BEYOND ADVERTISING-3

This is the last part of the ” Beyond Advertising ” trilogy. The previous two can be accessed @

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising-2

A Compelling Picture: Our Intended Audience of The Present | Future

As Alicia prepares for bed, she surveys her apartment. She is very conscious of what she buys and why. She buys things with meaning. While she sees less traditional advertising than she used to, she is more engaged with the ads she views. She can connect her purchases to strong creative content created by brands or co-created by brand fans. Though she is exposed to a lot of targeted ads, she feels she is in control of what content she sees. She accepts new brands warily and rarely with a direct entreaty from the advertiser. Instead, she relies on peers and trusted sources for her introductions. She wants brands to challenge her, understand her, inspire her through their content. She seeks stories that move her, excite her, delight her.

Given this scenario, all brands should be asking ” How can we engage Alicia and others like her today?”. When consumers have endless choices of content and screens, plus endless access to information and insights, why should they stop to listen to your message? For every technology designed to interrupt a media experience or a search for information, people will find a way to block, skip or ignore it. And if the interruption is egregious, be prepared to hear it from empowered customers.

Geography is History

I believe that great brands are ” business strategy brought to life “, and deliver a seamless experience across product and service, physical spaces and places, internal culture and communications. Brands like Apple have already set customer expectations and it doesn’t matter if you are a bank, a business consultancy, a retailer or a hotel chain, the message is simple: join up!

A continued focus on a narrow notion of what is currently within the purview of advertising and marketing will threaten the life of a brand and the organisation. Brands are expected to provide the seamless experience that people are taught to expect by each day’s new technology-enabled and insight inspired pace setters. Even the notion of ‘ omnichannel ‘, which is currently limited more to the realm of retail, will work within a larger ecosystem as retail and advertising undergo a fusion.

Divergence to Convergence

In order to reach, serve and stay connected with people in comprehensive, effective ways, advertising’s scope must go beyond its traditional reach to encompass the entire firm. The boundaries between external and internal touchpoints are blurring and will continue to do so. In a convergent world, no person or no touchpoint exists in isolation. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.

Consider the many different ways we now encounter brands on a daily basis- tv, radio, print, online searches, mobile apps, websites, billboards, DOOH ads, branded social media posts, offline and online conversations, personal interactions, web browsing, store design and displays, package design and packaging, conversations with salespeople, in-store promotions. All this is just the ‘ before purchase ‘ exposure followed by interactions with customer service, online help features, surveys, loyalty programs, etc. ‘ post purchase ‘. It is less common for people to encounter advertising head-on. Conversations have become the pathways by which people encounter advertising. 

Something to RAVE(S) about

Most people today think of advertising as an interruption, a distraction, a nuisance, a waste of time. If we could skip or ignore it all, we would. And the lack of creativity is certainly not helping. Advertising as an interruptive act should be gone. Period. As I have been advocating, ” beyond advertising ” could and should be a narrative content that is entertaining, informative, actionable, valuable, value generating and provides an exceptional experience, being a shareworthy story delivered through all touchpoints. It could and should be something to RAVE(S)about:

R: Relevant and Respectful (to Individuals and of Individuals)

A: Actionable (Intuitive & Frictionless)

V: Valuable & Value Generating (Wanted, Needed, Effective)

E: Exceptional Experience (Delight & Inspire)

S: Shareworthy Story (Authentic & Authoritative)

Knock, Knock, the Digital Door

Beyond advertising could and should be something people want and seek out because it provides value. The trouble is nobody opens their digital door to receive an ad. They will, however, invite information across their threshold, if it promises to be of value to them. In the near and not so distant future, the successful advertisers would be those who have stopped treating consumers as many targets, marks, and stats. In an online universe, populated by consumers armed with the desire, the regulatory support, and the technology to be aggressively selective in the choices they make, advertisers will be obliged to treat consumers as decision makers.

Open the Vent: To Relevant

Forrester Research has termed the next few years as ” The Great Race for Relevancy “. New social data with clearer content marking will be interrogated with powerful new algorithms. The movement is from link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where search engines are computing the right answer. We are already at a point where Google can give direct and accurate answers to questions like: What time is Guess Guess Guess on? Who plays in goal for Manchester City? Who is the favorite to win the next US Presidential election?  What black suits are on sale at Zara?…

Google’s algorithm has improved to the point where it can answer questions that are nuanced, and geo- and time-based. Is the stimulus package working for the economy? Which is Arijit Singh’s best song now? When should I leave to reach Ritz Carlton DIFC by 8 pm?

And very soon, the internet will become an intelligence that will make its current guise seem incredibly dumb and disorganised. We don’t know how we lived without it.

The goal of relevance is to reach specific individuals. General demographics and television time slots no longer cut it when trying to communicate with people who juggle multiple screens and identities (family, work, social roles). Advertisers must get to the basics: Who are you? What are you doing? Where are you? What time is it? Why are you doing it? And how?

Messages relevant to time, location and preferences can be very effective, but they are not sufficient for optimal effectiveness: mood and state of mind must also be taken into consideration, just like the human interaction ” Is this a good time to talk to you about…?”.

Digital media drove a shift in marketers’ budget to ‘ always-on ‘, such as search, display and social. The marketing on-demand world of now and the near future has evolved to be ‘ always relevant ‘. For brands and their agencies, that will require a much more sophisticated and targeted approach to address the ubiquity of touch points so that they can be there at a consumer’s point of need-no matter where or when it is. Massive analytical capabilities invested will help support a brand’s stewardship of their customers information. In short, ads need to answer questions, any time, all the time. 

Don’t find Customers for your Products; Find Products for your Customers

The only asset that gets built online is permission. Permission to talk to people who want to be talked to, delivering, and anticipating personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them and connecting them to one another. That’s all we can build and what we should measure. Not how many people thumbed up some video we made, but instead how many people want to hear from us.

Brands that want to thrive in this space must earn their welcome through the continually refreshed offer of social currency: ideas that people want to share with others.

Next STEPPS

Wharton Professor Jonah Berger in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, suggests six principles for developing contagious or shareable, ideas based on his research findings using the acronym STEPPS:

S: Social Currency (make it cool to talk about)

T: Triggers (make it top of mind)

E: Emotion (make them feel something)

P: Public (make it visible)

P: Practical Value (make it useful)

S: Stories (make it tell-able)

The worlds of logic and emotions must be married with all the senses and the muses from music to scents, visuals to touch, virtual to reality. Monetary value motivates consumers to purchase, but it won’t necessarily be enough to motivate them to repeat that purchase, or to recommend an object or service to peers.

Questions

What would happen if authentic and creative stories opened channels of communication with people?

How would people feel about brands and advertising?

What financial and social benefits would be afforded employees and shareholders?

How could advertising be ‘ re-defined ‘?

What if advertisers were named POY (Person of the Year) by TIME Magazine for these transformations?

What if we question the intentionality of our choices, the depth of our kindness and our very belonging as a species on this planet?

Creating RAVES advertising through every touchpoint has the potential for achieving this transformation.

