THE BLOG

The Need For Outcomes in an Industry Obsessed With Outputs

18/08/2015 12:13 BST | Updated 17/08/2016 10:59 BST

Amongst all the business language speak, buzzwords and jargon, 'quick wins' is one that seems to be the most prevalent at the moment.

The world is speeding up. We've definitely seen the death of patience. Technological advancements mean we don't have to wait for anything. Fancy a movie? Download one this second on Sky Store. Need a meeting with colleagues in China? You don't need to travel ten hours by plane, you just hold a Google hangout. I'm sure we've all responded to emails in the middle of the night. Business never sleeps. It never stops.

That's perhaps a reason why people so readily move about in business now too. They get itchy feet more quickly. They want to get a project done and move on. It's tempting to put this attitude down as a Millennial one, but figures in the marketing industry for one show that across all senior marketers, the average tenure is decreasing.

This is worrying, for a number of reasons. The marketing industry, like many others, is suffering from short-termism. And it's frequently resulting in sub-standard work. Work that isn't given the due care and attention that it deserves.

We regularly moan about clients killing ideas, but how often do we as a collective shun an ambitious and potentially groundbreaking idea just because it would require too much time, energy and resources devoted to it? If we aren't churning out quick wins, will we miss out on the next opportunity? Is it about doing things right, or doing things first?

I'm a big advocate of 'test and learn'. And it's of utmost importance that the marketing industry stops dragging its feet. But when we think about approaching a marketing campaign, I feel we're too often setting ourselves up for a fall.

A brand and agency should be a partnership. The end goal should be a long-term engagement strategy born out of expert insight that's created to truly grab the customer's attention, provide genuine value to their lives and drive loyalty that has a lasting impact. Which in turn adds both business and shareholder value.

Maybe it's a procurement thing. We've seen a shift in focus and now much of what we do is geared around outputs rather than outcomes. The economics of business is changing. Margins are being squeezed. Salaries are rising. We're having to pay bigger and better incentives to keep the best talent. Launching new products and divisions to satisify wider brand needs. And with this demand agencies are being forced to look for the quick wins too. Clients are reaping what they sow.

Maybe it's also a technology issue. The rise of programmatic is driving costs down. It's enabling better targeting, cutting media outlay and shifting the focus to the here and now.

And every day new businesses are launching in reaction to this. These are businesses thriving off the on-demand economy. Growth-hacking their way to the top. Indeed, a recent trend in our industry has been agencies shunning retainers for smaller projects that can be conquered using agile, low-cost teams.

Yet there are some exceptions. We've been working with one brand in particular which has put change at the core of everything it does, committed to it and is working in partnership with us to alter its overall digital presence for the better.

And sure, on some occasions the agile working process can be hugely beneficial. When marketing needs to be reactive or instantaneous then people working quicker and smarter can get success more quickly.

But even though we need to be working faster, we must still be working towards a long-term viable goal. It's pointless to embark on a brand journey if you don't know where you want to end up. You need to have an established vision and brand purpose. Otherwise it just becomes about 'doing stuff'. You might win a few battles, but you'll never win the war.