Questions for a panel on the evolution of marketing

questionsI’ve just been asked to submit moderator questions and suggested topics for a panel titled The Evolution of Marketing Since the Mad Men Era. It seems an impossibly broad topic that has been covered in one way or another by numerous thought leaders and been the subject of more than a few conferences. Nevertheless for companies still struggling to change and students and young professionals eager to stay relevant, it struck me these were some good topics and questions.

  1. The age of us and them is long over. Brand, media, and agency control is a thing of the past. It is the era of “we.” What are the most obvious changes that agencies and marketers have to make in order to sell and influence in this environment?
  2. Digital has disrupted every aspect of marketing: distribution, retail, media, screens, content, the role of the consumer. The changes will never slow down or even plateau. How do companies organize to live in an environment in which disruption is constant?
  3. Many companies have been so slow to change that they’ve gone out of business: Kodak, Blockbuster, newspapers, ad agencies. Are there any lessons we can learn from their failures that can prevent our own?
  4. The sharing economy has brought us new business models. Yet Zipcar, AirBNB, Uber all raise the question, “why weren’t they invented by companies in the older, traditional spaces?” Where was Hertz, Marriott and Yellow Cab? Is it possible for traditional businesses to disrupt themselves? Or invent the next game-changing idea? What will that take?
  5. A lot of these new companies haven’t needed advertising to tell their stories. When everything is digital, when consumers have instant access to reviews and content, when utility takes on a more prominent role in defining and conveying a brand, what happens to advertising and advertising agencies? Do they go away? Reinvent themselves? Take on new roles?
  6. Brands and companies still need attention. Buying it is getting less efficient, but earning it remains incredibly hard. Advertising as we once knew it — print for certain and even traditional :30 TV — will likely play a diminishing role. But when we look at new attention getting ideas — invent an experience, invite participation, generate content, distribute it via social channels — they rarely scale. Does that mean we need dozens of small ideas? New forms of big budget ideas? Is there a silver bullet?
  7. Once media space was the new scarcity. Now attention is the new scarcity. Medium, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, WordPress, Flipboard, Pinterest, Foursquare, Jelly, are all media channels. Truth be told, despite thousands of likes on some brands’ Instagram feeds, most consumers can live without either brands or ads in these environments. What does that mean for influencing and persuading consumers?
  8. Consumers still love great ads, but they want them on their terms, not as uninvited interruptions. Is it possible that advertisers and agencies will ever be good enough that all of their content is sought out on YouTube?
  9. Research shows that consumers favor brands that do social good— think Coke EkoCenter, Lifebuoy clean hands — and evidence suggests that big companies like Unilever can do more for social causes than governments or NGOs as they have more resources. How does that play into content strategy and brand building?
  10. Lines are blurring in many ways — IDEO and Frog and Continuum are entering ad agency space; digital shops are trying to do brand building; production companies are seeking direct client relationships; CAA and other Hollywood talent agencies are competing against ad agencies; forward thinking companies like Google are building their own internal ad agencies to stay closer to customers and generate work more quickly. Is that a further threat to traditional marketing companies and agencies?
  11. Most ad agencies, were they to launch tomorrow, would never build the same models they currently operate under. But legacy systems resist change. They have to change to survive, but….processes, briefs, department organizations, job definition, talent, etc. will all have to morph significantly. Why is change so hard, even among those who know they have to?
  12. Nike opens its API and turns into a tech company. IBM augments traditional advertising with experiences that demonstrate and add utility. AMEX builds communities. Eon in Sweden develops enabling apps. Google shows us what’s possible with Re-Brief and art, copy and code examples. Are they fringe ideas? Or destined to become mainstream? How long will it take?
  13. What can organizations do right now? How do they re-structure? How do they innovate? How do they prepare for the future without throwing out current income streams? Who are the sources of inspiration? Pixar? Where else do they look for ideas they can steal?
  14. What does this mean for individuals in the business or preparing to get into the business? What does it mean for students who are stuck in academic institutions that are even farther behind most agencies and industry when it comes to changing, breaking down silos, fostering the collaboration that is needed in an interdependent, digitally centric, constantly connected, rapidly changing marketing environment?
  15. What still matters? Do brands still matter? Stories? Narratives? Creativity?