In my 25 years in the marketing business, I’ve seen lots of transformations, trends and tactics. The last five years have been the most exciting and challenging for marketers and their agencies as the ever-evolving channel landscape and potential for leveraging unprecedented amounts of consumer data continues to accelerate.
Back in “the day,” we’d define our target audiences, develop an annual plan, negotiate the media, produce a campaign with three amazing TV spots and complementary radio, print, outdoor and PR tactics, and then pace like an expectant new parent as we waited for the brand image/awareness survey to come back.
The modern landscape mandates that marketers, have the ability to be innovative and nimble, day in and day out, to adjust to new competitors or unexpected market challenges (COVID-19, anyone?) and make changes on the fly to optimize for success.
In the changing landscape, it is essential to have specialists — those who have vertical expertise in key areas such as social/influencer marketing, digital media, traditional media, UX/UI design, analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), creative/content, public relations, etc. — on your team. We now have dozens of professionals and entire departments dedicated to disciplines that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
To that point, we must be mindful of the theory of Maslow’s Hammer, which warns if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Vertical expertise is a true difference -maker in execution within the optimum mix, but it can be the enemy when it unconsciously steers the strategy to a professional comfort zone for the marketer (or, for agencies, their specialty/profit center).
My hammer? Public relations. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and I think the role PR has to play for marketers is even more potent and relevant in today’s TraDigital™ (the artful blending of traditional and digital) landscape than it was 25 years ago. Do I advocate for it being a part of virtually every TraDigital™ strategy? Yes. Is it a solo silver bullet? No.
To be truly effective with a campaign that strategically combines the right mix of traditional and digital marketing tactics, marketers and agency strategists need a team of vertical experts representing all the key disciplines to complement their own expertise and experience to develop a TraDigital™ omnichannel plan that tests, then leverages every appropriate tool in the toolbox to achieve marketing objectives. Is SEO what is holding back your overall digital performance? Is it time to carve out some of your annual broadcast TV allocation to test over-the-top and connected TV (OTT/CTV)? I know you just redesigned your website, but was the goal aesthetics or user experience?
A commitment to ongoing evaluation, optimization and analytics is what leads marketers to the right mix — maximizing performance until it is time to shift yet again. Is it harder? Yes. Is it more effective? Definitely, if you are committed to being what we call “channel agnostic” and have the expertise and mindshare to stay on top of new platforms and tactics across all disciplines. You need a team — in-house, with an agency partner or BOTH — that represents the whole toolbox to win.
Ensuring we have the most modern tools and talent is what has fueled our exponential growth in recent years, earning recognition from Adweek magazine as No. 2 on the short list of top five agencies more than 20 years old and a No. 60 ranking among “fresh-thinking and fearless leaders” on the Adweek 100: Fastest Growing Agencies list. That issue is now a few weeks old.
And guess what? The landscape has changed yet again and with it, the best tools for the job. We’re advertising for positions that weren’t even penciled in our org chart when the year began. Ask yourself: What’s in your toolbox?
Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl is President and CEO of MHP/Team SI, the state’s largest full-service marketing agency with offices in Little Rock and Rogers. The agency has more than 130 employees and specializes in marketing services such as web development, digital media, videography, strategic planning, creative services, media buying and public relations.