It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that the marketing org shifted its focus away from storytelling.
Perhaps Coca-Cola – the brand that laid foundations for advertising measurement practices – are to blame. After all, they launched the world’s first coupon campaign in 1887 (entitling coupon users to a free glass of Coca-Cola at participating stores) and… kept running it until 1913, distributing 8.5m free Coca-Colas and creating the world’s first (and possibly greatest?) ROI case study in the process.
It could also have been the emergence of brand awareness surveys (and later, focus groups and email surveys), which gave advertisers a taste for customer data, audience segmentation and customer experience.
Or maybe we can attribute the blame to a single person. Arthur C. Nielsen – founder of Nielsen and father of Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. – pioneered the aforementioned market survey concept, coined the term ‘market share’ in 1935, and launched the wildly successful Nielsen Television Index in 1950.
The TV Index assessed the size and demographics of television audiences, measured TV programme consumption and in doing so birthed the data/insights ‘platform’ model: an integrated set of technology that could be used to acquire, store and deliver insights data to marketers.
“There’s a big opportunity out there for forward-thinking brands that are bold enough to make the first move, and an acute need for agencies to help new and existing customers participate with their products using good old-fashioned storytelling.”
Fast forward to 2023, and media and advertising platforms sit at the hearts of our marketing and agency teams. Ad performance is monitored in real-time with advanced measurement tools, and creative effectiveness is captured using attribution models. We’ve even got access to predictive analytics platforms like Qlik and Tableau that can help outline new audience segments and market opportunities.
The evolution of analytics has powered the rise of ROI as a key marketing metric and positioned the humble QBR as the marketing leader’s de-facto measurement and effectiveness tool. This has forced agencies to optimise much of their energy towards capturing existing demand within new audiences, as opposed to generating demand within new and existing customer segments through brand-building exercises.
In staying accountable to our data sources, we’ve prioritised short-term stakeholder satisfaction over the bigger picture – and forgotten how to develop deeper relationships with our customers past the first date.
The signs that we’re collectively stuck in a creative rut are everywhere. Big Tech has moved on from its moonshot era, customer spends are dipping and the digital duopoly of Google and Facebook is beginning to lose steam.
Even Superbowl commercials have devolved into a soup of re-makes and celebrity cameos, indicating that brands are refusing to play the high risk, high reward through-ball into the feet of their creative agencies.
We can do better than this. Agencies (like Porsche, who produced some god-tier print ads throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s) used to build brand narratives that captured the imagination and attention of consumers – driving sales, building deep emotional connections were built and developing long-term relationships with customers.
A return to the founding principles of the Golden Age of advertising does not translate to a retreat into the Dark Ages, so… why are we retreating into our shells in the face of uncertainty?
There’s a big opportunity out there for forward-thinking brands that are bold enough to make the first move, and an acute need for agencies to help new and existing customers participate with their products using good old-fashioned storytelling.
So, if you’re planning to go to market, slyly poke fun at your competitors or use any means possible to enable brand participation in the next couple of months, don’t forget to:
- Generate some demand for your product/service through storytelling
- Consider recruiting an agency partner that’s purpose-built to help your business innovate and your customers participate
- Repeat step one and step two in tandem
Your future customers (with deeper post-recession pockets) and company leaders will thank you for it.
Featured image by Andrea Piacquadio