The tumultuousness of 2020 and the catastrophic events that followed it has taught us one thing: we need to make fundamental and even systemic changes within society and our industry. The spotlight is on businesses and the failure to adapt to this moment is evident.
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The Great Re-Invention
Rishad Tobaccowala is a marketing guru and author who believes we are in the middle of a great re-invention of society, business and ourselves.
He means that systems go through a stress test at the macro-level when they face economic uncertainty and societal change. It applies to all systems, including government, healthcare, education and infrastructure, business, marketing, and even healthcare. Many of these systems collapsed or were at best crippled by a global pandemic.
How our systems are failing us
Marketing has been unable to function effectively and continues to be weighed down today by a failure of strategic planning. Tactical, a focus on short-term gains, the glorification and adornment of shiny social media, an ocean data and tools, and most importantly, a failure of marketers to place themselves in the shoes and lead with empathy.
There’s a reason why so many brand messages during the early days of the Pandemic were trite, cliched, and in many cases completely tone-deaf, or that marketers felt paralyzed as the ground swell of racial inequality led to an uprising, protests and civil unrest. We were unable to adapt and respond quickly to the movement as marketers. The reason why is there are only a few stand-out examples during this period, including the likes of Postmates, P&G, Clorox, Aviation Gin and AirBnb comes down to whether their brand values, leadership and messages were grounded in something bigger than their own organizations.
These examples, both the successes and the failures, should prompt us to examine every aspect of our industry and ask crucial questions such as: What does our brand stand for? Is your leadership a person-first and empathic-led marketing leader? Are we communicating the right message and engaging in the right way through the media? What is the most important thing? How can we reinvent ourselves and what should we do to meet the challenges of our times as marketers?
Reinvention v.s. Invention
During times of major disruption and business and social change, we also witness something truly amazing: invention and ingenuity. The creation of something entirely new. The Phoenix rising from ashes.
Today there are brands and businesses that have been category leaders since the Great Recession of 2008, including Uber, AirBnb and Pinterest. In 2020 and the next years, there will be disruptive businesses and brands. This is certain. Invention is a good thing. Invention is cool and sexy. But what do we need to reinvent? What does this moment mean in terms of fixing what’s broken and designing new systems for how we do marketing?
In his October 2020 piece, “The ABCDE of Marketing Re-Invented,” Rishad addresses this question through a framework for how marketing has changed and is changing into the future.
A = Audience
B = Brand
C = Content
D = Data
E = Enterprise
We have created a list to ask the ABCDE Framework about reinvention. These questions are what we believe to be the most important areas.
- Audiences:How do we find them? What has changed in their mindset? How can we look at people and not just consumers?
- Brand:While brands remain important, the way in which they are constructed is changing and our relationship with them has become more complicated. What role should purpose and experience play in brand strategy?
- ContentMarketing has been all about key words. But there are many more ways to do it.
- Data:Marketing data is the future of marketing. However, few companies can use it to their advantage. How can we make sure that quality is more important than quantity?
- EnterpriseA progressive company is one that is open to information and transparent in its decision making. Leaders are accountable. How can we give power back and encourage leaders to step out of their ways?
Where does Re-Invention Begin?
We believe that innovation starts with acknowledging the things that are not working, asking the most important and difficult questions, and accepting the idea that change, even if it is costly, is what will allow us survive and thrive in the future.
Much of the change we’ve experienced in recent years has been technologically driven, and we imagine this change will continue and even accelerate, but as marketers, the change we should want to affect, the kind of future we should be working hard to realize, is one that is human-first, technology second.
With so much uncertainty about the future, it is time to come together and agree that 2021 will be the year that our industry experiences the greatest reinvention. We also need to commit that the outcome we want is more equitable and fair, positive, less exploitative, divisive and less extractive.