I get present to the reality of marketing and I find myself disappointed
Last night I had the privilege of participating in a CMO dinner hosted by IBM in Central London. Thank you IBM. If I am truthful (and my commitment is to be straight with myself and with you) then my experience was one of entering into the conversation in a state of delight and leaving the dinner a little despondent as regards the state of marketing: same old thinking – “consumers”, not “people”, not “our fellow human beings”; few marketers feeling that they work in an organisational context that allows them / calls them to be customer-centric; the relentless focus on ROI driving short term thinking, hobbling tinkering / experimentation….
Please understand I am not being critical of marketers (my fellow human beings), just disappointed about the state of marketing (the activity, the function). As a result of last night’s dinner I have more understanding and more love of my fellow human beings toiling away in marketing. They want to be customer-centric, to improve the customer experience, to forge stronger bonds. They find it difficult to do so as they have to please their bosses who are insistent on making the numbers no matter what it takes. And the numbers that matter are this quarters numbers. That kind of orientation does not allow for the long term game that the likes of Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Julian Richer (Richer Sounds), Chris Zane (Zane’s Cycles), Steve Jobs (Apple) play or played so well.
Why did I get so down? The key questions are not being addressed
It occurs to me that the central question of our times is this one: “How do we touch lives, create value for customers, make the world a better place?” No-one talked about this. Yes, there was talk about brand. And to me that occured as brand as image, brand as personality, brand as a mask that we put on. Few talked about ‘character’ – the values we uphold, are proud to uphold, values that uplift us, our colleagues, our customers…..
Follow close behind is the second question: “What do I stand for, what do you stand for, what do we stand for, what can we be counted on?” I write two blogs (this one and the Possibility-Transformation-Leadership blog) and they are expressions of my stand: to be useful, to provoke fresh thinking and be of service to my fellow human beings, to put something into the game of life, to make a contribution. If I can answer this question (an ordinary person) then why can’t brands and professional marketers answer this question?
The last question that is particularly relevant for these times of discontinuity (in chaos theory this would be called a “phase transition”) is: “How do we get access to what we don’t know that we don’t know?”. The answer is experimentation. We experiment – we try out lots of different ideas on a small scale (the nudge theory / approach) and see what shows up in the world. We reflect on what shows up, we learn and then we use that learning to do more intelligent experimentation – building on what works, learning from and letting go that which did not work. The consensus around the table was that in the current economic climate there is a relentless focus on ROI and this prevents/hinders/shackles any experimentation: experimentation is a luxury that the marketer cannot afford.
P&G’s Marc Pritchard lights me up, restores my faith in marketers and marketing
Marc Pritchard is P&G’s global marketing and brand building officer and he gave a speech on the 21st March at the WACL dinner. I found it an inspiring speech, one that provides both a vision and an actionable pathway to the future. Here are the key point that speaks to me:
1. Find your purpose, be useful
“….as a person and as a leader, define your own purpose. What drives you? What difference do you make in people’s lives in and outside of your organisations? I think of my simple purpose in life as “to be useful”. To be useful in every meeting, every pitch, planning session or business review; to be useful to all the people around me.”
My view: this is absolutely the first questions each and everyone of us has to answer authentically. I exist, you exist and while we are here lets be useful! Figuring out how you can be useful and make that contribution which you are best placed to make. That goes for individuals, teams, functions, brand, organisations. We have all the tools to be useful – really we do, that in a nutshell is what the internet and social media is all about.
2. Do and learn: “Try new things, accept some won’t work, learn why’
“So, this is my advice to you: Since we are all building brands in a digital world, I would encourage you to “do and learn“. We are trying to make this shift ourselves at P&G – and it’s not always easy. But we have to try new things, be accepting that some things won’t work and learn why. If we are going to live our vision to create 1:1 relationships in real time with every person in the world, this is the only way to do that – and we believe it’s the future of brand building.”
3. We don’t need digital marketing plans, we need holistic brand building plans founded on purpose and contribution
“At P&G, every brand must define its purpose of how it uniquely touches and improves lives with its superior benefit. Brands must still discover deep human insights that make a brand relevant in a person’s life. And from these insights, brands must create big ideas that drive preference for its superior benefits. We translate big ideas into content that engages people in conversations with our brands.
We are building brands in a rapidly changing world – and in a digital world. But I’m clear to tell our marketers that we don’t need “digital marketing” plans. We need holistic brand building plans with big ideas that can be executed in a digital world.
I’m excited about the opportunities that these shifts present to us as brand builders. And it’s also my belief in the power of purpose that makes me so optimistic about the future. At P&G, our purpose is to touch and improve the lives of every person in the world. Every one of our brands has a unique derivative of this purpose. And it is this purpose that drives everything we do.”
4. Here’s the shift that is required
“….P&G’s vision is to build our brands through lifelong, one-to-one relationships in real-time with every person in the world. But achieving this vision requires some fundamental shifts in how we operate.
– It requires shifting our mindset to think of who we serve as “people”, not just “consumers” in order to make their whole lives better.
– It means shifting from superior products as the sole source of brand value, to creating value from a wide range of sources, including a broader range of disruptive and transformational products, non-product services, knowledge, information and even entertainment.
– It means shifting from static marketing campaigns that we launch and adjust infrequently, to real-time “always on” brand building with ways of constantly engaging people to participate in our brands, and – at their best – even inspiring movements.
– It means shifting from mass broadcasting, to creating more personal, one-to-one conversations with individuals and the communities in which they’re active.
– It means shifting from a linear path to purchase that ends up at a physical retail store, to an approach of “anywhere, anytime” shopping.”
5. The three forces that make it necessary for marketer, brands and companies to make this shift
“Technology gives people 24/7, real-time connections to everyone, and the power to transform public opinion on just about anything, including the direction of brands, companies and even countries. And mobile technology is unleashing a new wave of power as nearly every person on the planet will soon have transparent, always-on information, education, and even entertainment.
Trust in institutions is eroding so people want to know who is behind brands and companies; and if we’re interested in improving lives, versus just making money. Today’s heroes are “everyday people” whose actions inspire others to follow and whose stories generate the most interest and advocacy.
People are participating. They’re involved in conversations about our brands and companies like never before. They’re creating content through conversations, and creative expressions of how they think and feel about topics.”
I am in total agreement with Marc Pritchard, it occurs to me that we (Marc and I) are fruits of the same tree, envisioning the same vision, and on the same path. This is a ‘manifesto’ that I totally buy into – actually I have already bought into. It is because I have already bought into it that Marc’s speech resonates with me and leaves me uplifted / inspired. And if marketers and marketing were to follow this ‘manifesto’ then marketing would become, for the first time in its history, a noble profession. What do you think?