Nationwide’s CMO on why aiming for perfection will make you a worse marketer

Nationwide CMO Sara Bennison believes marketers should not focus on being ‘perfect’ but instead be ready to change plans and take risks.

In 2020, filled with uncertainty and turbulence, Nationwide’s CMO Sara Bennison is urging marketers to throw out their marketing plans.

Speaking at The Marketing Society’s Brave Get Together conference  yesterday (4 November), she explained: “I am less convinced it’s worth even having a marketing plan in the way we used to torment ourselves with.”

As Covid-19 makes the world more unpredictable “being a slave to a plan can make you seem gloriously out of touch at the moment,” she said. She gave the example of a grocer that after Tier 2 restrictions were announced sent an email about its “exciting new ‘entertaining guests’ menu”.

“I nearly wept with sadness at the thought of a world where my whole family can be together and eat 12 glorious exclusive mini pork pies at the same time,” she explained.

However, throwing out a marketing plan doesn’t mean getting rid of all strategy and objectives but instead means allowing for more creative freedom.

“It’s important to have very clear outcomes and objectives, and to have a range of strategies and tactics up your sleeve for delivering those outcomes,” Bennison explained.

She means great marketers must not be “afraid to change their plans”.

She explained: “Perfect marketers will need to respond in creative ways and be ever more inventive. Given that now it’s not just budgets, which we are used to providing a beautiful constraint, but the time and the speed of the realities of our world changing [that are constraining marketers].”

Bennison noted that consumers are craving “as much emotional as rational” marketing. “They want hope, certainty, reassurance, and connection” she said. “Perfect marketers will translate what customers want and what customers need. It’s just that now they have to do that at a distance and at a time when people really want and need things they cannot have and there are deeper fractions in society then we’ve seen in generations.”

She added that it was vital brands “start with actions and not just words” when it comes to delivering on what customers want.

“Those actions don’t necessarily need to cost much, or indeed anything at all. But they do need to be consistent. Functionally, a competitive mortgage rate is always going to be important but we need to ask what really are the needs and how can we come up with the right solutions that people are looking for now?” she explained.

She warned that “trying to aim for perfection” can hinder markers, especially when it comes to creativity.

“It takes up too much time and it breeds fear, and fear breeds high levels of risk aversion and that does not breed creativity. And that’s what we need to bring to business more so than ever in these times as we try and navigate our way through these difficult times,” she explained.



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