How much control is “enough” control when it comes to guiding marketing decisions? According to SXSW 2017 thought leadership, too much control can mean missing out on opportunities to deliver timely messaging before consumer attention shifts.
Blink and you’ll miss it. This philosophy helps South by Southwest’s (SXSW) thousands of attendees brace themselves for the whirlwind pace of the week’s events, panels, and inevitable stunts.
The same philosophy can be applied to marketers trying to tap into trending topics and conversations — or even better, incorporate into their media to become a focus of those conversations. This message “blink and you’ll miss it” can inspire marketers worried about always having controls in place to let go a little more. Experimentation and spontaneity can work alongside more rigidly planned marketing cycles so that marketers can seize opportunities as they arise. At the same time, they end up creating responsive workflows that guide quicker action so no one drops the ball when big moments arrive.
This careful balance of preparation and impulsiveness is a hard tightrope to tread, but brands should embrace it in order to keep up with the breakneck pace of modern conversation.
Don’t Take Too Long to Plan Something Great
In a panel discussing live video marketing, Victor Lee, Hasbro SVP of Digital Marketing, said something that might sound surprising to some marketers and liberating to others: “You don’t need six months to plan something great.”
The marketer’s typical planning methodology evolved out of Madison Avenue’s obsession with getting everything perfect. In our digital age, where data can guide marketing activation to be more precise than ever, this perfectionism would appear to be evolving. Yet, if this perfectionism is too inflexible, this can hinder a brand’s ability to stay relevant. Focusing too far into the calendar year ahead can mean disregarding new ideas and opportunities as they emerge.
This constant flow means that brands left pondering too long can have a difficult time connecting to what’s top-of-mind for their audiences. Hesitation in the aftermath of the recent Oscars controversy shows an example for missed real-time marketing reactions. Staying relevant can also mean incorporating a new piece of technology, finding test and learn opportunities, or trying out a new idea that pops up during brainstorming. If these ideas take six months or more to get off the ground, then brands risk building too much latency in the marketing cycle.
To prevent this paralysis, brands can be more willing to say “yes” to certain promising projects even as they diligently plan ahead. We know it can be hard to predict what will be on trend in six months’ time, but setting up your plans to be agile is where marketers can get it right. Echoing the same sentiment as Mr. Lee, many others at SXSW advocated adopting a “fail fast” mentality, where the fear of missing out replaces the fear of somehow getting things wrong.
Data Reduces Marketing Latency
When chasing faster activation cycles, marketers do invite risk, but this risk can often be mitigated by making the right data available and actionable within the workflow. For instance, a major newspaper chief information officer described at SXSW how his team uses a custom-built, data-driven optimization engine to improve the reader’s experience. Within 30 minutes, the system can provide guidance on trending articles and suggest topics the newsroom should cover more. A system like this allows for rapid but measured responses without a damaging level of latency.
Taking a more human angle, a world-renowned scientific publication described how their Instagram account became the most followed media brand on the social media platform when they handed the reins over to award-winning photographers. The digital team mitigated risk by thoroughly vetting these contributors and laying out guidelines for their posting, but they did not mandate approval of each post, allowing the photo feed to take on a life of its own.
Even with approaches like these, mistakes and missteps can still occur, but under a “fail fast” mentality, brands can recover quickly and move on to the next thing without missing a beat. And with no one holding a short leash, brands will be doing less blinking-and-missing in order to find greater levels of success.