Nov 2017

This post summarizes insights derived from keynotes and panel discussions at the Mumbrella 360 Conference #M360Asia. Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

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What does Athlete + Manager + Scholar = ???

A modern marketer, according to Deborah Goldingham, Head of Marketing (SEA) for Mastercard. In her session on how brands like Mastercard are leading thinking on brand endurance in a day and age where brand conversations are evolving beyond the brand's sphere of control due to increasing consumer engagement, Deborah reminded modern marketers that the only way to remain relevant is to think and execute digital strategy and marketing campaigns like:

  • An athlete i.e. with agility, dedication and discipline
  • A manager i.e. with the ability to juggle multiple moving parts with ease and precision
  • A scholar i.e. with the curiosity to learn more, challenge the existing norm and develop a well-informed perspective

Deborah also reminded us that the only way to constantly stay relevant for the organisation at-large was to align efforts with business outcomes instead of narrow marketing goals. By aligning marketing efforts with larger business outcomes that the organisation at-large is committed to will make the marketing team's efforts more relevant that superfluous. And it will also make justifying marketing budgets much easier when the organisation sees tangible $ value being delivered through marketing efforts – a key message that Chris Connell, Senior Director of Marketing at Marketo, reminded us of in his session too: "unlearn the past" way of articulating the value marketing brings to a business; instead, create that value constantly through iterative experimentation.

Reach or Relevance: what matters more?

As a reader/ 'content consumer' – think about it: would you rather be reading 10 articles that provide you little or no new learning, or would you rather be reading 1 article that provides you with the exact relevant information you're looking for? This is the 'Reach' vs 'Relevance' debate that consumes many a marketer's mind. According to Mat Baxter, Global CEO at Initiative, the "Reach vs Relevance" debate can be resolved by introducing 'culture' as a moderating variable in the equation of $ growth vs effectiveness of marketing effort (brand KPI). Why? Because culture is a long-term, enduring force that trumps short-term, narrowly-defined marketing efforts.


"You can't adblock culture"

How does a brand/organisation/business become a culturally relevant brand/organisation/business living in the same realm as it's consumers? How does a brand or business ensure that it's ads or marketing messaging is not being blocked or completely ignored by its consumers? By aligning the overall ('higher-order') brand promise with the core values of its consumers, as well as optimising 'real-world operations' with dynamic consumer behaviours. This framework of thinking about cultural relevance is what the team at Initiative call "Cultural Velocity Planning" – the more well-aligned a brand or business is with both the core values of its customers as well as their changing, dynamic behaviours – the more likely the brand or business is to encounter both brand and revenue benefits.

Speaking of culture – what can brands do to conquer the Chinese marketing frontier?

This was a question on many participants' minds, and constantly found its way into offline coffee chats too. No surprise there – given that the Chinese market not only presents the biggest $ opportunity, but also the highest potential for business model innovation. Tom Doctoroff, Senior Partner at Prophet walked attendees through these 3 golden rules to creating love brands in China:

  1. Maximize public consumption in order to charge a premium i.e. find the right balance between exclusive value and mass access
  2. Externalise payoffs and benefits of purchase i.e. make consumption and value derived from consumption of a product conspicuous (economics nerds like me might recall this as Veblen's Good)
  3. Creating a 'Reassurance 2.0' i.e. make brand both ubiquitous and reliable in a manner that reinforces the aspirational identity of the consumer

From the sound of it – it all seems like marketers in today's day and age need to get quicker on their feet and faster with their executional strategy. In a landscape that is constantly evolving as quickly as Asia, what could help us all is building our 'Creativity Muscle'.

But how can we, as marketers, build our Creativity Muscle?

This was a question I posed to the esteemed panel on closing day of M360 – and here is the direct wisdom the panelists shared:

Ajay Mohan, Marketing Director (APJ) at Intel cautioned against blindly relying on an always-on approach, and instead also evolving organisational thinking around the 2 or 3 key peak seasons for the organisation and/or industry at-large to double-down on available opportunities to convert audiences to consumers.

Using the litmus test of 'Will this piece of content change my audience's life or make them feel an emotion?' is what Tobias Wilson, CEO of APD and Chairman of IAB Singapore suggested. Finally, Nicholas Ye of TSLA encouraged everyone to focus on creativity as marketers because in their team's experience, "there is a direct correlation between profitability and creativity."


In essence, what remaining relevant as a marketer today means is to:

  • Be an athlete + manager + scholar
  • Constantly align marketing efforts with and deliver on tangible business outcomes
  • Understand the importance of culture as a moderating variable in the equation of $ growth vs effectiveness of marketing effort (brand KPI)
  • Learn how to create a Reassurance 2.0 for those looking to enter the Chinese market
  • Continue to build and strengthen our Creativity Muscle

What are your thoughts on the most crucial skills needed to remain relevant as a marketer today? Leave your thoughts in the 'Comments' section below.

Damini Roy