Old battles and double-edged swords

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Old battles and double-edged swords
Posted on October 10, 2023 by Iosetta Santini

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Notes from the audience of the Festival of Marketing

Picture this: a warmer than average October day, a room filled with marketers from all walks of life, each armed with a notebook, a pen, and a cup of coffee. It’s Festival of Marketing Day, and, as I’ve run out of pages, I’m ready to read out my notebook to who wants to listen.

Kill complexity

First out to talk to the troops is the fearless marketing maestro Mark Ritson. I’m not going to describe my anticipation and excitement for this session, but by the end I was vigorously (some might say too enthusiastically) clapping my hands.

What is changing in marketing? In a gripping talk about marketing duels and enlightenments, Ritson questioned the very bedrock of marketing strategies: “Much more often than not, segmentation is pointless”. You heard that right—80% to 90% of the time, segmentation misses the mark. He referred to Samuel Brealey’s article, “Anti-personalization: The best ad for one is the best ad for all,” emphasizing the need to simplify marketing strategies as what’s good for one person tends to be good for most people.

With the role of segmentation changing, is targeting also losing the battle? The double-edged sword of the digital era is micro-targeting. Did you know that the narrower your audience, the more engaging your copy must be? Yes, the targeting is more accurate, but is it effective, or necessary? Ritson talked about a return to mass marketing – not meaning targeting “everyone” but all potential buyers, albeit with a more sophisticated approach. So, after a wild swing towards complex targeting, it seems that mass marketing might be making a return. Tesco, for example, is already putting in place successful two-speed strategies –mass marketing through TV advertising, and more accurate targeting through digital channels.

The battle on positioning is one that we’re fighting daily at Keen as Mustard, and Ritson’s words hit home: “Positioning isn’t an end; it’s a way to get customers to associate your brand with your core attributes.” Say goodbye to those long, wordy statements. If you want it to work keep it short, sweet, and focused on what sets you apart from the competition. And here’s a wakeup call: “British consumers wouldn’t care if 94% of brands disappeared.” In other words, nobody cares about your brand as much as you do. So, kill the complexity and focus on cut-through.

Sharp videos

Cut-through and engagement are battles that Preethi Sundaram, Director of International Marketing at Vimeo, is fighting too. Did you know that 82% of internet traffic is video? Here’s the punchline: only 1% gets viewed to completion. At Keen as Mustard, we’re strong believers in the power of images but what is it that gets engagement? The advice from Vimeo is that “Ugly works”. Go straight to the problem and talk about that. Don’t be afraid of raising that difficult question. And in a time where screens are only getting smaller, and the available content is multiplying “Have a face at the beginning”, building that emotional human connection from the start can keep viewers till the very end. If you have already worked with us on video content this isn’t news to you, as we’ve certainly asked “do you have any consumer interviews? Any Voxpops?”. Voices, faces and human emotions are the unbeaten star of the show.

The Order of the Long-Term Brand Building

The Festival’s marketing warriors talked about one of the battles that is closest to our hearts: mental availability. As Anouschka Elliot, MD at Goldman Sachs says: “Mental availability is extremely important.” It’s key to brand success, especially in a B2B context. But – of course there’s a but – convincing the C-suite and stakeholders of its worth is not an easy win. It’s the ongoing marketers’ dilemma of how to demonstrate to a number-hungry board, that saliency is what the business needs for growth.

On the same panel, PwC and Jellyfish Global reiterated that mental availability shouldn’t be confused with awareness (more on this later), and that the marketing funnel is limiting. It’s good to have a simple structure to follow, but it should be adapted and evolved depending on the single organisation and its customers. Tom Roach, the Vice-President of Brand Strategy at Jellyfish International, reworked the standard marketing funnel saying goodbye to the classics—awareness, consideration, conversion—and marching towards the new —build, nudge, and connect. It’s a whole new emotional layer. An extra spice to your marketing for that extra kick.

Next up, The B2B Institute was also ready to fight the battle for mental availability. And just to clarify, with mental availability we mean increasing the probability that your brand comes to mind in different buying situations; “which is the most customer-centric marketing goal,” said Peter Weinberg Global Head of Development at the B2B Institute. “To win the market you need to win the minds” says Peter, the true ‘Knight of the Order of the Long-Term Brand Building’. And isn’t it true? Especially in a busy context like insights.

Something else we often repeat to our clients is that most buyers in B2B are future buyers (referring to the 95:5 rule by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science), and that’s why mental availability is so crucial for growth. However, there’s still an obsession with lead generation, mostly based on the illusion that because it’s measurable it works – and we see that all too clearly in the insights industry. This lead-only mindset is opening a space to feed the top of the funnel for those who are willing to put some eggs in the long-term basket, and work on “memory-generation” rather than lead-generation. “Prime the market with what we called pre-suasion rather than persuasion,” said Peter.

A single front

In other words, you can’t influence a buyer you’ve never reached. It’s a losing battle. The marketing “circle”, as The B2B Institute call it, should be much larger than the sales one – to allow for greater reach – but they should both strongly align. However, a study from the B2B Institute found that the average alignment between marketing and sales is only 16%, meaning that the two departments are talking to different buyers. There is a lot to be done in the B2B marketing space, but starting with understanding that mental availability will give you a strong – and essential – advantage over your lead-gen-obsessed competition is key. And we all know that “numbers” are king in our industry, so look for some signs that signal an increase in mental availability. Sales being one of them (more reach, more leads), but also hiring (high mental availability could bring 95% higher response to recruitment), and marketing (determine what is that increased the chances for your buyers to become leads).

Marketing is a discipline that is often not understood or misunderstood (even by marketers themselves) – hence why it can be demoralising, and it can feel like shouting at the wind. But what I’ve learnt from this event is that there is a lot of alignment amongst marketers as to what works in B2B generally that we can apply to insights. Worldwide experts, global company leaders, professors, creatives, and consultants, all maintain a compact theoretical and practical stronghold to win the old battles of building brands long-term, feeding the top of the funnel, aligning with sales, keeping it simple, and being customer centric. And, even if our only weapons are the double-edged swords of digital, the marketing funnel, and almost unmeasurable successes, we’re relentlessly, unanimously, pursuing our mission.