Most positively, we are headed inexorably towards a new era of truth. Truth in what products do, truth in how and by who they are made, truth in the opportunity cost of their manufacturer, truth in performance and yes, truth in advertising.

ENDS

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

Beyond Advertising: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 @ https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising )

 

Headlines from January 1, 2027, The New York Times

 

Global Warming Ended.

 Ice Caps Return.

AIDS and Cancer Cure Share Nobel Prize.

War? What’s That?

 

Sounds too good to be true. Okay, here are two more from the industry trade magazine Advertising Age:

 

CMO OF GOLDMAN SACHS RECEIVES MORE BONUS THAN BANKERS. CMO WINS NOBEL PRIZE.

 

Well, here is my view of the future and what I believe it will hold. Not only do I think that this represents a realistic view of where our industry could be in a few years from now and I think that our being there today could have a bearing on the world headlines I’ve put up.

 

If I were to look ahead to the future, the hope is that advertising would be focused more on authentic trust building engagement through human insight rather than relentless stalking through data mining.

 

For that, words really matter and it’s time to look at a new advertising vocabulary (Infographic 1.0) and for advertising to challenge entrenched mental models that we have been all prey to (Infographic 2.0).

Infographic 1.0

Infographic 2.0

 

Remember the office desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. Even digital needs a human touch for it to be soulful. Soulful advertising comes from those who interrogate their souls and that of the people they serve to be able to tell the truth in a way that affirms, alters, enhances people’s lives while making money or profit.

 

Advertisers will have to realise that brands will not be the centre of any conversations. Instead, brands will have to deliver opportunities for people to have the kind of conversations they want- with other people. The imperative for advertisers will be to avoid butting into conversations and instead to facilitate the kind of interpersonal conversations people want to have.

 

With so many changes going on within the industry, now is a great time to stop at the crossroads and look in a new direction. To look at the outcomes, – to create work that is as clever and creative as the best entertainment- in fact, so good, we could charge people to watch them. Today’s ads now compete not just with other ads but millions of moments of entertainment from professionally made work to home videos.

 

A dash of the familiar makes something palatable, a hint of the strange makes it interesting.

 

It takes Two to Tango

 

Like the perceived binary of analytics and creative, the short and long term are often in tension- should a brand aim to increase sales now by focusing on the quick sell, or should a brand play the long game, patiently waiting for the numbers to climb?

 

We have two clear takeaways. While Big Data is a revolutionary force, short-term metrics- to which it leans- do not predict long term effects. And emotional, creative campaigns, – which focus on the long term- will benefit a brand far more than a quick spike in sales. The two must work together: investment in brand and trust building combined with short term ‘brand activations ‘to reap the sales benefits of those investments.

 

In the future, analytics and creatives will be a match made in heaven. Designers and operational experts will work hand in glove. Ok, admitted, that is a fair bit of idealism, but then that is the whole point. What if the new collaboration yields an even more compelling and unifying brand purpose that goes beyond ‘the big idea ‘of the traditional ad campaign to create something more lasting, more connected to the aligned objectives that draws heavily on all these disciplines? Something that articulates what all those in the service of and serviced by the brand can relate to, as it is how the brand betters their lives.

 

Fewture Forward

Part of really embracing the future is putting few of your resources on the cutting edge because the cutting edge becomes mainstream so fast. You might look back and realise that you are missing the whole opportunity.

 

Far too often we get narcissistic about the brand (people must be interested in what we make) rather than be humble, empathetic, and interested in their lives. Great brand communication ideas act as a bridge. A bridge between what people are interested in and what you make/sell. A bridge between your world and theirs; real life / culture and commerce.

 

Multiple bets and the Velcro analogy

Brands now and in the future need to do lots of things, not just one big thing. Tying into the point of placing little bets and to be about managing portfolios rather than playing roulette. Google is a great example of this type of prodigious brand- Search to Google 411 to Chrome to Maps … (the list goes on). Creating brands built around a coherent stream of small ideas makes them stickier (the Velcro analogy of little hooks that Russell Davies has used is an incredibly powerful metaphor)- being the brand of new news and seen as having momentum and energy is the best leading indicator of future preference and usage. It also means you are more likely to thrive in a world where 95% of things die.

 

Actions speak louder than words. We need to make communication products, not just communicate a product. Create actions and things, not ads.

 

Curiosity Skilled the Cat

 

The future of how to thrive in the changed advertising landscape is curiosity. Without an inherent sense of cultural and technological curiosity embedded into advertising’s DNA then our industry is doomed to irrelevance. We don’t have to have all the answers, but we need to be asking all the questions because our future will be built by the curious.

 

Getting ready for the future of advertising means innovating products that foster creativity, support flawless brand experiences, and vitally keep up with the ever-changing consumer behavior. Exceptional marketers will leverage the unpredictable, moving the brand into the spotlight in real time.

 

Yours Personally

 

We may not personally know everyone we communicate with, but they are as informed, conscientious, and astute as our nearest and dearest. It’s time to treat them as such. Indeed “they” are “we “.

 

The Compass points towards Trust

 

Every three hundred thousand years or so, the north pole and the south pole switch places. The magnetic fields of the Earth flip.

In our culture, it happens more often than not.

And in the world of culture change, it just happened. The true north, the method that works best has flipped. Instead of selfish mass, effective advertising would need to rely on empathy and trust.

 

To be continued..

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

 

 

BEYOND Advertising!

Vignettes from A Day In Your Not-So-Future Life

As I walked into the bathroom, the body scanning sensors could tell I had a rough night. Sure enough, looking into the mirror, it displayed an ad for Panadol(extra strength) which was dynamically inserted as sponsor of my morning sports video highlights. In addition, a coupon offer from Nabo coffee was presented along with my daily agenda, which I dropped into my mobile watch.

 

My automated home system had already connected with my Google self drive and ordered me a car. Since I had earned over 1000 points last month based on my social sharing activity, I received an offer to try 3 breakfast items from a sponsor, Tim Hortons, with the caveat to ‘ please share your thoughts on the breakfast with your social network. I devoured the greasy delight while sitting in the backseat of my selfie-car while it drove into the city.

 

The ads that rose from the ether as I looked out of the windows were personalised and behaviorally driven with time and place considered.

 

When I selected quiet, contemplative music for the drive, I wasn’t surprised when the ‘ brought to you by ‘ included a yoga studio and a spa; both offering same week specials if booked within an hour and a voice link to testimonials from ” friends ” within my social network.

 

At the office I entered the Google collaboration holodeck with five others; we connected to the global team(another 12 members) and used voice, text, touch screen tech to share, move, grab, iterate on ideas, designs, models(which we 3D printed) for the proposed E Sports stadium for the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

 

On the way home later I received several invitations to stop or order dinner for home delivery, al, based on known preferences, what I ate yesterday, my bio read for today, with ratings from within my social sphere.I decided on delivery(noodles) and decided, once home, I needed a good laugh, so asked my virtual video concierge for all Academy Award winning comedies of the past decade, along with ratings my friends had given and also asked to see if anyone wanted to co view and connect this evening.

