There is No Innovation without Embracing Change
Emily Carr. A rebel. She cared little about the art trends of the time. Being among the Aboriginals and delving into European arts was all she wanted to do, breaking the rules of what was commonly expected.
As it often happens to game-changers, skepticism comes before recognition. To the eyes of the majority, Emily Carr was a rebel; today, she is a Canadian icon. We had to accept times had changed before realizing she was capturing the spirit of a country in a way no one had ever dared to.
If there’s one thing we, as marketers, can learn from her is that innovation takes more than acknowledging we are doing things differently: it takes embracing change – an inescapable principle we must collectively apply to our thinking forward.
Embracing Change Takes Resilience
There are rumors that marketing is dead. That we are witnessing the end of advertising. That account planning is dying. And with more than 35% of Canadian millennials finding brand communication annoying, there’s clearly something we need to do to change this bleak outlook.
The truth is, it’s the end of things the way we used to know them, and if we really are at the deepest point of the change curve, there’s only one way up: start climbing.
That’s when planners, by virtue of their new cross-functional role – yet hard to define –become more important because they keep us focused, in our resilient ascent, on our ultimate goal of meeting consumers’ needs. Until consumers will have needs, brands will have a message, and that’s a sign that marketing and advertising are evidently far from being dead.
Indeed, as someone dares to say, advertising has barely really changed, because it will always be about connecting brands with people – where “word of mouth” is augmented by “word of Web”. If that proves that digital disruption has changed forever the way we do marketing, that’s, again, very different from saying marketing is dead.
When Emily Carr suffered from the first of a long series of heart attacks, her inability to travel permanently affected her painting, but if she hadn’t shifted her focus to writing, Klee Wyck would have never been in our libraries today.
Just because Canadian millennials find brand communication annoying, it doesn’t mean we should stop talking to them, but rather start shifting our focus to listening.
The relevance score recently introduced by Facebook may be a soft departure from ads aimed at merely collecting likes in favour of ads that serve consumers better, but embers, we know, may spark fires and burn entire forests.
Embracing Change Takes Diversity
We often mistake diversity with ethnicity, but the difference is in the final product. One of the top brands’ concerns is ensuring that their approach is total-market, that is, inclusive of all representative age groups and ethnicities at an agency and partnership level.
The result will not represent just an ethnic segment, but the entirety of consumers – a strategy adopted by Dairy Queen for their “Fan Food” campaign and that revolutionized the brand entirely.
In the spirit of a new partnership with the “fiercely independent” agency Barkley, replacing the old tagline “So Good It’s RiDQulous” with “Fan food. Not fast food” not only was a smart move for product perception. It was the first step to recognize the American audience had changed.
“Here’s to our fans! The local heroes, the local legends, the next in line and the next generation,” is the perfect execution of a strategy stemming from diversity.
A recent experiment by Concordia University pushed this even further, by demonstrating that a combined brainstorming session between a strongly individualistic culture (Canada) and a harmonized collectivist culture (Taiwan), may produce results quite puzzling.
When asked to find solutions to surreal circumstances, Canadians predictably provided more ideas and seemed more confident about their suggestions, while Taiwanese provided less ideas of slightly higher quality, showing more acceptance toward the other group.
Not too far from what Socrates preached thousands years ago about learning from the others, the tension between two diverse mindsets bridges the way we are used to think with the way we can learn to think differently, setting the stage for innovation.
We acknowledged things are different, but we don’t know what awaits us at the end of the change curve. Now it’s time we all embrace change and start climbing, and from someone who has been there, “You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. It’s OK, you’re feeling your way into the thing.” (Emily Carr)