A marketer’s (mini) MBA: 7 skills you need to master

by Megan Wright

Don’t let the fear of falling behind keep you from playing the game. We’ve rounded up the top trends marketers need to keep an eye on in the year ahead.

What if you could sink your teeth into all the specialised marketing knowledge that comes with a marketing MBA without having to take a single step? Or better yet, without a single click of your mouse?

We’ve picked the brains of some of the industry’s most profound thought leaders, providing marketers with a fast-track route to understanding what it means to be ahead of the curve in 2017.

Target doesn’t guarantee reach

As drivers of an industry that’s becoming increasingly filled with white noise, Andrew Davis says marketers have lost focus when it comes to driving revenue through content strategy.

Sounds too simple to be true, right? That’s the point, says Davis, author, CEO at Monumental Shift and content marketing expert.

“It’s really easy to get lost in that rabbit hole,” he says.

You can very easily compile a 10-page report that shows all of the things you’ve done and even pokes at the impact it’s had but I think you’re doing yourself a real disservice if you aren’t wondering, ‘How I can tie this to revenue?’”

Get ahead of the curve: The Wizard of Oz and the ROI ruby slippers you don’t know you have

The online world is also having a dramatic impact on marketers’ loss of focus, Davis adds. “We have this belief we should target everyone when, in fact, targeting everyone reaches no-one, really. It’s a terrible paradox, but I think we’ve really got to get past the idea that we can’t target in very, very smart ways.”

This means that no matter how much content you churn out, it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not aiming to reach someone, if it’s not then targeted to that persona and if those people aren’t seeing it.

“A lot of people think that, ‘If we just do this slow slog of blog posts and email newsletters we’ll eventually find our golden ticket’,” Davis says. “When, in fact, I think if you’re just smarter about the audience you’re targeting and grow down the tree from the small branches that have highly passionate, high margin, potential audiences to go after, you eventually get to the trunk where everybody knows you.”

Learn more from Andrew Davis.

Don’t think rationally

You might think you have a genius marketing idea but if it doesn’t connect to your audience on the right level it’s almost guaranteed to fail. This is because messages need to be crafted to target the right, creative side of the brain rather than the left or “logical” side, says CEO of SiteTuners and cognitive scientist Tim Ash.

“Right now we’re designing things that are too complicated and require us to use our conscious brains to process them,” Ash says. “[It] takes a huge laborious effort to make those kinds of rational decisions… The rational part of the brain doesn’t even get woken up most of the time.”

This means there’s much to be said for the role of conditioning and social inclusion in impacting human behaviour and, therefore, consumer decision making, Ash says.

“There’s no such thing as a permanent sense of self, and your environment and the conditioning propaganda, whatever you want to call it, has a very strong influence on us. We think of ourselves as active agents and we decide what we do, we decide when we change our own beliefs and in fact that’s not even the case.”

Fundamentally it comes down to the fact that humans are the ‘herdiest’ of animals, a fact that will almost always determine how we choose to behave in any given situation, Ash adds.

So, next time you’re asked to think of an idea or creatively interpret a client brief, try thinking beyond the scope of what your rational self is saying and take things into the next dimension – or at least the other side of your brain.

Tune in as Tim Ash tells it how it is.

Not all metrics matter

Despite all the new age bells and whistles that digital and analytics technology offers, marketers continue to fall short when it comes to measuring what matters, says controversial Melbourne Business School professor Mark Ritson.

What it comes back to, he says, is that marketers are too often focussed on the new and shiny rather than looking at what’s really working. “If you look at any of the data that comes out on a regular basis, what you see is a massive perceptual gap between what marketers think is going on and what actually is going on,” Ritson says.

“Think TV do a thing about every two or three years called TV Nation, where they interview a representative sample of marketers. If you ask a representative sample of marketers what percentage of television is viewed live, they estimated 49 percent. The reality is 87 percent.

“If you ask representative samples of marketers what proportion of TV watching is now multi-screen with people using no other digital devices, they’ll tell you 50 percent. The correct answer is 19 percent,” Ritson says.

It’s misperceptions like these which are misleading for marketers and CMOs whose advertising budgets could be better spent, he adds.