 

While watching the comedy film, I was on Twitter and received sponsored Twitter amplified comedy shorts; both were outtakes from the movie I was watching and ” best of ” clips from the actor’s other work.

 

I ended the day in bed with my e-book reading a few pages to me, along with sharing tomorrow’s weather(brought to you by Carrier) and any key meetings on my agenda( a reminder from Timex).

Bruce Neve, Former CEO, StarcomMediavest Group 

 

What we find compelling about this above extract from Bruce(projected in 2013) is that the vast majority of what he describes is not only possible today, but is being practiced, tested and evaluated for new levels of effectiveness related to traditional approaches by marketers across categories.

 

Going Back In Time

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Genesis 3:1–5

 

If we assumed this biblical account were literally and historically accurate, we might argue that the serpent was the first advertiser, and this was the very first instance of deceptive advertising. Setting aside that some people would challenge this description’s historical accuracy, others likely would argue that it isn’t advertising—it’s direct selling! Or perhaps it’s public relations. Does that really make a difference? Of course, if the serpent was the first adman, that makes all of us in the industry a professional descendant of the serpent.

 

If we are to look at the future of something, then it is important to correspondingly understand its historical, cultural and anthropological origins. Therein lies some telltale signs and the crystal ball.

 

It is said that the future arrives gradually and then all of a sudden.
We’ve been hearing about the pending “death of advertising” for years, with ever-increasing ads having less and less influence on actual consumer decisions. Today, the up to 10,000 ads we see every day makes each of them less impactful. It turns out that hitting people in the face with a fire hose is actually a bad way to convince them they should take a drink.
The consumer is hard to impress( we could call them ‘ infidels ‘ in some way) and the next decade of advertising relies completely on them buying into our largely tech-driven, utopian vision of making every single advertising message relevant to the receiver. If you consider yourself able to predict the future within any reasonable degree of accuracy, you’ll know that a solid human understanding is absolutely essential.
Over the next 10 years, advertising will move further away from communicating to predicting, and emoting, based on human needs. According to a study by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, three out of eight people now love brands more than their spouses, because thinking of brands releases more oxytocin – the same reaction generated when being hugged. 

Without a doubt, we’re going to witness(or already witnessing) a shift from obsessing over what advertising looks like, to what advertising feels like. As we call it at ISD Global – Unique Feelings Proposition(UFP) is far more significant than the by now passe Unique Selling Proposition(USP).

And for that to happen, advertisers talking will get replaced by advertisers listening. Hearing what the customer is saying will be more important than trying to devise a break-through creative idea. Answering customers’ questions. Right now. Not tomorrow.The individual is the shaper of her own identity and its own online & offline presentation. She is no longer the consumer of the media. She is the medium– the most trusted and personal channel through which content is created, flows, finds shape, and gets presented to the world.

 

The hyper-personalization of advertising will indeed further empower the consumer but it may also save advertising from its oft predicted doom. 

 

In order to develop a future for advertising brands, there could come into existence a Need Bar. The Need Bar would be personalised for every consumer, so as to give her the ability to look for anything she needs at any time.This would result in a brand not only being present in the life of a consumer, but also catering to her every need, from any brand. Inevitably, the future of advertising will incorporate more consumer knowledge derived from the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, to complement that acquired from the softer sciences of psychology and sociology.

 

The needle is moving. Most advertisers in the very near future(if not already) would have completed their natural evolution from adjacency(stand next to the stuff people want!) to interruption( stand in the way of the stuff people want!) to content marketing (be the stuff that people want!). Enter a new era where brands that do business using a Consumer Era ” marketing as manipulation ” mindset will become irrelevant and superseded by companies that demonstrate a Relationship Era mindset. And, as forces at play lead the Relationship Era to the tipping point of wide acceptance, I believe that marketers will not be known as the scoundrels who spin but rather people with the greatest expertise in crafting authentic relationships– and adding most value to their brands and businesses.

 

What if?

– What if marketers and brands saw their marketing and advertising as an investment and a value creation engine rather than as an expense to be squeezed?

– What if the brands were seen as bringing in not only advertising dollars but also valued content to the media properties and channels they use?

– What if the creative, analytic and strategic genius that lies within the sum total of the world’s media, advertising, digital, creative etc agencies, research firms, ad tech companies, sponsorship, brand placement, – and all other players who ‘ feed off advertising ‘- were given a more inspired briefIncrease sales and leave the world a better place. Come in on budget and be proud to tell your family about what you helped create. Help us, all of us, be in thought, word and deed, create something truly exceptional!

– What if the community were to be expanded to all those whose actions imparted the brand and how it actually came to life for its audience? Not only the traditional stakeholders, but also others who could potentially describe the broader value of the brand and the brand experience in even more creative and impactful ways.

– What if all the ways that brands were brought to life with their potential and current customers were thought of holistically, and resources were allocated accordingly?

– What if every bit of the US$ 780 billion plus paid, earned and owned advertising expenditure around the globe not only resulted in sales and profit, but also resulted in net positive impact on society and culture? What if, in addition, it made a positive impact on the lives of those who were involved in it and influenced| inspired by it?

WHY NOT?

As Albert Einstein famously asserted ” Without changing our pattern of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought “.

 

Amid all the changes, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” to quote the famous song from the classic movie Casablanca. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, and human nature doesn’t change over time. Our obsessive drives to survive, to succeed, to belong and to be loved, to take care of our own—those passions have been heightened by the pandemic, and advertisers and their agencies who are sensitive to those basic needs will create brands to meet them, an act that will always require advertising.

 

Creativity will remain the most powerful force in business, and instead of changing campaigns with every change of a CMO, advertisers will rediscover the importance of consistently projecting a clear sense of purpose and doing so with a distinctive brand voice. Along the way, we’ll learn the difference between an algorithm and a true insight into human nature and the important difference between big data and a big idea.

 

Advertising has been both cause and consequence of social change.Never was it more obvious than since the start of the twentieth century. That, of course, is both a positive and a negative. It is a powerful tool of change, and like any tool, it can be misused. And at times it has been.I have no doubt that advertising will rise to meet that challenge.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADVerbatim: Some micro and macro outlooks

The caption of this article is a bit of soft pedaling. I am quite uncomfortable with the word ‘ trends ‘ because it is in more ways than one camouflaging what is called ‘ herd mentality ‘ which leads to the inevitable SOS(Sea of Sameness). And in an increasingly commoditized world, you may be birds of the same feather, but..flocking together ??
Amidst the tempest of pandemic driven uncertainty and disorientation, here’s a crystal ball gaze at some obvious and not so obvious landscapes that the advertising industry could be witness to in the coming months.
– The biggest boycott in history to continue- I am referring to ad blocking– with over 600 million devices in its universe and growing, the wake up alarm has long been sounded for brands, agencies and advertisers. According to Hootsuite, the UAE has close to 40% of ad blocking( countries like Indonesia, India are at over 50%). Research states that one of the primary reasons for ad blocking is too many ads that are irrelevant, annoying and have nothing to do with creativity. Creativity is future proof and the sooner brand guardians get re-sensitized to that, in a pull and engage scenario(as against the widely practiced push and control), the better.
– Unless something dramatic happens, online programmatic advertising is writing its own obituary. Advertisers are being abused blind by adtech ferrets. Research from Media Post concludes that out of the US$200 billion global spend, 70% of advertising dollars spent on online programmatic advertising never touch a human being. In effect, $140 billion disappears in “ad fees, fraud, non-viewable impressions, non-brand-safe placements, and unknown allocations” (by “unknown allocations” you can read “shit that no one can figure out”).
 
