Storytelling, silos, and cycling

Storytelling, Silos, And Cycling

Storytelling, silos and cycling were some of the topics discussed at the UK’s Marketing Society Conference last month as the event challenged marketers to go 'beyond.'

Introducing the event, Marketing Society chairman Stephen Maher quoted John F Kennedy’s remark that 'conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.' And talking about the time of dramatic change in which we live, he challenged the audience to look beyond marketing to have an impact on marketing.

The scale of that change was outlined by Meabh Quoirin, MD of global consumer trends agency The Future Foundation, in the opening session, 'Is Your Brand Ready For 2025?' Quorin picked out what she called 'four meta-themes, which will impact on any consumer future you might wish to curate.' These were: personal, not personalised; ego-generated content; collaborative competitors; and predictive concierge.

'Personalisation is starting to feel very functional,' she said. 'With personalisation, the customer feels like he or she is at the end of an ever-refining algorithm, and that’s already getting a little tired. We need to move beyond, to personal.'

'53% of social networkers follow brands--partly because you’re bribing them, which is fine--but also for emotional reasons, for love of the brand and in search of inspiration in their lives. But four in five brand followers expect an instant response. Brands need to validate their social followers’ existence constantly, and that pressure is only going to grow.'

Beyond user-generated content
Quoirin described the growth of ego-driven content as a result of user-driven content being too much like hard work for consumers.

'The pressure to lead beautifully curated lives online is massive,' Quoirin said. 'Helping a consumer to groom and curate a perfect, positive impression of themselves at all times will curry serious favour.'

In the one-click, on-demand future, Quoirin predicted that companies will find themselves collaborating across their competitive set. The example she gave was BMW.

'BMW is collaborating not just within its immediate world, it’s taking on the Uber economy with its rental schemes that allow you to rent out your car when you’re not using it. We want brands to help us optimise our lives.'

And her closing recommendation for brands wanting to win hearts and minds was to adopt the role of predictive concierge; to try 'to solve the problems consumers don’t know they have yet.'

Beyond big goals
While Quoirin talked about mega-trends in customer behaviour, former performance director of British Cycling and general manager of Team Sky Sir Dave Brailsford joined Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch to talk about the importance of small improvements.

'Businesses are very good at setting big goals,' explained Darroch. 'The skill is breaking that down into manageable chunks that people believe can be improved.'

That philosophy was at the core of Sir Dave’s approach, which in turn led to British Cycling becoming the most successful British Olympic Team in history, and Team Sky putting a British rider on the Tour de France winner’s podium two years earlier than it planned.

'We had to break down the challenge of the Olympic podium,' Sir Dave said. 'We identified all the things that influenced performance and got people to agree that those steps could be improved.

'You have to create an environment where people think they can get better. You can’t ask people for perfection, but you can ask them to progress. And small changes will stick, where big changes won’t.'

But this philosophy of marginal gains comes with two caveats. The first was that 'you can waste a lot of time and energy on things around the edge.' The solution, according to Sir Dave, is sensitivity analysis; measuring which tweaks make the biggest difference. The second is that the marginal gains you make become business as usual, 'so you have to improve again,' he said.

Beyond siloed thinking
A different take on going beyond came from award-winning Turkish writer Elif Shafak. She talked about the way we think in ghettos, and the power of empathy to help us move beyond them.

'We think it’s okay for some people to be creative but not others. If you’re a decision-maker, you’re expected to keep your feet on the ground,' she said. 'But everyone is creative, and creativity is contagious. The reverse is also true; cynicism is also contagious.'

She argued that empathy feeds creativity and needs to be encouraged, and that diversity provides the crucial spark. And she was also critical of expertise.

'Expertise means people don’t talk to each other,' she said. 'We need to go beyond our own spaces.'

Beyond the CMO’s role
Going beyond the CMO’s role was one of the themes of the session presented by Marketing Society president Martin Glenn. He argued that too many businesses are run by accountants and not enough by marketers. And he quoted the advice of Sir Ian Cheshire, former CEO of Europe’s largest home improvement retailer, Kingfisher: 'Get into other aspects of the business and learn them. The CEO has the broadest experience of the company.'

Glenn, a career marketer with Walkers Crisps, Mars and Cadbury, became CEO of United Biscuits and of Pepsi UK & Ireland. He’s now CEO of England’s Football Association. And his advice to marketers looking towards the top job built on that of Sir Ian.

'You’ve got to get out of your comfort zones,' he said. 'But you need to speak the language of the boardroom. You’ve got to make the business case and you’ve got to do it in their terms.

'Marketing is there to make the business more successful. It needs to be at the heart of the business, delivering things customers value. As marketers, our job is to bring the outside world into unwilling organisations to drive change.'


This article first appeared on CMO.com here.

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