Peter Fisk, in his book Marketing Genius wrote, ‘the blurring of boundaries, of virtual and real worlds, and fusion of previously unrelated industries, is a daunting challenge but also a fantastic opportunity’.
Without a doubt, the modernisation within the technology discipline introduced countless opportunities to the business world. Today, it’s possible for any brand to work with or against any other. It’s no more about finding what the technology has done, instead it’s about realising the potential it has for us. It’s an open book, easily accessible to those who have the dreams, brains, confidence and persistence to benefit from it.
Very similar to this was the realisation of Larry Page and Sergey Brin back in 1995, when they created Google. What Google did was not a one off magic performance, but simply a case of focusing the business around people, and not the other way around.
For Google their vision is simple, ‘to be the perfect search engine’ or, ‘one that understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want’.
In reality, Google’s (search) model of working is extremely simple (FIG 1). Google as a brand understands the value of keeping the audience ‘on your side’. In all its operations what Google sells ultimately is, ‘You’. You, ‘the audience’ that every brand and marketing agency is looking for and Google makes it sure that everybody gets what they really want. In simple words, Google is the web’s library: archival, organized and oriented around research.
Now you must be thinking, what on earth this all has to do with Communications Planning? But if you look deeper, you will find Google as the champion of planning. As strategists we stand for ‘champions of people’, we celebrate the fact that it’s the end user whose voice must be heard and listened, at all levels in designing a business proposition.
In whatever Google does, it’s always the ‘searcher’ who is given utmost priority. Whether it’s an advertiser using Google AdWords to promote its products and services on the web with targeted advertising, or a website manager taking advantage of the Google AdSense programme to deliver ads relevant to the content of his website, the whole Google system works around customer democracy. Google search rankings are determined by the most popular sites amongst global internet users, assisted by those sites that encourage more open networking, linking one to another.
As strategists, it’s important for us to understand that we are moving away from an era of monitoring to an age of engagement. If we don’t realise this and start showing it in what we do, then soon brands might not have any need for us as we now know that some brands are actually very good in planning total solutions for their businesses.
Without a doubt, every strategist must indulge in learning how to analyse data about brands, the ways to use research usefully and how to bring human insight into the communications process. However, if one stops here, then everyone’s in trouble, because as strategists, our job is not to just create useful digital strategies, guide the creatives and agency in developing television commercials, or introduce a cool way to communicate over the mobile; most importantly it is to guide the total brand experience that an audience gets from a company.
Communications is the end result of brand thinking, and there’s no way on earth that can make that end result relevant to what people are looking for, unless the business isn’t designed to work in the way that people think.
I will discuss this point in detail in the later posts. Nevertheless, the challenge for the future strategists is not just drafting the creative brief. Rather, it’s thinking of ways to increase the utility of a brand. This opens a whole new paradigm for all of us because when we as brand partners start thinking neutrally towards brands then the situations would also demand to enhance our knowledge beyond traditional approaches of working relationships. From supply-chain issues to retail innovation, from financial strategies to product innovation, we must prepare ourselves to deal with everything and anything. As strategists, we should only have one objective – to make successful brands by integrating our thinking across all processes, markets and channels of our clients businesses.