– The pandemic brought first-time advertisers to many platforms, especially OOH and DOOH, 2022 will be no different. New categories like Fintech, NFTs, Crypto (with their supporting companies), and Online/E SportsWellbeing,EdTech, FoodTech categories will continue to flourish. After the dash for Expo 2020 attention, big opportunities will come to the fore for advertisers courtesy the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
– Advertisers and marketers will need to be as nimble as consumers. The pandemic not only accelerated omnichannel retail but also created hybrid behaviours beyond how we shop. From a mix of virtual and in-person fitness to IRL experiences with digital extensions, how we work, play and live is fluid and consumers expect brands to keep up with the rapid pace. For marketers, that means mapping every consumer touchpoint and applying a collection of insights – location, identity, cross-device, in-person, in-stream, etc. – to creative concepts that earn consumers’ attention while respecting privacyThe agility of marketers to behave as nimbly as consumers will translate into brand loyalty in a rapidly growing hybrid world.
– A largely ignored, under served imperative will come to the fore for marketers and advertisers- Building company culture: The industry never had attrition rates as high as it had in 2021, and we’ve never had as many remote employees either. The Great Resignation continues unabated. Last year, the better organisations focused on retention and put a hyper-focus on recognition. Without in-person interactivity, you have to be so deliberate about your culture, especially during remote work. In the coming times, brands and businesses will put a lot of focus on how they create a culture of retention, diversity and recognition. Creativity will have to make a serious comeback.
 
– For better or for(commerce)verse- Last year we saw a continued acceleration of social with e commerce and sowing of the seeds of ‘ community commerce ‘ glued together by community, creators, shopping and entertainment like never before. In 2022, we’ll see social commerce give way to the “commerceverse” as people begin to move from entertainment to purchase. And as consumers look to build out their environment with virtual goods and experiences, brands will have the opportunity to connect with consumers in a surround-sound way.
 
– Agency In-Housing: The in-housing trend at brands will not go away, but it is in reverse — to a point. Turns out, it’s too expensive, too complicated and too political for many brands to do at any real scale. Especially when so many businesses are trying to wrangle costs, not inflate them, during a global economic downturn. The pandemic’s knock on the economy forced many marketers to live hand-to-mouth and the flexibility offered by agencies proved to be critical to survival.
– Artificial Intelligence will find a greater say in services like copywriting and content generation– especially with tools like GPT 3(Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) -an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. It helps instantly generate high quality copy for Email, Ads, Websites, Listings, Blogs & More. Save Time And Money Writing Clever, Original Content And End Writer’s Block Forever is the pitch.
 
– One should have heeded this as a premonition- sometime back the Meaningful Brands study conducted by Havas told us that most people would not care if 74% of all brands disappeared for goodHow can brands bridge the gap between apathy and action, particularly with that all-important millennial audience – the biggest generation and the leaders of tomorrow as we collectively take responsibility for getting closer to the UN SDG(Sustainable Development Goals).If we want to change the world, we all have to be involved. All people, of all ages, every brand, no exceptions. Bridging that gap means recognising that brands can be citizens too, with a responsibility to promote, share, create exposure and help to make change. Most importantly, brands can help people to connect to a political process that will make an impact on the world they live in – and that their children will inherit – to act as citizens themselves and not simply as consumers. That is a brand’s role as a citizen – to help consumers be citizens too.
 
To quote Woody Allen, ” 80% of success is just showing up “. There is no better time to create a bright future.
 
– Playing it by earWhile our eyes may be ‘maxxed’ after more than a year of relentless screen time, our ears have bandwidth. Our ears are more reliable curators, opting for human connection and unscripted conversations that podcasts and radio provide. A recent WARC Lion’s Intelligence study showed consumers now spend a third of their media time with audio, but most brands spend less than 10% of their media budget with audio. There is no question brands need to right-size their audio investment. But, getting beyond the spreadsheet and learning how to create a real human conversation with the consumer is the secret to winning with audio. Here’s to more conversations about how brands can get heard and get growth with audio in 2022.
 
– This is how the cookie crumbles:The impending demise of third-party cookies has drastically altered the digital advertising world while simultaneously highlighting how vital first-party data is and will be into the future. For now, first-party and third-party data will continue to exist, and advertisers can maximise this opportunity to run various experiments to ensure they are ready for when third-party cookies are no longer a source of targeting data. Brands that embrace first-party data, contextual advertising, and other third-party data alternatives today will be the industry leaders tomorrow.
– RIP to RFP? : The RFP(Request for Proposal) bandwagon indulged in by enterprises from agencies to extract the cheapest possible price for their services. This comes with scant regard to competence, expertise, empirical evidence and worse who contributes the original idea which is now happily being sacrificed at the ‘ cheapest pricing altar ‘. And we are all aware that ‘ insider trading ‘ is not just restricted to the stock market. Time to cremate this archaic, merit agnostic practice.
 
– Measurement will be back as the next frontier in 2022 — fueled by the unprecedented rise of CTV, the uncertain future of cookies and identity transactions in digital, and the disruption of Nielsen ratings. As we build for an ever-interconnected digital future, the ‘measurement reset’ is an opportunity to build the relationships between consumers, content creators, publishers and their advertising partners.
 
– Meta will emerge as part of brand experience and communication conversations and NFTs(Non Fungible Tokens) will begin to come into the brand ecosphere but we are still some time away from these becoming right, front and centre.
 
I remain conscious of brevity and hence would come to a halt here though there are quite a few more that I would have liked to list as we telescope into the emerging future of the advertising and marketing industry. Maybe in a separate piece.
 
ENDS
Suresh Dinakaran – Chief Storyteller at ISD ISD Global, a Dubai based branding and ideas hotshop and the Managing Editor of BrandKnew, a multifaceted media asset, published across print, digital and web versions.

Pierce The Future Through The Present

There is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown. Strategic foresight and future thinking exist to help tame the imaginary line connecting now and thenCompetence alone is not enough; character and perspective are also required in equal doses. This means that working with the future needs a lot more than hype cycle analyses and predictions about the future of this and that from self-anointed guru-ninja-hackers without any proper training in foresight. Developing strong characters is fundamental to ensuring an ethos of good ancestry

Practising future-back management is critical to enabling breakthrough innovation and leapfrogs when the road ahead seems rather foggy.

