What I learnt at Marketing Week Live worries me

It’s a pretty exciting time to be a marketer.

Wi-Fi and smart phones have changed our lives dramatically in recent years and this has a profound effect on how marketers interact with consumers. Gone are the days of the one way broadcast. We are well and truly in an era of two-way communication between brands and consumers with more data available than you could shake a stick at.

With this in mind, I was intrigued to see what I would learn when I went to Marketing Week Live and the Insight Show last week.

As you’d expect, digital solutions are prominent with online panels, data mining of sales data and eye-tracking in-store research solutions available. There were also speaker sessions on everything from increasing email conversion and instagram marketing to the role of micro-influencers on social media in driving brand awareness.

But as I listened to the speakers and chatted to the exhibitors, I found the same topics repeated again and again – digital, data and tech solutions. There were some mentions of ROI to ‘keep the bosses happy’, but one speaker summed up the tone of the show for me when he said ‘we’re all marketers and we love shiny new toys to play with’.

Now I like playing with shiny new toys as much as anyone. But at the risk of sounding stuck in my ways, I’m a bit worried about the lack of focus on marketing strategy in this digital age.

Pretty much everything I saw and heard was execution-led.

I’m not anti-execution. After all without it marketing is an academic exercise, not the action-sport I love. I also realise that at Marketing Week Live all the new, shiny stuff is shown off as marketers search for inspiration and solutions. But is marketing strategy getting lost with all the focus on executing activity?

At one point, I got excited when a speaker began to talk about brand objectives, but she blew it when she followed up with ‘you know, like getting more Twitter followers’…  For me, getting more Twitter followers isn’t a brand objective; it’s an executional tactic.

I know strategy can be dull when compared to the excitement of executing digital campaigns, but I’m worried that without it brands lack a firm growth strategy and become directionless. We’ll see ever-busy marketers hopping from tactic to tactic, hoping this one will be the one that will drive growth, and if it doesn’t, well there’s never any guarantees with new stuff is there?

But by defining your strategy first, before getting seduced by tactics, your odds of success increase dramatically.


Well, simply because you’ve taken the time to assess where your brand is, where it’s heading and the strategic issues and opportunities it’s faced with, your execution will be more effective.

So what can be done?

Don’t stifle the passion and creativity your marketing and agency team have, but do ensure you have clarity of your marketing strategy.

Then you can execute, measure and adapt as needed with the confidence that comes from knowing why you’re doing the things you’re doing and how well they’re working.

If you’d benefit from strengthening your marketing strategy, contact me at BrandWorks, I’d love to help.


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