Why some of the old rules still apply in business

In today's fast-paced business landscape, the phrase 'This is how we do things around here' seems to have lost its relevance.

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, the phrase ‘This is how we do things around here’ seems to have lost its relevance.

Gone are the days when craftsmen and tradespeople meticulously honed their skills, passing down traditions to the next generation with pride. As we transition from the incremental era of yesteryears to the exponential age of today, it’s easy to believe that the rules of the past no longer apply.

We’ve witnessed seismic shifts in how we consume media, shop, bank, and communicate, both virtually and in person. But just as we learned twenty years ago, the answer was not Bricks OR Clicks but Bricks AND Clicks (i.e real and virtual access to our brands), perhaps it’s time to revisit some timeless principles. Despite the allure of wholesale change, there’s value in acknowledging and retaining the fundamental truths that have guided business for generations.

In his post of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos spent as much time on what he knew would NOT change as he did on what he predicted would change in the next ten years. As he put it, he knew spending money on the former perennials (low prices, fast delivery, vast choice) would pay back for a decade or more, whereas the latter might not be so long lasting. As historians say, those who ignore or forget history will be forced to learn its painful lessons all over again.

So, are there things in this shiny, fresh, brand marketing world that we can retain from the days of yore when seemingly everything has changed?

Inevitably, I intend to argue yes. But only in part of course.

How many of you still watch shows on the same TV station, at the same time, and the same channel as it was first broadcast? The data says not many and it continues to decline every year. More and more of us are watching more content than ever on a big panel in the living room AND a smaller panel in our hand at a time, and on the channel of our choosing. That’s a new way to watch what we used to call TV.

We are also getting more dynamic and personalised ads served to us on social media because our phone heard us talking the night before to friends about the topic that we are now being served an ad for. That’s a new tool that has the power to surprise! Outdoor media, which used to be the preserve of simple static printed ads for consumer goods, has now become giant, weatherproof cinema screens with engaging and fun content for luxury brands.

So yes, a lot has changed. But to the point, a lot has also stayed the same.

For starters, we are still communicating with each other. And all the best communications find ways to engage an audience, not to interrupt and repeatedly shout at them. The same is true of storytelling: authentic, human, and emotional. These are the things we love – from the tales of the Roman Empire, to Norsemen crossing the seas to seeing humankind head back to the Moon and then venture to Mars. We love a good story.

In marketing, there is no B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), but everything is now B2A (business to audience) engagement. So, treat everyone as a fully-fledged member of the human race and you are more likely to get their interest, followship and support – all the things a brand desperately needs to create behavioural change and repeat purchases.

The second thing that hasn’t changed is relevance. Don’t advertise dog food to someone who doesn’t own a dog. You’re paying to advertise there, and it’s being wasted. It doesn’t matter if your customer sees the ad as a 5 second spot on TikTok instead of a 30 second spot on ITV, it’s still true. We used to accept that 99% of direct mail was wasted because the 1% buying the product paid back the cost of the mailer. But then we realised that meant 99 out of 100 people when looking at a message from your brand were then rejecting it and carrying it to the dustbin. Not great.

The same is true of today’s online ads. Don’t make someone wait for a to watch a YouTube video with an unskippable ad to serve me a dull bit of film about a product I have no interest in. You are spending money to make your customer feel that bit worse about you.

And the third thing that hasn’t changed is craft. Whatever the piece of communication you want to put out in the world, we all know the positive impression great content can leave you with. There is still a level of perceived reassurance, or shall we call it a quality impression, about seeing a lovely bit of film or an amazing still image from a brand or a well written piece of copy. Even if we haven’t heard of the brand prior to seeing it, engaging content, effective audience targeting, and timing, is going to have a disproportionate effect in terms of brand impression and purchase intent.

It’s interesting isn’t it, because I would bet that in your own business, whatever product you make or service you provide, if you are not thinking about the humanity, the relevance and the craft of what you do, you will be less successful. The same is true of brand marketing and yes, in short, some of the old rules do still apply. Just like old dogs learning new tricks.

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Why some of the old rules still apply in business