BG.png
Podcast.png

Episode 67
Allen Adamson AfterCast™ Bonus episode. FROM Marketing Theory - TO Routine Disruption

Allen_.png

In this bonus AfterCast™ episode Samuel Monnie and Chris Lawson recap, reflect and remix topics from the Episode 66 interview with Allen Adamson. We discuss culture in marketing and the redefinition of music, being open to disrupting yourself, and share tips on how to measure a brand. 
Read the show notes and transcript at marketingtransformed.com. We’d love to hear your comments and questions - email us at marketingtransformedshow@gmail.com and we’ll respond to as many as we can. Like this show? Then please take a moment to leave us a review on Apple. Follow us and Subscribe on Spotify, Google and all good podcasting platforms. You can find @SamuelMonnie and @ChrisLaws0n on Twitter. 

Sam.png
Chris.png
  • Apple Mac vs PC - which story resonates

  • Unleashing the ability to Learn-Unlearn-Relearn

  • Inspiration from Gravity Entertainment, EY, Ikea 

  • Insights from Joseph Jaffe Flip The Funnel, and Allen Adamson’s book Shift Ahead

  • Why your brand story must make the customer the hero

Transcript:

Allen Adamson

AFTERCAST Bonus Episode 

From marketing theory to routine disruption



 

SAM:

Welcome to Across the Pond - Marketing Transformed. It's Samuel here and I'm joined by my awesome co-host Chris Lawson. Say hi, Chris. 

 

CHRIS:

Hey Sam, how you doing?

 

SAM:

It’s coming towards the end of the season, so I'm a bit sad, but I won't tell the audience that.

 

CHRIS:

No, don't tell them because we've still got a few things in store.

 

SAM:

We put a lot of effort into each of the episodes. And what I love about this season is we're building on some great guests we've had and ideas and inspiration from them. And just some, some sort of noodling we've done since that similar to the rest of the season.


 

“Someone didn’t sort their exclusivity clause out, did they?”

SAM:

We had a great conversation last week with Allen Adamson and we're going to go into some of the things he said. Some of the ideas that we've built off based on our conversation and Allen Adamson, he's the co-founder and managing partner at Metaforce. He's got a book he's always writing. He's always come up with new stuff. The most recent one that we've taken a look at, it's called Shift Ahead: how do brands stay relevant in today's fast changing world. And you know, that's an ever more pertinent question now than ever. When you look at his LinkedIn profile, he talks about his expertise and  different disciplines of branding. He's worked across so many consumer and corporate businesses, packaged goods, tech, healthcare, financial services, hospitality, and he's such a compelling speaker. He's got a knack and experience of balancing theory and practice. We'll talk a little bit about that. 

 

He's also a frequent guest lecturer and an adjunct. He's taught at University of Stern, in New York, he's taught at the graduate school of management at Cornell and Harvard, continuing education. So he's really got that great sweet spot between theory and practice. I just suggest to the audience, check out an article he’s written on Forbes and it's about his take on the actor, Justin Long. Who's known in the US as a familiar face of the  Mac versus PC commercials where Apple basically forced consumers to directly compare apples with PCs. And guess what invariably showed how Apple literally became the human persona that clearly made you more in touch, more relevant, more effective and admired. So using Apple was essentially how you could be that hero in that ad. And so  Intel has hired this formerly Mac guy to say “no, no, no, secretly after all, I was actually really into PCs.”

 

CHRIS:

Someone didn't sort their exclusivity clause out in the contract, did they? 

 

SAM:

Allen doesn't think it's going to work well. I kind of tend to agree because at first glance it's an ad campaign with a great twist, right? You're using the Mac guy to get you to stop and take another look at why a PC is better. After watching a couple more of the ads in the series, I started to feel like a knot in my stomach because I have flashbacks of just how darn complicated and arduous it was actually to pick my latest PC, which I bought a couple of months ago. Do I now need a folding screen? Which brand should I actually go for? What fricking pencil or stylist works with my Lenovo touchscreen. So many choices and I still haven't figured out which, I was going to swear there, pencil stylist works. So I've got all these negative feelings and like my heart only one brand story reassures me for its qualities, design, and ability to do what I need. I should have got an apple Mac, right? 

 

CHRIS:

Well, we haven't got enough time to work out why you didn't, but there is theory and there is practice Sam and perhaps I've  been sucked into that Mac ecosystem too much. It still frustrates the hell out of me. Constant upgrades that are required and it's infuriating. Although I've got to say the live chat is an excellent experience and I still buy and buy Mac products. Maybe I've been sucked into the power of branding too much, but anyway, we're going to get to that a bit later on the power branding and tease up nicely thinking about theory versus practice.

