In an era of constant behavioral transformation, increasing marketing complexity and absurd political theater, tapping into the wisdom of the crowd can often help to provide a calming source of inspiration for even the most progressive brand marketers.
Leveraging the real-world insights, best practices and missteps of the world’s most successful brands can certainly help those seeking guidance to more easily adapt to and better navigate the ever-changing dynamics of today’s marketing climate.
That said, an over-reliance on applying collective consciousness as the foundation of your marketing strategy can also lead to chronic malaise, often muting the prospects of building a culturally vibrant, creatively distinct and value-forward brand proposition for consumers.
As a father of 11-year-old twins, I’ve literally witnessed the hive mind phenomenon emerge in glorious technicolor, where for all indications, their two wholly distinct, moderately bizarre but independently beautiful minds coalesce into one single-minded consciousness that’s generally fueled by the purest of intentions, yet is only marginally effective in achieving their intended goals.
Today, many brands appear to be falling into the similar trap of following the crowd without necessarily thinking through the broader marketing implications. So, how can marketers leverage the best of hive sensibility to help fuel the next generation of breakthrough creativity and business building marketing innovation?
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is obviously much to gain by occasionally leveraging the brilliance of others. Specifically, the drive for greater marketing accountability led by industry mammoths, like P&G and Unilever, among others that are ensuring the movement for brand safety, audience verification, viewability (and GDPR compliance) have become foundational industry measures moving forward.
That said, one of the looming (and certainly unintended) consequences of the movement is that while so much time and intellectual energy are focused on establishing, reinforcing and optimizing toward delivery guidelines, we’ve inadvertently stalled the velocity of true creative invention in media. Again, I’m not disputing the necessity of establishing brand safety guidelines or even challenging the marketing science that fuels the models dictating optimal audience reach, frequency, composition etc.—these fundamentals continue to matter.
However, in today’s increasingly automated and data-powered marketplace, audience and delivery verification should be viewed as a fundamental business expectation from your partners, not the ultimate performance indicator. Unfortunately, too many brands still adhere to a model that embraces this partial-view analysis, limiting the potential of always-on creative exploration that can help transform and optimize businesses for the future.
In his book The Tyranny of Metrics, Jerry Muller introduces the concept of “metric fixation” and how that systemic behavior can lead organizations to over-emphasize the importance of select data indicators without the application of rational and adaptive judgment. He argues, “Measurement is not an alternative to judgment; measurement demands judgment. Judgment about whether to measure, what to measure, how to evaluate the significance of what’s been measured, and whether rewards and penalties will be attached to the results.” In my view, this idea encapsulates the current state of quasi-paralysis of the space.
As an industry, we’ve shifted dramatically toward a world where we continue to (rightfully) establish and rigorously monitor the guardrails of brand safety, yet continue to undervalue the potential of investing in dynamic creative experiences that energize, inspire and ultimately drive long-term commerce growth. As we know, attention remains the one vital yet increasingly scarce natural resource that all media forms and brands are vying for.
In order to maximize the moment, the need to establish meaningful one-on-one connections through highly contextual, multi-sensory and value-forward brand experiences becomes even more critical to driving sustained business performance. The abundance of data signals has clearly created opportunities to add greater levels of audience insight and precision to the marketing mix. That said, we need similar enthusiasm focused on better managing the collision of data and creativity to drive long-term consumer value and resonance.
Of course, this becomes even more important as we move toward the marketing reality where customer identity becomes the nexus of tomorrow’s media planning and buying efforts. In the eventual (and long-anticipated) shift from cookies to user identity, the need for more relevant, highly personalized creative experiences that extend elegantly across screens only becomes even more paramount.
Leveraging adaptive design principles can help solve for this new reality, not only driving enhanced data agility but enabling more creative risk-taking, including AI-powered dynamic creative, emerging technology and thoughtful creative sequencing and storytelling techniques that deliver more tangible relevance for your audiences and deeper competitive distinction in the marketplace.
As marketers, we now have the unique opportunity to crystallize the distinction between brand safety and safe branding. Of course, as an industry, we’ll continue to demand increased accountability and transparency from only the best and most trusted partners, but perhaps we should move beyond our comfort zones and embrace other KPIs that may be better indicators of true brand impact. For example:
- Is it driving brand engagement?
- Is it driving social engagement?
- Is it driving emotional resonance?
- Is it driving commerce?
- Is it driving culture?
In uncertain times, there is always an opportunity to leverage the hive mind for actionable wisdom. But many other opportunities exist where a brand’s relentless creative curiosity and ambition can make all the difference and help ignite long-term connections with their most valued audiences.