The investments committed to marketing are investments contributing to the short, medium and long term health of a business.
The most common criticism of the marketing function from others within the organisation is what is seen by some as the near cult-like reverence to the long term ‘brand identity’, at the expense of 'present market realities'. In other words, stop the 'fluffy nonsense and let's just get out there and sell!'
All well and good having a fancy brand plan, they say, but if consumers are running away from the business right now, then a long term plan is just wasted energy. In other words, 'stop the fluffy nonsense and let's just get out there and sell!'.
There are many far wiser and far more eloquent than I to counter this prevalant argument.
It is true that a focus on the ‘brand’ can consume companies and the brand teams to the point of being unable to spot consumer shifts happening right under their noses, so a greater level of flexibility and agility is essential in any brand approach now.
However, I would argue that whilst in theory brands may be looking to the long-term, at an executional level there still seems to be a number of brands (and agencies) who are suffering from the short-termist disease that I call Media Fad Syndrome.
I have been around the industry for a long time, and one thing is for sure. Conference companies make good business offering up the next ‘hot topic’. A few years ago, Second Life was going to be the new United Nations/social phenomenon/brand heaven. A little before, you could not move without hearing how the future was going to be in 'branded content'.
Then came the widget. No self-respecting advertising or media agency could NOT suggest a widget as part of the marketing ideas for clients. then it was very much the rise of the Facebook Page. I was on a coach recently, and the coach company had a sticker on the side, inviting people to be the coach company's friend on Facebook. This might be a great idea, but for the life of me I am trying to work out how.
Then it was the turn of the iPhone apps, and then the iPad apps. (Sidenote: few are asking for Android yet, even with the massive smartphone penetration of Android...another style over substance discussion for another time perhaps)
What next in the MFS? What was the reasoning behind any of the above examples of the last few years? Was this based on rational business analysis, or a desire to 'do something that's hot'? Are we fearful of falling behind if we don't do what everyone else is doing? Is it all the fault of the Conference Organisers or Jounalists, or are they merely reflecting what everyone is talking about?
However, these are merely symptoms of The Media Fad Syndrome, not the root cause. Branded content can be exceptionally effective for brands, while Facebook pages can be extremely efficient in delivering to specific business objectives too.
All channels of connection mentioned in the visual have value (except Second Life).
BUt we are talking about an addiction, a fix for ‘something cool’, 'something on trend' with little clarity on the business objectives for the investment.
Agencies sadly are particularly prone to MFS.
If the use of the ‘latest thing’ is for Marketing R&D, with proper measures of success locked to it, then great. That works for me.
But when the ‘latest thing’ is done more out of an emotional need for ‘cool’, then the Media Fad Syndrome needs to be treated fast.
As companies suffer from this virus, other companies have managed to steer clear of this, by worrying less about the short term and the long term. They focus on the evolving now, the EVER PRESENT.
We have moved to a multi-sensory marketing landscape where the people's relationship with brands cannot be measured by 3 week 'campaigns'. The relationships are forever evolving, ever changing, and always happening. We have shifted to marketing that is real-time, always ON. On the one hand, delivery in this world is about as short-term as you can get, but equally it requires a vision that has long-term direction, yet one that has a fluidity not normally structured in company plans...
So time to get serious about MFS and stamp it out. Considering a fluid future, rather than a long-term or short-term one could be the start of the healing process