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Scaling Marketing’s Big Rocks: Shiny New Things

Jed MoleAugust 21, 2014

Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. To name but a few of the world’s guitar greats. And, it was another great, Mark Knopfler and his band of the time Dire Straits, who one night in their (and my) home town of Newcastle upon Tyne, helped prove the point I’d like to make.

Dire Straits were touring their classic Brothers In Arms album and had finished a gig at Newcastle’s City Hall. A short while later, legend has it that another band playing in a local nightclub, said there were a few guest musicians who’d like to play a few tunes; if that was ok. Up stepped Knopfler and the guys to a stunned audience who were ‘wowed’ by the impromptu performance! This is not the only story I’ve heard of or read about where great musicians pick up equipment that is some way off the professional gear they’re used to and make it sound so much better than a lesser musician. And so to my point around another of marketing’s big rocks– that of ‘shiny new things.’

As a musician myself, there are two concepts that resonate from this story: GAS and ‘all the gear and no idea’. GAS stands for ‘gear acquisition syndrome’ and most of us musicians are all too familiar with that burning desire to afford the guitar, amp or whatever of our dreams. We’re passionate about ‘tone’ and believe that more or better equipment will help us find that elusive perfect tone. The problem is, so much of the tone is in the fingers and the ability of the player! As Knopfler proved, being able to play well is the best way to get great results from the gear you have.

Unfortunately, too many musicians have ‘all the gear and no idea’! While I like to think I have a little more than ‘no idea’, I do confess to having spent too much time looking for new equipment rather than sitting down playing and getting better with the gear I have! So as marketers, which are we?

I’m not suggesting that most marketers have ‘no idea’; that’s just not true. However, it’s apparent to me that we are continually at risk of being tempted by all the cool new software, technology and tools available to help us connect with consumers across the ever growing range of channels, media and devices.

The issue normally is, we can’t afford to invest in them all and even if we could, we wouldn’t have the bandwidth or ability to integrate and operate them all. Still, ‘shiny new things’ keep coming along to tempt us. As I said in a previous blog, if the marketer got to grips with MySpace, Facebook would turn up, followed by Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram and WhatsApp. At the same time, the marketer is continuously tempted by the ever growing range of marketing software, from data visualisation tools to marketing automation and from business intelligence software to data management platforms.

The messages are relatively simple in terms of recommendations. First, make sure you can really play the ‘instrument(s)’ you’re buying. Make sure they’re right for you then invest in ‘playing them well’.  Avoid the risk of instinctively seeing whatever the next shiny new thing is as the answer to your problems; you may well already have the answer in your hands.

Second, don’t let your new toy become the prime focus. Just as with music, the instruments work best when serving the song rather than indulging in impressive, but ultimately boring, lengthy solos. Your new investment needs to serve the strategy and not become the focus itself.

Third, make sure that same marketing strategy is backed up by a strategy for the marketing ecosystem. The marketers who plan for this, who strategically manage marketing ecosystems that can adapt to, integrate with and on-board new technologies, will be the marketers who stand the best chance of generating results from the shiny new cool things.

Fourth, if you can’t ‘play’ or don’t want to, then find someone who can. Acxiom has spent more than 45 years helping marketers drive results from data and technology. This experience can ensure results are delivered and mistakes avoided.

Fifth and final, enjoy and explore! While I’ve cautioned against getting too lost or distracted, there’s no doubt that successful marketers are marketers who at least engage and explore the possibilities the new world of marketing is offering; it really can be transformational to companies. We’ve seen the results of getting it right!

‘Shiny new things’ will keep coming so explore, chose well, stay focused and enjoy!