when you've got a winner, with hard edges to hurt the competition, stick to it all the way. As the song says, "Once you have found her, never let her go."