By Rakhal Ebeli
Bringing together hundreds of brands, creative agencies and professional marketers, the Mumbrella 360 annual conference gave a high resolution snapshot of where marketing is today - and where it is likely to be tomorrow.
It offered a vision of an increasingly blurred media landscape, where mobile rules, brands publish and agencies diversify as the battle to win customer loyalty becomes ever more difficult.
So, what’s the lesson? What does the success and strategy of brands like MTV and Qantas tell us about the future of marketing?
Newsmodo has distilled two days of diverse media session from the industry’s leaders into five simple insights – applicable to all business regardless of size or marketing budget.
1. Hunt your competitor not your consumer
The first rule of marketing is wrong. According to Ashton Bishop, Head of Strategy, Step Change Marketing, marketing needs to go beyond just “meeting the customer needs.”
As he pointed out, ”What happens when those needs are met?”
To gain a competitive advantage, marketers need to prey on their competitor – not the consumer.
This is due to what he called the five-ninth factor. Astoundingly, five-ninths of marketing is wrongly attributed to the market leader. See the end of a shoe commercial and you assume it’s for Nike. See a poster for soft drink and most people will believe it’s for Coke.
This has a huge impact on small and emerging business. Not only does it make it extremely difficult to cut through, it means they waste time and money on marketing campaigns that customer’s fail to recognise as their own.
So what can brands and business do?
The answer, explained Bishop, is predatory marketing. Predatory marketing is to “strike at the weakness that arises out of your customer’s greatest strength.”
In real terms, it is the Burger King blow to McDonald’s. If we agree with Bishop that McDonald’s greatest strength is consistency – in food, delivery, flavour and price, it follows that it’s greatest weakness is personalisation (think before the company’s 2014 campaign to personalise customer experience). Exploiting this weakness, Burger King respond with the Whopper and now-infamous slogan – “have it your way”.
Any brand or business can use predatory marketing to win over customers and build brand awareness. By converting a competitor’s strength into a competitive advantage, small business can define themselves against the market leaders, allowing them to stand out – until they themselves become the market leader.
2. Ask better questions
Brands and business need to spend less time on the answers and more time on the question. As Einstein famously said, “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would spend 19 days to define it.”
Moderator Rob Pyne, founder of X or Y Decision, argued more marketers need to follow Einstein’s example.
But why? Katie Rigg-Smith, CEO Mindshare, believes brands – big and small, are at risk of missing the bigger picture by not understanding the deeper question.
She saw this first hand working with Michelin. Michelin began with an obvious question – how to sell more tyres – only to realise it was the wrong one.
Rigg-Smith explained: “Their tyres were actually so good that they ended up reframing their questioning to - how do we get people driving more.”
Reframing the question completely changed the campaign, moving it from the qualities of the tyres to the benefits of driving tours.
Better questions lead to better answers. This holds true for both small business and multinationals. By understanding what it is that a business really wants to achieve, change, and influence, business can create more targeted campaigns with more effective results.
While strategy seems like a no-brainer, many businesses still do not have one. Those that do are unconvinced of its effectiveness.
Phil Phelan, national strategy director of SapientNitro, believes this is because there is confusion over what a strategy should be.
So, what is a strategy? Not a plan, not a goal and not a budget, explained Phelan.
“Effective strategy plans for the possible not the predictable,” he argued.
As we enter a new era of disrupted media, “strategy needs to rediscover its core and recover its relevance to business,” he said.
This means moving beyond simple planning to detailed blueprints that account for chaos and use trusted feedback loops to guide decisions and policy.
4. Leave the office
Understanding customer behaviour is crucial to creating successful marketing campaigns. While data now plays an important role, both corporate commando Adam O’Donnell and Rigg-Smith argued this information should be complimented by human observation.
“We need to get away from our desk to be curious about the right questions to ask,” said Rigg-Smith.
The 14-year media veteran, who has worked alongside Jaguar, Nike and American Express, believes marketers need to spend more time in their customer habitats, joking that she has been asked to leave supermarkets for suspiciously loitering in aisles.
Former SAS Trooper O’Donnell agreed. Speaking on his time as a NATO peacekeeper in Bosnia, O’Donnell described how he was able to diffuse tension by talking to the community. It was by going into the field (i.e. leaving the office) that O’Donnell received valuable information that completely changed the outcome of the mission – for the better.
The success of marketing and military campaigns depends on quality of the intelligence. Brands and business need to find more opportunities to enter the field and study how their consumer interacts with their products and services in order to improve their marketing.
5. Live your brand story
It is not enough for a brand to have a story – they must live it. According to David Morgan, founder of MORGAN, brand stories are a powerful mnemonic and emotive tool. But it is by embracing a brand story at every business touch point that they become truly invaluable.
Morgan explained how this approach took BankWest from the 15th ranked to the 5th ranked retail bank in Australia.
In this case, the story was “happy banking”. Not only did BankWest promote the message, they lived it. This meant revising the company work culture from top to bottom. Human resources hired positive employees, business hours changed to be more customer-friendly and the CEO and CMO cheered up staff in animal costumes. The message was lived and breathed at every level of business.
Business – of any size - can learn from this example and use their own brand stories to stand out from their competitors and engage consumers.
For more on the brand stories and why they are important, listen to the Newsmodo Brand Storytelling podcast.