Trendspotting - Strategy: Review

By Toby Hutchins, Head of Strategy, EssenceMediacom Scotland

Flâneurs of the Scottish Marketing Society assembled on a sunny day, in a windowless lecture theatre, for Trendspotting’s latest dip into what’s hot in Marketing. The focus was on Strategy where, in lieu of the sun, light was shed by 10 speakers/panellists (alongside our host Rod Gillies) on the following topics:

  1. Where do great insights come from?
  2. If the consumer is going back to basics, what should brands do?
  3. Ten years on from ‘The Long and Short of it’, has what’s needed for brand growth changed?

Here is one human’s perspective of the session takeaway points, a luxury we still have in 2023 before the machines take over …

  1. Where do great insights come from?

Insights on Gen Z – Leah Doyle – Voxburner

First up, Leah took us through what the 10 million GenZer’s (can you make GenZ a noun?), who have a collective spending power of £124bn, want to see from a Brand’s communications. Collaboration is key, with GenZ responding better to brands to whom they could feedback (usually through social media), building relationships as a result. Lego fan designer was given as a timeless example.

Using AI for Insights – Gill Wylie – Frame

Here are my notes from Gill’s presentation summarised and formatted into a single paragraph by BARD:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful tool that can help marketers analyse data, generate insights, and create personalized experiences for customers. However, AI is not a replacement for human creativity and judgment. AI can be used to explore new ideas, test different strategies, and create more effective marketing campaigns. It is important for marketers to use AI to their advantage and to be critical of the output. AI can be a powerful tool, but it is not a silver bullet. It is important to use AI in conjunction with human creativity and judgment to create the most effective marketing campaigns. The problem with AI is that it tells you what's already there. 90% of the output is drivel, but 10% is golden.

I am ‘the fool with the tool’.

Activist Voices - Rob Mathie – On the One

Brand Activism sends shivers up strategist’s spines. How can brands, who ultimately just want to sell stuff, genuinely help with societal issues without incurring cynicism around their motives? Rob used the brilliant Smirnoff Street Angels example of how brands can move beyond box ticking, to do something really transformative. Authenticity is key, directly engage with the community/cause you are championing, and put the people involved front and centre in your campaign. It goes much further than a charity donation.

  1. If the consumer is going back to basics, what should brands do?

Ian McGillivray (ScotPulse) set the scene for discussion, with some sobering take-outs from the latest ScotPulse survey:

  • The people of Scotland are, unsurprisingly, already reacting to rising prices. With own-brand products becoming the preferred choice, and discounters such as Aldi seeing a boom.
  • The big brands are being bought less, and there is even some negative sentiment towards them in this time of squeezed household incomes.
  • 1 in 4 people in Scotland have used a ‘buy now, pay later’ option for online purchases.

With this in mind, Mark Fowlestone (Multiply) chaired a discussion with Kirsty Chalmers (Baxters) and Ed Dalgleish (Guy & Co) to get to the crux of how brands should act in a cost-of-living crisis. Kirsty highlighted the need for long-term planning. Cheapening the brand now will hurt in the future; keep your distinctive assets and don’t make yourself too close to the competitors who are challenging for market share (especially own-brand products). Consumers are great at finding value through shopping around, the trick is to show them the value in your product by staying true to what makes your brand great.

  1. Ten years on from ‘The Long and Short of it’, has what’s needed for brand growth changed?

Finally, our chair Rod Gillies (Whyte & Mackay) led a panel of Maddy Sim (Carat), Vic Milne (Leith) and Lewis Bright (The Famous Grouse) to discuss the dominant voice in brand marketing for the last decade; Binet and Field’s infamous book ‘The Long and Short of it’. So, does TL&SOI still have what’s needed?

Well, Maddy said yes. TL&SOI certainly changed the conversation around brand building, but it’s not us that need convincing, instead, the principles in TL&SOI often find resistance amongst C-Suite for whom measurable short-term performance is the KPI.

Vic backed this thought up, saying in many ways TL&SOI seems like obvious marketing, but it’s not always followed. There is perhaps a misconception placed on TL&SOI that it isn’t an either/or, brand building still delivers in the short, as well as long term.

Lewis gave us an insight into The Famous Grouse, which has been building a brand for well over 100 years and whose parent company, Edrington, is set up for the long term. Products without brands are just commodities, desirable only to the very few.

We started with a noun, let’s finish with a verb. Rod implored us to think of marketing as a verb, it is the thinking/doing in the process, not simply the end point of selling. In that, ‘The Long and Short of it’ continues to shape our discussions around brand building, if only as a single (but important) bit of stimulus, amongst the hundreds of ideas/thoughts/processes that go into the craft of marketing strategy.

Toby Hutchins is Head of Strategy, EssenceMediacom Scotland. 


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