Raising Expectations

We need to talk! That's right, every one of us in the promotion industry needs to have a sit down-or maybe more of a knock down/drag out-with our own inner expectations. Because clearly, after all these years of promotional growth and the rise of integrated marketing communications, senior marketing and brand management still don't expect the same kind of strategic and creative thinking from their promotion resources as they do from their ad agencies. 

Believe me, I know this is painful. There are many client-side marketing execs who would dispute this statement by saying, "We look for great ideas everywhere. We don't give a hoot where the scare-me, rock-me concept comes from." The weird thing is, I believe that they believe it. I really do! I just don't think they expect it.

Marketers expect outrageously insightful dives into their consumer and captivatingly elegant marketing challenges to come from ... anywhere but consumer promotion. Come on, I'm being honest here. I don't think they expect a lead creative platform that will drive and inspire the fully integrated 360-win to come from consumer promotion.



How do I know this? It's more than my sensitive feminine side and 26 years in the business on both the client and agency side; it's the many off-the-record discussions I have had with client-side pals and the many, many meetings I've attended with lots of smart marketing pros looking for serious answers. And, almost universally, they're not looking to the consumer promotion side of the table. Sure, occasional glances maybe, like hoping to see a blue jay land on your windowsill while sipping a latte-anything is possible, just not expected.

I'm not saying that most senior marketers at consumer-driven companies are not believers and supporters in "big idea neutrality." I'm just saying they overwhelmingly don't expect it. It's like promotional prejudice: great at execution, not so great at strategy or creative. This is a dark reality, but true.

Since we are being brutally honest, why should senior marketing leaders expect marketing messaging leadership from consumer promotion when it has historically come from elsewhere? Today, in the multi-platform world of integrated marketing communications and the power of non-traditional media, it's the undeniable truth that a great idea can originate in any medium and quickly migrate "up-screen" to traditional television, or "down-screen" to cell phones, the web or in-store. It's about concept elasticity; it's about the insight and the idea that connects with the consumer wherever they connect.

Clearly, with YouTube as the ultimate buzz badge du jour, manifest value can be purely random, opportunistic, or more expected by way of re-purposed content. Not every concept should or must be "YouTubable," but there is no better example of the democratization of ideas and marketing. This simply showcases the need for marketing decision makers to recalibrate their expectations and those of their marketing partners as content creators and facilitators.

Clients must demand that everyone at their table, everyone that supports their brands be the thought leader! I didn't say "a" thought leader; I said "the" thought leader. The result is that every resource-PR, promotion, digital, advertising and retail-believes that if they create the "Big One," it will fly the entire fleet. True, zero-sum at the start sets in motion the likelihood that something special will come out at the end. It's the expectation, the demand that raises everyone's game-everyone's.

So, I end this little diatribe as a promotion guy who loves marketing and knows that we in our little, fun, challenging and exciting world, constantly need to be working as hard as possible to raise our clients' expectations as we raise our own. So that not only will we be more respected as strategists and idea go-to guys, but so that we as an industry will rise above our type-cast, executional past so that promotional professionals moving forward will go into client meetings with everyone's expectations clearly understood before anyone even says a word!

Declaration of Expectation

  • Bring It On Neutrality (BION)

Marketing leadership really driving promotion/integrated marketing resources as well as their traditional shops to create the big platform

  • Knowledge equals Permission, Passion, Potential be taken seriously. Passion...because you're grounded. connect big brand dots.

  • Serving Up Thought Leadership

Easily accessible ideas for other disciplines to build; sustainable solution driven thinking with real campaignable value; has underlying ROI fully baked in the thought process

  • Keep the ball moving downfield (allow me one sports analogy, thank you!)

Ideas (or disciplines) that don't move things forward quickly lose relevance. While incremental movement is fine, leverage the discipline that can make the big play. Everyone celebrates when the team scores-even if a particular discipline didn't grab the headlines on that play

  • A few rules of engagement (regardless of role or responsibility)

Listen and think loudly. Don't check your expectation at the door. It's OK to get a little bloody and "agreeing to disagree" is okay too. Think big while you "get in touch with your inner touch point"!

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