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1 December 2022

A Marketing Rethink 

Advances in technology are not enough on their own to spur more effective marketing, argues PHD’s Mark Holden – a new mindset is required, too.

Advances in data and technology, and the disruption of a global pandemic have radically reorganised the world of marketing communications – changing how people consume media, what they expect from brands, and even how marketers work together, according to Mark Holden, Worldwide Chief Strategy Officer at media and marketing communications agency PHD.

Holden spoke at Most Contagious, which returned to Islington’s Business Design Centre on 24 November, after a two-year hiatus and saw a global cast of industry pioneers and expert commentators inspire the great and the good of adland in a series of incisive and impactful talks.

Holden took to the stage to offer advice on how brands and agencies can navigate the changing landscape of marketing communications and relayed some useful tips for surviving and thriving in the future.

Drawing on key insights from PHD’s publication, Shift | A Marketing Rethink, Holden began by presenting the audience with an apparent contradiction facing the advertising industry.

‘We now have a remarkable set of new marketing technologies that we can use to engage audiences,’ noted Holden, before adding: ‘Why then is it that, as evidenced by the most recent IPA research, it’s not working? Why is advertising’s impact on lifting [brands’] share of the market in decline?’

It’s not the technology’s fault, he argued, but rather the ‘minds’ in thrall to the technology that explains why advertising is losing its impact. Holden categorised these minds into three distinct categories: the Hypnotised, who are obsessed by the immediacy of performance data; the Evangelists, who just want to replace the orthodoxy with anything new; and the Paranoid, who fear being seen as stuck in the past and beholden to analog technologies.

It is the paranoid minds that allow the other two to run riot, and these attitudes combine to result in an over-focus on five key areas: ROI, targeting, performance channels (at the expense of brands), rational messaging and marketing tactics.

Overstating the importance of ROI was especially culpable for the decline in ad effectiveness, said Holden, as it ‘is weakly correlated with profit growth’. Quoting Peter Field, he added: ‘We sacrifice market share growth in pursuit of ROI.’

Holden concluded: ‘All of this misses the big opportunity of long-term growth, which should account for just under 60% of the total return from marketing investment’

To achieve long-term marketing centricity, Holden suggests we need to nurture an Investor Mindset’. The investor mindset is focused on targetless-zero-based budgeting, which means you set your budget based on optimising profit return, not on an arbitrary target level.

Investing in new capabilities is a vital feature of this mindset, and Holden outlined a few to focus on. He suggested investing now in a portfolio of ‘creators’, as a channel and creative-production capability. And creative engineering -  for the auto-creation of assets, with each element tagged and connected to an ad-server and compiled based on growth indicator KPIs. Building infrastructure for the generative creative era. 

Holden said that ‘DALL-E 2 shows how far this technology can progress in as little as one year. The photos from the original Dall-E, while spectacular in their own way, were nowhere near as realistic as DALL-E 2, which shows that the future of this technology is progressing extremely quickly and becoming more powerful with each iteration.’

Having pulled back the curtain on the exciting opportunities for marketers that lie ahead, Holden summarised the key takeaways of his presentation like this:

  • Check growth-limiting mindsets (Hypnotised, Evangelist, Paranoid, we’re looking at you)
  • Reconfigure your organisation to growth (long-term centricity)
  • Invest in future capabilities (assessed as commercial investments for growth).

Or, as Holden pithily put it: ‘Adopt an investor-in-future growth mindset and embrace future capabilities, today.’

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