Nurturing a sense of perspective becomes the antidote from getting stuck in antiquated ways of working, thinking and behaving. Marketing’s new research and developments can indeed be quite distracting given their high frequency and volume. In trying to make sense of the new and generate brand buzz from it, marketers end up missing out on rather transformational opportunities – those where the future can be more evenly distributed.

This is rather disconcerting since marketers are often some of the most well-rounded and best-informed professionals in their organisations, with a sharp sense of ‘what’s next’. Still, many get caught by the glitz of the novel, instead of putting their energy in the grittiness of the foresight process.

In fact, when it comes to crystalising the definition of the 21st century marketer, Google conducted an experiment that involved interviewing 30 board members from Fortune 1000 companies, having accumulated more than 1300 minutes of audio and over 100,000 words about the role of the CMO (Think with Google 2020), which was then summarised in one long, important paragraph:

“The 21st century CMO is expected to be a marketing miracle worker, an alchemist who combines classic art of branding with the latest advances in data and measurement. All this while you serve as the connective tissue of the C-suite and stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing landscape of digital technology, cultural trends and shifting consumer expectations – things becoming ever more important to the stock price. Customers matter more than ever and, since you’re responsible for them, your role should matter more than ever too. But board members do not seem to have one cohesive definition of the role. 

So, what are you to do?

Internally, steer expectations for your role by defining growth, you have some control over. And recognise that the talent of your team is half the battle to achieving that growth. Hire the best measurement people, because marketing will be held to some metric that is currently beyond reach, and you’ll need them to invent it. There are many ways you can impact revenue – but be prepared to show the ‘I’m indispensable’ maths. And do not forget the most visible CMOs also take big risks. Only three percent of board members interviewed were marketers. Likely, they do not hear you. Listen closely and find the overlap between what the board is interested in and your responsibilities. And, instead of building slides about everything you do, build one slide that puts you in a position to start a conversation around those common interests and goals.”

What is interesting to note is that futures thinking is all over in the paragraph above and yet, nowhere on it. As haiku-esque as a statement, this is the closest to the truth. Strategic foresight and futures thinking are not explicitly mentioned, but implicitly dominate the subtext, with clear emphasis on character, competence and perspective too. Therefore, the opportunity is to nurture the Phewturecast seed, and develop the gravitas required for marketers and their peers to encourage and normalise the allocation of foresight investment. If education is key to opening more doors for foresight, appropriate use of language is the red carpet welcoming the long-awaited guests that can help reshape the future for the better.

For the ambitious marketers out there, this is just the beginning of your futures literacy. Use it and pierce the future through the present. 

BEGINS

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The future is an asset, not a guess!

A crystal ball gazing into what marketers and marketing should/could be doing in the coming times!
 
The future is an asset, not a guess. As such, using it rather than predicting it, is the only way to create the conditions for a tomorrow that is better than today.
 
Few industries will have more predictions or “future of” reports than marketing. After all, it’s in our best interest to be a step ahead of the consumer. However, rather than prediction, intention is what has enabled the creation of strong global brands, remarkable campaigns, game changing products and services and thriving economies.
 
Marketing can no longer be taught, investigated, and practiced as confined to transactions between buyers and sellers, but needs to be reconsidered as deeply embedded within society and our living world.
 
Critically, though, this is perhaps the perfect stage and time – an open invitation for marketers to stop viewing themselves and their trade as economists do. As preached by ad legend Rory Sutherland, “My definition of marketing is simply the science of knowing what economists are wrong about. The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol.” Perhaps, rather than chasing more universal laws of marketing, and what Sutherland calls ‘measurebation’, why not chase the exceptions that bring exponential success? And why not use that to help shift a business culture focused on short-term advantage, obsessed with money and uninterested on much else?
 
Particularly when, as explained by Sutherland in an exclusive master class for The Marketing Academy,“ “Marketing could be viewed as the most determining factor for social progress – not just in terms of changing our buying habits, but also in transforming our values system.”
 
Well… so what? A typical career lasts for 80,000 hours; so if you can make your career just one percent better, then in theory it would be worth spending up to 800 hours working out how to do just that. The past holds the patterns, the present is blurred, but the future is from where such exceptions can be seeded and harvested. Dr Toby Ord, a Philosophy Fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, frames the point in a rather compelling way: “Of all the people whose wellbeing we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us.”
 
This conclusion holds true regardless of whether your moral framework is based on common sense, consequences, rules of ethical conduct, cooperating with others, virtuousness, keeping options open or just a sense of wonder about the universe in which we find ourselves. Regardless of your personal stance, this is an opportunity for a sound investment of your time. Now and then.
 
“We know how marketing works, but do we know what we want it to work for? Profit is the default worldview. Prosperity is the renegade counterpart. Why not both?”
 
Why not embrace ambiguity, apply genuine foresight and rigorously imagine possible scenarios where marketing’s effectiveness can be considered in novel and holistic ways?
 
THE POST-COVID POSSIBLE SCENARIOS 
 
By all accounts, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak was not an unpredictable ‘Black Swan’, since many working in the emerging infectious diseases field provided several indications of its possibility. What is hard to predict, yet possible to project, is what may happen after this. The challenge of a global response is that there are multiple world views operating, all with different interests. Thus, predicting what the future may hold is pointless. But projecting alternative scenarios, preparing for potential risks and setting a course of action that helps actualize a desired future is a valuable lesson that futures studies can provide.
 
We need to stop talking in terms of the ‘new normal’. Please!!! What we are currently facing is a set of circumstances that have changed our environment. To what extent and for how long is unknown. This will again depend on your industry, your target audience and your ability to pave the road forward as opposed to waiting a return. How? Marketing’s ‘4Ps’ can be a good indicator. Move on from planned obsolescence to products that last longer or, even better, regenerate. From a burnout workforce to one that better integrates life and work. From the cumbersome commute and costly square metres to ubiquitous mobility and commerce convenience. From low prices funded by cheap labour to competitive prices enabled by smarter supply chains and business models.
 
What we have seen more than anything else is incredible adaptability, agility and versatility, none more so than within our small business community. If you weren’t digital before, you certainly are now. Again, every marketer needs to arm themselves with skills and pivoting abilities, rather than grand strategies and we could all learn something from SMBs. In this (as in any time of change) we need to focus on what we need to learn, NOT on what we already know. How do we use data to learn more, improve outcomes and make sure we are resonating with our consumers?
 
This time has also given us the opportunity to press the reset button. Change is not new to marketing. COVID-induced change across industries and economies has forced simultaneous change for all marketers and tested their adaptability. It’s on a bigger scale but not totally new. We have been forced to forensically look at ourselves, our budgets, the environment in which we are operating and, ultimately, our consumer. This has forced optimisation through digital, collaboration, through necessity and working in a much more agile manner. We may now expect some positive outcomes, like grit to NOT return to a normal that only partially served us.
 
The strength of a society is based on how we treat the weakest, not how we glorify the strongest. Young people are no longer the future, but the present. 
 
