Back in 2013, we defined a culture of courage at Ignite2X that would lead into the next decade. It came out of a conviction that change was accelerating, and marketing companies needed to embrace a proactive role to lead—not follow—this transformation.
Now, as if Moore’s Law applied yet again to this world we live in post-pandemic, the shift has forced us to evolve faster in the last year than the five before that. What have we learned? Despite the tragic toll of the pandemic, the marketplace is highly innovative and resilient, and our retailer, technology and consumer marketing world responded in an unprecedented way to the challenge. So, eight years after asking does your agency have courage, how has the marketplace redefined what courage is in today’s environment?
How has Courage Been Redefined?
The pandemic taught us a lot about our willingness to evolve, if compelled to do so. We have all felt the magnitude of the moment and experienced first- or third-hand the angst, adversity, and loss of our family, friends, country, and the world. But while the human impact of the pandemic can never be forgotten, it did reveal new growth opportunities in the ways we learn, work, lead, and live.
We have all been forced to reflect on what really matters to us as both individuals and business leaders and lean in on how we can make an impact on the changing world around us. So, courage today requires that we see opportunities as a way to reinvent ourselves as individuals, marketers, leaders, and businesses. We walked the brand purpose walk with charitable drives, developed a new commitment to reimagining the path to purchase based on a transformed understanding of consumers and their use of technology, including new expectations of brands and a willingness to shop for every imaginable food or CPG experience in a whole new way. These ideas are not disconnected parts, but a new way of viewing a culture of courage as a holistic approach to a healthier whole and a better way during a transformative time.
It’s a big reason why Kevin Justice and I decided this spring to share CEO responsibilities. Simply the skills required are too diverse and we need to balance strategic, creative, and technology expertise like never before. As the requirement of running an agency continues to get steeper, our third partner, Paul Pastrick, will be more active than ever leading the team as COO/CFO in his critical financial, operational, and HR roles sourcing talent, making our culture vibrant, and keeping the engine of Ignite2X in high gear to exceed client expectations. More than ever, the leadership whole is greater than the sum of our parts.
Not having the right broad leadership (at all levels) would limit any business’ ability to see opportunity with clarity and gain buy-in from others. This is especially the case now, where many people have strong opinions based on their own personal pandemic experience or where they’ve been in the past (it worked ten years ago or pre-pandemic, right?). Everyone needs to stay opened minded enough to appreciate emerging points of view.
Big companies have been victims of their own success, vested in the status quo (Remember, Kodak invented digital photography and Blockbuster could have bought Netflix). In 2013, we certainly didn’t know the outcome of merging strategic, digital/analytical, and creative skill sets, but we had the courage (yes, it takes courage) to take calculated but informed risks for our clients and find new paths forward in ways we could not imagine years ago. Were we comfortable entering a pandemic or post pandemic marketing world? I’d say we have the right culture to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that led us to reinventing our deliverables over and over again to remain relevant.
What could we all learn or relearn from the pandemic? We have doubled down on the following opportunities that have driven momentum for this brave new world:
1. Stay Agnostic
We don’t start with tactics in search of strategies. It’s important to find partners that share a broad strategic view of the marketing business. We have vendor days and marketing partners for data, media, research, and technology that are subject matter experts and give us new perspectives. We see opportunities everywhere, including traditional in-store—not just sexy new solutions.
2. Invest with Purpose
Never sorted out the value of data before? Worried about the impact retail connected media or eCommerce may have on the business? Take steps to embark on the best new opportunities to navigate this new world and “test, test, test” to find out what’s important. Remember what really matters—focus points like who are your best customers, what messages and promotions drive trial and ROI, etc.
3. Carpe Diem, Not Carpe Data
Our ability to combine research, first party, and third-party data is transforming business today. But intuition and creativity is still a critical part of marketing and, in fact, too much data can kill innovation. Analysis paralysis is a very real thing and it is the antithesis of grabbing the right data, turning it into intelligence and finding the right insight to seize the day.
4. Scale is a Good Goal
In a new environment where so much can be tested in real-time or evaluated for performance, brands must take the opportunity given to them to scale their investment where they can build their unfair advantage win. It is hard work discovering these opportunities. Be bold and put your money where your opportunities are.
5. Diverse Teams
While there are benefits to small teams, it takes a diverse group to get beyond a “that’s how we always do it” mentality. This growth and the strategic creative and tech requirements of running an agency today requires each of us to rethink how we lead and work. Simply the skills, clients and opportunities are too diverse and complex for any one of us to think otherwise. All of us are stronger than any one of us and Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM!).
That’s also the power of a full-service agency. We are not selling a thing. We are solving problems and delivering tactics to serve specific agendas. That happens more easily when your team is not carrying around hammers looking for nails. Get the whole tool kit!
6. It’s A Marathon and A Sprint
The good news is that it’s a lot like running downhill. It takes agility and balance, not infrastructure, to win. That means we must get out of the silos and figure out how to move faster and smarter. This idea that Moore’s Law applies only to microchips doesn’t compute. Get used to the idea that courage is the cure for complacency in both the short and long term. Believing in change, including rapidly evolving ways to connect in a relevant and unique way with consumers, is an opportunity to get ahead.
7. Build momentum
It often begins with little steps, but it takes relationships to get others to participate in test driving your ideas. We can strengthen these relationships with discipline and the right intel, but it takes more than money to build momentum. Courage of conviction is the key to seizing opportunity, but no one can do this alone. Even Tom Brady needs blockers and receivers (and a world class defense) to win yet another Super Bowl. He is a fine leader and no doubt he turned every player into a believer. May the best and most courageous team win!
The pandemic and its eventual demise may be the perfect time to begin a new journey. For us, it turned into a tipping point for innovation where new ways of following shoppers and their path to purchase translated into new solutions. We listened, collaborated, and learned quickly before we delivered the WOW (new Ways Of Work and new Ways Of Winning).
I have little doubt that consumers, technology, and retail will continue to evolve and there is good reason to be optimistic. After all, we’ve made it through the pandemic battered, but not bruised. There is a lot of pent-up desire to live a little (ok, a lot!) and we should embrace that with all the power tools in our marketing toolbox. It just takes a little bit of renewed courage.
Connect with us today to learn how your brand can take the next step to drive momentum.