marketing silos

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Where do key marketing insights come from? Where does creative inspiration come from? Where do sales come from? Nice questions, no?

Key market insights come from people (consumers or business buyers) and market data. Market data, however, is just an aggregation of consumer activity and the patterns they throw off. 

Creative inspiration, in this machine that is the marketing and agency business, comes from the creative brief. Where on the brief?  Many would like think it jumps from the boiled down “selling idea,” “key thought,” or “engagement trigger” — whatever it’s called these days. But realistically it comes from anywhere on the brief.  Inspiring creative people can’t be mapped, it just happens. People are complicated.

And sales? Sales come from stores, catalogs and websites but really from the hands and minds of people.  

So duh, the common denominator in this serial journey to a sale is people.  The most effective marketing teams are those who make all three legs of this stool work together.

This is your silo issue, not revenue by agency type or department.  It’s not about break though work. It’s not about sales spikes. Or the most powerful media tactic or database.  It’s about getting people to see patterns, inspire others, and learn what sells in a specific category – then forming a community around the brand that fosters those activities. Agencies come and go. Campaigns come and go. Communities (unless you’re the Aztecs) not so much. Peace!

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In the advertising and marketing business, digital is its own channel.  Rare is the vendor that provides a truly integrated single source worldview of a brand. A really smart person once said to an important client “campaigns are overrated” which stuck me with a ferocity that shook my world, but he was right.  A campaign, when well-defined and well-equipped is a powerful selling mechanism.  It’s what people talk about. But translating campaigns across silos is not easy.  Heck, anyone who has ever worked at an ad agency knows campaigns don’t always transfer across media.  A great design-driven print campaign may not work well in radio or a murderously effective TV campaign may not work as out of home.  It’s tah-woooh.  And those silos are under one roof.    

Competing Market Forces

A bunch of hearty souls are trying to bring online and offline selling under one roof.  Yet a greater number of very skilled entrepreneurs are out there selling against the one roof approach — creating even greater and greater specialization.  A friend at CatalystSF told me that there are over 200 social media agencies in the New York area alone.  So what do you do about these two competing forces — the shops who want more pie and are trying to integrate and the shops selling best of breed, stand alone digital marketing specialties?  Well the planner in me usually starts problem solving by “following the money.”  In the case of integrated vs. stand alone I say “follow the strategy.”  

If you find a potential partner with a sense of business strategy that transcends tactical discussions, listen. Business strategy first. Marketing strategy second. Message strategy third and tactical fourth.  I don’t care if its RGA or TBWA. Peace it up! 

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Here’s the thing: In marketing, part of winning is understanding your competitors’ weaknesses. Some marketers spend time shooting arrows. Others focus on building and presenting strengths — a less overt negative focus.  When I worked at a big NY ad shop with mondo-million dollar budgets, if the client wanted to do a formal acquisition program and use our direct arm, the agency begrudgingly agreed and teamed it up. It wasn’t quite Yankees and Mets — more like Mets and Binghamton Bisons (the farm team.)

As we saunter forth into the digital world we’re seeing more marketing silos grow daily. The silos will come down but it will take a while and a good deal of wealth redistribution in the meantime. Just as media was once siloed (print, TV, radio, OOH) and now better integrated, online and offline will come from one house.  Smart business people recognize this and are trying it out.  Ouch, they say, as the arrows hit them. Other smart business people are going negative, protecting their silos and they’re making money, if not friends. The web is often about removing boundaries. The sooner siloed ad, digital, direct and PR shops get on board, the sooner client market ROI and ROS (return on strategy) will hockey stick and change will really occur.   Peace!

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The World Economic Summit currently underway in Davos Switzerland should be recreated once a year for all the leaders of the advertising and marketing communities.  We should probably throw in a few economists just to keep the event grounded; after all, the real prize is money. 

The polyglot array of marketing agencies which make up client rosters today is insanely inefficient and needs to be fixed.  Some big global companies have 50 plus ad agencies. Add to that  public relations shops, direct marketing companies, digital, events/promotions, and the newly coined social media shops and you can begin to imagine the waste.  The donut and bagel budget alone must be incalculable.  And all the people needed to effectively manage these many agents is also a big honkin’ number. Plus communications, travel, entertainment, etc.  Smart agencies and holding companies should take the lead on this — but that’s not likely to happen.

Davos for Marketers will, no doubt, be held in Cincinnati and it should be broken into two parts: all agencies then agencies plus marketers.  No golf, no awards, no spousal programs, just hard work intended to optimize the silos, the workflow, outputs, integration, proper spending and measurement.  I suspect the first year will be a mess. — metal detectors will be a good idea — but the reality is, for marketers and their agents it will be an important step toward building a more effective marketing future.  Peace!

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