 

SAM:

One of the things we constantly wrestle with is this idea of theory versus practice. I remember how I got my first job as a brand man manager, eons ago. At the time I was a marketing manager at Safeway, the grocery retailer, which was in the UK at the time. This was when we first met actually, in the early 2000s.

 

CHRIS:

It is indeed. 


 

Does AIDA really still work?

SAM:

A part of the process then for this new job after I left you behind in my shadow. Part of the process was to answer a case study  question on how to launch a new product line from a Gillette brand. So I'm writing a case study, try and get this job. And I recall I referenced some of the books and thought leaders behind the frameworks of marketing communication. One of the notable frameworks is called AIDA; attention, interest, desire, action. It's very linear and implies a one way journey of communication, but I just felt advertising wasn't going to work well for this product. I was  building a case for  which relied on the healthcare category. And it's really influenced by consumer advocacy and health conscious consumers who are doing research and it was being transformed by the internet two way communication. So I'll fast forward and say, yes, I got the job and received feedback that my case response was a bit theoretical. I think that was supposed to be a negative, but it stuck with me as a positive because I was arguing that the consumer journey wasn't linear. So how could advertising in that traditional way be the answer? 

 

CHRIS:

One of the things that will always get leveled at marketing directors or even marketing executives is you have to make it practical. 

 

SAM:

I'll sum up the art and science of balancing  this theory versus practice discussion with one of my driving principles. And we actually talked about it from the get go of our podcasts episode four role models heroes and icons who we admire in marketing. There's this fabulous quote, "it's 

 

the illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but the ones who are not able to learn unlearn and relearn" 

 

CHRIS:

That might be one of my favorite quotes out of all of the episodes. 

 

SAM:

Yeah, that's a quote by Alvin Toffler; a futurist, who wrote Future Shock. And I love that. And I keep coming back to that. Every time I kind of reflect back, it always comes to this challenge of marketing transformation and the work we do, it's about learn(ing). So there are ideas, approaches, techniques, that continue to be true today and you can help you win and succeed in what we're doing. You're going to immerse yourself in and master, the craft of marketing with those techniques. 

 

But you still need to unlearn. There are ideas, approaches, biases, and principles that you basically have to let go of. And in advertising, we need to unlearn this fixed top-down awareness, interest, desire, action. It's just not fit for purpose today. I think most people agree with that. All the marketing planning approach of setting up and forgetting. The set and forget (approach) is just again, not fit for purpose because we're in this digital world and we have to interact and respond on a daily, constant basis. We just can't operate in that linear way. 

 

And then finally it's about relearn(ing) and that's an awesome space where we need to invest most of our time, where we need to remix and revisit what makes sense for today. And yes, word of mouth is also the same as word of tweet. So, get why social is relevant to your brand in that two way communication or what I've called earlier in my career, an advertorial has now become a native ad. It's exactly the same thing,  just in a different platform and context. So just staying relevant for today. A lot of CMOs are still resistant and sneer about social, hopefully in the last few months, during COVID, they've kind of realized how it does actually help drive growth and business performance. 

 

I found in my experience, a lot of CMOs and CEOs when you walk into their offices, when you connect with them, they still have a lot of books on their shelves. I think books still exist and actually probably haven't read them. So a tip that I always give to people is that if you see a book behind a CMO, or if you've read a book, definitely do this or if you're just listening to this during COVID and you're remote, when you connect with that senior leader, just ask a question about what they're reading. Come back to them and use that as your excuse or your approach to build a relationship and share what you've learned and how they can impact the business with the ideas you're bringing. Use that because you're now connecting, and for most of my  experiences, most of them just don't have the time to actually read the books, or read the articles, or even turn the article they've read into an actionable set of actions and next steps.

 

CHRIS:

Too busy listening to our podcast. 

 

SAM:

There you go. 

 

CHRIS:

It's fascinating though. It reminds me of  that story of moving from theory to practice, and again, how I got my job at Safeway was writing a letter directly to this brilliant guy who headed up this new function. His name was Steven Taylor he went on to run  Yahoo for EMEA. Now lives in San Fran working on many sort of fast-paced startups, a really, really incredible career and inspirational guy. And at Safeway he'd  just set up a loyalty scheme and reorganized the marketing department about customer segments. It was all about relationship marketing. And I actually wrote to him and said, “look, I really get the fact that this isn't a one size fits all approach and that it should be about relevance and personalization”, which again, really has almost been the making of my career. He invited me in for an interview. I joined a team that was full of grads that have come from more traditional routes than me. And I guess that's really the start of me putting my theory into practice. That was a direct response campaign in itself, then that just shows that you can't just sit there on the sidelines. You have to take proactive action. 

