22 for '22 - the marketing challenges to embrace
So this may be a chunky piece, but it hopefully raises questions, opinions and challenges that might define your marketing and comms year. Endorsing what you think, spotting a gap that isn’t your radar, or just putting some context in place to help you swing towards the right call. It’s not all cosy, and you may well disagree with some of it.
But if things make you think, and you need a sounding board for those thoughts, we should at least grab a coffee and chat ‘what if?’. Number 23 on the list of recommendations would certainly be ‘network more’.
In no particular order:
1 Use employees more as ‘brand’ influencers and storytellers
The richest most resonating stories are usually about people, so looking within the business and using team members more as a new breed of influencer and brand ambassador hit both the authenticity goal and good story dna. And often from that frontline perspective of knowing what customers really want, need to know and ask most. All whilst boosting internal comms and a team’s feeling of value to the business
2 Make sure visual leadership is based on dialogue, not monologue
Leaders being front and centre in challenging times is hopefully not a surprise, and businesses that shared, cared and engaged in the past 18 months should see the best return on staff loyalty and clarity. Unlike those high profile ‘mavericks’ that spoke out around their staff and employment futures without joining up the internal approach first.
Key message for them – don’t believe your own hype so much.
But the key here is in finding out what your staff want to know about, what their concerns are, or what their ideas are. That’s the point. It’s not mushroom syndrome briefing (feeding them bullshit in the dark) but about shared values and a spirit of being in things together to stem ‘the great resignation’.
3 Make less noise, add more value
We risk brand message saturation. ‘Always on’ for a brand doesn’t mean always positive for a consumer/audience if the social waves/airwaves are filled with blah. Be relevant and be discerning, rather than desperate to just ‘be’.
We switch off quickly if something doesn’t grab. We are more digitally on but also more self-selecting. And brands on broadcast mode don’t always fit the culture or the need. Quality over quantity is not a new phrase, but it’s never been more relevant
4 Be helpful, useful or generous in what you share. Or you are in the noise camp.
Linked to the above, if you are looking for a simple test of whether what is being shared is right, or is too self-serving, this is one I’ve relied upon for years. In essence it’s a test of what you
say having resonance and recall mere minutes later. If you miss the mark on one or more of the three ‘tests’, you may have wasted your money, time or audience attention. Test it out with your recent work and see where you think you stand…
5 Aim for building understanding. Awareness is too entry level
I don’t think awareness is ambitious enough. ‘Availability’ means you are still ripe for losing out to a rival for a host of reasons.
Getting why the choice of you is an important one to make, through understanding backstory, brand effort, future goals or lifestyle fit means so much more. And the right storytelling can help with that, from media message, to social flow, website landing welcome to the position of the key info on a pack that isn’t buried and hard to find.
Integration isn’t just about marketing campaigns working together, it’s every element of your brand and message dna through corporate, consumer, internal and b2b communications.
6 Channels are blurred as hell, so stop siloing
And this is just from a PR and earned space POV, without even touching on paid campaign alignment. Corporate reputation can rely on your choice of consumer influencers. Consumer footfall can link to how you treat your staff. Stockist decisions are made on your ethical corporate approach. Real or imagined reputation issues come from the person on the street. Staff stay or leave based on credibility of your marketing messages.
Trust comes from no dropped balls, so glue matters and if alignment at all points is askew, then so is the business. A comms advisor at board level is an essential, and many more NED roles should reflect this skill and value of bringing once removed oversight.
7 Be more ‘pull’and less ‘push’ with audiences
Drawing people in, building some intrigue, landing a genuine call to action and being personal ticks many more boxes than just ‘buy my thing’ messaging. Clearly there is room for both in the multi-channel-verse but upping the former is important for targeting that understanding goal. For creating some shareability and talkability. For being thought provoking and earning recall. And for embracing the personal brand culture that is so important for leaders on social channels.
8 Be more live. In activations and in listening
Audiences need to ‘feel’ something from brands to break the new norm patterns of comfort/laziness/ease. Whether brand experience, brand theatre or just the bringing of energy beyond the static or fixed. Live and reasons to engage ‘now’ can land short term e-commerce or real world sales, but also the richer and longer term recall that comes from strong executions - and by strong executions I mean where entertainment meets education in the vibe and the outcome.
If we are thinking around the many ‘P’s of marketing rules, this is now the extra one of ‘Personality’
9 Cut the copycatting and find the ownable.
If you are agency who claims to be passionate, creative, results driven and ambitious…well, who isn’t? If you see a brand on shelf that looks like yours, has the same design cues, and same language ? Or you are trying to win Veganuary in the storytelling stakes like everyone else, then…
There are insights to be found that aren’t shared with others. A rich language palette to get lost in for positive results. A more audience first driven agenda to own. Don’t be the interchangeable one.
