I was privileged to attend The Marketing Society’s annual gala last Wednesday, which this year centred around celebrating the year’s bravest brands in what has widely acknowledged to have been a challenging 2017 for so many.
Some parts of our industry have convinced themselves that the only way to be brave is to take risks. If you’re not experimenting and trying new stuff (of course without fear of failure), you’re just standing still. The famed planner Martin Weigel brilliantly called time on this form of bravery recently. In his piece titled the Folly and the Vanity he eschewed the notion of bravery as a function of risk and danger.
More often than not, the rush to the shiny and the new can have the less favourable effect of making things too complex. With marketing plans supporting a more diverse array of roles, fulfilled by ever more partners, it’s easy to fall for yet another ‘cool’ new idea or initiative claiming to lead to growth when its presented under the guise of bravery. Much like everything in life, the shiny and the new are leading our industry to stifling levels of complexity.
Which is why I was particularly pleased to see our Kings Cross neighbours, The Guardian, crowned Brave Brand of The Year on Wednesday evening. During the last ten years their efforts to diversify have been well reported. Events, conferences, masterclasses, not to mention big side businesses such as Auto Trader and Ascential were seen as shiny ways of driving sustained growth and of stemming decline in their core newspaper business.
In reality, these initiatives were adding layers of distraction from the fantastic journalism its known for and the critical task of monetising that in the new landscape.
Taking decisions to strip out all that complexity took bravery. Moreover, it allowed David Pemsel’s "grow deep and retain" strategy to establish a level of simple and singular focus for everyone in the business. The brave innovation and investment in the core product stemming from this is convincing more people than ever, over 300,000 at latest count, to pay for it, and has revitalised their revenue performance.
What The Guardian have shown is that you win by rejecting complexity.
You win by keeping it simple.
*This article originally appeared in The Marketing Society blog.