Sunday, February 12, 2012

Innovation and the Book

Just the other day, I was going through the Brand Equity supplement of “The Economic Times” (Yeah, I do read it  ... sometimes), on the last page there were a list of bad advertisements this year. I agreed with some of the items on the list, disagreed with some, but nevertheless, that list got me thinking: “Why do advertisements fail ?”, “Where do these Ad Men go wrong ?”, “What has and can be done to stop such a disaster from happening?”.

Luckily, I did not have to look too far or too long for an answer. There was another article on another page of the same issue which, in effect states: “The fear of failure is choking innovation”. Ad makers are sticking to what they know to be safe options rather than venture out into the unknown, preventing innovation and creativity which are the very pillars of marketing. The article talked about when the medium of TV advertisement first came into being. People initially thought of it as “radio with pictures” or “print ads with sound (and motion)” and advertised accordingly.  Only when people started thinking of TV as a completely different entity, were they truly freed of their shackles and began truly utilizing the immense potential it had. People came to the TV with all sorts of crazy ideas, some of them became instant classics, many tanked miserably. But these failures are the ones that taught the industry much more than the successes ever would. In any creative and innovative industry, failures are a fact of life and we have to learn to embrace them, accept them, learn from them and finally move on.
That is the business we, as marketers are in, the business of venturing out in the unknown.

After people came to embrace the media of TV advertisements, came the reign of internet advertising. The industry has just come to terms with it when we are faced with a new challenge :– The era of social marketing has dawned. With the emergence of FaceBook, twitter, YouTube and other social networking media, we find that the promotion of a product is lesser and lesser in the hands of a marketer and much more in those of the customer. Twitter, not just a social networking site, but an entire new medium in itself, has greatly changed the way people communicate. Companies are quickly jumping the bandwagon to utilize these new media, but we have seen many a company burn their hands while trying their inexperienced hands at these new tools.

In these rapidly changing times, how relevant has classroom education and books remained? The 4P’s marketing mix model is more than 50 years old, Porter’s Five forces model more than 30, the Value Chain concept 25. Do any of these concepts have any significance in today’s market?   Ask any marketer and he will always refer to the book – the one we marketers have come to lovingly call as “The Kotler”. Even when you look into “The Kotler”, you will see concepts, guidelines and steps to undertake any activity, but most importantly, there are cases and example of companies, who did not stick to these guidelines, went above and beyond what was expected and emerged as market leaders. So that’s what these books teach us – not what has to be done, but the very minimum base guideline of what must be done. We have to know the rules of the game, before we can rise to challenge them. And for learning these things what we need to do is not just learn to love “The Kotler”, but to go above and beyond that – industry analysis, brand analysis, ad analysis, case studies. We should learn from the successes and failures of those who came before us

Only by learning what has already been done can we be true to our field as marketers – that is to ‘do something different’, to be creative, to innovate…

NOTE : This article was published in the inaugural issue of the marketing magazine of my college, "MAGMA"