10 Have opinions and avoid being wallpaper
How many times do you see a quote from anyone involved in a story that make you go ‘yeah, obviously…’? Hopefully most of the bad ones don’t see the light of day beyond a press release, but come on - if you are excited, be that. If you want to challenge something, don’t sit half on the fence. If you want to show your personality, have one in the words you use…
11 Swap demographics for mindsets
Anybody can now buy anything from their armchair. Digital democracy opens up new learnings and discovery for all. Online spaces build new communities that embrace multiple ages, backgrounds, lifestyles and incomes. Aim for this enlightened and inspired world seeking more from their interests than from often polarised old world groups.
Working with real patterns has more potential than over assumed buckets of vagueness.
12. Micro target the highly relevant
Almost part B of point 11 - don’t be afraid to work with highly targeted niche groups based on that to land a large percentage of relevance, impact and potential loyalty from them as opposed to a small share of a larger audience where long term relevance is going to be naturally diluted. You can be their go to brand for the long term with the right level of listening, chatting and exploring
13 Engage with the engagers. We trust listeners.
Make people feel special. It’s a life mantra too, right? So why not live it across the channels if people talk to you on social?
14 Don’t bandwagon without proper credibility
See noise. See listening. See copycatting. See being helpful. Support what is important if you can do so with substance, action or at least a track record of being onside with the topic or issue. Meaningless contributions to trending topics can backfire and turn the microscope on realities you may or may not be aware of that are part of your real culture
15 Partner up. You don’t have to be the whole story just the debate shapers.
Collaborate for the greater good. Who can you work with who shares your values, your goals, your wish lists, or you needs? Of course you want to be the hero in your story, but heroes are those that achieve things and if more brains, more effort, more sharing can help with the win, then that’s the win. This can add surprise, emphasis, momentum, respect or tangible differences. And, to return to a recurring theme, relevance. Which I always think is the biggest prize.
16 Tell your sustainability journey. No one expects you to have finished it.
No greenwashing. No marketing first/benefit second campaigns. But more openness, shared battles, things tried, advice that can be passed on, small victories and things being explored.
If it was easy, we wouldn’t have so much debate, so don’t be afraid to contribute stories and milestones where you can
17 Be part of an influencer’s wider world and not just of their 'feed' moment
The difference between a media buy and a planned partnership lies is thinking more broadly. We all want an influencer’s post to sing our brand praises, but we could build more depth to become a natural partner in other spaces too if we want real credibility. How can we fit their music, their restaurants, their everyday routines, their values, their wish lists and own objectives. It’s not about chasing reach and numbers, it’s about fit, potential and credibility beyond the stats.
18 Think local, it’s where people ‘are’
From adding community value, to finding more room for hyper local products (supermarkets why do you not yet have local artisan counters?) and embracing the fact we don’t all live where we used to and now have different values and lifestyles. Local is a mindset that is about personalisation in marketing and comms, as much as it is about the geographical spot you call home.
It’s not small scale, but it is about individualism. And traditional London bubble thinking is not what is required to crack a problem that works for new world attitudes.
19 Deliver emotional rescue. It’s a time for can do positivity, not more problems
Feel good factor. Empowerment. Inspiration. Be the solution provider. Understand people.
20 Reinvent the meeting balance.
Or rather retool for the right kind of meetings.
More objective driven, more about ideas, less process, more action, more time helping colleagues. Time limits help. Standing up helps. Reporting and rereporting up the chain in heavy traditional formats doesn’t. Too many internal meetings can be the difference between making an impact or not.
So is this question still about marketing communication? Critically so…
21 Wear your values badge loud and proud for all to see
Whether agency or business, this is your calling card. Show it off. Make them visible.
If your team don’t know them, then your heart and soul is stuck somewhere in a cupboard. If they don’t feel right, dive in and work out why.
If they haven’t helped create them, maybe they should. More than ever meetings of minds define employers and employees that stay, client and agency relationships, brands and their consumers, businesses and investors. There is no shortage of options for anyone in any of those categories to pick from, so if you have to think about this one, what are you waiting for?
22 Stay agile. Be front foot, topical, and less tied down. Crystal balls don’t exist.
Brand planning and thinking traditionally starts months before the
start of the next financial year, and is a process that expects knowledge of what will be right 15 months from now.
But we don't fully know what to expect 15 days from now... so although some marketing channels of course need planning, negotiating, buying or content shaping ahead of the game, not all do.
Make time for the live listening in the strategy. Prioritise the nimble channels. And be prepared to switch up to more than a surface response.
This shouldn’t need saying after the omnishambles, but some live briefs I’m seeing seem to be missing the memory gene…
Thoughts, opinions, passion points and observations over.
Although hopefully not over, but the start of something where the recall of a challenge sticks with you. Here and happy to help at any stage of that.
Back to the grabbing a coffee suggestion?