It’s 2015 and we sit staring at an advertising whirlpool. The concentric circles, twirling in the face of the modern market as masses of feet dangle and drip into different parts of the maelstrom, the patterns are hypnotically boring — is this the modern marketing experience?

“The world is changing”, “content is king”, “let’s add value” a key note from the handbook as five to seven “P”s follow the naïve, new blood into a world that has no speed limit or boundaries. The internet has opened its doors and become a catalyst to a society of self-interest, white paper hounding, where fat “industry experts” spend the bulk of their time selling themselves, instead of delivering a product or experience of any actual value. 101, 102 and 103 courses sprout to feed the hungry corporates dying for a break from their Internet Explorer censorship, while the agency world spins in circles, chasing the tail of the person next to us, instead of defining our own successes. The world continues to turn.

“where brands are still so desperate to appeal to a market place via archaic groupings like “LSM”, accepting the pitch of baseless “big ideas” in white creative dressing rooms”

Three years ago, at the Discovery Leadership Summit, I watched Harvard Business School economics professor, Michael Porter propose the concept of creating shared value. It’s a revolutionary idea based on the premise that companies should utilise a business-based approach to CSI initiatives that actually deliver on long-term sustainability and growth, complimenting the need of the haves and the have nots and finally balancing the scale — advanced marketing application by creating reciprocal real value opportunities. But, it’s 2015 and this principle has had little impact in an environment where brands are still so desperate to appeal to a market place via archaic groupings like “LSM”, accepting the pitch of baseless “big ideas” in white creative dressing rooms without thought of consequence or impact.

This year I watch as Navi Radjou campaigns on frugal innovation— another advanced concept that aims to reduce complexities of products by fundamentally changing the perception of high technology in third and first world markets. As the gap between the upper class and the rest exponentially widens, this concept aims to meet consumer need through intelligent application of creative ideas and making them tangible through the available technology. I wonder if, for South African marketing, this will be another futile Michael Porter proposition. Will the potential revolution get lost on those who fail to see beyond themselves and fail to understand that we serve people? We must adapt to excel.

As the world turns and these principles, ideas and technologies change, so too does the market place. When asking what digital, social media or value (or even marketing for that matter) is, we need to shift focus from the buzz and onto the useful. We’ve all heard endless quotes from famed marketers, psychologists and philosophers in presentations that have been pitched to us for too long, selling us these blue sky ideas and crazy, out-of-the-box technologies while positioning you as products of the people. They’re telling the story of clever ideals that result in very little positive action or result.

The “buzz” question: Do you want to “add value”? If yes, then become a system for change. Do not care what your competitor does, how many followers you have, or whether you apply some new advertising gimmick that nobody else has had time to yet. All of these are isolated and phony definitions of success. Rather judge yourself by the measurable impact your marketing efforts have made to your business due to the tangible, transparent and intelligent ways in which you operate and define success. Understand these triumphs within the context of the environment in which you currently operate (or desire to) and through the segments in which your ideas take effect. Are you still surprised that small brands, with singular focuses become these benchmarks? That McDonald’s is closing down shop fronts? That Kodak is no more? Rather than traditional blow-out, or quick wins focus on SMART technologies to speak to smaller segments and allow your message to resonate, not through positioning, but through action. Let the whole be bigger than the sum of its parts.

South African marketing arena is often dominated by top sellers of basic needs and services — communication, banking, and insurance — things that, more often than not, sell themselves but is still a market where the blue chip companies jostle with similar budget based inflated swords, ever growing as they cut less and less into the enemy next to them. We live in an era where Digital Buzz Blog and Adweek become the Western ideas bank, but if it’s one thing that Kodak can teach us, it is to never get complacent. Don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Be agile, drive outcomes and change your goal-post to be your own. Focus on metrics that matter by knowing what matters. Redefine success. Otherwise we’ll all be stuck in the whirlpool, forever.

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