How relationships turn successful or end up as a failure? What makes them stronger or weaker? What keeps them together or tear them apart?

Recently, I am finding myself very involved in answering the above three questions. I am not expecting to have a detailed understanding in the near future; however, I think that I am beginning to understand the basics.

I believe all relationships grow or die based on the confidence level achieved in their relationship. The higher the confidence level the stronger a relationship will be or vice versa. Confidence is the ultimate measure of all relationships – care, security, safety, belonging, love, commitment, sincerity, affection, and validation are the contributors in increasing or decreasing the degree of confidence we have in relationships. Thus, the art of running successful relationships lies in understanding where and when to contribute our efforts to most effectively increase or maintain the confidence level.

In the world of advertising and marketing, we often talk about building and strengthening relationships between brands and people – a job we should be doing. However, I think it's equally important for us to talk and think about strengthening our relationship with marketers and the relationship they have with their management.

A recent update from Warc reported over 70% of the global marketers failing to prove ROI in 2013. As a result, it is very natural for us to expect a decrease in the level of confidence of a CEO and CFO on their CMO. It's a serious situation and I believe advertising professionals have a role to play here. In fact, it's critical for the survival of advertising agencies to help marketers regain the confidence within their organisations. It shouldn't be difficult to understand that, if marketing is losing confidence, so is the brands and advertising agencies it represents.

Without a doubt, proving ROI is becoming increasingly important and challenging for brands operating in the Internet enabled world – a world where distraction is only a click away. Nonetheless, our hope lives in holding tight to the fundamentals upon which the theories and practices of marketing effectiveness have been constructed. This means advertising professionals need to move away from helping marketers deliver engagement led 'marketing-stunts' to guiding marketers to drive and demonstrate 'marketing effectiveness' with a focus on increasing brand value and securing immediate and future sales.

Certainly, shifting our focus from justifying marketing effectiveness based on engagement and reach based metrics to demonstrating quantifiable business results will come with its own dynamics, requiring a change in how we run our relationship with our marketing partners. So, what actions can we take to help marketers regain management confidence, whilst building strong, successful and long-term relationships? Well perhaps…

Question the end game:
It's worth asking our marketing partners and us the following questions when receiving briefs for the agency;

  1. Will our marketing investment help increase our brand value?
  2. Will our marketing investment help shift our products at the price we want people to pay for them?

It's not necessary for all marketing investments to answer both of the questions in positive. Nevertheless, it should at least answer yes to one of the questions. If the answer is no to both of the questions and instead we hear words such as engagement, viral, community growth, etc. we should turn the brief down as it stands. Then help our marketing partner find a way to justify their marketing investment against quantifiable business results.

Drive internal integration:
A family unit may have different individuals within it, but the unit works well when everyone is actively talking to each other and working together towards a common goal. Similarly, a business may have Digital, OOH, Retail, ATL, BTL marketing teams working on their own KPIs – however, they all are working for the same business and brand. Instead of supporting different business units' to work in silos, we must help our marketing partners explore opportunities to integrate their marketing investment with other marketing / business units by asking:

  1. Could our marketing investment contribute to other marketing activities covering the same campaign?
  2. Are there any opportunities where our marketing investment could contribute to other marketing activities / business initiatives or vice versa?

Assess actively:
Confidence is achieved in relationships when one is keeping a close eye on the positive contributions they are making in their relationship. It doesn't only help one from not getting distracted, but also provides on-going confidence to the other party involved. Likewise, once we have aligned the marketing investment with business objectives, enabled our marketing partner to define success as a quantifiable business outcome, developed a strategy to achieve it and applied tactics to activate it, we should immediately start measuring the contribution of our marketing investment towards the final outcome. There should be no tension in understanding that the contribution of any marketing investment to business objectives is most effective when the measurement of marketing investment is applied from the start of the communication planning process and right till the end. Start to end measurement not only allows us to holistically measure the detailed effect of marketing, but also enables us to modify our advertising tactics in case they are not contributing to the final outcome.

Great partners build strong, successful and long-term relationships through delivering consistent waves of confidence. Great partners don't leave, breakup or runaway when one of them is going through difficult times; instead they positively stand with their partner to help them overcome their challenges. In the times when marketers are suffering from confidence deficit in front of their management, I believe it's our duty to help them rise and shine again. In doing this, we don't need to wait to receive a confidence-building brief from our marketing partners. Perhaps, this time we need to take the first step. Perhaps, this time our marketing partners unconsciously want us to guide them find a way to start delivering quantifiable business results – sooner rather later.

'...Some things are hidden
Some things you'll see
Make me know
Signal to me...
ABC – Show me