My top 10 take-outs from talking to marketing’s brightest minds

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David Wheldon, my top 10 take-outs: Be more strategic

My top 10 take-outs from talking to marketing’s brightest minds

The biggest brains in marketing offer their top tips to smarter, more effective marketing. David Wheldon highlights 10 great pieces of advice from recent episodes of the WFA’s Better Marketing podcast

On WFA Better Marketing Podcast, I’ve had the privilege of chatting to some very bright marketers. They’ve all had fascinating stories to tell about the business challenges they face, their careers and their approaches to marketing.

Some of the most insightful conversations have been with those who have less skin in the game; the professors, the analysts and the agency leaders, since they see across categories and businesses.

As many of us return from holidays, I wanted to highlight 10 tips from these marketing gurus (plus one from a client-side marketer) that really stick with me.

1. Be more strategic

For Professor Mark Ritson, the true business advantage comes from taking a strategic approach, rather than constantly looking at tactics and new opportunities in the digital ecosystem. “Strategy is simple, it’s answering the questions of targeting, positioning and objectives. Get that done and you’ll be in really good shape,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.

2. Do it with pride

How many times have you gone with good enoughDavid Droga, CEO of Accenture Song, says that the idea that ‘good enough’ takes less effort is a fallacy. Whatever you do, you should do it with pride. “It takes the same amount of energy to do something great as it does to justify doing something average,” he told me. That’s an ambition we can all live by.

3. Be more famous

The client briefs of the Mad Men era were short, pithy and succinct. Bob Hoffman argued that we need to get back to that simplicity. Whether we like it or not most consumer-brand relationships are shallow, arguing: “If I was the CEO of a company, I would bring my CMO and my agency in and ask them one thing: make us famous.”

4. Refresh your story

Brand stories gain traction from repetition, but you can’t endlessly tell the same story in the same way. John Hegarty found a great example of refreshment when he cited the Bond films. The franchise has survived for decades because it manages the tricky path of keeping its core identify – shaken not stirred anyone?  – while always refreshing the story (and even James Bond himself).

5. Be all things to all people

Digital holds the promise of one-to-one marketing but one of the biggest voices against micro targeting has been Professor Byron Sharp. Too many marketers are still trying to reach very small niche audiences, he says. The lesson from his research is that you must reach all category buyers and even people that aren’t in your category. His fundamental truth is that to grow you need to expand the size of your base.

6. Build new business models

This is my one tip from a current marketer and it’s here because it’s so fundamental. Rupen Desai from the Dole Sunshine Food Company has lived his advice in developing a new income stream from pineapple leaves, creating a better living for farmers, reducing waste and helping make a vegan leather alternative. It’s incumbent on all of us to develop new business models that are more sustainable.

7. Make people care

David Droga echoed Rupen’s promotion of the role that marketing needs to play in averting the climate catastrophe. Marketing, he argued, is about making people understand and care about the bigger picture. We can encourage people to recycle and stop using plastic straws but that’s not enough. The best marketing is one of the few levers that can save what we have. That should be a rallying cry for our profession.

8. Write better briefs

These next few tips are about practice rather than strategy but they are no less important. WFA study after WFA study has highlighted the failure of our industry to truly master briefing. John Hegarty brought the essence of what we should be aiming for to life when he said: “When Michelangelo was asked to paint the Sistine Chapel, the Pope told him: ‘make them believe’”. And then he painted God on the ceiling in what John called ‘a wonderful piece of media placement’!

9. Be more integrated

It’s too late to bemoan the separation of media and creative, the challenge for marketers is now to make them work together seamlessly. Those that do this reap the rewards in terms of more effective advertising. Karen Nelson-Field and Peter Field remind us of the fact that it takes two things to create effective advertising: great creative work and great media thinking

10. Ditch the tracking

Finally, I return to Bob Hoffman, because one of the things we are collectively brilliant at is finding ways for people to reject our message. Tracking is another of those things. “If we’d end third party tracking, we’d do a whole lot of good for ourselves,” he says. Great brands treat data with respect but too many don’t, or feel they can’t, because their competitors don’t. More of us should have the courage of our convictions.

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