I’m in B&Ts “Meet the Futurists” – marketing trends & predictions

B&T has come out with a new feature, “Meet The Futurists”. They asked me and a number of fellow marketing and advertising leaders what our views (predictions) were about marketing trends.

My answers covered: the media industry, digital marketing, the advertising industry, blockchain, marketing science (Ehrenberg), lean startup principles in marketing, artificial intelligence and plenty of other areas.

Here’s the piece on marketing trends / futures (click the image to download the PDF):

Here is the full interview:

What’s your one BIG FUTURE prediction for media in the coming years?

Media will go from a people heavy industry to a technology platform heavy industry. Artificial intelligence will drive applied media outcomes, where a couple of smart media strategists sitting across a number of software platforms will replace the jobs of thousands. This will massively erode margins and make most media companies shrink and die. Further, blockchain media attribution will provide clients with transparency they can only dream of now. These platforms will democratise the industry, drive increased transparency and trust, and better media and client outcomes, making it easy for any creative / comms / PR agency or client to take media buying in-house.

How will our workplaces change to suit?

In the old days, organisations grew, and with scale they gained certain economies: The ability to buy expensive barriers to entry, the ability to purchase sophisticated computers and software platforms, and the ability to hire top talent via expansive human resources departments that would ensure new entrants were facing an extremely steep battle in matters of cost, quality and scale.

However that has all changed. It’s now the opposite, as highly sophisticated software is available at a per seat, per month basis. Talent is now accessible via open online markets such as Linkedin. Huge computer systems that were once physical are now virtual, such as AWS. And even the manufacturing of goods and services has been commoditised via trading platforms such as Alibaba. Any founder or entrepreneur has BETTER access and ability than enterprise. A credit card is more agile than a procurement department.

So, the only advantage large businesses have over small businesses is their access to capital. But because large organisations don’t generally adhere to lean principles, they are afraid of marketing-based validation, and have mountainous layers of bureaucracy, their capital is wasted.

Our workplaces will therefore become smaller, more agile and more focussed. Like creative industries such as music and film, where vast swarms of teams gather to work on projects at various phases of production, marketing workplaces will be a mix of highly specialised people supported by a “sexy stack” of software, virtual assistants and AI bots enhancing and applying our knowledge and skills at scale.

Algorithms are fast replacing human brains. Should the thinkers and the creators be worried?

Linking neural networks and machine learning to marketing science will drastically simplify marketing strategies, tactics and approaches, and it make marketing much easier and more effective. Thinkers and creators will be empowered – most of the work of people in advertising, marketing and media could be easily replaced and most likely will be in the next three or four years. Audience identification, profit / revenue growth strategy, product optimisation, profit pool estimation, budget allocation, channel resource allocation, media planning, media buying, media optimisation, creative optimisation and workflow management can all be done with software now. Creativity, ideas, insights, innovation and corporate strategy cannot yet be done by machines. Creatives and planners should be fine – for the foreseeable future.

What will brands increasingly have to do to stand out above “the noise”?

As Peter Drucker once said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So how do brands then distinguish themselves with marketing and innovation and stand out above the noise? By adopting marketing science and lean startup principles. Marketing science is yet to make serious inroads, and until it is accepted rather than seen as a subjective fad, then marketers and agencies will truly struggle to achieve great results, and therefore be taken seriously by business leaders.

One of key challenges here is ensuring there is something to talk about – the products and services must be superb and distinctive. However the product innovation and product development lifecycles in business are generally too slow to outpace competition, so distinctiveness and excellence are increasingly difficult.

Further: Most efforts in business around ideas, products and innovation is merely internal noise – LMNA (Lots of Meetings, No Action). Worth nothing until it is shipped.

So therefore, market-validated innovation must play a more substantial role. Shipping and testing product variations, ideas and communications to new markets rapidly and iteratively is the only way brands will survive. Test every idea, every innovation, every suggestion at great reach – and learn in a mature, failure-filled way.

Mumbrella advertising review: Qantas (great), CUB (OK), Black Hawk (half-baked) and nab (forgettable)

Mumbrella asked me to review a series of current Aussie ad campaigns.

Here’s what I said:

1. Qantas → was bringing the iconic “I still call Australia Home” anthem the right thing to do? Is Qantas advertising becoming stale? In your view was this an effective way of creating an inflight video? Why/why not?

Qantas ads have been truly awful for a long time, from the baffling work of Droga5 to the more recent blandness peddled by the late Neil Lawrence / Monkeys in the “Feels Like Home” campaign (I’d suggest travel advertisements that inspire people to travel in a big, branded, energetic way work better than ads that are dull, unbranded and draw imagery from observing people arriving safely into a dark and empty airport terminal).

This however, is an excellent piece of work; easily the best safety video I’ve ever seen.

