First Voyage, Departure for the New World, August 3, 1492 by L. Prang & Co., 1893 (public domain - Wikimedia Commons)
It's a new year and a new decade.
Or is it?
I've recently seen articles and posts on the importance of things like community, storytelling, and listening to your customers in 2020.
These concepts aren't new to marketing and communications, yet we're finding people shouting it from the rooftops like they've just discovered fire.
What's going on?
I've seen some commentary on it, with some folks expressing frustration that marketers and communicators still haven't learned "and probably never will."
I think it's a little more nuanced than that.
Yes, there's always a need to educate and inform — even if it's a concept that's been around for a while. Maybe I should say especially if it's a concept that's been around for a while.
As the digital aspect of marketing and communications has evolved, much of the tactics have been relegated to agencies to execute (particularly on social media). And there are cultural issues within agencies that require us to repeat these principles again and again.
First, agencies are squeezed like never before. Brands are taking functions in-house, budgets are being cut, and margins are razor thin. They're always looking for ways to protect their margins, as any good business owner should.
At the same time, social media has long been thought of as something for recent college grads or interns to handle, simply because "they know digital" or "they use the apps anyway." Aside from this not necessarily being true, it also misses the true value of social and the strategic role it can play in customer experience, reputation management, and product development — as well as the strategic judgment and foresight that should accompany it.
When you combine these elements — high-pressure, always-on, low-cost focus placed on many digital and social teams — it's a combustible formula. The predictable conflagration ends in high turnover.
So, you've got an environment where marketing and communications innovations are happening on almost a daily basis, combined with a lack of institutional memory because of high turnover. The result?
No retention of fundamentals, innovations, and lessons learned along the way. It's as if we're having to constantly learn and re-learn without the benefit of the long view.
There are some of us who have gone through these cycles before — who are "OG" when it comes to digital and social. But often we're overlooked for the "influencer" who's doing TikTok videos because…flavor of the month.
Isn't it time to focus on the essentials of building relationships with your customers before you embrace the latest shiny object?
After all, if you take the time to build a culture of curiosity, integrity, and a customer-centricity, you'll gain the skills and team that will outlast any trend.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote,
"In matters of style, swim with the current.
In matters of principle, stand like a rock."
Can I help your team see through the shiny objects to focus on timeless strategies that drive growth? Let me know.