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The problem with the new

Avoid being labelled either ‘risk taker’ or ‘Luddite’ by being a ‘considered adopter’

Thought Leader 

How whimsical to be able to open a PME Thought Leader on 'digital' by quoting Heraclitus: 'You never step in the same river twice'. It seems that any diatribe on the subject involves the word 'new' or 'changing' … or that ghastly phrase 'paradigm shift'. It must be hard for those who are not living and breathing Mashable and other denizens of aggregated, co-created, social commentary to keep up with what is on trend each week, and to keep abreast of what is now touted as the best marketing practice.

It must be all-too-tempting to think 'sod it: I don't have the time to find out what's fashionable this week so I'll stick to the tools I've always used'. Do we really know whether a paid tweet is worth more than an AdWord or community comment? Or do we even know enough to be able to justify a new approach to our line managers? And I can understand that temptation. After all, few people get sacked for using last year's approach, plus/minus 10 per cent.

If you want to read a consistently good rant about how digital really isn't changing the future of marketing, then try agency head Bob Hoffman's blog.

As ever, the truth lies somewhere between Bob and Mashable. But where does it lie? If, as a pharma marketer, I want to try something new, where should I put my marketing buck? Everyone's opinions seem diverse and Heraclitan.

It seems that the problem lies in the way in which the news and opinions themselves are conveyed. In terms of reporting style, the temptation on the part of commentators is to report on change as either life-changing or irrelevant, always using the language of extremes. In terms of timing, opinions seem to be formed overnight without consideration or due diligence. This is not just limited to the reporting of advances in digital, but indicative of the 24-hour news cycle we now seem to expect (at this point I should probably reach for my pipe and slippers and shout at some 'youths').

And timing is so important. Some advances in digital can be genuinely brilliant, but if they're championed by the wrong person, in the wrong category or context or at the wrong time they can fail - despite being inherently 'good'. Remember the dotcom boom around 13 years ago? Plenty of ideas were chucked at the wall and although many ran down said wall never to be seen again, others quietly got on with business out of the spotlight and emerged a few years later having become the backbone of the internet. 

What I'd like to see is some appetite for testing, perhaps as a result of my having had a direct marketing upbringing in this industry (test learn refine, test learn refine …). We were used to keeping 80 per cent the same, but actively and enthusiastically embracing new stuff with the remaining 20 per cent of our budget - and doing so in a way that gave the 'new' the time and context to prove itself. 

Maybe try looking at just one technology - say, Vine or Google Glass - and make a deliberate pledge to give it a fair chance. It won't break your budget, you'll be seen as a 'considered adopter' - and it might just make a demonstrable difference to your marketing. That seems to me to be the only way of avoiding the labels of either 'risk-taker' or 'Luddite'.

Article by
Matthew Hunt

is SVP European Head of Planning at GHG. Email him 

10th October 2013

From: Marketing

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