The Age of the “Big Idea” is Over

For some time now I have been expounding the virtues of brands becoming far more data-centric in their approach to marketing and communications. No company understands this better than Coca Cola. The marketing world is going through a rapid transformation driven by the mainstream adoption of social media. In turn this transformation is changing the way that companies are viewing their role in communications. In August last year Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice-President of Global Advertising Strategy for Coca-Cola created a YouTube video showing how the company is approaching this changing landscape and how it will effect their creative output.

This video is challenging for the traditional advertising model in every respect. The first statement is that Coca-Cola is moving from a company built on “creative excellence” to a company that is focused on “content excellence”. This is the company’s way of acknowledging that it no longer controls what is being said about its brands. Yet this is an opportunity to be seized with both hands. Coke now plans to use the power of social media to tell stories that cannot be controlled; stories that become infectious.

This move to “content excellence” is the way that all brands should be thinking about marketing in the coming years. And it applies to both B2B and B2C companies. No matter what you are selling, the consumers of your messages are people, and people need to be engaged at an emotional and intellectual level. From a social media perspective try to avoid thinking “Facebook is for B2C and LinkedIn is for B2B”. The participants on those two platforms simply need to have the story about your brand expressed differently. Every contact point with a customer should tell an emotional story.

The other – and in my opinion most important – point the video made is that data needs to be at the core of marketing strategy. It needs to fuel the creative brief. Marketing is now about collaboration, personalisation, telling stories and developing relationships. This can only be achieved at a very high level by collecting and utilising data. And social media gives us unprecedented access to data.

This very public statement of Coke’s future marketing direction is telling us is that marketing is going to be much less about “the one big idea” and much more about lots of ideas, many conversations and constant activity. This is a good thing. For far too long brands have been asked to invest heavily on a single big idea. While this has worked some of the time it is very risky. It’s kind of like being asked to bet all of your money on one horse.

History shows us that where brands like Coca-Cola go the rest of the market follows. Can you afford to wait before exploring this new frontier?

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