What marketers should stop (and start) doing immediately

From upping the focus on risk management and taking time out for strategy planning, to ending the obsession with creating content and ‘digital’, Mark Ritson, Helen Edwards and marketers from Boots, Mastercard and GSK share their thoughts on what brands should begin doing, and what should be banished.

There are only so many hours in the day, so ensuring you spend your time on the right things, rather than the wrong ones, is crucial. Often marketers can get bogged down in doing things because ‘that’s the way it has always been done’, when in actual fact their time would be far better spent elsewhere.

Ahead of this year’s Festival of Marketing, we spoke to some of our key speakers to understand the one thing they believe marketers should start doing (if they’re not already) and the one thing it’s time to say goodbye to for good.

For Boots CMO Pete Markey, obsessing over performance marketing at the expense of everything else is something that must be banished. “Get the balance right between investing behind your brand health, supported equally by a brilliant performance marketing programme too,” he advises.

He believes marketers should spend more time being “customer obsessed”. “Your customer experience is your brand so focus on getting it right consistently,” he adds.

Doing this will enable brands to focus on “genuine innovation” and meeting needs customers didn’t even know they had, says Marketing Week columnist and director of Passionbrand Helen Edwards.

“[Marketers should be] pushing for genuine innovation, not ‘sideways’ innovation. Not just more tinkering with line extensions but genuine, consumer-oriented innovation that makes life better for them in ways they couldn’t imagine,” she explains.

I’m amazed at how many marketers accept things at face value.

Andrew Tenzer, Reach

Likewise, Ross Farquhar, marketing director at mochi ice cream brand Little Moons, believes brands need to spend more time understanding the people they are targeting by “exercising their empathy muscle”.

“It increasingly feels like marketers are being sucked into the gravitational pull of the corporate world and away from pursuing a curiosity about the people they’re trying to influence,” he adds.

Following on from this, Jerry Daykin, senior media director at GSK Consumer Healthcare Marketing, says marketers must pay more attention to the true diversity of their customers.

“It’s our job as marketers to understand and respond to them and that means looking beyond averages and stereotypes to tap into the real diversity of attitudes, expressions and lifestyles that are out there,” he explains.

“Our own unconscious biases can easily leave diversity behind right throughout the creative process, so it’s important to check ourselves at each step and look for positive opportunities for inclusion, not exclusion.”

People are also key to his second point, as he suggests businesses should stop trying to get back to the old ‘normal’ and instead overhaul how they treat and look after their staff.

“Companies have worked hard to adapt to Covid, but as we start returning towards normality we need to acknowledge that our normality was far from perfect before, and we can use this opportunity to shape something better,” he says.

He is pushing for “more flexibility around people’s personal needs, a stronger push back on the culture of over burn, more equitable remuneration and absolutely zero tolerance for unacceptable office behaviour”.GSK’s Jerry Daykin on the 6Ps of digital transformation

Be prepared for anything

For Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, spending more time on risk management is crucial, particularly given the past 18 months.

“About three years ago, I noticed the vast amount of risk the function of marketing was going to be confronted with – brand reputation risks, financial risks, data and security risks, privacy risks and more. I quickly formed a risk management group within our integrated marketing and communications department at Mastercard and I’m glad I did,” he explains.

“Although we could have never anticipated Covid-19, fortunately we had the building blocks in place to deploy a comprehensive contingency plan. It’s incredibly important for brands to be prepared for anything and have plans to act on when necessary.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Tenzer, director of market insight and brand strategy at publisher Reach, advises marketers to start “thinking critically”.

“I’m amazed at how many marketers accept things at face value,” he says. “Particularly studies making grandiose statements about people and their behaviour. This leads to bad decision making rooted in fabrication rather than fact. Most of the time, a bit of critical thinking will reveal that these types of studies are poorly designed, leading and agenda driven.”

Thinking critically will also help marketers avoid obsessing over shiny, new, but potentially unproven technologies, he says.

“While it’s important for us to be a forward thinking industry, the problem is we place far too much emphasis on newer technologies and media platforms, while underestimating the effectiveness of more established forms,” he adds.

“The writer Nassim Taleb labelled this ‘neomania’ – the mania for all things shiny and new. Driven by a psychological need to take risks, the marketing industry often embraces and jumps head first into new platforms, [without] any tangible proof of them working.”

If there’s one thing Helen Edwards would like to see banished, it’s marketers’ obsession with creating ‘content’. Why? Because “people just aren’t that interested in what brands have to say”.

Similarly, Mini MBA founder and fellow Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson says his biggest watch word is ‘digital’. He urges marketers to stop using it, as it is an “outdated, unnecessary distraction”.

On a more positive note, he suggests the one thing brands should start doing is to take a day out of the “tactical blizzard” for strategy planning.

Wise words from all.

These marketers will all be sharing their vast expertise at this year’s Festival of Marketing, which takes place on 18 to 21 October. They will be covering everything from powering growth and trends to customer delivery, creativity and collaboration. Visit the website for more information and to buy your pass.