In a recent meeting listening to the CMO of a major global consumer brand present a creative platform and execution strategy to the CEO, I witnessed a rather telling exchange.

The program outlined was extremely progressive and innovative–certainly one that would garner both critical and consumer acclaim. After the formal part of the presentation was over the CEO studied the materials intently and then looked up to ask one question.

“What’s Next?,” he asked. “After we launch it, where do we go from here?”

After some back and forth with the CMO around “leveraging the positive coverage” and “maximizing customer interest” it became obvious there was no “next!”

Ultimately, the CEO was pressing the team to consider moving from a tactic to a solution. In this case, engaging a new target audience for a new product in a sustainable manner that bridges understanding and burnishes relationship to the brand. The concept presented and strategy outlined– while novel and innovative– did not extend beyond the initial launch plan. It was essentially a “one and done” opportunity. The other problem with such an approach deals with investment. The money necessary to fund break-through programs has gotten serious and as such, the need to amortize such investments must be the rule.

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, marketing and communications are being deconstructed in profound ways. The major shift deals with the move from promotion to one of engagement deriving knowledge and insight from consumers and markets to provide more innovative and customized products and services. Marketing becomes a more invention-based process that utilizes data and insight to improve and develop new offerings. Communications becomes an engagement based process, connecting stories and experiences with interests and networks that lead to advocacy.

In this example, the idea presented was solid, creative, and buzz worthy. What was needed, though, transcended all that.

“What’s Next?” is actually a guidepost to challenge marketers and communicators to think “longer” and “smarter” in terms of campaign and program efficacy and value.

So, are your ideas linked to customer lifestyles and geared to learning as much as promoting resulting in more sustainable experience?

If not, ask yourself “What’s Next?”– or at least be ready when your CEO does.