I just read an article in Adweek called Marketing Is Losing Its Mojo: Social media and analytics are important tools for marketers, but they’re no substitute for big ideas. This topic has surfaced in several conversation recently, so I thought I’d address it in response to the article mentioned above.
Article: “The platforms are changing so rapidly that reading about how other companies have used them can be irrelevant. As recently as a year ago, all a brand had to do was show up on Twitter and the company was heralded as being a leader in the field. Now consumers’ expectations are dramatically higher and they’re continually evolving.”
Me: I agree that expectations are much higher now and that simply making an appearance on Twitter is no longer praise worthy. Now that Twitter has become a common playing ground for brands, they’re challenged to differentiate themselves within that space. Yes! Here’s where the exciting, creative, ground-breaking ideas come in to play! I disagree with her other point here, though, that platforms change so rapidly that reading about how other companies have succeeded is irrelevant. Yes, platforms change rapidly. Heck, I create social media strategies / manuals / guides for clients only to find that sections of them are already outdated by the time the client can open the attachment. But that’s not a problem, and it doesn’t make the strategies irrelevant. The strategies stand apart from the tactics. When the platform changes, we update the tactics. No big deal. As long as your goals remain the same, then so does the strategy. Social media tools are merely an avenue, they are not your “big idea.” Just because a platform changes, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from another company’s success with it. The ideas behind the success often translate across mediums.
Article: “If we want truly breakthrough marketing, we need to stop reading the same social media articles everyone else is reading, stop going to the same conferences everyone is attending, stop following and friending the same gurus as everyone else is fixated on, and stop using the best practices of the same companies everyone else is trying to imitate.”
Me: Find a happy medium. Research, gather ideas, learn from others (their successes AND their mistakes), but leave breathing room for your own creative ideas. Don’t always listen to what others say. Best practices are a safety mechanism. They are important in many corporate environments, but they can really put a damper on creativity. Someone else’s breakthrough idea that became a marketing success story is great – but studying it and copying it doesn’t add anything to your portfolio of breakthrough ideas. It’s only a breakthrough once.
Article: “Instead we should open ourselves up and expose ourselves to new and different inputs — engaging in novel cultural experiences, studying various fields of academic and scientific exploration, or simply surrounding ourselves with unusual people and things. A richer, more diverse mental canvas serves as fertile ground for marketing creativity.”
Me: True. We’re all tired of seeing a lot of the same. What do you know that I haven’t heard from 100 other people? THAT’S your secret ingredient. THAT’S what I want to know about you. Be different!
Article: “We also need to first think “what,” then “how.” Carpenters don’t study their toolboxes to come up with ideas for furniture to make. Composers don’t begin writing symphonies by identifying the instruments that will play them. So marketers shouldn’t start with social media tools and then try to create a brand idea that lends itself to the platform.”
Me: Exactly. The big idea is what matters. Don’t worry about the tools. We’ll work it into the various tools out there, and if we hit a wall, then we’ll build a newer, better tool that can handle your big idea (and make it fly). Don’t limit yourself by thinking in terms of what tools are available right now.
Article: “Marketing operations should be less about data, more about insights — our tools should produce fewer measured steps, more creative leaps.”
Me: This sentence is the reason for my blog post. Why are these mutually exclusive??? Yes, take leaps, but please measure & please collect data. Also, please prepare for your leap. Don’t leap blindly. Taking measured steps is important groundwork before your leap. Those measured steps help you get to know your audience, help you to recognize what resonates vs. what stirs resentment. It’s your research. Which leaps can your brand and your audience handle? Sure you don’t really know until you take that leap, but you are at least responsible for reading the warning signs that you get from taking measured steps first. Take, for example, Evel Knievel. Each leap was a risk with its own surprises. He was certainly considered a daredevil. He was making bold jumps that everyone else was afraid to attempt. BUT, he got there by taking measured steps. He didn’t start with his longest jump – he worked up to it, gathering data incrementally. Measured steps and creative leaps are NOT mutually exclusive.
Article: “In this tough economic era, perhaps the threat of more financial pain has replaced breakthrough ideas with incremental improvements…”
Me: I don’t think that incremental improvements are REPLACING breakthrough ideas, but rather leading up to them. Incremental improvements are valuable in their own right, but often they are just the way of building the trust before the big leap. Breakthroughs get stopped in their tracks if the proper trust hasn’t been established first. Build credibility. I, personally, have the most creative freedom and the best breakthroughs with the clients who’s trust I gained slowly through incremental improvements.