*Hi Underscore, my name is...
*I would like to...
*My e-mail address is...
*I would like to arrange a...
I'm looking for...

Last week, our teams took time out of their busy schedules to join the (virtual) Festival of Marketing. The Festival of Marketing is one of the events we look forward to every year. And it’s often a great source of inspiration and learning. Here are a few of our main takeaways from this year.

Brand Purpose isn’t going anywhere 

In fact, it’s only going to get bigger and more important, as customers demand more. 

The Festival of Marketing’s headline talk was led by British screenwriter, producer, and director, Richard Curtis. It focused heavily on the very current topics of sustainability, diversity, climate, and representation. In the light of COVID-19, #BlackLivesMatter, and a full two years of Greta Thunberg’s climate campaigning, the panel discussed the ever-increasing expectation for brands to show they care more and are willing to take responsibility for the negative impacts they might make. 

As Curtis put it: “We are in the middle of a new consumer revolution. A new breed of customer is emerging. They want to know that the things they consume are not consuming the world’s natural resources”. 

To make real strides, brand purpose needs to be more than marketing gloss or a ‘meaningful’ message in corporate comms. It needs to become systemic; rooted in the foundations of every business. And, all of us in the brand world need to get better at facilitating positive change.

Gousto is winning at customer engagement thanks to one little rule

Don’t piss off the customer. Seems super simple, but it’s the bedrock of the Gousto recipe box customer engagement tips. 

On top of the essentials of having permission to contact customers (yes, GDPR, we hear you), Tom Wallis, Founder of Gousto, highlighted the things that helped him to set up a customer-centric business. Tips 1-3 covered having clean and useful data, being personal where possible, and having all information saved in your CRM system to paint a better picture of the customer.  All good. 

But where we really took notice, was when he paraphrased Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park with “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. He went on to explain: Just because we have people’s phone numbers, doesn’t mean we should text them. Gousto is only ever interruptive to customers’ lives when it’s going to be genuinely helpful (i.e. if their delivery is running late). 

We’re going to remember this one.

Marketing ROI is down 50%

Grace Kite of Gracious Economics shared some insights that might calm some nerves. If you’ve been struggling to get results during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Overall, marketing ROI is down 50% since the beginning of the year, due to government furlough or short-term working schemes. The under 30s is currently the hardest segment to hit, with job losses concentrated in this age group. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Kite explained that investing in marketing during the recession might result in less cost for more share of voice. Whether or not it’s worth it depends on investment in the market now and in the future. Online fashion is just one sector likely to emerge stronger after COVID than before. 

Kite also shed light on the tools being used right now. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, marketers are planning to increase spend on search, online display, online video, and paid social. Spend will decrease on events and out-of-home advertising. 

Creativity = curiosity

On Wednesday, we listened to “Five decades of creativity” – a talk from artist, producer, and songwriter Nile Rodgers. Responsible for some of the most recognisable pop songs, Rodgers gave us an insight into how he’s stayed so successful. 

We’ve all been stuck in that rut with a need for a good idea before. The golden rule, says Rodgers: “Love learning, embrace failure and be curious as hell.” Anyone can be a songwriter, a strategist, a marketer: you only have to adhere to the core rules and allow yourself to be inspired by the smallest of ideas. Even the smallest of ideas can turn into something great. “I write everything down,” he says, “It’s much easier to fix something that stinks than create something from scratch”.  

Pair that learning with a good beat, he says, and that’s all you need to create a platinum-selling record. Disclaimer: We do think he was downplaying his talents just a little.

Just 20 years ago, ads were twice as likely to use humour

You might recognise the works of cartoonist Tom Fishbourne if you’re a Marketing Week regular. Following an unusual year, Fishbourne challenged listeners not to default to the same formulaic communications playbook (“We’re all in this together”). Find opportunities to weave in some humour to lighten the mood, he urged. 

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” may be an over-used cliché, but it’s also true. Humour is an act of empathy, and one of the most effective ways to connect with other people. To ease the fears of humour not landing correctly, Fishbourne recommends marketers stick to the fourth humour type; affiliate humour. This involves telling jokes about everyday things that anyone might find funny and aims to create a sense of fellowship. 

Start with empathy and you’re more likely to end up in a place where the humour resonated. A great example: Emily Veg crisps fist outdoor campaign, launched during lockdown.

There are 3 core principles to future-proof marketing 

“Keep calm and don’t lose your minds,” says Mark Ritson, Marketing Professor and author of newly published “Build Brilliant Brands”, “we’ve been here before and we all know the tools needed to get us out of recession.”

In this talk, we learned the three core principles of staying on top of changing markets. The first; formal training (IPA, CIM, MBA, etc). Marketers often obsess over the ‘new’ but nothing can replace the history of tried and tested methodologies. The SWOT, says Ritson, has lasted in our industry for 60 years because it works.

The second; don’t obsess over communications. Referring back to traditional marketing models, the 4 Ps discusses the four elements that make marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Communications sit in only one of these. So, if you’re feeling un-enthused about communications, remember it’s only part of the job. 

The third; focus on strategy over tactics. It’s all too easy to focus on the output, but that’s only a third of what’s important. Instead, focus on understanding the market, positioning and target setting.

