My 2018 in planning (part 2 of 3)

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So I started this with Part 1 here and if you’re just reading this bit, three things:

  • This is my recap of what mattered to me in 2018 as far as my profession is concerned.
  • This is the good bit so props to you for avoiding negativity and not reading Part 1 which is the ranty part
  • There’s going to be a Part 3 where I put down some learnings.

This is what I’m covering in Part 2:

  • Planning is slowly beginning to produce knowledge again (the “again” was a later edit).
  • “Brand is back” (sound-bite-y but you’ll see what I mean)
  • Experience should be the word of the year.

Knowledge — for a very long time I wondered why strategists don’t contribute more to marketing thinking. In theory, we are the ones most involved in the structural part of how advertising works, so we should have been able to learn and formalise some of our knowledge. There had been strategic planning books before, a bit longer time ago than we should feel comfortable with, but when I came to London it had been quite a while since a practitioner of planning had actually brought out a formalised volume of knowledge. In 2017–2018 we had LOTS. Richard Shotton wrote The Choice Factory, and the APG supervised the publication of two titles, Sarah Carter & Les Binet’s How NOT to plan and Wiemer Snijders’ Eat Your Greens. They are all amazing reads that contribute significantly to a growing body of knowledge related to the design of advertising and comms. This is a good thing.

Brand — obviously I am using this title as a soundbite. Brand never went away but in 2018 I felt like more and more information and research was coming out to support the need for brand comms and brand activation to the detriment of promotions. This may be primarily driven by Les Binet and Peter Field’s research into the IPA database, but a lot of other “marketing pundits” spent a lot of their time advocating for the importance of brand communication. Brand purpose — something people are starting to moan about already, was just one of the many ways in which the industry was trying to actualise the value of brand in the sales and marketing ecosystem.

Experience — despite it being used to the point of becoming a cliche, the importance of experience (customer and brand) has become an all encompassing one. We seem to have all come to the realisation that brands are valuable only insofar as they guide an entire realm of “things” which together form a brand experience. That experience is — to me, most relevant when applied to how brands behave in a technological environment. The growing attention paid to service design and experience design shows that, finally, CMOs are beginning to realise much of their brand experience will have to be translated to digital environments and that’s no easy task. To me, the word experience and its impact on brand marketing should not be underestimated in 2019 either.

There are some honourable mentions in the good part too:

  • Behavioural economics → while I got annoyed throughout the year interviewing people who thought the mere mention of this would get them the job, it’s worth pointing out that we are adding more nuance to how we think about decision-making in marketing. Behavioural economics is a significant part of that. I am still waiting to see it explained and applied properly but meanwhile I am proud to say that I was able to talk about Status Quo Bias in a pitch meeting and actually keep everyone engaged and interested. People are beginning to recognise that we cannot operate solely on persuasion and reach.
  • The new generation → when I was starting in planning, the grassroots movement was in full force; APG chapters were being formed everywhere and people were doing Planner Coffees and meet-ups. Then a long veil of silence seems to have fallen for a while. In 2018, I was excited to see that more and more younger planners are getting together to learn and discuss informally. Props to Faris and Rosie who have kept up their meet-ups and also a shoutout to Group Think who are doing a great job of keeping the debate going.
  • APG — I was honoured to be asked to be part of the APG steering committee and I cannot say enough thank you’s to and good words about Sarah Newman and Lexi Campbell. Under Sarah’s directorship and Lexi’s project management, the APG is making planning shine again.

That’s the end of Part 2. Stay tuned for the learnings in Part 3.