 

SAM:

There's also this practice to theory application as well. And as an adjunct professor, one of the seemingly tactical nudges that I've given my students, is (via) having walked in the shoes of a CMO. I'm always applying that to projects and assignments and coursework from that point of view. And this is as basic as getting the brand name spelled correctly on the assignment or not. (If) I'm getting that wrong, it's an instant disqualifier in most pitches. And so don't be the agency of the marketer that spells Proctor & Gamble with an ‘or’ instead of an ‘er’ at the end (Proctor is incorrect, Procter is the correct spelling).  I used to dock points for my students. And I explained to them, look that mistake could have cost you a seven figure account as a practical impact of getting that typo wrong. 

 

CHRIS:

The other thing, when we were reflecting on the conversation with Allen, was about the role of culture in marketing as well. And this is something that I think is worth bringing up here. And then, and let's remind ourselves what culture is; the ideas of the customs and social behaviors. And the two are so intrinsically linked to marketing culture. The brands that we most admire define a culture and culture inspires a brand as well. Let's not forget that before they're mainstream, they're normally underground or trendsetters equally applies to marketing techniques or marketing campaigns as it does to cultural phenomenons as well. 

 

I think some of the things that we take for granted at the moment, but we know are going to change. You take something as simple as public spaces or how businesses and brands occupy public spaces, and it's going through a dramatic rethink. You think about The Genius Bar, We Work they're two that come to mind from a business perspective where they're almost part of a sort of cultural phenomenon. They're now going to need to rethink exactly how those work again and how those brands actually fulfill themselves in the sort of post pandemic world as we come out and we  get back to these physical spaces.  It's interesting if you think about the superclubs, the dance clubs, which are still really struggling to open or find their place in the UK and know when they may well open. And you wonder whether music may well have another redefinition because of a need for more seated or outdoor venues. So does that affect dance music, for instance, does it tone down so that these venues can also be used for multi entertainment? Or does it actually increase the decibel level because it recognizes that it is only really going to be listened to at festivals now, rather than internal venues? The examples are numerous. But what I was struck by when we spoke to Allen was that he was talking about going beyond the usual suspects. As he put it,  "it's really critical for success in marketing because if you don't see what's happening around you can't help your clients figure out where to go. And when I look for inspiration, I look for reading something that I haven't read before, or seeing a movie that I haven't seen before." And, and that, that really sort of struck me because that thirst for knowledge is an essential quality. And you shouldn't just look for it on social media, look for it in history, look for it in books, look for it in culture. And that's also about conversations with real customers. And I think that's what really helps define you, whether you're going to be a trendsetter or an autorun. Does that ring true to you, Sam? 

 

SAM:

Yeah. It's linking back to this idea of actually studying the framework, the tools, and actually knowing that stuff before you can then learn how to sort of relearn how to move in a different area.


 

Born Innovators

CHRIS:

I'm working with a brand of a moment over in the UK called Gravity Entertainment. At the moment they believe that they have seen the future and they are seizing it and these are two guys that set up a really successful organization, running trampoline parks, rock climbing and the like all across the UK and across some of the rest of the world as well. And at a time where the high street is having a really tough time. And there's the demise of established retailers and incredibly well-known retailers, such as Debenhams falling into disrepair. They're reclaiming the high streets, you know, they're helping sort of bring fun back to the high streets. And as Debenhams has pulled out of a massive site in Wandsworth, they have moved in and it's an audacious thing to do is that 80,000 square foot space. This is a huge area and they're redefining it as an exciting experience and an immersive experience through the streets of Tokyo and downtown New York, along with state of the art bowling and golf and darts and gaming as well. 

 

But I think that the fascinating thing there is that they've taken a seed of an idea, which is about active entertainment and absolutely exploded it. They're childhood friends, chalk and cheese in some way, but driven by this inspired vision to bet the house on the fact that a generation will be crying out for experience and entertainment, as soon as we're out of lockdown, however long that takes. But I think they are born innovators, Sam. And this was one of the things that we discussed with Allen about routine disruption, about this natural nature of carrying on an innovation. Those that constantly tear up a rule book as a matter of routine. And I also liked the fact that one of the best articles I found about them came from EY. So perhaps the leper can change their spots, quite a traditional organization or consultancy in some cases. But what I liked about it was the practicality, not the theory of disruption. And it talks about the fact that you have to ask and be asked uncomfortable questions,  get ready for change and consider the reality of the future of your organization, allowing you to plan alternative futures. And I thought that was quite powerful, that point about planning alternative futures, and something that we've talked about before is making sure you got a contingency plan or point  B and C and so on and so on. 

