Marketing & Advertising

Why are we so scared of competing?

Imagine being a judge at the World Martial Arts Championship. Imagine walking into a massive arena where 50 of the best martial artists in the world are there in the hope of winning the title, and winning the crowd’s hearts.

Now, imagine each one of these martial artists, alone, in their own designated space demonstrating their unique ability to you. How will you choose — how will decide who is the best of the best if you don’t see them in matches against each other?

This is the world that many businesses have subjected consumers to. Within a category, they try and find a designated, unique space to position themselves. They expect consumers to make a conscious, rational decision based on a brand position that does not explain why they are better than the next business.

Businesses and their products are competing for the fulfilment of a need state, yet we sometimes get so specific in our positioning and differentiation that we put ourselves outside the terms of reference and separate ourselves from the need altogether.

We reject concepts because they use the same word a competitor used 3 years ago, or because the colour in the visual is in the competitor brands’ CI.

We think that we can be distinctive by delivering personalised messages and digital ideas, but we are not telling our audiences why to choose use.

Consider your audience, and then try to convince me how competing with your competitors by hiding in an uncontested space in a market is a good idea.

Marketing & Advertising

A trends “short”

Programmatic, Digital, Drones, AR, VR, Ai, Blockchain, Pepper the Robot, Influencers, Big Data and all the rest of the “trends” we see lately are not ideas.

They are methods, resources, inputs and channels that form part of a larger strategy to reach audiences in a meaningful way.

They do not solve for shitty products, bad messaging, poor timing or shallow creative.

If used, they should be part of an integrated approach that includes some insights-driven marketing and communications.

When everyone has the same tools, the work will look the same.

Value creativity and value the insight that drives it.

Marketing & Advertising

The space between

I’m not a huge fan of 1-stop-shops in advertising. When agencies promise to do everything well something invariably drops in quality. Focus makes sense to me, excellence in what you do, bearing in mind there’s a lot of grey in-between.

The promise of a 1-stop-shop is often: efficiency, turnaround time, accountability and ultimately cost saving. However, communication, together with centralising insights and data is seldom a reality. When you lift the roof off of a 1-stop-shop you may still see siloed departments, poor communication and a lack of centralised effort.

It is this space between that exists between agency types as well, between the brand agency and the advertising agency, between the advertising agency and the digital agency, and between PR and media – the list continues, and sometimes includes the client.

So, we go on and on about integrated marketing when we can’t really deliver on the important stuff – the stuff we learn from as a collective, the stuff we wouldn’t have exposure to normally.

Ownership, in my opinion, is at fault. Who owns the data, who owns the insights? Who owns the gap. We claim it when there’s visibility, but we will never claim the empty gap.

Now, tell me again why you’re afraid of consultants in advertising.

Marketing & Advertising

Don’t let anything but your brand be the hero

I have seen many media types pretend to be things they are not.

Life saving billboards, career enhancing banner ads, you name it – don’t fall into the trap.

The problem you face as a brand owner or an advertiser is that each time your agency comes to you with an idea that starts with “this is not a banner, it’s a …” or “this is not a billboard, it’s a …”; your brand stops becoming the hero. The attention is diverted to the tactic. You lose.

Your agency will get the case study, they’ll win an award for creative use of media, technically, so will you – but people seldom remember the brand over that cool billboard made out of money.

Marketing & Advertising

Data can be inspiring

It is important that our data discussions are had with the outcome of creative solutions in mind.

Data is frightening, cold and restricts the creative process, right? Of course not. Data is an enabler that makes our jobs as marketers easier and more challenging simultaneously. Data is a critical insight source, it enables rapid performance optimisation and a programmatic approach to media purchasing.

These days, anyone can do that. With the right tools in place, we can speak to individuals at a mass scale.

But differentiation sill lies in the idea – the use of all of these inputs to formulate a creative execution that speaks to people in way that resonates. Creativity is the differentiator in a world of data led thinking. We can now think in moments and modules, and examine the truth behind our customer’s interactions with brands and topics.

It allows us to break through the clutter with an amazing idea at the right time for the most possible impact.

That’s not frightening, cold or restrictive, that’s inspiring.

Marketing & Advertising

Integrated marketing, and why we can’t stop trying to get there.

While we sit at our desks and bitch about the “other” agency, we tell ourselves that we are the solution to every one of our client’s needs.

Integrated marketing does not rely on integrated agencies, it relies on integrating agencies.

What am i going on about?

Well, simply, we can be all we want to be and work as efficiently as we need to for ourselves, but we’re forgetting the most valuable lesson we preach about marketing. Know your audience.

If we’re not setting ourselves up to solve our clients’ needs, we’re doing it wrong. Our clients don’t give a rat’s ass about our process and how amazing it is, they want cool work on time and on budget.

If you want to knock them off their feet try this.

  • Develop a process of working between agencies
  • Develop a common language
  • Develop a way of showing results
  • Develop a way of costing that works for everyone
  • Develop tools and documentation to help

Now try convince your clients to move if all of this is in place. And stop complaining.

Marketing & Advertising

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.