Marketing Outside of the Box

PepsiCo executive Brad Jakeman speaking at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference

PepsiCo executive Brad Jakeman recently spoke at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando, FL, and he didn’t pull any punches when it came time for him to address to crowd. He did very little, if any, promotion of the PepsiCo brand; in fact, other than holding a blue can of Pepsi in his hand for the duration of his time on stage, he actually steered clear of product hype and PepsiCo marketing. Instead he took a direction that was a bit unexpected, and spoke boldly and honestly about the problems plaguing the marketing world today. His perspective was honest and refreshing, albeit a bit tough for marketing pros to hear.

The overall theme of Jakeman’s talk centered around the need for marketing strategies to adapt to ever-changing times:

“[The current model] assumes that paid media is the only way to build brands…[but user-generated content] doesn’t cost us a cent…This is a disruption that has happened around us, and we are still talking about 30-second television ads. We fundamentally haven’t changed.”

Jakeman is an trailblazer; it’s why PepsiCo hired him. And he has a good point. Advertising mediums are changing daily with ever-evolving technology paving the way for innovative approaches to marketing. A Twitter follower recently asked Jakeman where innovation comes from. His response?

“It comes from diverse, creative, passionate people and agencies who are prepared to take calculated risks.”

This leads me to a question, something I’ve been mulling over in my brain as I consider my business’ approach to marketing strategy:

AM I CREATIVE AND PASSIONATE, READY AND WILLING TO CHANGE MY METHODOLOGY WHENEVER CHANGING TIMES REQUIRE?

Are you? It’s easy to get stuck in routine. It’s easy to do things “the way we’ve always done them.” But is it best? I’d say no.

The way I see it, those of us in the design and marketing industry have two choices. We can step out and take risks in hopes that we stay ahead of the curve and pave the way for innovative thinking in our field (resulting ultimately in successful marketing strategies), or we can maintain the status quo, doing what we’ve always done in hopes that the well-oiled marketing machine that we’ve known for so long won’t get rusty and fall to pieces. The second option sounds like an uncalculated risk, otherwise known as foolishness.

I DON’T WANT TO BE A FOOL.

Pepsi’s exec had this to say about the current Global AOR advertising model:

“I am really worried that this model is not going to bend — it’s going to break if we don’t really think about how to innovate.”

Another of the company’s executives supported this train of thought:

“We no longer have on a lot of our brands an AOR or lead creative agency. We’re pulling from a roster of agencies for different projects, as we look for the right creative ideas.”

PepsiCo is not alone in its thinking. For the last several years there’s been more and more speculation about the future of marketing’s “Agency of Record” model. For as long as most of us can remember, the focus has been placed on the partnership between a marketer and its agency. More and more, though, this model is under major scrutiny, and AOR tenures are vanishing by the day. Marketers are exploring other agencies outside of their previous rosters, and long-term partnerships are becoming less and less common. Why?

Marketers want the freedom to go where the best ideas are at any given time. They don’t want to be tied down, locked into long-term retainers and contracts.

This might feel unsettling for agencies like yours and mine. However, I believe that it ultimately will be the best thing that ever happened to our industry, because it requires us to step up our creative game. When marketers aren’t making decisions rooted in loyalty to an agency, but instead are making them based on “may the best creative marketing strategy win,” it lights a fire under creatives and it pushes us to think outside of the box and with innovate minds.

The world no longer revolves around the mega-agencies that lock down contracts with major brands simply because they have penthouse offices. The playing field is substantially more level, and we can all take a stab at offering marketers the best idea for their products.

THIS EXCITES AND MOTIVATES ME BEYOND BELIEF.

I desire for Nine Labs to be at the front lines, leading the charge toward innovation by operating with a willingness to take calculated risks. I’m guessing you want the same for your business. What is seen by some as a death in our industry is, to me, the most exciting opportunity to come around since I joined the field. It’s time to bust out of the status-quo box and rethink the way we approach marketing, and there’s a big field waiting with plenty of room for willing players to step into the game.

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