Is Saatchi CEO right, and marketing and strategy is dead?


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At a speech to the UK IoD (Institute of Directors), the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi (Kevin Roberts) declared that “Marketing is dead” The Drum Magazine reports. He went on to declare that “in today’s crazy world strategy is dead, the big idea is dead, management is dead and marketing, as we know, it is also dead“.
Of course he was trying to be provocative and create a reaction, but within all his hype and bluster I do think there are some important ideas and things that any company, brand and marketing leader needs to think about and act on.
Here are the 6 things that his challenge raised for me that I believe need to be acted on if any brand or company wants to succeed now and in the future:
  1. Things are getting faster and faster. You need to able to move fast and be more nimble and reactive.
    • To be able to move and react fast it does mean though that you, and everyone in the organization, needs to be much MORE sure and completely crystal clear about what you stand for and offer. If you are not, you will have chaos and wasted efforts. This means that..
  2. Strategy is more important than ever– knowing what you are – and not.
    • The “and what we are not” is also important, so you do not waste efforts.
    • Far from “strategy being dead” it has to be very much alive, and communicated to everyone. Everyone needs to know especially as you will need to….
  3. Execute that strategy across many platforms and in many different ways.
    • The day of consumer pull marketing through use of a big TV ad and perhaps some cut and paste of the imagery into a Press ad are gone.
    • Consumers will and expect to access and use so many different media, and for different things and so each has to play a role and be on strategy. As there will be many elements, instead of just one big one to promote your brand or business you need..
  4. You need one key idea or thought, to ensure the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
    • I disagree with him you do not need one core big idea. But this idea needs to be specific and differentiated – but also needs to be very simple and open.
    • Ideally it should only be one or a few words that the teams can then execute appropriate to the channel or mechanism – versus cut and paste of the flagship TV execution.
    • So, for example, the Compeed adhesive plaster brand has “with Compeed, be unstoppable”. This is specific but also open enough that people can execute in many varied ways – but the core benefit and idea all adds back to one core idea. This is key as…
  5. Leaders in marketing and management, especially as they get more and more senior, have to learn to let go more.
    • Things move too fast and change too fast to be able to hold things tight and approve every little thing. You don’t have months to develop a TV or Print ad, your organization has to react and act fast.
    • This can only be done if you as a leader are clear what your brand or business is about and have a clear vision. Like him, I agree that the vision needs to be inspiring and motivating as…
  6. You need a motivating vision and belief. Your teams need to be inspired and will respond more to something that excites them emotionally.
    • Like apple and Steve Jobs did when he keep telling people they were not about making great computers and devices, they were about helping their users to change the world.
    • Products and services are hard to differentiate just on benefits ad features as they can be replicated so fast, or improved on by the competition. You need to see them as the base line, the must haves. You need to lead with an inspiring vision and belief that employees and consumers will identify with and engage with.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Bembridge
30 years of marketing experience managing and building brands globally for companies like Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, as a Global Vice President Global Marketing. Now a freelance marketing consultant, blogger and podcaster. The podcast has won awards in the European Podcast Awards (Business) the last 2 years.


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