I recently attended the ISBA Annual Conference, where the theme of the day was ‘Future Inspiration: Impact Now’.

In other words, how brands are addressing current key challenges, as well as capitalising on opportunities in an evolving media landscape.

One of the most interesting afternoon talks was to do with how organisations are dealing with these challenges internally, specifically in terms of setting up marketing departments to deal with evolving consumer expectations.

The panel included Hugh Pile from L’Oreal, Jeremy Ellis from TUI, Paul Davies from Microsoft and David Indo from ID Comms. Here are just a few key points from what they said.

Understanding what consumers want

What does it mean to say transformation is the heart of marketing? Jeremy Ellis, the MD of travel brand TUI, emphasised that this means a company truly understands what its consumer wants. 

In other words, by bringing the target consumer into the room (so to speak) and building strategy based around their needs and desires – that’s when a marketing team is able to drive transformation as opposed to merely react to it.

For TUI, a package holiday company that now competes against the likes of Google and other digital brands, a collaborative internal structure is critical for driving business performance.

Considering competition from new areas

When it comes to competition, L’Oréal’s Hugh Pile suggests that its biggest rivals are not necessarily multi-billion pound businesses – but those emerging from entirely new areas. 

Social influencers, for example, have been a massive disruption to the beauty industry, leading brands like L’Oreal to ask themselves – ‘what changes are we making internally in order to compete? More specifically – what skills do we need from our marketing teams in order to do so?’

While many adjectives were used, the two that seemed to crop up the most were ‘curious’ and ‘agile’, with the panel in agreement that the latter should be a trait of every modern marketer. 

Establishing a balance of skills

The subject of agility was picked up by Paul Davies, the Marketing Director of Microsoft, who mentioned how this skill is most commonly present in millennials. 

As a brand that, in his own words, is ‘constantly playing catch-up with our audience and to follow where they are going, what they are watching, and what platforms they are on’ – agility is not just an effective skill but a necessary one.

That being said, Paul also highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between left brain and right brain skills – i.e. logic and science compared to creativity and ideation. Ultimately, a marketing team that is based on fusion of the two is the goal.

Recognising the importance of failure

During the discussion, Paul Davies was asked what has made Microsoft sexy again. While this was a rather crude way to describe the brand’s resurgence (and rivalry with Apple) – it brought up the subject of innovation through failure.

Highlighting the phrase ‘done is better than perfect’, Paul suggested that giving marketing teams the permission to test and learn continuously is what drives true innovation. 

On the flip side, L’Oréal’s Hugh Pile suggests that innovation as an intrinsic part of strategy is what drives change. For example, he cited the brand’s acceleration from a product-led company to a digitally-led one as a natural progression – facilitated by the constant innovation of internal teams. Simply put: if the culture is right, you can move your businesses in any way you want.

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