Marketing and innovation have always been connected with notions of fertility: the seeds of the future are sown, embryonic ideas nurtured and developed, growing and taking shape until they emerge, blinking, into the light to become a reality. Today, more than ever before, in this age of automation and multi-connectivity, innovation – synonymous with a kind of constant state of fertility –is a restless progenitor who never sleeps.
Speed, from thought through to action has become crucial. Times to market are constantly pared back, the path from strategy to execution condensed and compressed. Perusing six-monthly reports is a thing of the past. Today, daily input and feedback is the norm.
My role is helping companies innovate and develop marketing strategies that will open up new markets and opportunities. Marketing today is about building bridges between businesses, R&D, and the markets. This requires being able to gather information about a company, condense it down, re-elaborate it – and then distribute it, promptly and methodically.
Marketing experts are the curators of a company’s knowledge. And the need for knowledge within a business can come in many shapes and sizes: it could be the CEO wanting to know about the latest trends in the sector, HR asking for input on interesting new professional roles, the finance department after data on the prices applied by the competition, or the sales team inquiring about the markets they should be focusing on.
In truth, we need to be paying attention to all of the indicators, and in particular the outliers and discrepancies, since these are often what lead to the really interesting discoveries and new paradigms, generating a competitive advantage.
When marketing works well, it produces results. But it will never win the plaudits. Marketing people have a behind-the-scenes role, joining up the dots and creating connections, and it is precisely for this reason that they don’t – and indeed shouldn’t – have the visibility that comes with a front line role. As in volleyball, it’s the spiker who scores the points; your average marketing person is the assist specialist.
And in fact, in all of my various ‘theatres of operation’ – at the company I work for, with our clients, in the associations I’m a part of, and even in my own family – this is exactly what I do. Resolving problems, unblocking bottlenecks, setting up meetings, flagging up opportunities, harnessing synergies. The reward for my efforts comes in the shape of compliments, for instance when a client says “that’s great, well done” or “thank you”.
Marketing is a complex, often intense and demanding activity, requiring an ability to organize and coordinate. A common factor linking both marketing and innovation is a genuine, old fashioned entrepreneurial spirit – a kind of pure, infectious energy and drive.
The future of marketing lies in automation, and in in-bound and web marketing. Increasingly quick, effective and powerful communications and networking technologies will leave us with more time to refine our strategies and forge authentic relationships built on sincerity. In the digital world, sincerity – not only of individuals, but also of companies – is a hugely important currency, and one which is both immediately apparent and highly shareable.
The advent of a hyper-digitalized world will bring with it a craving for real physical experiences, turning, say, the feeling of running barefoot across a lawn into a precious commodity. And with artificial intelligence supplying us with all the answers, the human mind too – freed up to focus on the real questions – will – just like that grass lawn – also come to represent an increasingly valuable asset.