“I want it all.” The chorus from the Queen song could’ve been playing in my head last week as I attended sessions at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Masters of Marketing conference. We know the bar for brands today is high. Consumers do want it all, and often their requirements seem to contradict. They want personalized experiences and they want products and services that can include everyone. They want to do business with companies that stand for something and, at the same time, are open to input and influence from customers.
Today, brands must be agile. And it’s clear from the ANA presentations that CMOs appreciate this new environment and recognize that they need to change to be successful. What’s interesting is how some of them are going about it. They’re working to put more definition around the gray areas. And at the conference I saw a common theme: Many are turning to operating metaphors to manage the ambiguity.
That’s a mouthful, I know. But the meaning is simple: Today’s CMOs are searching for better ways to operate in this new environment, and they’re seeking familiar references to connect with their stakeholders and embrace the change. The speakers offered much to consider, and I made a list of some of the more interesting metaphors they’re using. As you would expect from a group of the leading industry players, their solutions ranged from creative to visionary to practical.
1. Ambidextrous marketing
Giving equal attention to both the left and right hands is how Alison Lewis, CMO of Johnson & Johnson explained the company’s use of ambidextrous marketing. J&J puts efforts toward mass media and guerilla marketing, competes globally and acts locally, owns a mass identity and dives into the precision of e-commerce. Lewis even explained how the company’s approach extends to how it sells, using the term “phydigital,” a merging of the physical and digital retail and marketing.
2. It’s like painting on a canvas
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, compared branding today to an artist’s canvas as a way to illustrate the entire brand experience. The canvas enables the brand to evolve and flex as needed. One of his critical points relates to how P&G resolved to stop the noise and the incessant development of content and raise the bar on creativity, giving consumers the advertising they deserve. Recently, Pritchard has defined the company’s branding approach in three steps: (1) express the brand as a masterpiece on a creative canvas; (2) elevate the craft; (3) embrace creativity as a human endeavor.
3. Turning brands into protagonists
Storytelling is not new when it comes to branding, but Douwe Bergsma, CMO of Georgia-Pacific, is tackling it with an innovative approach. Bergsma described his team’s role as story orchestrators—not just telling a story but establishing a story framework around each brand, creating conflict, tension, protagonists, and antagonists. One example he shared: Brawny’s Stay Giant campaign, where the iconic giant tackles the tough versus gentle dichotomy while helping people overcome life’s struggles. The company created a story with purpose and conflict.
It’s a complex world for brands today. It’s global, there are numerous stakeholders and we’re dealing with multiple platforms. Managing a brand—or brands—is not a fixed thing. Consumers do seem to want it all. It’s the environment we all work in, and it’s a challenging one. Given that context, using operating metaphors that connect us to familiar concepts can help us embrace the change and operate differently.
J&J, P&G, and Georgia-Pacific are just a few examples that show how it can work. What examples of operating metaphors can you share?
This piece was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse (27 October 2016).
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