In the midst of 2017 planning, I had to make presentations to convince those in charge of the purse strings about what I was going to spend the budget on. I thought it would be a good idea to communicate to these slightly older folks that now that we all have devices connected to a network, we can make any kind of content or service and, by and large, we live in a world of almost free information.
But as I looked for examples to help make my point, I realised the problem with this new world is that we’re using a framework of marketing knowledge built for a different age. Most of the brands I used to illustrate my arguments – the big FMCG brands – are themselves old. They have followed a similar brand playbook that has been taught in marketing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes for years, yet these brands do not seem as omnipotent as before.
The new marketing icons that are challenging the hegemony are brands that have been born in the last 10 years, and they appear not to have applied the same rules. My board wanted to know why I am not following those guys.
I considered whether what is required to succeed now is different from before. The old advice is about long-term brand building, creating emotionally appealing and distinctive brands and spending lots of money on campaigns. Indeed, this appears to be the business model our agency is locked into.
The paradox is that brands that appeared in the past 10 years don’t seem to have received the memo. They are doing things on their own terms: a focus on customer needs to make sure that they can grow and acquire customers as quickly as possible, an emphasis on a great product and customer experience, and constant product changes – known as ‘iterations’.
There are similarities, where they follow the same rules as older brands but call them different names. They segment their market, position against these segments and target their segment with messages. They’re targeting early adopters, so they know mass brand advertising is a waste of time.
I have taken a leaf out of their book, and am ‘iterating’ and ‘pivoting’ myself. The lessons that I’m taking to the next planning round are:
Think sales overnight, brand over time. It’s possible to create the brand through sales, though it sounds like heresy to a marketer.
Offer the best experience and use it to change attitudes, as attitudes follow behaviours. Don’t set out to convince them through communications.
And, do more marketing on the fly: think, refine and hone – you don’t always have to get it right first time.