Marketing Needs To Be About What's New

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The most creative ideas win.

If you learned nothing else from all of the news coming out of the Cannes Lions advertising festival that our industry just wrapped, it’s that big, hairy, audacious and creative ideas still get the most attention in a world where programmatic, marketing automation and data technology services seem to be the big plays most investors in marketing are looking at. Great creative work has become closer to art than anything else. Still, the change in marketing is everywhere. As advanced as some brand marketers and agencies have become, it is still early days for disruption.

Don’t believe me?

If a brand needs to implement a brand new data and analytics platform, who initiates, makes the call and handles the implementation? Is that happening out of the Chief Marketing Officer’s office, or is it coming from the IT or online channel line of business (which is, typically, a part of the IT team)? There is no doubt that marketers have leaned more heavily on the side of analytics and predictive platforms to make their work more relevant and effective, but the bridge between technology, data, analytics, sales performance and marketing is often still a chasm within most organizations.

This is not about Mad Men vs. Math Men.

It is about the fact that advertising – which used to be the driving output of a marketing initiative – is moving closer to being “just the creative.” Why is this? Historically, we used ads not just to sell products and services, but to point to and say, “see, this is what our marketing looks like!” It’s harder to do this in a world where a paid search result can often generate more activation than a television spot. The landscape continues to change for marketers… dramatically. Now, the marketing department isn’t just responsible for ensuring that the ad agency is putting their budgets to good use, they’re suddenly responsible for being the leaders of change within the organization. That’s a complex place to be, no matter the size of the organization.

Marketers are the ones who can demonstrate to the brand what’s new… and why it matters. 

How do you really think about change within your organization. If there’s one quote that constantly rolls around in my brain, it’s the one that I discovered in Tom Peters‘ amazingly brilliant book, Re-Image! – Business Excellence In A Disruptive Age (published in 2003):

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki – Chief of Staff, U. S. Army (Retired).

We’re apprehensive about change. Change is easy to talk about. Change is hard to do. Take a look back at the myriad of editorial and news pieces covering the Cannes Lions, and there’s one message that remains blatantly clear: marketers need to change and adapt their business (both brand marketers and agencies), but there is a reluctance in many cases, a slow movement towards that change for most, and total ignorance for an ever larger set of companies. 

The one thing about change: technology.

That’s the most fascinating discovery in all of this talk. It’s not about how creative the team members are. It’s not about access to budgets to make things happen. It’s not about brands enabling their agencies to do better work. These were the commonplace issues for decades. Now, it’s always about technology. Whether that technology powers the internal team, or whether it’s about using technology to better connect creative ideas to consumers. The biggest announcements were those that had technology as the main theme.

So, is technology really driving brands to be more successful?

Marketing is an insights-driven business. Technology has opened up a pandora’s box of insights for all of us to use. So, when brands are looking for a new way to think about their business – and how it connects to consumers – it’s easy to look at change, innovation and technology as the key drivers for success in business. We can’t just push creativity to the bottom of this list. We can’t just make advertising the creative output. Clearly, there needs to be a more symbiotic model in place. This means that creativity isn’t everything any more… and that’s an important place for brands to be. Marketers need to elevate their brand conversations, and stop splicing them into either “technology” or “creativity” buckets. When you look at which brands are really winning (and Cannes Lions showcased many of them), it really was about the brands that have become open to the idea of living and breathing in the world of “what’s new.” As a digital marketing professional, this is a beautiful thing. As someone on the agency side of this industry, it’s even more perfect.

Consumers want what’s new. Brands need to embrace what’s new. Agencies need to deliver to brands what’s new.