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These thoughts were originally presented by Andy Bird at the 2013 Google 'Think Branding' conference in London. Please see below to watch a video of Andy's presentation.
As the digital revolution proceeds at pace around us, at one level everything in marketing seems to be changing – from the demand for different kinds of products and services, to the methods of insight generation and innovation and the techniques of brand communication and consumer engagement. But in work Brand Learning has been doing in partnership with Google and some of our clients in recent months, an important insight has been established – that on another level, nothing is different. The fact is that the core role and principles of marketing remain as true as they ever were. Indeed, in an era where the consumer has more control than ever before, one could argue that the importance of following marketing principles has intensified. It is now more critical than ever to have the consumer's interest at heart and to gear up the business around creating value for them in an authentic, consistent and integrated way.
With these thoughts in mind, the challenge facing Marketers is therefore one of 'remastering' marketing. Just as in the film and music industry, we need to harness digital to gain greater clarity, depth and relevance for the content of what we do. This requires us to equip ourselves and our businesses with new capabilities that will enable us to thrive in the digital age.
In a situation where 'everything is different but nothing has changed', the attitude one adopts to the future is critical. Hopefully the ostriches out there who hoped this would all go away are now few and far between. But amongst those who recognise the significance of the changes, there are two camps – those who quite understandably fear some of the consequences and set out to do their best to survive, and those who take a more positive approach by embracing the opportunities and setting out to thrive. It is people in the latter group that are most likely to evolve and flourish. The companies that are setting the pace in digital – Nike, Starbucks, Apple, Google et al – have already clearly demonstrated what a spirit of entrepreneurialism, consumer focus and experimentation can achieve if fostered and applied in the right way.
The question is what does this mean in practice? We believe there are two key tasks to focus on.
Re-frame Brand Value
In many businesses, the debate about digital still remains focused on its role as a channel of communication. The shift in mindset described above is still linked mainly to the need for a shift in marketing budgets from traditional to new forms of digital media. But the best businesses are focusing at a much more strategic level and re-thinking the way their brands can create value for consumers more fundamentally. This is not just about brand communication but about the creation of completely new propositions and business models, as companies like Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster have recently found to their cost. Nike+ is a great example of a proposition linking product, communication and service in a radical and more integrated way. Nike has created a form of brand ecosystem that weaves its way into a sports enthusiast's activity and lifestyle. This is not the kind of development that takes place through a bit of imaginative annual brand activity planning. It requires fundamental re-imagining of the markets brands operate in and the kind of role they can play.
Reboot the Organisation
These fundamental changes in brand proposition require equally significant changes in the capabilities of the organisations behind them. Much has been done in recent years to build the skills of Marketers in using new digital tools and platforms. But the real challenge goes well beyond this to embed new operating models and change people's ways of working in organisations more generally. New marketing processes are required to enable 'always on' communication and 'test and learn' execution. Organisational roles and decision-making responsibilities need to be re-defined and clarified. And the innovative and entrepreneurial mindset described above needs to be embedded in cultures that have previously relied primarily on operational discipline and control for their success.
Taken together these challenges can appear daunting. But let's get the mindset right. No one is better placed to lead these changes in business today than Marketers. Now is the time to re-master marketing and provide the kind of consumer-focused leadership our companies so urgently need.
Originally posted on the Marketing Society blog.