Adaptive in action

Do you have a brand goal with real liquid strategy, asks Mindshare’s Ravi Rao


Nothing works like telling a good story to keep the audience engaged. For a story to really have impact and hit a chord with people, one needs to tell a story with a relevant theme and keep it exciting until the end.

Assume that the future is unpredictable, so you must work effectively with the circumstances that surround you. It is time we incorporate diverse perspectives and strategies that encourage ongoing learning through continuous improvement in all parts of the organisation. We are now more than ever facing a similar situation in advertising. Consumers are facing a tsunami of messages, ads, content and branding. They are perplexed with memory loss. So how does an agency tell a good story on behalf of brands?

Consumer interests, likes and in-vogue trends need to be kept in mind and, therefore, a typical plan with a fixated flowchart is an annoying factor. We need adaptive accelerators by going with the flow of what consumers follow or finding a way to be ahead by influencing them – albeit subtly with credibility in what and how we say things.

Adaptive marketing is a fast and flexible approach, where we integrate slow and fast data sources and draw insights to adapt all aspects of marketing. This enables us and our clients to respond quickly to our consumers and the environment in order to create customised brand experiences.

Key enablers are sharper insights achieved by sifting through the data deluge, engaging communication through good storytelling in the right environment and a relevant communication architecture, fully supported by technology. The old purchase funnel is now non-linear thanks to the mobile world, e-commerce and delayed or displaced appointment viewing.

Instant gratification. Take the recent instance of ‘buy now’ buttons on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – redirecting consumers to nearby retailer websites where they complete a purchase. As planners, if we don’t link purchase behaviour we are straight-jacketed. Another good example is the Tunisie Telecom campaign that engaged people to clean the beaches when the brand struck a positive chord. No wonder the Festival of Media and the global jury recognised it with a gold.

New unknown behaviour. We always watch television content in a horizontal mode. With rapid mobile phone penetration, more and more people shoot videos in a vertical format to the extent that almost 30 per cent of Americans now watch video vertically versus the 5 per cent in 2010. Do we need to adapt? Do we need to re-think our ad/content strategy? Burger King and VW have jumped in on the bandwagon with real success. What are we waiting for?

What does it mean for a client? Disparate entities that offer consultancy and specialism tend to look at the current consumer dynamism and may miss the mark because of a ‘single’ filter used to predict the unpredictability, leading to huge synergy loss in setting action plans. The need is to set a wholesome strategy in action that takes into account all filters of consumer behaviour, data and insights, bricks and mortar and e-commerce, mainstream advertising and content strategies. Integration will become a daunting task unless there is a single filter that takes into account all the divergent strategies. That single filter is brand goal with a real liquid strategy.

The path of liquid strategy can run away so fast, like a burst river bank that goes wherever the low areas are but requires the building of dams at regular intervals to pause, slow and redirect action points. This is an era of test and learn but a first-mover advantage is critical so one can take action before a competitor does or initiate a counter-action after one learns of a competitor’s moves. Instagram’s move to open up to paid advertising is a classic example of this. Are we adapting our content strategy again?

And that brings me to the final stumble in an agency – talent. In a world of programmatic, it is only a matter of time before traditional planners unlearn a lot and upskill on all things where the main disruptor is technology. The will is mightier than the skill. Talent diversity is a single necessity with left and right brain skills converging on the platform of shifting sands. What was once good is soon archaic and habit-forming is becomes dangerous to this liquid situation. It is rare that you will find a mathematics graduate with an aptitude for creativity, who is fully unfazed by the digital evolution. So build on a team of data architects, insight diggers, technology surfers, storytellers with business acumen. There is a perpetual need for keeping them focused on brand and consumers. It’s daunting but not impossible.

There is a fixed tendency to hold on to a vision, be it corporate, marketing or for an agency. Rethink, revisit and rework the changes that you need to bring on, especially for long-standing and large players in the field. Others are knocking on the doors that you don’t even know exist.

Take action to improve productivity, teamwork and sustainability. Speed is of the essence. We are now in the world of ‘constant beta’.

(Ravi Rao is chief client officer at Mindshare MENA)