Comfort in the Familiar
Before our current global and national crisis companies were under great pressure to significantly up their game. This was becoming increasingly difficult to achieve due to heightened competition, consumer mistrust of big business and an extremely fragmented, cluttered media environment. We see in Gartner’s 2020 CMO Spend Survey that the majority of CMOs plan to grow business by doing what seems to be familiar: 45% relying on selling new products to existing clients for growth and 34% selling existing products within existing markets. These approaches rely on the assumption that consumers have an appetite for more (from “company”) and the same of retail with the magic appearance of additional shelf space. If any time calls for looking outside the box or even redefining the box now is the time.
Marketers have the reputation of being optimists and the place to look for inspiration. Who hasn’t felt amazing after watching a sizzle reel with the coming years “big idea” and believe wholeheartedly that anything is possible? On the other hand, CMOs stated they prefer to stick to the status quo or stay within limited barriers of risk (69%) as compared to others across the organization. By this very nature, “anything” is not possible. It is only possible if safe, reliable and familiar. Marketing has been under greater scrutiny to deliver ROI and within that deliver growth at pace or greater than the market. By relying on the familiar marketers may be missing the true big idea.
Breaking the Cycle
Whether or not they are ready for it, marketers should welcome the uncertainty of our current situation and look for new opportunity to leapfrog what was the norm. This does not mean scrapping everything that exists but rather employ an evolution of agility, consumer obsession and innovation. In this way marketers can be more prepared to weather the phases of recover, renew.
Agility Brings Flexible Reassurance
Annual planning is a reassuring practice as it provides the security of a specific path to follow. A singular direction on what needs to be done and the reason for showing up every day. It provides the façade that the answers are all available. However, it is too rigid to bend when challenged. Working agilely requires rigor, opposite of some rumors on the subject, as annual planning does but allows for changes midstream through repeated optimization. The constant testing of hypotheses takes away the need for a crystal ball and allows for immediate data to inform decisions on tactics, spend and tracking to targets. If anything, working agilely provides more reassurance of a positive outcome than a one-time annual plan by constantly providing data to inform and drive decisions. Owning the data driving the bottom line is for sure a way to have a critical seat at the table.
Customer Obsession Drives Relationships
An evolution from customer centricity to absolute customer obsession will ensure that marketers are in lock step with those that they need to engage. It goes without saying that marketers need to be more transparent than ever with consumers. Communicate how and where consumers expect an organization to be with messaging that fits the platform purpose. Continue to avoid any risk of appearing tone-deaf during these periods of crisis. Companies that go beyond will reap the benefits immediately and long term. Relationships are hard and require really listening what consumers are saying not just hearing them. If you listen hard enough you may find hidden gems. It means allowing Marketing to be vulnerable and have self-awareness in order to really understand the motivations behind consumers actions in relationship to a brand. And sometimes it isn’t easy to hear. What is heard can fundamentally change an approach. In this way, marketers can own the consumer. And beyond any other piece of data, model, R&D innovation the consumer is king. Being able to bring the consumer to life and connect the dots to brand assures a seat at the table.
Innovation for so long has been positioned as something to try on the side and not exist in the mainstream. Innovation is deemed risky. Something to be careful of as the fear of failure is great. As a result, attempts at innovation are often curbed guaranteeing a miss of their full potential. But what does it really mean? Innovation is often confused with invention. Invention being the creation of something entirely new. Innovation being a change made to something that already exists. In that nature, the spirit of innovation is to improve upon and not change for change sake.
With agility comes the ability to improve or innovate with less risk. With consumer obsession, bets on innovation are grounded in relationships. Relationships that drive the bottom line. Considering the extraordinary circumstances of our current times innovation is more like a requirement than a nice to have. Bringing innovation mainstream paves the way to recharge all of Marketing efforts and revitalize a way forward which should be welcome “at the table”.
The Way Forward
With agility, consumer obsession, and innovation suddenly the uncertainty of tomorrow sounds less scary. The combination allows for reaching beyond the familiar to a new level of comfort even within uncertainty of great impending performance.