By: Shaun Northrop
This year is dominated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the tragic loss of life, and the ongoing financial chaos that has resonated around the world, has come a sense that things just aren’t easy to understand. Social distancing and basic rules of hygiene aside, the rules around retail, outdoor meeting, travel and numbers of acceptable gatherings has left us all reeling and confused. Even the new road-map raises many questions and is open for different interpretations. Simplicity and clear thinking have been replaced by complexity and confusion. And the one thing people hate, is confusion. Clear direction wins every time. It’s something we have been doing for many years – and it works.
Research by the Marketing Forum, in association with the Future Foundation, shows that an overwhelming majority of marketers surveyed (92 per cent) show a clear trend that marketing has become more complicated as a result of the complexity of their own business structure.
Financial pressures are also identified as a problem for marketers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bigger a marketer’s budget is, the less likely they are to agree that marketing is more complicated than it used to be. A recent survey shows that 22 per cent of marketers with a budget of 1m or more agree that this is the case, as opposed to 34 per cent with a spend below that mark. It’s a trend that is set to continue into 2021.
This year, in particular, has thrown a financial ‘spanner in the works’ with regard to budgets, marketing spend, and the reduction of new product introductions. Add to this an existing culture of complexity and marketers have a problem.
Marketers are acutely aware that they play a significant role in complicating consumers’ lives, with 71 per cent believing that they contribute to the complexity of consumers’ lives and 78 per cent agreeing that marketers tend to overcomplicate things.
The constant need for innovation is a major contributor to this loop, and 46 per cent of marketers say that it is becoming a strain on their job. The research shows that there is a growing feeling that innovation does not always offer consumers something new or different. This is supported by the uneasy idea that branding is often being used to hide similarity, rather than to articulate difference. New, complex technology must be communicated without complexity. The bottom line for marketers is that their audience is not the product manager. The message needs to express an advantage in a simple, focused way. And therein lies the problem. Making something simple just isn’t easy. Especially in some corporate cultures that assign unwarranted power to product divisions.
And the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t make it easier. Apart from complexity in marketing, organising the whole marketing process shifts towards complexity as a natural reaction.
And this is where simple thinking plays a key role. The ability to cut through confusing information and de-clutter the product manager’s briefing has always been a balancing act. Even more so in larger organisations. Hierarchy, internal politics and a simple time pressures mean that marketers often need a fresh look at the problem.
Simplicity isn’t simple.
If a brand is not solving or reducing stress, then it is likely to be adding to it. Respondents to the survey believe that some companies are already getting it right: Tesco received the most praise, followed by Orange, Virgin, First Direct and easyJet. Another interesting example is Ronseal, which is seen by marketers as a brand that achieves clarity and precision through the simplicity of its marketing.
Valid market research is essential for this tactic to work, and marketers are realising that standard market research is no longer sufficient for understanding consumer needs. More than two-thirds of those surveyed agreed that there is a need for more innovative research, although only 20 per cent felt that they were already carrying out such research. There is a danger that complex research techniques will only lead to more confusion, so marketers must use research to develop simple and meaningful solutions. This blog has more interesting ideas on the topic.
Understanding the difficulties consumers face due to the growing complexity of life, work and leisure presents not only a major challenge to marketers, but also a huge opportunity. As expectations, aspirations and anxieties continue to rise, those companies that learn to balance the interaction between the difficulties of modern marketing and the complicated lives of consumers will be the most successful.
If you think your complexity needs to be simplified, just contact us. It’s that simple.
Think it simple.
Bovil has always brought this clarity of thought to our work. It has played a key role in our success and has set us apart from the ‘hype’ of other agencies. How did it come about? Like most things it was born out of necessity. When we get a complex marketing brief or positioning challenge it often comes laden with background, research, data and a heavy dose of product manager wishes. What it rarely comes with is clear, well-researched insights and a clear idea on what is essential. So, in order start, we need to think. And in order to be efficient we need to simplify. The effect? Not only does ‘Think it simple’ deliver a clear, unambiguous message. But it provides us with focus and clarity. The added benefit is that we become more efficient. Less time is wasted which means less budget is wasted.
It’s a principle that has proven effective for some of the biggest brands. It’s something that we pride ourselves on and is something that we continue to refine into a model that can work across any business: B2B or B2C, tech or service, FMCG or new product introductions. Try it, you’ll like it.