This is the disruption that truly creates the fourth industrial revolution. Along with external innovation, there is inner innovation – a social revolution. Evidence-based science and technology inform public policy, not the whims of particular leaders. The insights from fighting COVID-19 are applied to climate change. There is a dramatic shift to plant-based diets. It is business transformed, social mutation, not back to usual. There are, however, concerns about privacy. COVID has accelerated tech adoption. Any brand that is still wrestling with ‘digital transformation’ will likely be struggling to keep up. It is wrong to think digital doesn’t incorporate creativity, just as it is wrong to think creativity has nothing to do with data. It’s both and, the sweet fruit of this marriage could mean the rise of sentient marketing. In this new reality, brands proactively take action to avoid errors, sensing adversity and remaining alert to micro-trends and opportunities in its environment. The sentient enterprise is frictionless and truly unified by its brand’s strategy – for real, not just as a model on the paper. Like many actions that the brain executes, the sentient enterprise listens to data and makes autonomous, real-time decisions without requiring a human’s conscious intervention.
 
Predictive marketing should absolutely be embraced but, as with all technology, success will be driven by more than just profit. Empathy, connection and responsibility, combined with value delivery, may become the new metrics assessed by brand trackers. Without delivering this, brands will quickly lose meaning and the ability to command price premiums and, ultimately, will commoditise.
 
For now, consumers are searching for brands that help them make good choices that support the well-being for all – planet, people and the economy. Brands able to demonstrably track progress across the triple bottom line will move away from niche indexes reporting on ‘green brands’ and become the new gold standard for the more mainstream ‘best brands’ reports.
 
Another (not so optimistic) scenario is that of a great despair looming large-  Not an apocalypse, not a depression, no magic- just a slow and marked decline of health and wealth. Walls appear everywhere. The World Health Organisation and others try to contain it, but the virus repeatedly slips in and infects the bodies, minds and hearts of all. We are back to the Middle Ages. The efforts to address fail. The least connected to globalisation fare the best. The vulnerable are forgotten. Intergenerational memory of past pandemics informs reality. 
 
As marketers, do we have enough influence to impact this scenario? This often depends so deeply on political and economic inputs that are beyond our control. However, as an industry we are overwhelmingly one of optimism, action and awareness. Adopting a Future Back strategy(something that we practice at ISD Global( https://bit.ly/3oCwAZD) is a manifestation of marketers’ ability to foresee this and disrupt inertia or apathy. There are many steps between here and there. Marketing doesn’t only have to be to ‘sell’ products and services. It can equally persuade and inform decisions about health choices, protecting the vulnerable, combating mental health deterioration and lessening the height of any ‘walls’. As a part of society, marketers would be part of the effort to resist the described decline. A few of us have already started.
 
A systemic view of what marketing effectiveness is, and can be, needs to be supported by data, insights, technology, media ecosystems and the power of brand. Proficiency is part of the solution and posturing part of the problem.
 
Above all, we have the unique opportunity to address the claim from the most important marketing theorist of the 20th century, Wroe Wilson, who said that, “What is needed is not an interpretation of the utility created by marketing, but a marketing interpretation of the whole process of creating utility.”
For the 21st century, all marketers can make an honest attempt at doing just that. If we succeed, we can expect to ignite a journey to a desired future.
If we fail…
 

The changing idea of marketing as a concept!

If you are one of the marketers who embraces convention, no one will point a finger at you if you were to follow the norm that has been practiced for years. Build/produce/manufacture, brand, market, sell. Justified linear thinking.With strong empirical evidence( I mean brand and business success) to boot.

With so many years of conventional wisdom( that also is the wisdom of the crowds that drive collective bias) in the ring, it would have been a really uphill task for any brand to alter(let alone disrupt) the narrative. But there is something about audacity and moonshots that make them perfect partners in rhyme.

I devote this blog post predominantly to understand marketing from a new lens- the one that brand Tesla is scripting so brilliantly. Directed by Elon Musk(Iron Man). Allow me to go back a few years.

It’s the 4th of April, 2016. The Tesla Model 3 is being launched in the US. It sports a price tag of US$ 35,000 and bookings can be made with a U$1,000 down payment.  Then history unfolds. A whopping 276,000 cars were booked(read pre-sold) on the day, probably a first ever in automotive marketing . And Tesla gathered US$ 276 Million in upfront cash. And here’s where the story gets interesting. There was not even a model car ready. All the sales happened courtesy a few photographs of the Model 3. That’s it. There’s more. There was not even a single car that had gone into production. The first promised schedule for delivery of the Model 3 was late 2017, that was a good 18+ months away. Tesla had disrupted automotive marketing on it’s head and how.

Let’s try to understand more of the phenomena that is brand Tesla.

  • Tesla’s $0 marketing budget is incredibly awesome marketing
  • Tesla Motors has no advertising, no ad agency, no CMO, no dealer network. And that’s no problem. – AdvertisingAge
  • If you drop by the Tesla forums, you’ll see a community of passionate fans discussing how to market Tesla better. There are over 55,000 people subscribed to the /r/teslamotors subreddit. The brand has clearly struck a chord with its fans.
  • Tesla fans are crazy advocates. They attach deep emotional significance to the car. They’re not just paying for a mode of transportation, they’re paying for a slice of the future.
  • Prior to the Model 3 launch, Tesla had introduced the P100D Ludicrous– a luxury model priced over US$ 80,000(base level) with upgraded versions well over US$ 100,000. The marketing masterstroke was in the message conveyed. ” While the PD100 Ludicrous is an expensive vehicle, we want to emphasise that every sale helps pay for the smaller and more affordable Model 3 which is under development. Without customers willing to buy the expensive Model S and X, we would be unable to fund the smaller, more affordable Model 3 “. This is brand positioning at it’s masterful best, making a luxury purchase almost into a charitable act.
  • Every element of the Model S – from the recharging technology to the drag coefficient of the car – is presented as the pinnacle of research and engineering.
  • By eschewing marketing completely, Elon Musk is actually communicating that Tesla is focused on ground breaking technology.
  • Tesla the brand transcended from being just another automotive player in the business to encompass economics, politics, world power to have global energy NOT driven by oil. In the process, creating the marketplace, the eco system where they are the game. As also the game changer.

“ BMW has a marketing department called engineering.” – Seth Godin

These things obviously don’t bother Musk too much. If one were to give him an advertising budget, he is sure to divert that into production. And the final result: an even more incredible car. And inspite of NO Advertising, he gets the world talking about his brand, especially the people who matter.

How does Tesla manage to do all of this free of cost which other brands would spend millions to buy?

First, build something that matters to people. Then, tell a story that resonates with people. Just like iPhones/iPod and Steve Jobs, electric cars are a great story. The greatest stories are aspirational, representing the triumph of passion, conviction, persistence and diligence.

” I know a lot of very wealthy people.  Most of them made their money in technology.  I don’t think Bentley or Rolls-Royce is anywhere near the top of very many of these people’s idea of an impressive car.  A Tesla is more like it “. – Jimmy Wales, on Quora

This sort of advertising is earned, not bought.

You earn this sort of attention by making something truly newsworthy. Or saying something newsworthy.

