Does Your Chapeau Still Fit?

Are you like me? Is the left side of your head getting bigger while the right side is shrinking? 

It’s weird. But is it bad, except for maybe needing a new hat?

I think maybe it’s because all we seem to focus on in the industry these days is left brain-related: data, technology, analytics, short-term performance. Have we swung too far?

Given that this is the time of year that many marketing industry leaders would have been in Cannes celebrating creativity and innovation, I’m wondering who is championing risk.

Who is emphasizing bold creativity in the name of brand-building today? 

The best at this are now cliches -- in a good way. And they got that way by being bold, taking creative risk and activating media that amplified their message. I am not aware of their procurement departments playing a key role here, but I could be wrong about that.

So what about “The medium is the message?” Is that wrong now? Was it right once upon a time? Or was it never right, but we just didn’t know any better?



Another question is whether we still want to build brands. Or do we now just want to sell stuff quickly to make shareholders happy?

There are countless examples where ignoring the former has done major long-term damage to brand equity and therefore sales. That’s potentially billions of dollars.

And today, in this global pandemic, there seems to be a flight back to brands that we trust -- another example to me that brands still matter. A lot.

But how do we build them?

The who, what, when, where and why still matter, right?

The who

Let’s nail that down. The who is the brand’s actual customer or best prospects. Enter that data, if you have it. (Left brain.)

The what

Do we need to worry as much about what we say and how we say it as we used to? The persuasion piece -- changing perceptions and captivating imagination -- isn’t the what. Every important study on marketing effectiveness concludes that the “advertising” quality is the single most important determinant of the desired marketing outcome (around 65%).

Then why should so much of the focus and investment today be about the data and technology needed to drive which message to say to which customer? Is the need for personalization trumping the need for strategy and bold ideas?

Is dynamic creative optimization (DCO) killing the creative star? Look at what Dollar Shave Club has done. Great offer, with a funny articulation of it that didn’t seem like an ad at all. It’s a great combination of strategy and creativity. (Right brain.)

The where

The medium is the message and where you are says a lot about who you are, right? Countless significant research studies, including a recent Accenture/Nielsen/Magid/DisneyABC multiplatform TV analysis, reaffirm that the content adjacent to where an ad message appears has a two-times multiplier effect on ROI.

Does the context of the message matter any more? Or are brands getting defined by consumers today mostly based on other criteria such as what they stand for, what they do on social media and tech-enabled, frictionless path-to-purchase? We know these all matter a lot, but is that it?

Does building a brand with great content activation as a key component even matter any more? Or are we past all of that?

Can programmatic media-buying handle this seamlessly now and is everything else old-school and a waste of money?

Maybe the content that brands are associated with doesn’t matter anymore.

Well, there’s sports. We need that back like breath. That’s content that matters, right? Or is that different because it’s live-event programming and that’s a different value proposition altogether?

Ask yourself, "If you could put your brand around the premium stuff that you watched ad-free via streamers during the quarantine -- and I don’t mean 'Tiger King' -- would you?" If the answer is yes, why?

Is it because you want in on something exclusive where you aren’t usually allowed to advertise, or is it because you think the quality content and its cutting-edge platform would be a great association for your brand? It’s the latter, right? (Right brain.)

The when

When you receive a message is certainly a version of context too. And data informs this, so the more the better. (Left brain.)

The why

This is a tough one and also an important one. Mining valuable info based on data science and analysis, as well as human intuition. My gut tells me it’s equal parts data and gut. So let’s agree this one is a jump ball. (Left + right brain.)

By my count, that’s a left/right-side tie.

Or do I have this all wrong and the left-brain functions should be driving the bus from now on with content and context taking a back seat?

Why can’t we have both? Are there any checks and balances at clients and agencies to determine whether they have swung too far “left” in what they value?

Are they eschewing creativity, boldness, human intuition, and context and hiding primarily behind short-term data?

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