There have historically been, and continue to be, two worlds co-existing with increasing opportunity (and a lot of discomfort) for many practitioners.
The first is the world of brand strategy. With notable exceptions, it’s largely informed by the qualitative and led by the ‘big idea creative.’ Brand strategists argue that creating a powerful central organizing idea, consistently expressed, lived internally and made relevant and distinctive to the target market, is a driver of awareness, conversion, and loyalty. Many brand strategists remain (dangerously, perhaps) one step removed from the coal face of what technology is doing with and to the ‘influence industry’.
The second is the world of analytics and marketing automation. While people have been talking about ‘convergence’ for a decade, recent acceleration in this realm has been breakneck. The concept of inbound marketing (whether for product, service, or indeed talent), where a significant proportion of customer decisions are made long before actively engaging with the seller, has in many ways subsumed traditional PR, reputation management, advertising and brand-building practices. Add to this the power of descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics (check out Young-Bean Song) and the machine intelligence of marketing automation …
… and you have AI doing a fully competent job of insight generation and plain language reporting.
In some ways, one could argue that the problem is perennial: It’s simply the tools and methods that have changed (instead of three television channels and Nielsen-style data collection we now have millions of channels and faster, better ways to get data). However we are generating attention and interest, it still comes down to an idea, effective creative, and being in the right place at the right time.
On the other hand, despite the risk of jumping into the deep end of the hyperbole pool, advances in how technology enables, accelerates, is responsive to and indeed leads and informs behaviors are genuinely unprecedented. Understanding this world at more than a superficial level and being able to apply its potential upstream – in the brand strategy, big idea and creative space – will separate the real performers from the laggards. We’ll still need big ideas – but they will also need to be fast, agile, responsive ideas.
The moral of this little story? The best brand strategists and creative directors will be the ones with a deep, uncluttered understanding of the world of inbound marketing, data analytics and automation in addition to generating brilliant ideas and compelling creative.