” The public tends to be, as they should, interested in things that are precedent and superlatives.” – Elon Musk

Musk is all over YouTube. The media is chasing him nine to the dozen. Why? Because he is always working on cool, fascinating, path breaking projects.

Musk is a CEO who understands the power of showmanship(tonnes of interviews, cameo roles in films and media appearances.

Just GoogleElon Musk  says ‘and you will get the most quotable of quotes that media loves to lap up and carry forward.

The Hyperloop is something that Musk is NOT planning to make but delivers great PR for him as a tech visionary.

At most times,Tesla has more orders than they can build – that in itself is great marketing.

Tesla has demonstrated that brands and organisations can move on from a Build/produce/manufacture, brand, market, sell model to that of a brand, market, sell, build one. Welcome to the next normal.

As William Gibson would say, “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”-  which will be nothing like what we have experienced before, we’re all going to be completely re-evaluating so many aspects of our lives: education, medicine, work, social responsibility, inner calling, the list goes on. And under the aegis of the Covid 19, all of this is happening remotely right now. And the question for a lot of companies and brands is going to be: Now that this shift has happened, am I still relevant? Does what I do still make sense? Am I serving an essential function, especially in a time when everyone is being careful about their finances?

Answering in the affirmative will separate the men from the boys. Wanted. More Musketeers!

ENDS

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Same Circus, New Monkeys!

The world is going digital at a frenzied clip. It’s gone from being the flavour of the season to being the only reason for brand marketers and CMOs. In this sordid vortex of elation and over glorification with digital being heralded as the manna from heaven, the campaign hits are paraded for the world to see. There is hardly any mention of the innumerable misses that get lost in the wilderness.

Take a look at the average CMO tenure- it’s not going anywhere beyond 18-24 months(with some exceptions of course). If it’s a hit parade through and through on all campaigns, would this be the threshold duration?

So the next time you have a fire and hire issue for a CMO, please do remember what your new CMO will say:-

It doesn’t matter what the problem is..the answer will be:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

You have a crappy product:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

You have no discernible strategy:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

Your advertising is a stupid pile of shit:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

Your stores are filthy, your people are morons:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

If you are looking for a marketing job, repeat after me:

  • we need to get more digital
  • we need to get more younger

It seems to be the universal marketing strategy that will get you get employed by any dumb ass organisation. Never mind that you will last only 18 months. Or 24 at best. There is always another sucker(dumb ass organisation I mean) around the corner. That needs your ‘ keen insights ‘.

Agreed we are now in an era where the 4Ps of marketing has seen a shift to personalisation, privacy, permissions & performance- fully respect the merits of these. But it sure does not offer a license to overlook fundamentals like product quality, your advertising content, the customer experience you deliver, the human resources you have and the market insights that drive your R&D. Ideally, could the true CMO combine the traditional 4Ps with the new age 4Ps? What a potent combination that would be!

There is already talk in some organisations around the world about making the CMO position redundant. So, let’s not do our bit to accelerate the demise.

Digitelly yours!

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The New Prescription for Marketers: Subscription

The New Prescription for Marketers: Subscription
Saying that we are in the ” The Age of the Customer ” would be stating the obvious. Here’s how Forrester Research describes the new consumer mindset: “ The expectation that any desired information or service is available, on any appropriate device, in context, at your moment of need.” Customers have new expectations (and yes, those expectations have certainly been driven by millennials, but at this point, almost everyone shares them). They want the ride, not the car. The milk, not the cow. The new Kanye music, not the new Kanye record.
 
Welcome to the Subscription Economy. The term refers to the growing number of businesses that use subscription or membership models and rely on recurring revenues rather than one-time purchases. And aside from transportation and retail, they are entering diverse businesses including Fashion, Personal Hygiene, Furniture etc.
Apple is a subscription business with Apple Music. And so is Google with Google Express. And all the binge watchers out there know that Netflix is one. Dollar Shave Club that sends razors home every month to subscribers is one(they got acquired by Unilever for USbillion). Salesforce, Amazon, Volvo(yes cars), Adobe..the list is growing across business verticals.
 
The Begining of a New Era
 
Before anything else, lets talk about the flavour of the season: ‘ digital transformation ‘- a vague term definitely, the kind of smart-sounding phrase that gets thrown around a lot in conferences and McKinsey reports and Harvard Business Review articles. The kind of expression that lots of people instinctively nod their head at, whether they know what it means or not. It could mean everything, it could mean nothing. Let’s try to define what it means.
 
You have read or know about this statistic already: more than half of the companies that appeared on the Fortune 500 list in the year 2000 are now gone. Poof. Vanished off the list as a result of mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies.The life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company in 1975 was seventy-five years- today you have fifteen years to enjoy your time on the list before it’s lights out. Why is this happening? Instead of dwelling on failure and looking at all the companies that went away, let’s look at the companies that have stayed. Let’s play victor, not victim.
 
Begining with the usual suspects: Giants like GE and IBM that were on the first list in 1955-and are still on it today-but they don’t talk about their mainframes and refrigerators and washing machines anymore. They talk about “providing digital solutions,” which is an admittedly jargony way of saying RIP Hardware . In other words, these companies now focus  on achieving outcomes for their clients, rather than just selling them equipment. GE ran commercials during the Oscars with the tagline “The digital company. That’s also an industrial company.” Notice the switch there.
 
More companies from that list of 1955 have transformed including Xerox(from manufacturing photographic paper and equipment to information services). McGraw-Hill(from printing textbooks and magazines to offering financial services and adaptive learning systems)..
 
Next on the list, let’s look at some ‘ new establishment ‘ brands like Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix, Facebook. All very every day to us but new to the list.They’ve rocketed to the top of the list and show no signs of going anywhere. They never thought of themselves as product companies-so no transformation was needed. From the start, these companies were relentlessly focused on building direct digital relationships with their customers.
 
And, finally the third category in the list are the upstarts, the ‘ anti establishment brands ‘ like Uber, Spotify, Box: They haven’t just gone beyond selling products, they’ve invented completely new markets, new services, new business models, and new technology platforms, leaving many established companies trying to play catch-up. As consumers, we love these brands, we love these services, and we love the value they provide us-a value that goes way beyond what a single product could ever offer.
 
What are the common threads among these three groups of companies? Whether it’s GE, Amazon, or Uber, they are all succeeding because they recognised that we now live in a digital world, and in this new world, customers are different. The way people buy has changed for good. We have new expectations as consumers. We prefer outcomes over ownership. We prefer customisation, not standardisation. And we want constant improvement, not planned obsolescence. We want a new way to engage with business. We want services, not products. The one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it anymore. And to succeed in this new digital world, companies have to transform.
 
The Customer is Always Right?
 
A nineteenth century phrase that was doing the rounds. The jury is still out on that question- Fortune 500 Companies built prescriptive strategies around customer focus, but they lacked a descriptive understanding of the mindset of the customer herself. And to no one’s surprise, there were certainly no sweeping changes in public sentiment toward big enterprises. It just wasn’t enough. The winds just weren’t blowing in the right direction.
 
