Five marketing contradictions to respect, nay, celebrate!
The biggest challenge facing marketers today is complexity. They are tangled in a vast array of overlapping networks connecting people, brands, and the channels through which they interact. Opportunities to communicate are endless. Being hyperconnected has its benefits. But it has its shortfalls too. Inefficiencies abound. The landscape is complex. And in the age of channel proliferation, this complexity only gets, well, even more complex. Weirdly, one of the best methods we’ve found of making sense of all of this is to embrace it — to dive into the contradictions and celebrate them.
1. Do less. Effect more.
The pressure to be present across multiple channels can be overwhelming and unsustainable. CMOs can choose from a long list of marketing tactics — calling on any number of outside agencies to deliver on these tactics — just to see that their campaigns reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right way.
There is content marketing and always-on marketing. You can direct market or opt for real-time. There is digital marketing. There is influencer marketing. The list on offer is extensive. While this kind of choice looks pretty attractive on first glance, an additive approach to marketing is so much less auspicious in its application.
The product of marketer anxiety, additive marketing strategies bloat a business, overextend resources and demonstrate a general lack of understanding. On an even more basic level, the additive approach dilutes the message.
It is no mistake that retail brands like Warby Parker and Bonobos have very new and moderate physical retail presences. Both operated exclusively digital retail shops for some time before making a foray into physical retail. This strategy circles back to a deep understanding of their customers’ nuanced modes of interaction.
2. Change your decision making. Don’t change your structure.
Spreading marketing efforts willy-nilly across multiple channels shifts focus away from the customer and toward the channel. It is important to remember that successful customer interactions cannot rely solely on the integration of each new channel that crops up.
Awareness of the amorphous channel ecosystem is important. In the end, it is the story, not the tool, that resonates with the customer and moves them along their journey.
A successful modern organization will shift away from a focus on the channels within its structure. Instead, it will let the full gamut of the customer journey be the lens for its internal process. Though Apple is the obvious shining pioneer of a shift away from division-led decision making, the model is proving effective for a new generation of businesses coming behind.
3. Act fast. Look long.
The eternal quest for newness is alive and well in marketing. The industry’s insatiable appetite for originality — new words, new jargon, new filters — has marketers scrambling to keep up. Every week we usher in the latest trend and with that, new systems and strategies. The quest for newness is so deeply entrenched that Google rewards and promotes newness by doling out favourable search results to brands that play ball.
The truth is, the future is impossible to predict. No short-term gains at the hand of search results can equip a business with the resources or the tools to better face that uncertainty. Instead, what is needed is a better integrated approach — one that removes exclusive focus from short-term planning and makes room for aligned efforts and clearly defined values that build trust over time.
Take the retail giant Target. In their Canadian expansion, with their sights set on short order national dominance, they jumped over trust-building and long-term planning. What they missed was key: integration and long-term planning are part of a continuous process of adaptation — not a time-bound deliverable.
4. Go small. Go big.
Hyperconnectedness has triggered the exponential multiplication of niche communities — the specificity of which were, until recently, invisible and inaccessible.
The hyperconnected world, with all its fragmentation, opens doors for communities to grow and coalesce in new ways while granting access to a complex world built on a sense of deep, local trust and belonging. To be trusted within a niche, you need to be careful with your choices and acknowledge that they are defined by how they are different.
The opportunity to immediately find where you are relevant in a global context exists like never before. It is now up to organizations, large and small, to leverage that relevance — to immerse themselves in those niche communities and to make friends there.
Take Red Bull — a brand that truly understands its niche markets. By entrenching themselves in the most niche communities — often times defined by excellence — Red Bull has secured flagship sponsor spots associated with the best snowboarders, base jumpers, underground musicians and even astronauts.
5. Digital is paramount. Digital doesn’t matter.
It is common practice these days that organizations appoint Chief Digital Officers as if this capability can be disentangled from any other. Digitization, though, is just the latest manifestation of our natural network order.
No line exists to separate the digital world from the real world. While digital skills are basic for the healthy functioning of any enterprise, we hardly see the need to call them out as distinguishable from any other skillset.
Some highly capable digital organizations like gaming software company Valve recognize these skills as one aspect of a deeper cultural shift. This hasn’t been achieved through digital tools to aid in the organizational design, but by allowing their digital orientation to expand to a network outlook.
When digital capabilities are granted a limited scope inside any business, they are relegated to the status of tools. But when appreciated as cornerstones in any organization and leveraged for organizational design is really how they do their best work.