Guest post: We really haven’t changed that much

Today is Matt Jones’ last day in Australian marketing before he moves to his company’s New York office. But despite the media upheavals he has seen, little has really changed.  

After almost three years as Creative Strategist for Jack Morton, I’m about say goodbye to the Australian marketing industry for a while. It’s a good time to draw breath and reflect briefly on things, at least from my limited (this was my first gig in marketing) and alternative (I work in the brand experience space) perspective.

Since my first day in July 2006, a lot has happened. Clearly. We’ve seen the emergence of experiential marketing as a discipline, if not yet as a fully-fledged and unified industry. And we have seen the rise and rise of digital, PR (or should that be PR 2.0?), word of mouth marketing, and social media.

In short, we have seen the rapid growth of the non-traditional and the alternative. And the channel clutter created by that growth has created a corresponding fascination with integration, agency models, and channel/communications planning.

The irony is that, despite all this flux, little has really changed. We’re still an industry dominated by mass communication. We’re still beholden to old ways, and same-old ideas. And we remain reluctant to be led to scary new places by bold strategic thinking. Sure we’ll more readily embrace a pop-up store, PR the hell out of a stunt, activate an expensively-bought sponsorship property, recruit a word-of-mouth panel, and fake a video on YouTube. But at the heart of most campaigns you’ll still find the steady rhythm of a conservative and traditional heart.

How’s that wrong? In truth, it’s not. TV often works; it’s the right answer for many brands, audiences, and challenges. The point is not to damn the use of TV and other mass communication channels (which increasingly include digital and PR, not just print). The point is to oppose the lazy, unquestioning processes that too often deliver those predictable outcomes, and to demand that we all try to think harder, broader, and bigger (even when faced with smaller budgets).

But real change is coming. It has to. And with it will come a whole bunch of demands and challenges…creating bigger ideas on smaller budgets…building brands and tribes, not just making ads and noise… focusing less on storytelling, and more on the stories we tell…creating facts, not fictions; stuff that’s real, not fake…entertaining and adding value, not shouting and harassing… thinking about marketing holistically, not about communications in isolation…engaging employees and partners far more, and embracing broader brand2everyone strategies… prioritizing the influential few over the disengaged many…collaborating, not competing…focusing on effectiveness, not awards.

You know, I reckon I could have written much the same stuff three years ago. But we’re now three years closer to it becoming a reality. And, even as I type, the pace of (and need for) change is accelerating. Brace yourselves.


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