Marketing during a pandemic means going back to basics 

The future of getting it right in marketing means staying true to brand purpose, being human, and connecting to people in ways that matter, says Alicia Tillman, CMO at SAP. 

We couldn’t have foreseen this a year ago. But, in light of the pandemic, marketing has had to go back to the basics. And that means focusing on what is truly important in business: people. Every message business now put out must account for the difficulties that all audiences – including staff – are facing amid change. 

The way to do this, it seems, is to build teams focused around the soft skills each member brings; to lead with brand purpose and commit to standing up for the issues customers care about; to remain positive and keep moving forwards.

There has never been a better time to advertise on social 

Social media rocketed during COVID lockdown. It went from an addition to our social life to our entire social life. 47% of users are spending longer on social media and 15% of us are engaging more with online ads.  In fact, compared to January, advertisers can reach a huge 47 million more users on Twitter. 

Abigail Manning of Brandwatch admitted there’s never been a better time to advertise on social media – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should all start running Twitter ads. Consumer mindsets have also changed during the pandemic. Safety-concerns are now the second most important factor when making purchasing decisions. 

Brands need to understand consumer mindsets now more than ever to make sure every penny they use reaches their goals. And if you’re thinking of using the word “profit” in your ads – don’t… negativity towards the word has grown 14%. But if you’re able to promote community or philanthropy in your offer, you may benefit from the 23% increase in clicks these kinds of ads are getting. 

It takes contributing to society to grow a brand 

Lucas Hulsebos, CEO of DVJ Insights delivered a research-packed talk analysing the most effective high-growth business, and what it takes to be one of them. The number one finding: the winners are those brands that genuinely want to contribute to society. They also have marketing teams focused on the long-term, and marketing leadership roles to help them communicate their vision.

Second, came consistency. A consistent approach to innovation, marketing, and spending money. “You’ve got to spend money to make money” – as the old gambit goes, is entirely true here. High-growth businesses have an ‘always-on’ approach to advertising. 58% of their ads focus on brand-building rather than sales activation.

Our attention spans are now less than 8 seconds 

And so we’re seeing content evolve towards super the short-form: Tik Tok, Reels and Triller. These channels give content creators 100% control, making it that much harder for brands to stand out. It’s just one reason why we’ve seen such a dramatic increase in brand-influencer partnerships emerging of late. 

Influencer agency, The Fifth talked about the four ingredients to creating a great Reel, whether you’re a brand or an individual; the creativity of production, telling a story, sonic branding and starting a trend or challenge. The latter is perhaps one of the most difficult, and a game of hit and miss. Great examples include ASOS’ #AySauceChallenge and Pringles’ #pringlechallenge. 

There is still a time and a place for long-form storytelling. But many content creators and brands are adding these formats to their portfolio in response. And, for those that have struggled with the 15-second time format – you’ll be pleased to know Facebook is soon to update the Reels to 30-seconds, following feedback from the creatives themselves.

People are trying new brands faster than ever before 

One huge theme that came out of the Festival of Marketing was the decreasing importance of brand. Many consumers tried brands they’d never used before during the pandemic, due to low stock. Now, a huge 36% of consumers think the brand is less important than they did before the pandemic, according to BrandWatch

And the result is that customers are now trying new products and brands faster and more often than ever before. The change in habits may create risk for many brands, but it also offers opportunities to talk to new audiences.  It’s important to be cautiously optimistic. As we look forward, we want to make products and services more available and open for consumption. 

You can also take heart that 2022 is predicted to be a great time for businesses – once we’ve navigated the next year of uncertainty.

Personality led content thrives within Gen Z

Generation Z (aged 5 to 24) is looking for personality from the brands, influencers, and artists that they communicate with. But they’re not just looking for everyday content, no-no. Gen Z reacts to the following 7 core things from the brands in their world: passion, realness, social justice, distinctiveness, humility, vulnerability, and achievement.

I think it’s time we all stepped up a gear for the younger generation.

We abandon 84% of mobile shopping carts in the UK

It’s no surprise that a poor checkout experience ruins the sale for the user. Having to put in your details multiple times could be one. As could the inability to pay with preferred routes like PayPal’s quick pay. Or even just having to click through to approve a purchase more than once.

57% of consumers now prefer to shop online, so we should focus on making their experience as great as possible. Whether they come in from Instagram, Google, or are a return customer. Today, product discovery to purchase should be completed within no more than 5 clicks, and if your eCommerce platform doesn’t allow for this then a negative brand experience can result. Users will no-doubt remember this pattern and will compare your level of customer service to their website experience.

We usually do 71% of Christmas gift shopping in stores

As more people shop for their seasonal essentials and gifts online this year, the digital shelf will have a big gap to fill in ensuring that customers feel an element of Christmas spirit. Brands might look to sending out a physical catalogue once more (like Smyths or Argos) to bring back the nostalgia of Christmas time or curating a 360-degree digital walk-through like John Lewis. One thing we can guarantee is that people will be looking for experiences to feel as close to normal as possible.

And don’t assume that a user will go directly to your site when they have Amazon at their fingertips. You need to bring your bricks and mortar offering to them in as many ways as possible – so get that thinking cap on!!