And then it happened- like a breath of fresh air, digital disrupters like Salesforce and Amazon took the Customer First concept several notches upstream. They began by waving goodbye to the ‘ one to many ‘ approach.(What we call in marketing as the ‘ Spray and Pray ‘ route). They didn’t have customer segments anymore- they had individual subscribers. And every one of those individual subscribers had their own home page, their own activity history, their own red flags, their own algorithmically derived suggestions, their own unique experiences. And thanks to subscriber IDs, all the boring transactional point-of-sale processes disappeared. Ten years ago there was no Spotify, and Netflix was a DVD company. Today both those brands own a significant percentage of the total revenue of their respective industries! Now businesses are asking themselves a whole new set of questions: What do we need to do to build long-term relationships? What do we need to do to focus on outcomes and not ownership? To invent new business models? To grow recurring revenue, and to deliver ongoing value?
 
The New Marketing Mix
 
We are seeing a massive shift from the 4Ps( Peace Be Upon It) towards the 4Esthe new approach to customer value proposition, which embodies Engagement, Experience, Exclusivity and Emotion. The the truth is people don’t buy products anymore. They buy experiences and emotions instead. You should change your “what should I sell” or “how should I sell” into “WHY should I sell it?”.
 
The glory days of the soulless, all-powerful corporation are long gone. Today’s customers are more informed by an order of magnitude. Most of them have researched, assessed, and categorised you before you can even say hello. And to most of them, especially younger ones, ownership just isn’t that important anymore. People increasingly view the prospect of buying something as unnecessary baggage. Today people expect services to provide immediate, ongoing fulfilment, from ride shares to streaming services to subscription boxes. They want to be happily surprised on a regular basis. And if you don’t meet those expectations, you get dropped, not to mention trashed on social media. It’s that simple.
The Shift is On
 
So, on the one hand you have the old business model, where brands used to focus on “getting a product to market” and selling as many units of that product as possible: more cars, more pens, more razors, more lipsticks, more laptops, more credit cards. They did this by getting their products and services into as many sales and distribution channels as possible. Of course there must be a customer on the other end buying all this stuff, but often you didn’t really care who they were, as long as more units flew off the shelves.
 
That’s not how the modern company thinks. Today successful brands start with the customer. They recognise that customers spend their time across many channels, and wherever those customers are, that’s where they should be meeting their customers’ needs. Their arc stretches across multiple axis. And the more information you can learn about the customer, the better you can serve their needs, and the more valuable the relationship becomes. That’s digital transformation: from linear transactional channels to a circular, dynamic relationship with your subscriber. A circular economy is a trigger for the subscription model- Long term, engaging, evolving, value enhancing. So, get ready to subscribe to the thought!
 
 

ENDS

Suresh Dinakaran is Chief Storyteller at ISD Global, Dubai and Managing Editor, BrandKnew.

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Numerology and the Marketing Math!

Numerology and the Marketing Math: The 25 to 70% off enigma!

Numerology: Definition: The branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers.

We are all swayed by possibility. As we are swayed by short cuts. Human beings are hardwired to be lazy. So, unless and until there is a by design effort to put in the emotional labour​, routine is the ardently followed also ran. Mundane replaces the potential jugular. It remains that way, because it’s always been done that way. So why upset the applecart? But what happens when the cart is being toppled?

​I am not a numbers person. Far from it. It somehow just doesn’t add up for me. So, I have almost subtracted it from my life. But, being in the space that I am, and observing the brand marketing communications around me, I am tempted to do a deeper dive and know more.

25 to 70%off: Most of you would have seen these numbers ​scream out at us day in and day out from newspapers, billboards, radio ads, digital ads etc. In fact, some of us were mistaking the 25 to 70% off to be a tourist destination(considering how many of them sprout all over the city)- One cannot miss it because leading brands across industry verticals with the support and ‘ advise ‘ of big ticket advertising agencies make sure such campaigns are run 13 months in a year. So, that makes it 24X7X395. A different numerology this!

The ever lasting love affair of brand and marketing experts with 25 to 70% off remains a mystery. Or by now, it should not be. Considering the amount of time ‘ the practice ‘ has come to root(or should it be rot?). And the practice has been perfected beyond question. And ably aided by ‘ brand guardians ‘ who toe the line willingly as this ‘ ad vise ‘ is coming from senior czars at the big ticket ad agencies– how can they get their ‘ numbers ‘ wrong? . They have everything going for them- They use ‘ fancy  calculators ‘, wear Armani suits, have Turkish coffee 8 times a day, the hair is slickly gelled. Sorry, forgot to add the clincher-they also wear crocodile skin pointed leather shoes!!!

I have heard somewhere that ‘ the more things change, the more they remain the same ‘. Recently, a very senior brand and business head of a market leading lifestyle brand called us at ISD Global saying that they are in troubled times. They were losing market share and from being a clear category leader with over 65% retail market share, it was time for store closures, downsizing(or rightsizing to make it sound sweeter) and market share dipping to below 40% – all that in a matter of about 18 months. Inspite of increased marketing spends as advised by the ‘ experts ‘. My question to him was to understand what were they doing different to what was being done and not surprisingly the answer remained ‘ we have aggressively started doing deep discounting and instead of doing it 4 times a year, we remain committed to doing it through the year ‘…so there you go, enough said – ‘ the more things change, the more they remain the same ‘.

​So, do these brand owners and guardians take their coveted ad agencies to task? I’m afraid not. If that were to happen, how can they make ‘ interesting, cerebral conversation ‘ saying that our brand works with XXXX agency – they are in the Top 5…and walk around with a chip on their shoulder​. And be ranked among ‘ Top 50 ‘ Marketing Professionals in XXXX. Recognised as the ‘ best 40 under 40 ‘ or the ‘ leading 50 over 50 ‘- to be flagged on their Linked In profile. And ‘buy awards ‘ and (p)ride of place in Superbrands next hard bound edition.

Customers buy only on price and the more you deep discount, more loyalty they bring to the equation is still the belief(believe it or not!). We can keep bribing them and they will keep flocking like bees to honey. But, what happened? The numbers are not adding up. ​​The 25 to 70% off numerology chapter needs to turn the page. The strategy is now clearly a ‘ has BEEn ‘! And still being tried Bees Saal Baad( Twenty Years Hence for those not familiar with the Hindi language).

So, where are they headed? To me the writing is on the wall- or is it on the palm?

​Palmistry, anyone?​ Could be easier. Palm off your responsibility to someone or something else! Enough suckers around.

As for me, I am calling up my Mom(God Bless Her) to know more about the occult practice..you guessed it: Numerology!

Disclaimer: She is a retired Math teacher. And she has no interest in ‘hyperbole discounting‘.

And if you permit me a bit of Marketing 01(not even 101): ‘ Differentiation is not an intrinsic characteristic of a brand; differentiation is in the eye of the consumer ‘.

For all those swayed by the ‘ herd mentality ‘, this may never get heard. But, that being said, marketing is a serious responsibility. And there is no running away from that!