It begins with the intense range of emotions at Departure: Excitement, the thrill, the emotion, the heartache, over rapidly into a big city visit, and then takes us on a journey through a range of external endorsements of Australian culture. There’s nothing Australians love more than people “from overseas” validating our accent, our approach to life, our larrikinism, our resilience, even our songs. When the bloke on top of the Andes grabs the guitar and belts out a few notes of “I Still Call Australia Home” (the best brand asset Qantas has after the flying Kangaroo) to the surprise and rapture of his fellow global travellers, it’s basically peak Aussie pride. I can imagine every person in the plane’s eyes moistening as they watch scenes of Aussie cricket in Tokyo, Aussie flat whites in London and Aussie Vegemite in that beautifully shot scene with the Shanghai family.

It’s an affectionate, happy and positive embodiment of “The Spirit of Australia”. This is what Qantas’s ads should be like from now on.

2. CUB → This ad has sparked controversy with some Australians labeling it as discriminatory. Do you think this ad pushed the boundaries in the wrong way? Is the strategy behind the ad effective? Will it get people on side with the new beer? Why/why not?

I give this a 66% rating.
Product bundling is usually done in the most boring way possible. Shampoo brand X bundles new Conditioner brand X for free in a shrink-wrap to encourage trial. Dull as dishwater. But this effort at bundling a new beer flavour within six packs, and then “rewarding” people $500 to avoid any loss aversion is a really novel idea.

It’s another great idea to encourage people to “seek out” these errant bottles – a strongly branded call to action. Basing it on “you never know where red-heads can pop up in your family” is a cute, fun and brand-associated metaphor that people who live in the real world would most likely link to the product, remember (most importantly) and get a laugh out of.

However, the execution isn’t great. It tries to be funny but it’s a bit lame. The quick cut nature of the shots / stock footage looks a bit disjointed. If I wanted to generate some outrage in this ad, I’d save it for the incredibly long / word heavy script and matching overbearing, overly bloke voiceover. I was experiencing the McGurk Effect as I was watching it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk_effect

3. Black Hawk → As an online tool, does the campaign do the job of taking consumers on a path to purchase? Will the campaign sell dog food? Why/why not?

I like the idea that people should be taking care of their dog with appropriate food quality and quantity. I like that there is a way of easily explaining how over- or underweight your dog is, using a human scale. However this execution is a little half-baked. What they are currently not doing is using (the relatively unbranded) DogCheck.com.au to gather data on every dog in Australia (and their owners) and using that information to advertise to the owners over the lifecycle of the dogs. According to my software, the site only has Google Analytics and Facebook plugins, not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting needed for a big, data-driven creative campaign. Build cross channel attribution by using plugins and opt-ins on the site that enrich the data before people are even asked for their email address. Further, they are not using social logins, so they demand of people that they manually enter their details. This would most likely discourage at least 60% of the eventual visitors to this part of the site.

The advantages of building a more “data-driven creative approach” with this is that they might be able to create a range of creative messages targeted to precisely the right dog owner at the right time. If the dogs are young, then promote the “puppy” product. If older, maybe the “softer” product. Creative executions that have an image / size of the exact dog the owner has. These are some of the opportunities that cannot not being exploited by this particular campaign platform right now the way that it’s constructed. If they make these changes, they might be able to drive dog food sales. Without it, it’s hard to see how sales will increase.

4. NAB → Does the ad do an effective job of continuing the ‘More than Money’ brand platform? What does the ad say about NAB’s personality?

It’s really tough for Aussie banks at the moment. Anti-capitalism is infecting our Parliament, media and even our boardrooms. The Royal Commission into banking is putting them under incredible pressure. Banking taxes are crazy – they’re a tax on consumers, as simple as that.

But despite all of that, banks underpin the prosperity of Australia. The Australian economy is basically “homes and holes” and banks have underpinned these sectors with cheap and plentiful money since white settlement. Home ownership rates in Australia – a core part of Aussie culture, is at historic highs (even despite the high cost of homes). Australian quality of life and purchasing power is also at historic highs. Credit is cheap. Bank service (while we’ll always whinge) is not too bad. Try “tap and go” in the USA, or try to find an ATM in Europe, and you find yourself yearning for the “four pillars”: ANZ, nab, Westpac and CBA.

And the funniest part? Aussie know this. Aussies totally trust their banks with money. Aussies own a massive range of banking products. There’s nothing Aussies would rather do than to put their money into one of our big four. As much as we whinge and say the opposite, we endorse the banks wholeheartedly with our actions, not our words. And actions are all that matter.

What Aussie don’t trust is banks that stray from their core purpose, which is to borrow from one person and lend to another in order to provide liquidity and make for a more prosperous society. The moment banks start talking about “more than money”, is when the famous Australian bullshit detector goes up. nab is running scared with “more than money”. “more than money” implies that there is something wrong with “money” and that “money” is only part of nab’s overall offer. It’s not. It’s what nab does, and does well. It’s not something to be ashamed of.

This work is simply an empathetic but totally forgettable attempt at expressing the flawed “more than money” premise.

And the original piece in Mumbrella.