David Wheldon: The ground is changing but the basics remain the same
WFA President on why a complex operating environment shouldn't be a distraction from getting the basics right
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One thing I’m not going to do is start making predictions.
Because if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. When I became WFA President back in 2015 no one was talking about Trump and Brexit.
The same applies to our industry. According to Ad Age, the big stories from last year were Sir Martin Sorrell leaving WPP, revelations of sexual misconduct across our industry and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle.
My friend, Bob Hoffman rightly pointed out, in his inimitably colourful way, that no one predicted any of these.
Just as no one predicted the big scandals of brand safety, the scale of global ad fraud and the media transparency crisis unfolding in the US, now with the involvement of the FBI.
Nevertheless, there are some things we can say with confidence:
Be prepared for more brand safety scandals.
Anticipate consumer outcry at what companies are doing with people’s data.
Expect increased scrutiny of the behaviour of the big social media platforms.
All three are symptomatic of a fundamentally flawed online ecosystem and that’s why they will keep happening again and again. They are simply a function of the disconnect between the views and sensitivities of a few folk in Silicon Valley and the rest of the world.
But against this imperfect backdrop, my appeal to those of us charged with building strong brands is to keep our cool and remind ourselves of the basics.
Because perhaps now more than ever it is easy to get distracted by the bright and shiny.
Put people at the heart of everything you do. Start with those around you in your office because they will be your greatest advocates.
Ask yourself at every stage of your marketing strategy and execution whether you are putting the customer first. It’s obvious but too many marketers aren’t doing it.
Remind yourself of the importance of integration, collaboration and listening. The importance of great consumer insight and outstanding creative execution.
The constant need to evaluate and re-evaluate your delivery against business objectives.
And most of all, in today’s ultra-connected, ultra-distracting, ultra-transparent world that you remain true to your brand.
Because it’s not just what you say. It’s what you do and who you are. And in the mad, fashionable dash to be a purposeful brand, many are cutting corners, neglecting to take the entire organisation with them and so failing the critical test of authenticity.
Being a marketer in today’s complex world can seem a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be as long as we stick to the basics.
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