In 2017, honesty will be the best sales policy
A brand is not just a logo. It’s everything you are and everything you do in terms of both your image and your communications. Or to use a less fashionable but more familiar term, it’s your reputation.
And businesses look to us agencies to help them build their brand and cement their reputation – to present them in the best possible light.
But there are natural limits. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Or to put it more bluntly, you can’t put a spin on incompetence, or worse corruption, as Volkswagen and now Rolls-Royce have discovered.
These once venerable firms, formerly bywords for reliability and quality, have rubbished their own brands through sharp practice and double-dealing. Fortunately for them, many years of brand building and innovative advertising, coupled with some excellent recent media management will probably see them through; but very few firms have that investment and emotional buy in from their target audience to fall back on.
Agencies like ours can make the mediocre look good and the good great. But we’re not miracle workers. We can’t bring the dead back to life. So as we launch ourselves into 2017, my advice to businesses is to beware of airy promises to ‘exceed customer expectations’, or if you do make sure it’s in a good way. Concentrate rather on retaining your credibility.
After a year in which we have seen exposés of wholesale corruption in business, sport, politics, entertainment and even the church, it seems that all you’ve got to do to stand out from the competition is to keep your nose clean!
Another complaint that was voiced abroad last year was that ‘the public have had enough of experts’, a view that some have claimed has driven the social and political upheaval of Brexit and the triumph of Trump. They’ve got a point. Experts have their own agendas that do not always agree with or serve the common good.
We have them in our industry. They generally come with titles like Digital Marketing Guru or Social Media Black Belt: you can’t open your email without a dozen of them clamouring for your business.
My prediction for 2017 is that business is going to grow weary of and become disillusioned with such one trick ponies very quickly.
The logic is simple. If you consult a specialist it stands to reason that he or she is going to recommend their speciality, whether or not it is the solution to your marketing problem.
Put it this way: would you employ a tradesman with only a hammer in his tool box? Sure, there are some jobs that only a hammer can do. But for most building and maintenance work you need a full set of tools. Not that specialists aren’t valuable members of any team (we use them ourselves on occasion), it’s just that as part of a team they’re usually far more effective.
Ditto with marketing your business. Don’t get me wrong. My example in this case being digital media is an important part of the marketing mix. But it’s a part, not the whole, and it should complement, not replace traditional media like print and TV. And whilst we’re on the subject, ignore what the ‘experts’ tell you about the future of marketing being non-interruptive. If you don’t believe me check out the interruptive ads on your Facebook page, or the next commercial news website you visit. They all recognise and resort to the power of the hard sell; they just happen to, for the most part, do it really, really badly!
So there you have it. Stay honest and be media agnostic. Make that your marketing strategy for 2017 and you won’t go far wrong.
Twitter: @rick_simpsons @SimpsonsCreate