Nothing is the same but everything feels similar

One of the primary roles we have as marketers is to convince consumers to choose one brand over another.

We create differentiation in a market that is saturated with the same products and channels, we explore new ways to cut through clutter and we measure our results in a way never imaginable even 5 years ago.

Well, we should – but we don’t.

Product category lines are blurred through a cut & paste approach to marketing that is so safe & inclusive it becomes generic. We are making guesses about the consumer – hit and miss. It’s boring, it’s done, it’s time to change.

Ironically, with the ability to be more personalised than ever, we are, in fact, becoming less.

It’s a complex issue, I’ll start at home…

The Agency

We love to hate our industry, and our clients sometimes. But how can we expect blue skies & big ideas when we haven’t evolved?

  • The Model – We know the agency model is being challenged constantly, and for good reason. Demand from consumers and clients grows exponentially when we add to the already massive marketing ecosystem available to us. We can’t keep up, so we choose delivery over bravery.
  • The landscape – We are expected to facilitate a discussion on multiple platforms with multiple objectives. Iterations of language, tonality, imagery and behaviour means we can have multiple potential paths to purchase. Or, awareness, if that’s your thing. We’re tracking none of it, we don’t know what works, so we do it all.
  • The spread of resources – We know we are limited by time. The same time we used to conceptualise is now the allotted time to deliver, and the budget that was going to boost 3 campaigns this year will now serve twenty. We work linearly and put the wrong resources on projects.

So we need to fundamentally re-invent the way we work.

  • Fluid structures are sought after as they help solve the drain on resources through linear processes but still allowing horizontal management layers to influence and drive critical thinking.
  • Production becomes a necessary component of an agency as automated processes and decision becomes reality. Put the right people on the job.
  • Plan more. A solid foundation of strategy and creative expression give us the ability to move quickly. Even if it’s not client facing.

If we can do it for our clients, we can and should do it for ourselves.

Re-positioning is important in a world where constant change is the only guarantee. Reliance on the past and reputation is not only dangerous, but arrogant. But it’s not our self-diagnosed opinion that’s the issue.

The Client

Data & information has become increasingly available to our clients and having the skills necessary to interpret and make decisions from that data is vitally important. Not having those skills is dangerous.

  • The structure – have we evolved into what we expect our agencies to do, or even more, what our consumers expect from us? This is the same problem faced by the agencies.
  • The data – Reacting to data, not to insights is dangerous and can lead us into a space where we are reacting subjectively & find ourselves competing against brands we never thought we would, or more importantly, not competing where we should.
  • The objective – Probably the most important point, an unclear objective results in work that is trying to answer all.

Slow down to speed up.

  • Plan, plan, plan. Agility and creativity are much easier off a base.
  • Brief the problem, not the solution. Solving the issue for the agency will probably lead to disappointment. It also doesn’t allow for broader thinking.
  • Give away power, or be part of the team. Decisions need to made more rapidly, and we revert to safe when decisions are far between.
  • Share (real) KPIs – don’t give power without giving risk & reward.
  • Forget about competition, the more we watch their marketing, the more we tend to do the same. Best practise is creating the path, not following it.

A thought…

We showed all of our cards and now we‘re trying to bluff the consumer we need so badly into believing we have a royal flush.

We’re working in a world that has given our consumers unlimited access to information and opinion. It should be challenging us to find solutions we never thought possible. This is the space that inspires technology disrupters like Uber.

We not listening enough, because we’re not convinced that we will be able to execute on what we’ve heard.