I believe that the future of marketing success lies with being agile. That the victors will be those who have clear purpose and direction, but are willing to leave much of the traditional planning out. This new way of thinking is no longer just because we are in a brave new world, but because we are in a tough one, where the consumer has infinite choice. Many corporates are not prepared for this and are not embracing the change.
Why is that?
Mostly because marketing has always been a planning-led business. From brand strategy to product development, it’s always had a very “tidy” aspect to it, which I’m sure has attracted many an OCD-organisational freak into it’s bosom. Those that love a good spreadsheet could happily plot out the variables, and feel confident that they had a clear timeline and could manage the stakeholders accordingly – in a nice, orderly fashion. They could set and forget.
No one could have possibly anticipated just how much the internet would mess with all of that.
For a long time, marketer’s have tried to rein in the inter-webs and manage it just like their other “media” channels – stuffing it into line items, hoping that it would play nicely in their predefined boxes and be as simple to manage and well-ordered as it’s “tried and true” predecessors. But given the internet’s conception was not intended to simply be a well-oiled media play-thing for publishers & the like to get rich off, it’s hardly surprising therefore that it has refused to stay in the check boxes and behave.
The beauty of the internet is that it’s not a purpose-built advertising platform and, as a result, it cannot be treated the same way as other media is in how it is bought, managed and measured. In fact, the more we’ve grown to understand the power it has over purchase, the more it has challenged the other media channels to loosen up a bit and jump on board.
We’ve seen everything “go digital” by now – from every media channel evolving into it (with varying success and commitment) and every style of agency bolting it on (let’s all do social, eh?). We’re now at the point where most of the smart marketers are no longer referring to digital marketing as “digital” and are opting to remove the walls erected between principles back in the early ‘norties. This step-change has happened as we move from focusing on a single-minded creative idea as a way to communicate, and into brand engagement, consideration, iteration and action being front and centre in our marketing desires.
The final nail in the hyper-planning coffin came from the consumer’s inability to spend any time on their own. We are no longer casually surfing & googling in our spare time, or flicking through a magazine at lunch time, we are filling every spare second of time when not doing another task (or while doing other tasks), focused on consuming media. Don’t lie, we know you’re walking down the road phone in hand vigorously ignoring everybody else and narrowly avoiding walking into poles (confession: I have actually done that). We’re cray-cray for content. Marketers have made hay while the sun has shone, invested heavily in buying popularity and Facebook has rubbed its sizeable hands together with glee.
“Social” has taken over everything and the average New Zealand Facebook zombie (of which I count myself as one of them) is scrolling to feed their FOMO up to 15 times a day. Entire industries are popping up to help aid the blind-sided and shift media spends out of the old and into the new, at an alarming rate. And it’s freaking a lot of people out.
Newsflash! We haven’t even really started yet. This next phase of development is going to be the truly frightening bit for those not akin to the concept of agile activity or are unfamiliar of constant change. We’re going to get better at data, have more points to refer to that guide us in what we should do and we’re going to do it in real time. We got a sniff of what “last minute marketing” looked like post GFC when CFO’s pulled the financial rugs out from under the marketing departments and told them they had to prove ROI in order to secure funds. This forced many to either up their game or invent novel ways of validating their existence, and introduced many of us in publishing to the concept of “ground hog day”. A particularly unflattering term used to describe the lack of visibility of forward revenue, and also the reality of a new media buying behaviour that favoured not so much the “brave”, but the poor saps who had no choice but to suck it up and accept the new normal (or die trying).
My point is that this next new marketing era is actually working for the hard-core who have paved the way and done the hard yards through the digital economy’s development. We are used to having to think on our feet, to having no security, expecting change and pivoting to suit. Once upon a time it was considered a business handicap, now it’s the secret to success. Creative agencies are just starting to understand what we’ve been whinging about.
It’s vital we don’t confuse planning and strategy. Brands absolutely must still understand their purpose, direction, point of difference and how they speak / interact with their market – more so now, than ever. They need to have a clear vision of their future. However, the intense level of planning which had a very linear (and granular) feel to it, has to now make way for what we refer to as “tack marketing”. Think of it like yachting. You set out with a plan, you’ve researched the conditions, but most likely things will change along the way. You have to be prepared and able to use the best of technology to help read the data and tack accordingly. If you’re agile enough and advanced in your resources and thinking, you can smoke your competitors.
We encourage and educate brands working with our Bloggers & Creators Club team on how to adopt this new way of thinking. We prise the old-school media schedules out of their hands and coax them into understanding why data is important and how to use tools that will keep them abreast of how the market is interacting with them – in real time.
We are able to clearly articulate and showcase what is working (using data) and it helps them to build confidence in thinking on their feet and letting go – getting closer to a place of agility.
What it boils down to is a need to put faith in a strategy that embraces fluidity. Not just allowing the marketing department, but actively encouraging them to go with the tide. Invest in tools and good geeks, they’re essential here. Don’t rely on external parties, embrace learning in-house. These are the essential requirements for success and survival in the new world order.