December 9, 2020


Toby Daniels


If we have learned anything from the turbulence and catastrophic events of 2020, we need to make substantial and even systemic changes in society and in our industry in particular. The exam spotlight has never been so bright and we all see a business landscape that has not responded adequately to the moment.

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The great reinvention

Author, marketing guru and former Publicis Chief Growth Officer Rishad Tobaccowala says we are in the midst of a great reinvention of society, economy and ourselves.

He means that systems at the macro level are subjected to a kind of stress test when we are confronted with social change and economic uncertainty. All systems go through it, government, healthcare, education, infrastructure, business and of course marketing. In 2020, many of these systems failed or at least collapsed under the weight of a global pandemic, civil uprising, misinformation, and economic uncertainty.

How our systems fail

The marketing system buckled and continues to be weighed down by failure to be strategic. tactical, an obsession with short-term profits, the glorification of shiny social media, an ocean of unwanted and frankly irrelevant data, the latest technology or tools, and most likely, most importantly, a failure by marketers to put themselves in the shoes of their customers with empathy.

There's a reason so many brand messages in the early days of the pandemic were mundane, clich├ęd, and in many cases completely deaf, or because marketers felt paralyzed when the cause of racial inequality sparked riot, protest, and riot. As marketers, we were ill-equipped to react quickly and adapt to the movement. The reason for this is that there are few standout examples during this time, including Postmates, P&G, Clorox, Aviation Gin, and AirBnb, all due to whether their brand values, leadership, and messages are based on something bigger than their own based organizations.

These examples, both the failures and the successes, should compel us to look at every aspect of our industry and ask important questions such as: B. what does our brand actually stand for? Does our leadership embody empathetic and people-oriented marketing principles? Is our message right and are we engaging appropriately through the media in which we communicate? Above all, how do we have to reinvent ourselves and how should we as marketers react to the challenges of our time?

Reinvention v.s. invention

In times of massive disruption and social and business changes, we also experience something really remarkable. Invention and ingenuity. The creation of something new. The phoenix rises from the ashes.

There are companies and brands that have become category leaders today, including AirBnb, Uber, and Pinterest, which were invented after the great recession of 2008. There will be companies and brands invented in 2020 and in the years to come, similarly disruptive. That's for sure. Invention is good. Invention is sexy and cool. But what needs to be reinvented? What does this moment mean to fix bugs and develop new systems for our marketing?

In his piece from October 2020Reinventing the ABCDE of marketingRishad addresses this question through a framework of how marketing has changed and will change in the future.

A = audience
B = brand
C = content
D = data
E = company

In adapting the ABCDE framework for reinvention, we have compiled a list of questions that we believe are the priority areas that we need to focus on:

  • Target groups: Who do we market to, how do we find them, and how has their way of thinking changed? How can we think of people and not consumers?
  • Brand: Brands continue to matter, but the way they're built is changing dramatically and our relationship with them is complicated. How should experience and purpose flow into the branding strategy?
  • Content: Has always been a key to marketing, but here's a lot more of it. There are new ways to do it faster and cheaper. So how can we reduce the noise?
  • Data: Data is key to the future of marketing, but very few companies will find a competitive advantage in using it. How do we focus on quality and quantity?
  • Companies: In a progressive company, information and decisions are transparent and managers are responsible. How do we give power back to people and inspire leaders to avoid them?

Where does the reinvention begin?

We believe that reinventing begins with recognizing what doesn't work, asking the toughest and most important questions, and being ready to embrace the idea that change, however difficult or short-term, will allow us to survive and move on thrive in the future.

Much of the changes we've seen in recent years have been technological, and we expect these changes to continue and even accelerate. However, as marketers, we should make the changes we want to influence and the kind of future we should work hard to achieve is one that is human first, technology second.

With some still much uncertain about the future, we should band together and determine that 2021 will be the year our industry experiences the greatest reinvention of our lives, and that the desired outcome will be more just, fairer, more positive and less exploitative and exploitative divisive.


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