Tim Leberecht: Romantic marketing is the antidote to data

Former CMO and TED speaker Tim Leberecht on romanticism in marketing, the world’s obsession with data and why marketing teams should feel like “bands on tour”.

From CMO of consultancy Frog Design to global TED speaker, author and entrepreneur Tim Lebrecht has a well respected marketing career built up over 22 years.

His book, The Business Romantic ,looks at the importance of romance in everyday lives and business, urging people to design products, services and experiences that connect them to something that is “greater than themselves”. He has also given three TED talks, with the most recent, ‘4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines’, viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.

Here, Leberecht talks through what makes a romantic leader, how marketers can get the most from their teams and wellbeing in the workplace.

Romantic marketing is the response to the world’s obsession with data

There is a backlash in marketing at the moment as people are becoming tired of just being sold to. There is a desire for raw emotion, real authenticity and a deep human connection. Romantic marketers and brands understand that. They are moving from a solely sales focus to a more playful one, using real time and artificial intelligence (AI) to embody the ambidextrous, ambiguous nature brands need today – Airbnb is a good example of this.

There is a need for connection and intimacy and brands that honour that will do well in the future. There will be a whole new wave of human brands representing this.

It’s important marketers tell tales of identity and culture

Before the days of formalised marketing we told the tales of identity and culture through rituals and tribal meetings. Now this role has fallen to marketers and brands through the devices we use, such as mobile and smartphones – these are the rituals of our time.

Marketers have to orchestrate the things that tribe leaders would give in meetings. If they do this they will have more loyal customers, go to bed happier and build stronger relationships.

It should not just be about distribution or the technology. Brands need to go back to the story and the power of providing an inspirational platform.

Marketers should look for fluid identities

Millennials and the generation succeeding them have a much more fluid notion of identity from a consumer and professional perspective. They are much more comfortable managing multiple identities, whether that is status or gender roles. They can be multiple selves all at the same time, like David Bowie. This is a very romantic idea, you are not reduced to a set of data.

This need for having multiple identities is key to marketing and can be applied with technology such as virtual reality. This approach may be much harder for Generation X or baby boomers who are more used to acting formally with organisations – but fluid identities is what people now want.

Marketing leaders need to prepare for much more experiential roles

Marketers need to be smart, conversational and analytical. They need to know how to use technology to make a compelling experience but it’s also a lot about the passion they have. They need to really believe in the brand they are representing, its symbolic value and meaning. It’s also how they embody it.

Future leaders needs to embody the brand by taking on a much more experiential role as performers and storytellers. You can’t be just a data cruncher, you mush be able to do much more whimsical, romantic tasks.

Being part of a marketing team should be like being part of a band

It’s all about inspiration. Monetary rewards, promotions and formal rewards are important but they fail in comparison to intrinsic motivation. Marketers need to be inspired and fall in love with brands and their story- they need to be moved. If they are not moved they will do their job for a while and then move on.

It’s about bringing all the emotions and creativity to a role and treating it like a movement, more like being a member of a band. In my best days at Frog Design we really felt we were part of a band on tour, inspiring each other and creating something.

Though it is inevitable there will be a hierarchy in team structures it should not feel like this. An informal hierarchy works better. The receptionist often knows more about what is going on in the business, and the people that influence others the most in your company may not have a senior position.

You want to make sure people are intrinsically motivated but that there aren’t too many rules or formal structures in place. There needs to be a high form of agility. You shouldn’t plan for a year, you should be changing strategy every month. You want a team more like a news room than a city hall.

There needs to be an alignment between the company’s mission and the individual’s

If you work for a company such as Goldman Sachs and you don’t believe in what they are doing you will become unhappy. There needs to be an alignment between the company’s mission and an individual’s mission.

It is important to be able to express this mission in everyday work to avoid becoming disenchanted. It is therefore important companies offer social policies that help people get a work/life balance. There needs to be a life outside of work to make sure people aren’t burning out on the job.

Companies should allow their employees to be themselves. This doesn’t mean they have to be happy all the time, they can be sad and angry at times, but they should be taken care of on the bad days. There needs to be some form of intimacy between the business and the employee.

Similarly, workers don’t have to be friends but there should be some form of mutual trust, like a tribe, to allow them to work together.



There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Marcelo Salup 28 Aug 2017

    Why is this a “this OR that” discussion? Why only ONE kind of campaign? There are many different consumers and many different products, surely, by now, we have abandoned the “one size fits all” approach? Second, why is this a “this or that” discussion? Don’t you think data can be used to track and evaluate “romantic” campaigns? Third… why is this even news? Since the 20’s (1920’s) everyone knows that appealing to emotions sells more than appealing to objective thinking.

  2. Richard Bambrick 14 Mar 2018

    As Ritson might say “What a f***mess”

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