Marketing may be suffering from Peter Pan syndrome. Technology is changing at the speed of light, but it seems marketing isn’t keeping pace. Although tactical techniques like retargeting have become popular in advertising, campaigns themselves have changed very little since social became a pillar of each and every one. Social media is old news: producing a creative or engaging Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. campaign is standard fare.
It’s time we push ourselves as marketers to innovate in new ways that actually harness the latest technologies and have real and measurable impact. The problem many marketers have with integrating new technologies is that they look at it through their campaign-colored glasses, trying something on for size for a season and then moving on to the latest fad.
This "campaign" thinking leads to a severe lack of action when it comes actually to integrating technology in ways that really matter. Whereas CMOs are expected to embrace innovation (and often rewarded accordingly with a raise), it’s usually for show rather than to transform marketing. As a result, what we’re seeing in our stifled industry is a chronic commitment issue with both technological integration in individual brand campaigns and overall marketing strategies.
When it comes to embracing new technology that can help build the future of your brand, your team has to commit to results and embrace failure, learn from your community, and iterate iterate iterate with scalable integrations.
Commit to failure
It may sound like a pessimistic oxymoron to commit to failure, but it’s only through short-term failure that you can reach long-term success. The only real failure in any attempt to push your boundaries as a company is the failure to learn. For technology to really become a staple of your brand, it has to be tested, reformulated and tested again.
All too often I have seen brands attempt to integrate new technology into their marketing strategies, only to throw up their hands in defeat when it isn’t an immediate transformational success. Instead, start with small ideas, and execute on constant iterations of multiple tests. Dedicate a member of your team to report the results constantly and look for patterns. Those learnings are where you will find the winning formulas that will take your brand to the next level.
Innovation is not an island
You and your team should iterate, collect quantitative data, and iterate again, but don’t forget to lean on your community for qualitative insights as well. Although it’s a lot simpler to define a few "innovation" roles and expect those people to drive the new thinking and ideas; what works better is to lean on all resources available — the whole company (from the board room to facilities management) and most importantly, the consumers. This creates a culture of innovation that maximizes the insights into what is possible for the brand and into what consumers want now and next.
Marketing is about understanding people and motivating them to take action. If you’re trying to bring your brand into a new era of technological prowess, then you also need to know what piques the interests of the fans that already support you. Find a way to get that audience in a room, ask them to tell their stories. Active social listening for cultural insights isn’t a nice to have — it’s a must have.
Why are they repeat buyers? What other products do they really like? What do they want to see more of? It’s a simple practice, but it can make a world of difference when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Finally, if you’re going to commit to innovative technology, then you must be willing to view your testing ground with the minimal viable product mindset. This requires that you forge ahead aware of imperfection, with the goal of collecting data in order to improve.
In regards to branding campaigns, those marketers who have been brave enough to try new ideas have often met with failure because they made their initial tests far too small; either to give the new technology a chance or to gain reliable insights. The question to ask is, "What’s the smallest size test that will give me the data I need to prove this can scale?"
While this may feel risky, the greater risk is actually never seeing true success come of all of the work that went into development. Instead, dedicate yourself to executing small tests big enough to collect the kind of data that will tell you what went wrong versus what went right. In this way, you will be empowered to make the kinds of decisions that allow you to successfully scale up, and potentially bring what started as just a campaign strategy, into a larger, long-term marketing strategy.
Don’t get me wrong — innovation in marketing is happening in small doses here and there. But considering the power innovating in marketing has to disrupt and give brands a huge advantage, it doesn’t make sense that we are not embracing the technology that will continue to shape the ideas and techniques of tomorrow. Dedicating yourself to brand innovation is committing to your brand’s future, an investment that is, inarguably, a worthy investment.
Omaid Hiwaizi is president of global marketing with Blippar.