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Is Sir John Hegarty right?

Is Sir John Hegarty right?

Marketing Week recently quoted advertising guru Sir John Hegarty as saying, “Brands are populated by people who don’t understand the basics of marketing.”

Is he right? And if so, is this the whole story? Simon Ward discusses.

Is Sir John Hegarty right?

Marketing Week quoted advertising guru Sir John Hegarty as saying that brands are “populated by people in thrall to technology” who “don’t understand the basics of marketing.”

The analysis seems a bit harsh.

Yet the argument is not without merit. He goes on to say, “big brand-driving ideas are few and far between”, and in this he makes a fair point.

However, while some of the blame for this may well fall on a lack of understanding in some marketing departments, my experience of dealing with numerous big brands is that the greatest blame must be laid at the door of growing complexity, not poor understanding.

The proliferation of digital channels and calls to connect with consumers across every single one, while guaranteeing compliance and accurately assessing the ROI of each, can leave marketers drowning in admin and processes.

As Sir John says, “creativity is fundamental to business growth”. But how is a marketer to come up with and constantly adapt big ideas when they’re swamped by process?

The sad truth is there are so many other calls on a marketer’s time because others in the C-suite prioritise instant ROI and feedback over pursuing long-term strategies and the much-needed big ideas. Few marketers have the time to prioritise the goals Sir John correctly identifies as being so important.

Unfortunately, with pressure on budgets and the demand for almost 24-hour reporting, things are not likely to change any time soon.

The answer, therefore, has to be to adapt to this changed environment. To find a way of enabling marketers to focus on the big idea without sacrificing the process and reporting that the board and shareholders demand.

The first thing that is required is to split the marketing function into those elements that are fundamental to developing creative strategy and those that are based around the mechanics of procurement, execution and reporting.

The second is to take everything in the latter category and automate and outsource the hell out of those processes so that, as far as possible, they’re removed from the marketer’s desk.
Technology has caused the problem; technology can provide the answer – whether it’s managing the mechanics of campaigns, dealing with procurement, or providing you with real-time campaign reporting via your mobile.

When marketers are freed of those burdens, they will have the opportunity to show their mettle – to spend their time driving the brand forward through creativity.
Only when that happens will we truly know whether the fault lies in the dominance of process, or with the marketers themselves.

Until next time,

Simon Ward

About Simon Ward

Simon Ward ITG – Simon is the founder and CEO of pioneering technology-led marketing company, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG). ITG delivers best-in-class marketing software, procurement and studio services to dozens of blue-chip clients, including Audi, M&S, KFC, PUMA and Heineken.

Simon Ward SP Group – Prior to ITG, Simon founded SP Digital in 1998, and in 1999 bought SP Print to form SP Group, creating innovative marketing and point of sale displays for some of the world’s best-known retailers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Calvin Klein.