Maybe it’s my age, or perhaps it’s the time of year, but over the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on what makes great marketing.
What is it that makes a great client agency relationship and causes a ‘less great’ one? How can marketing leaders create a team culture that enables bold work? And what are some of the underrated marketing skills that I’ve found useful?
These ‘skills’ are things I’ve picked up over the years and there are at least a couple that I wish I’d learnt earlier in my career. As it’s Christmas, I thought I’d compile them into a list.
This list is not meant to be all encompassing and there are one or two that could easily have made the cut (step forward ‘commercial nous’ and ‘resilience’ I’m talking about you). But this is my list. So, here you go – my top six:
1. Be persistent
Others in your business aren’t as close as you are to the project you’ve been sweating over for months. So, you must keep it front of mind for them by repeating your message.
Consumers are the same, but the difference is that most of them don’t care about your brand messages, so you need to show up repeatedly to build awareness and mental availability.
2. Be consistent
Persistence is wasted effort if you’re not showing up in a consistent way. Whether that’s the way you talk about your project internally, art direction or pack design. Obsessing over detail is important. If you don’t do that as a brand marketer, you can’t expect anyone else to.
I remember vividly a global meeting where the vice-president for the brand I was working on said: “I don’t want creative marketers. I want ruthlessly consistent ones.”
Whilst it was my brand strategy he was supporting and I was grateful for the support, I will leave you to work out exactly how well that went down with the local brand leads in the room….But he was right.
3. Simplify, simplify, simplify
There’s an old analogy about how messages are like tennis balls. If you throw one at someone, they’ve got a good chance of catching it. If you throw half a dozen, they won’t catch anything.
4. …then simplify some more
No matter how hard we try, as marketers we’re always too close to the project. Take a step back and simplify again.
That could be your understanding of the market, an elevator pitch, an in-store display, or a script – whatever it is, how can you simplify it some more?
I know there’s often a stakeholder in the background who is making a plausible case to include another message, but if there are two messages there are two briefs.
5. Diagnosis goes before strategy
And strategy goes before tactics. ’nuff said
6. Marketers need training
Yes, I know it’s not strictly a skill, but humour me. Marketers need training in both the technical elements of the role (how to write a brief, how to assess creative responses, how to project manage etc) and in ‘softer’ skills, like how to create a productive relationship with your agency partners.
We all benefit from being pointed in the right direction every now and then. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in several large, brand-led businesses which put me through some game-changing training. Perhaps that’s my next top six list…
You’ll spot from this list that I believe there are a few fundamentals that help us get to great marketing and then champion our projects through a business, so they make it out into the real world. They may not seem especially ground-breaking, but I believe they remain true no matter how much the marketing landscape may change.
What have I missed?
Gareth Turner is head of marketing at Weetabix