 

And again, I was struck by a fact that Allen said that one of his biggest regrets was not seizing my entrepreneurial path early. Although when you read out his bio, it's quite clear that he's done a huge amount of other things in the meantime. It's interesting if you think about influencers, which could be considered on the cutting edge of culture now. At the time of COVID. There was a group of influencers that clearly struggled, you'd look at sort of travel influencers for instance, due to the nature of posts, but fitness influencers absolutely thrived because in a way they adapted their platform to still do well and made sure that they adapt to their content to cover home workouts and capture a different audience, as well as the one they already had. And they will come out stronger and fitter. 

 

SAM:

No pun intended? 

 

CHRIS:

No pun intended. Of course, Sam, I'll leave the puns to you. We covered this in episode 29 about acting with purpose during a crisis, and about how we still use that strength, that inner strength that you've got to try and create a mindset to get you through tough times. So routine disruption is very much about how you adapt that mindset to deal with positive change, and the need for change as well. And I think there's some good examples of that all around us. 

 

SAM:

You've given a lot of stimulus there on ways to think about this idea of routine disruption as I was reflecting back on my career. I think I've got a great example that links back to both this idea of routine disruption, and also the earlier point, we were talking about theory versus practice and the story and idea shared back in episode 11 of the rise of the engagement  hacker. And it was a time when I was working on the Kenmore brand. Where I changed my mind, basically and I unlearned the idea of recruiting new consumers to actually relearn how to do retention and referral. And the inspiration came from a guy called Joseph Jaffe and he'd written a book called Flip the Funnel. And it was making me think about how business worked and creating a relationship management ecosystem and targeting existing consumers. 

 

So I started to realize the opportunity to actually target existing owners of our products. And the premise here is the average purchase cycles, at least every seven years for large - thousand dollar appliances. And it was a way to try and provide a sustainable platform that would give us some brand advocacy and referral, that would actually leverage some of the communication that we had going on. And so essentially to support the higher online conversion rates, things like small appliances and replacement parts. So what we did was, focus on retaining consumers and when they came back in or were purchasing a small appliance, from an existing Kenmore brand. Be it a toaster oven or coffee maker or a kettle, and using that relationship to get them to actually stay with us to talk about us more, to refer to their experiences with our products. And when it comes to food and cooking, people like to talk about stuff organically and naturally. And you get a new washing machine that washes faster and dries better than what you used to have. You kind of want to share that and actually, because you're saving time and you can get on with other things in your life, you actually want to tell your friends and your peers and your neighbors, it's something that they (too) can emulate. 

 

So after that retention part and referral part then came the recruiting part, which is about leveraging those brand lovers to recruit the new prospects in purchases. But I have to admit it was really tough to get buy-in,  because it was about unlearning the prospecting (approach). And relearning the role of existing consumers and customers. And that was just so antithetical at the time I was doing that, sort of a decade ago. And I was able to get some support via customer satisfaction programs, because we found that troubleshooting and mitigating problems through social media was truly powerful because it was faster and easier than actually using the call center or the help center, even trying to contact the store. And so that for me was a great way of making disruption in an ongoing cycle. 


 

A Big, Juicy Topic

SAM:

So we're going to have to end this episode on a big, juicy topic that I love the fact we covered with Allen in that episode when we interviewed him. And it's the idea of brand versus branding. And these two words are often used interchangeably and he asked the question of "what is the difference between brand and branding?", I'll give the audience a moment to reflect.  

 

I heard a few people shout out their answers. 

 

Allen's definition, (which we love is) "the brand is what you want people to remember. It's your story, what you stand for, who you are. And if you're different, And branding is how you get that story in people's heads." And it's such a simple definition, but a complex idea to actually execute well. I'm a brand fanatic, so you’re probably going to expect me to pontificate now about ideas and brand speak, but I'm going to surprise you by making my brand point a metrics point. And one of the biggest misconceptions I faced is the perception that you can't actually measure brand. You need to bring data to an opinion party as a marketer. And this is an Achilles heel that I've successfully defended. There's proof that you can measure brands and the impact of shifting a brand's positioning. And I'll give a shout-out to one of the tools for metrics that I've used successfully to show the P&L (profit and loss) impact of brand health. And it's called Brand Asset Valuator. And that's a methodology that I've had a lot of success with relating to brand health, because it really does a good job of putting real data and actionable attributes and insights and the elements into what was building up a brand. 

