What's the big idea? - Ronin Marketing
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What’s the big idea?

What’s the big idea?

Walking around the Marketing Week Live event recently it struck me how little had really changed in the world of marketing in the last 25 years. Have you taken leave of your senses? I hear you gasp.  What about social media, mobile, e-marketing, SEO and PPC? Well yes, but.

True, there are lots of wonderful new media and channels for delivering marketing messages and all sorts of clever tools for gathering and analysing data; and there were some good people on very well designed stands providing some nifty products.

But as I strolled the aisles of Olympia, the inescapable and slightly depressing feeling was the show was just like the ones I used to go to back in the last millennium – but with flat screen TVs, nicer carpet and better coffee.

I listened to a digital marketing agency tell me that before embarking on a campaign I should be clear about my objectives, set a budget and carefully measure and monitor the results. And a social media presentation explained the value of segmenting audiences and targeting them with specific messages.

No kidding?

I don’t mean any criticism of the event or the organisers by the way, because it was very well put together; slick, vibrant and busy. And very well promoted too, of course

1. Don’t choose science over art

So what’s my problem? Well I’m missing the point aren’t I? And that point is, marketing is not about tools and techniques? It’s about people and ideas.  In a sense then, nothing has changed but in today’s world of sexy media tools, clever IT and advanced analytics, there’s a danger the creative idea is overlooked in the pursuit of doing our marketing with all the latest stuff. It’s science over art.

I tend to think of photography as an analogy. As little as ten years ago, digital cameras didn’t even exist; and back then few people even owned a proper (SLR) camera. If you wanted a decent photograph, you hired a professional. Now everybody has a camera – or at least a phone with a camera. So why pay a professional photographer when you can take a picture yourself? The same is true with design too; basic design software is relatively cheap and with a bit of advice from a GCSE student, you’re off and running. Well here’s the thing; just because you have the tools doesn’t mean you have the talent. Photographers and graphic designers study and practice their art for years in order to provide wonderful visual solutions for clients – and good ones are worth every penny.  Clients that don’t get that are to be avoided. See Darren’s blog, ‘Designers do it best’.

And now with the proliferation of social media, everybody is their own publisher. The problem is not everybody can write something that others want to read. But it was clear from the many visitors at Marketing Week Live furiously scribbling notes (literally; ironically – barely an iPad in site) in the Facebook presentation that they were there to learn the black art of social media for themselves at all costs.

Despite my early analysis of this 21st century marketing showcase however, my faith was restored when I listened to an interview with TopShop CMO, Justin Cooke; clearly a young man that’s fast going places.

2. Look for inspiration everywhere

It’s ideas that are the key for Cooke and he admits they don’t have to be home grown. In fact he’s an advocate of scouring all sorts of places to find fresh inspiration – not just outside his own industry but in every walk of life.  He says he looks for the most exciting use of the latest tools and sees whether it can be applied to his own industry. His ‘model cam’ initiative for example was inspired by sport’s Hawkeye technology.

3. Social media doesn’t need it’s own strategy

So it’s the pursuit of the idea that’s important; not the use of the tools and technology just because they’re there, or worse still, just out of fear of not using them.  If social media doesn’t suit what you are trying to do then there’s no need to use it. And you certainly shouldn’t go anywhere near it unless you understand what you’re trying to achieve with it.  That doesn’t mean having a social media strategy – you don’t need one; in the same way, nobody ever had a magazine strategy – it means using social media effectively as part of your overall marketing strategy, which of course will be linked to your business strategy.

4. Don’t give up on traditional media

Interestingly too – in response to questions from the floor – he was quick to advocate the continued use of print media. “Magazines are still a massive influence on the industry,” he said. “It’s as much about the conversation as it is the ad”… and (especially for emerging companies) he believes PR is still ‘the most important thing you can do’. I agree with that and also his view that magazines and newspapers are increasingly becoming a recreational activity – that is in comparison to tablets and laptops – giving them a value over other media. If you’re stuck in front of a screen at work all day do you really want to read your newspaper on an iPad in your front room? Some maybe, but not everybody.

5. Try everything

We haven’t all got TopShop’s marketing budget of course, but you shouldn’t stifle a good idea just because you can’t guarantee results. Some things work; some things don’t, and the truth is you won’t know for certain until you try. Give it a go. And whilst you need to monitor the results of your activities don’t get paralysis from analysis. As Cooke says look at the bigger picture; you’ll know if things are working overall. You should (budget permitting) try everything. I think Cooke was quoting McKinsey, when he said the role of marketing is to keep customers in constant contact with your brand. No more; no less.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Focus on the idea. That will determine the execution and which are the best media tools to use.

For  more of our thoughts on Marketing Week Live, see Milly’s blog: ‘Learnings from Marketing Week Live’