Much like the athletes mentioned in the title of this blog post, both drip and burst marketing campaigns have their strengths and weaknesses.

The key is choosing the right one, at the right time, for the right product.

Mo Farah (drip marketing)

The term ‘drip marketing’ derives from an agricultural system called ‘drip irrigation’ that consists of applying carefully measured amounts of water to the root of plants, thus giving them just the right amount of water over a sustained period of time to achieve optimal results.

Drip marketing campaigns are used in exactly the same way and can achieve some excellent results.

Going back to the analogy I’ve used in the title, can you imagine Usain Bolt trying to run the 10,000m by sprinting right from the start? It would be a great spectacle for 9.58 seconds but after that the great sprinter may be struggling.  

When he has exhausted all of his efforts, our very own Mo will beautifully glide by in that effortless fashion of his, ensuring that he is in the mix at every check point and most importantly at the end of the race. 

Drip marketing campaigns adopt the same philosophy as that applied to long distance running, ‘slow and steady wins the race, or in this case, the customer.

Often drip marketing campaigns focus on emails but this does not mean just emailing leads with the same message over a period of time (these are spam emails, people!).

There needs to be a plan in place in terms of moving a lead from the initial stages of the sales cycle to a position of purchase. The message should not only change but an organisation may want to alter the frequency of the emails as well.

For example, since February I have been contacted by a company called Real Vision Television (RVTV) with a number of emails advertising its ‘truth behind the financial world’ web platform.

I was very much engaged from the start as the initial emails came once a week with just a snippet of exposé financial information such as a story about the rigging of the US stock market or the truth behind the financing of the Brazil World Cup.

In March, the emails become fortnightly and started to discuss the RVTV product. By now, I was far more interested in RVTV than I otherwise would have been if the initial emails had concentrated on selling the product because I had liked the content that I had read.

Now, the emails have started to pick up again in terms of frequency and contain not only financial stories, and information about RVTV, but also a countdown to the launch of the web platform and incentives for subscribing and referring friends.

Each e-shot had a call to action at every stage allowing the company to track click through rates (CTRs) and cleanse their data. This campaign is a great example of a drip marketing campaign that contains a beginning, middle and an end.  

Had RVTV channelled Usain Bolt, and sprinted out of the blocks by going all out with its marketing in February, the chances are I would have forgotten about the product launch in August. 

Usain Bolt (burst marketing)

Now, as we all know, Mo Farah is not going to beat Usain Bolt at every running distance. Bolt is all about explosive energy and generating tremendous power over a short space of time.

If Mo Farah, was to race Bolt over 100m, using the same tactics as those adopted for the 10,000m, then by the time Farah has finished, Bolt will have already won, performed his trademark pose, done a lap of honour and stolen the hearts of the crowd once again.

A successful burst marketing campaign can do the same thing, just replacing the crowd for customers. 

A great example of a burst marketing campaign that I have seen lately is that belonging to Bacardi.

It clearly wanted to rebrand and go back to its heritage, simultaneously moving away from the unwanted alcopop image created by the ever-popular Bacardi Breezers.

This involved the launch of TV adverts, a new website, radio adverts and sponsorship of certain events, all communicating the slogan ‘Untameable Since 1862’

in reference to the year the company was formed. 

Bacardi could have sent regular emails informing their audience what it had planned but instead decided that it would generate a much greater impact by launching the website, TV ads etc, etc. all at the same time.

I have to say the decision is more than justified as it is a fantastic campaign and benefitted from its surprise nature.

Had Bacardi adopted a drip marketing approach, it would have lost the big impactful effect that was fundamental to the identity of the campaign, from the music and scenes of the TV ads, to the content rich website.

So, who wins, Farah or Bolt?

There is no overall winner. I mentioned at the start of this blog post, particular circumstances dictate what strategy to take.

The example of RVTV was perfect for drip marketing because the company needed to get people’s attention before trying to sell their product. Whereas everyone knows Bacardi so the sudden change in brand positioning was far more suited to a burst marketing campaign.

However, a combination of both strategies may be incredibly effective. Imagine some kind of mad relay event where the 10,000m is followed by a 100m sprint, no duo would match Farah and Bolt!

An organisation may wish to adopt a drip marketing campaign and then hit their target audience with loads of activity.


The marketing campaigns for music concerts often implement such an approach.  You will receive emails for a particular event months in advance of the date of the concert.

These emails may be giving regular updates of additions to the line-up, or special ‘early-bird’ discount tickets. Then as the date of the concert draws closer, expect to receive many more emails, be greeted with advertisements in magazines, newspapers, on websites and billboards, read press releases and receive text messages! 

This combination of both drip and burst marketing can be incredibly successful as my tickets to last year’s Hard Rock Calling testify (a festival that will be sadly missed!). 

So, it’s not a case of the tortoise always winning the race, sometimes the hare will get its share of the glory!