 

It helps you figure out how to meaningfully differentiate your brand and what's relevant or not to your consumer in relation to your brand and your category. What's the true insight that's driving your brand performance versus other drivers? You can actually see the results over time and in relation to the competition. You can actually see the shift in consumer behaviors linked to the shift in your brand position. Or worse, you can see how they've shifted their brand, that's led to (their) brand growth. And so this is something that I always teach students and often have to educate the practitioners when I'm in my office world as well. Because, It's often more of a motivator, and I've also seen it to be the most informative and actionable explainer of actual business performance. So a lot of numbers of a spreadsheet and a P&L, but if you actually have this brand data, you can explain what's happening within the business, much better than a P&L spreadsheet can actually ever give you. And so if you want to go back, check out episode 13, Measuring Marketing success, putting metrics into action. It's a great resource on how to measure the right things to have the right brand impact. 

 

CHRIS:

Yeah, such an important point. I mean, even back in the day in episode 31, one of the points we said is that if you can't measure it, then don't do it. And one of the reasons why we dedicated the whole of series four to trying to create an agile marketing action plan was to  get across the fact of that marketing isn't rocket science, it's simply marketing and we shouldn't over-complicate it, but we should measure it.  

 

And back to Allen’s quote, which I think is a really nice, that definition is "brand is what you want people to remember your story, what you stand for and who you are." Again, it really starts with the customer. The customer has to define what your brand is, your job to anticipate what the customer wants, but it's also your job to adapt to it. And that adaptation could be an evolution or it could be transformation. When we set up marketing transformed, we were clear that the examples where this was happening were big and small, and there are some great examples of tech orientated companies with a human touch that we brought out in episode 31 as well. So just because you're a SAAS orientated business this equally applies to you have to think about, where does your brand go and how do you adapt to what your customer wants and do remember that being customer first is not just about a label. It’s about acting on it, even when it appears to go against commercial sense, because you have to play the long game there. And my top tip is to start with an audience of one and make a difference there. And then once you made a difference on that one, then move on to the next one. It's a really good place, really, for us to sort of start closing out. Isn't it Sam? 

 

SAM:

We talked a lot about brand here, and my closing point is that it's been a recurring message again, this season is of course storytelling matters. One caveat I keep telling marketers is of course brand matters. Branding is absolutely key, but storytelling, when done well, makes the customer the hero. So, yes, 

 

whatever you do, make sure you unlearn that brand is always first,and relearn that the brand has a lot of space for stories that your audience cares about. The act of branding is ensuring that your customers, your consumers, your shoppers, or your users, whatever you call them, that they actually see themselves and relate to your brand. 

 

One example that stands out to me right now is Ikea have really done this nicely. In recent times, they've started up selling spare parts for their products and they're dialing up their second hand and their vintage messaging alongside their spare parts expansion. Because they're going a little bit deeper than simply jumping on this green and sustainable bandwagon. And it's an example of a brand fixing a real customer and consumer pain point. Plus they're making a brand a little bit more relevant, and a little bit more meaningful by sending the right signals. And symbolizing that, this time it's not always about pushing consumption of new items  - while they're also allowing consumers to tell a story that they don't simply produce disposable goods at Ikea. There's actually this sustainable element. And it's clearly not a differentiator because others can copy it, but it's surely a great step that will be emulated by other brands, but also that Ikea can help lead others through. 


 

Three Key Takeaways

CHRIS:

So look, Sam, why don't you give us three key takeouts and reflections.

 

SAM:

  1. Firstly, brand is effective when it's customer and consumer first, where the people it serves actually see and feel themselves in the brand. 

  2. Secondly, make room to learn the theory as long as you test it out and actually put it into practice. 

  3. And thirdly, because marketing transformation (or routine disruption) is acceptance of the fact that you have to learn, unlearn and relearn. 

 

CHRIS:

Wow. It's a good place to leave it. 

 

Next week we've got a wrap up of the season. It's been a really interesting season for us, having interviews with some really wise people that we respect a lot. It'd be good just to reflect on that and draw some of those themes out. 

 

SAM:

We've had a great season, so don't get too teary-eyed there is one more episode to come this season. So I'm looking forward to that audience, followers, fans, family members. 

 

As always without further ado, have a great week across the pond.