“If you look at digital video, it is one of the most disgraceful acts of data misrepresentation and lazy journalism that we have ever seen in the history of commercial coverage, never mind marketing. It’s a disgrace!”

Check out the full interviews here:
Firebrand Mark Ritson on why digital is overrated
Mark Ritson talks disgraceful marketing metrics

Own your brand narrative

One of the most influential campaigns in Australia in 2016, Western Sydney University’s Unlimited campaign kicked too many goals to count – no small feat given the sea of marketing voices in the tertiary education space.

Angelo Kourtis, Western Sydney University’s VP of People and Advancement, says the difference for the WSU rebrand lay in owning the story of the university and its people. “My critique of the current branding strategies that universities have is that they default into this position of preparing people to get jobs. It’s not a narrative that we actually should own.”

Instead, Kourtis worked together with George Betsis, creative director at VCD+We, to tell a story underpinned by philosophy and a clear vision.

Betsis recalls, “I asked Angelo a simple question at the end of our credentials presentation. And he had been silent for an hour and a half. I said, “What is it about this assignment? What do you want out of this? What matters to you?” And without missing a beat, he said, ‘I want to destroy the ATAR as the basis for judging the potential of human beings.’”

Discover why storytelling is at the heart of any great brand story.

Give women a voice

Women account for more than 50 per cent of the global population yet in the world of marketing they remain underrepresented in the boardroom and on the drawing board. In fact, according to marketing to women pioneer Bec Brideson, women are estimated to be worth some 28 trillion of a 35 trillion dollar global consumer economy.

“As a collective group, women are really powerful consumers and absolutely worth more than 50% of the economy. Therefore, they need to be considered in a more insightful and empathetic way to make sure that we’re connecting the right messages with them,” Brideson says.

“I believe that marketing needs to catch up with the social evolution that women are influencers and that we prefer to be connected to in a different way than we’ve all been taught to market, so marketing has to evolve in the same way that women have evolved.”

It might seem like a straightforward premise but there’s a far way to go to close the gap, says Brideson, referencing those brands who continue to “pink and shrink” while others opt for what she calls the “pale, male and stale” approach to marketing.

What not to do when marketing to females.

You can’t put a price on trust

Trust is not a commodity that can be bought, sold or easily regained, says author, teacher and brand expert Rachel Botsman. But that doesn’t often stop brands from trying.

With a passion for understanding the reasons we trust companies, ideas, and each other, Botsman says trust is a defining factor for consumers when it comes to how products and services are accessed, delivered and evaluated.

“I can tell you the one thing not to do, which is to say, ‘You should trust this bank’. Although that is a tagline believe it or not,” Botsman says. “There’s this notion that if you say it, people will believe you and there is something really important in that.”

“Now, with platforms where you have a producer and consumer, you can no longer control that relationship. So getting millions of people that this company doesn’t employ and doesn’t control behaving on brand, or delivering a quality product or service, involves a whole new way of thinking about marketing and design,” Botsman adds.

As the collaborative economy scales with the growth of user-driven brands like Airbnb and Uber, this is a factor that will only continue to become more lucrative – and harder to win back once lost.

The road to content marketing success is paved with consumer trust.

Native advertising, advertorial and paid content

Last but certainly not least is the role of paid content in shaping and redefining the very notions of content and marketing. This burgeoning field is being led by reputable brands and publishers, who are finding ways of combining quality storytelling with corporate messaging, while maintaining a strong commitment to editorial integrity.

Success in this field comes down to knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, says The Guardian Australia‘s, managing director Ian McClelland. “Native advertising, like any type of advertising or communication, only works in the context of a broader strategy. You have to know why you’re doing it and you have to know how it relates to all of the other things you’re doing,” McClelland says.

With increasingly fragmented commercial models on the rise, McClelland attributes this new wave of native and advertorial success to the new opportunities arising for non-advertising revenue combined with new captive audiences.

“We’ve seen the introduction of consumer revenue channels, so non-advertising based revenues, and that’s a good opportunity. We’ve introduced some forms of subscription around a premium version of our app.”

Listen to the whole conversation with Ian McClelland here.

What will be the biggest marketing trend in 2017? Have your say in the comments section below.

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