The future of marketing and branding has what it takes to be a thriller. And it doesn’t have to be a schizophrenic killer on the loose. Practitioners of the craft know that every day in the world of modern marketing brings a new lesson for those who are curious. In the second part of this conversation about the future of marketing with author and media entrepreneur Prashant Kumar, we talk about the symptoms of bipolarity in the agency world and how to overcome them. Excerpts:
Many say that privacy is not entirely possible. Ultimately, our digital information is in someone’s repository and there is no transparency as to how they are going to use it?
Data protection is a big issue worldwide. In the end, someone put it very nicely. They said privacy is a problem for rich old people.
It’s not quite right. Let me put that into perspective with a more nuanced take. Privacy means different things to different people. Ultimately, what I believe is sacrosanct about this data exchange is value. If there’s a meaningful exchange of values between consumers’ personal data and how you use that data to improve the experience, then privacy isn’t an issue.
The problem occurs when you take people’s data and provide it in the wrong way or share it with the wrong people. I mean, if you look at the whole problem with third-party cookies, it’s because you’re taking people’s personal data without people understanding the implications of how that data is being used. You share it with people who will abuse it.
So I think the whole conceptualization of the data architecture, the user experience, has to include this dimension of how do we make this value exchange between data and people make sense? It’s a problem today, it was a problem in the 1970s too.
When direct marketing originated when people still got mailers and catalogs in their mailboxes. For many people it could be very, very upsetting. Because the addresses get used, shared with the wrong people, and then we keep getting this pointless stuff and real letters get lost in the process.
So this balance needs to be found again in collaboration between business actors, government and civil society. I think Europe is coming, but there is still a long way to go. But the legislation surrounding the GDPR is a good place to start.
As for the evolution of the traditional ad agency, do you think enough is happening or will there be a burnout where yesterday’s leaders could be tomorrow’s laggards?
In short, I think tomorrow’s creative professional needs to be designed around this quartet of create, code, count and make.
We have to develop models, we have to rethink agency organizations, the structures, the workflows, the processes, the skills, the way they are reshuffled. And ultimately the total offering where this create, code, count and make can work together as a perfect quartet to offer customers new customer value. There is no way that agencies can deliver the potential of Industry 4.0 to customers if this does not happen.
And what does the existing agency structure look like?
Well, creating, programming and counting sit in silos. Most of the time, they’re not even inside the agency system. Or sometimes they don’t talk to each other even then. The geeks don’t talk to the junkies.
If you look at the way marketing happens, it’s actually schizophrenic, there’s a bipolarity, the teams that come up with the big ideas don’t understand the world of marketing, automation and creative personalization and so on. And the people who get this don’t get that. And that bipolarity actually extends across the industry, which means you have a lot of FMCGs and all of that on this side of the spectrum. And then there are plenty of e-commerce players and everyone on the other end of the spectrum.
And it’s just that they don’t get along. And one of the things the Made in Future book was written for is to rewrite marketing from a blank sheet, bringing the two worlds together in a seamless conceptual flow.
The reason they don’t talk to each other is because the old agency stuff and the old marketing stuff were designed around the concepts and mindset of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
From today’s perspective, marketers have the choice to shift all companies away from the traditional agency structure to the digital-first agency. Unfortunately, traditional agencies seem to have no choice but to change.
So what you’re seeing is that when marketers aren’t getting everything they want in one setup, they move some of it to another silo. You know, as much as traditional agencies have tried to seamlessly integrate digital thinking into their work, the opposite is also true.
We hear that more and more.
Yes. I mean, we’ve seen so many very smart digital professionals who just can’t get past search engine marketing or social content and ecommerce optimization and forget the fact that the strategic, big picture, big ideas, big thinking and big changes in marketing need both poetry and plumbing.
Modern marketing needs both macro thinking and the micro tools and weapons that the new age of technology and data puts at our disposal. This lack of a holistic offering is one of the biggest value gaps in the entire marketing ecosystem, something I’ve attempted to address in this book. And I think there are almost 50 frameworks and models that have been put together so that we can turn all of these concepts that I’ve talked about into practical, actionable strategies and actions.
As an entrepreneur now associated with one of the world’s leading modern agencies, Accenture Song, how do you see the entire modern marketing era evolving? How far are we on this curve?
Of course, different marketers and different agencies, even different countries are at different points on the curve. I have managed Asia in IPG for many, many years. And I saw the whole spectrum. But I would say that we are still in the pre-teen phase of how next new generation marketing is evolving. And most of the existing challenges are indeed at the organizational level. The Create, Code, Count, Make quartet we talked about and how you bring that together is actually at the core of how the future will be reshaped.
But very few leaders have the right perspective and understanding of how to do it. In addition, there is enormous uncertainty, which means that more and more boundaries are being drawn within the organization.
When an agency is run by someone who thinks digital is sweet, but eventually television ads are going to shake the world, it’s difficult for that person to put too much power on the people who get it. First, these executives could lose their own jobs as the nation truly digitally penetrates and goes digital first and so on.
Traditional agencies believe that for transactional communication, digital works best. But when it comes to giving the brand an emotional voice, then perhaps the traditional medium is still best.
Not at all. I think they live in a fool’s paradise. You probably don’t know that Ariana Grande’s Metaverse concert in Fortnite was attended by 48 million people in two weeks.
These numbers did not come for a transaction. I think what such leaders should do is buy an Oculus Quest, wear it, go into Fortnite and check out that concert. The level of immersion will blow your mind. When you watch a rock concert or a pop concert, there is a stage and the show takes place there. And maybe they’ll throw lights on you. Now imagine you are sitting in the center of a spherical stage. It’s just another level.
If digital was all about transactions, if you look at some of the groundbreaking brands in the Metaverse, companies like Gucci have created a Gucci garden. Louis Vuitton created an entire showroom and they did their one of the latest launches where the entire product range was launched in the metaverse.
You should check out Balenciaga, who did an exclusive lineup for the Metaverse.
Recently Christie’s or Sotheby’s held their entire auction at the Metaverse where NFTs were auctioned. They made as much money as they make from masterpieces in the physical world. These are not transactional. These are emotional experiences. People paid for feelings. So this assumption is clearly wrong.
What would be some mantras for a group of marketers still crossing the bridge from traditional to the new marketing roles they might follow?
Well, their fear is understandable. The strategic thinking they have cultivated over the last 30-40 years still comes from the traditional frame of reference. And they go home, they see their children, they’re totally detached from that reality.
The solution is to bridge the two worlds, not only in execution but also strategically, right? The day you can connect a mobile game to your sales figures, that bridge will be built. So that’s the problem I’ve tried to address in the book.
I think all marketing leaders need to tune into whole brain teams, lead whole brain teams, how do you match creativity with performance and get them to work together because two-way traffic is probably the second very important piece of advice .
Number three, as they tend to be, would be marketers of the future, people who can be hackers, hipsters, and hustlers all at the same time so that the journey from idea to code to sale is truly seamless. So I mean, that’s some of the advice I want to give.
(This is the conclusion of a two-part series.)