If strategy, and advertising more broadly, is going to have a voice at the top table, it needs to speak in a language that the money men understand: demand. Here, Oliver Joyce, a partner at Mindshare Worldwide, explores how advertising can reframe the conversation.
Simple truths, whether in ads or conversation, can stop people in their tracks. To question the decisions and directions that they have taken. When a friend recently posted some 80s photos the only thought in my (now un-mulleted) head was ‘what was I thinking?’
And this feeling is the same one I have when I look back at the recent history of advertising. From interruption to engagement, from friends to conversations, from the death of TV to the growth of different size TVs, from brand building to brand versus performance. What have we been thinking?
To come up with a better way, first we must split out the purpose of advertising from the method used.
Purpose of advertising
The purpose of investment is what 90% of the broader business cares about. The method they may be intrigued about for a short period but ultimately it doesn’t matter unless there is a pay-off. However, the language used to describe purpose matters enormously and it must always reflect business outcomes.
So what is the purpose that will connect marketing to the rest of the business? Simple. Demand. Always has been. Always will be: Creating demand, nurturing demand, converting demand and maintaining demand.
It is all about demand, built out from a clear articulation of the business problem, all driving to the same purpose and linked across a funnel, loop or ANY journey shape of your choosing. And applicable to all.
Whilst we will (thankfully) never predict with absolute certainty the human response to our efforts, the ability to codify strategies in language that always links activity to growing demand is game-changing, both in the discipline and behaviour of marketing teams and equally importantly, the broader perceptions of advertising across finance, sales and the whole organisation.
Method of advertising
So, if the purpose is our foundational architect’s blueprint then the method is the build, where it gets more creative and chaotic and sometimes things change.
The nuance within each stage is great and fascinating. The choice of potential tools and tactics is burgeoning in a wonderful way and the complexity and variation of journeys is endless. So the need for direction is paramount and clients need faith that an agency can navigate this complexity. But it is this faith that agencies can solve problems that is being questioned more than ever.
Have we over-complicated it or at least failed to provide clarity? Probably. But worse than this, have we allowed it to become too disconnected from the simple growth objectives of businesses? Undoubtedly, at least in language if not intention.
The speed of change, the degree of complexity and the potential for chaos is exactly why it all needs to tie back to the purpose - demand. Incisive planning and creative solutions are more critical than ever and demand planning always brings us back to the problem to solve, not the fashionable tactic.
Demand clearly focuses the narrative. From 100 things we could do to the twenty things we should do, down to the five things we must do to grow demand.
Creating a demand planning roadmap
The thing about roadmaps is that if you rip bits out, they don’t work and the same applies to demand planning. It’s not a menu. Everyone does bits but it needs total commitment. The most important thing is it needs to be described in the same demand focused language. Consistently. There are five main steps:
- Demand framework.
Set the demand framework that all communication partners work to. This is the blueprint for everything, from data management, to briefs, evaluation of ideas and measures of success
- Demand ecosystem
Implement the data and tech ecosystem that enables you to execute and understand. Not just digital, both slow and fast moving, tactical and meaningful. We are not talking mythical DMP’s – this can be basic to start with, but nothing else works without this foundation.
- Demand briefs
Clear demand missions, clear outcomes. Spend time doing proper planning work – who, what, why, where and when will we address barriers and drive demand. If you are a dictatorial organisation the direction can be issued in brown envelopes. If you are democratic, you can workshop it. But be in no doubt, everyone is clear on what contribution is needed.
- Demand generation
Get creative. Get innovative. Not with what’s fashionable, but within the clear confines of whatever will grow the demand. Feel constrained? Good. Blow people’s mind by re-inventing demand generation, not re-inventing the purpose people invest money with us.
- Adaptive demand
This is about more than optimisation and dynamic creative. It’s about reacting both to meaningful metrics and being culturally relevant. And more importantly, planning in advance – from the demand ecosystem, to creative readiness.
In a world where one of the world’s biggest advertisers has renewed calls for a more consistently defined and measured digital ecosystem, brands should be stripping back the entire purpose of communications to the basics.
The best CMOs and agency partners are tying the marketing purpose to that of the business and in so doing winning back the faith of those that pay the bills.