Make Disruption Pay: Striking the Balance

On Thursday 26th September, Make Disruption Pay returned to Edinburgh for its second year, providing insights and solutions for businesses from thought leaders.

At Make Disruption Pay: Striking the Balance, experts wrestled with the dilemma of marketing spend that delivers instant results, versus investment that builds brand loyalty over the long term.

Kicking off the event and setting the scene, Richard Gill, Managing Partner of Dentsu Aegis Network Edinburgh, said “we are living and working in uncertain times with technology increasingly disrupting every business and sector. However, for every threat there is an opportunity.  The purpose of today is to shine a light on those opportunities, and opportunities are everywhere if you know where to look.”

Here are the key takeaways from the event:

The rebranding of Scotland

Kate Forbes MSP, Minister of Public Finance and the Digital Economy said Scotland was in the process of rebranding away from the idea that production and commerce are the only measurement of success. “Kindness and wellbeing” had to be at the heart of everything.

“Building on our global marketing rebrand launched last year, Scotland is Now, we have begun to redraft our story, to tell the nation and the wider world the story of what kind of Scotland we wish to be, moving away from the idea that production and commerce are the only measurement of a country’s success.”

Get to know your customers

Phillip Lockwood-Holmes, Managing Partner at Whitespace, believed brands who created and delivered experiences for consumers can cut through the noise.

He said that today Madonna would have written: “We’re living in an experience world and I am an experience girl”.  By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important brand differentiator but to truly win them over you had to get to know your customers. “Ad people are different to our customers.  How well do you know your customers?  Have you met them?  Are you testing new ideas with them?”

Tap into conversation and culture

David Wilding, Director of Planning at Twitter UK, spoke about how brands needed to be authentic and have a sense of purpose to be relevant, saying “decide what you are not going to do then really aggressively don’t do it.”

Twitter is what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about; it’s not about look at me, it’s about look at this. The most effective campaigns are those that tapped into “conversation and culture”, as “Twitter users are actively driving the conversations that shape our culture. #blacklivesmatter didn’t happen because of Twitter but were fuelled by Twitter”.

Say ‘I do’ to customers

Richard Shotton, author of the best-selling The Choice Factory on applying findings from behavioural science to advertising, warned that what works in the short term does not work in the long term.

“Short-termism give us the illusion of progress, but it is a mirage and we are storing up problems for the future.’’

Richard said over-personalisation of messages from brands ends up with them trying to become all things to all people. “People are twice as likely to believe public promises more than those made in private”. As Rory Sutherland has said, “We don't make our marriage commitments by going door to door, announcing them to one friend at a time. Instead, we make them in front of 100 people.”

“If brands want their promises to be taken seriously, better to use big broadcast media than one-to-one media." 

Strike the balance

Maddy Sim, Strategy Director, Dentsu Aegis Network, said that in a so-called age of chaos, disruption, flux andfragmentation, it was important to rely on data and frameworks that have existed for many years – and remember it is still about talking to real people.

Maddy rejected claims that we no longer lived in a brand-led world: “We are too quick to dismiss the old world as dead...people rely on brands as a short-cut to make decisions even more in a world with so much choice.” She said it was about striking a balance and learning from ‘disruptive’ tech brands, many who have built sustainable brands focused on utility and presence.

The story of Ooni

Kristian Tapaninaho, founder of Ooni, a highly successful online pizza oven business based in Scotland spoke about the journey of the business he set up with his wife only seven years ago.  

In a short time, Ooni have gone from being niche to a mainstream business with a staff of 50, and 50% of sales in USA.  Kristian said his crowdfunding model through Kickstarter had created a community of passionate pizza “fans”, but the reality was that “long-term brand building and revenue today was a careful balancing act”.

Balancing creativity and science

Robbie Ashcroft, Entertainment Development Partner at The Story Lab, said The Big Idea was still important. He said: “Big for me is something that is sticky with real people, captures their imagination, spreads beyond one channel or one execution and changes the intrinsic fortunes of a brand. Big ideas have momentum and create more momentum.”

Robbie focussed on the need get the right balance between creativity and science.  “A great idea without proper distribution is art. But distribution without great ideas is pollution.”

The golden age of media

Richard Johnston, Group Investment Director, Dentsu Aegis Network, said that with 300 TV stations, 78 per cent of us on catch-up, 23 per cent of homes with smart speakers and the booming podcast market, there has never been so much choice. “It’s the golden age of media for advertisers and agencies.”

He said audience scale combined with collaboration on datasets (citing the Sky and Channel 4 partnership) was a “powerful combination”.  As for old school TV, he pointed out the biggest sponsors of prime-time shows are tech firms as they realise that with audiences of 6.8million, shows such as Coronation Street, still have the power to deliver trust and cut through. “It is all about striking the balance.”

Trust and authenticity are the key

Gordon Stevenson, Digital Transformation Director of media partner Newsquest joined us for the panel and said that in an era of fake news brand trust and authenticity were key to the future of newspapers such as The Herald.  Irrespective of platform, consumers had to feel that whenever they see the Herald brand they can trust the content.

He said: “People are willing to pay for quality trusted journalism and that has a given us the springboard to launch new products, such as The National, which now has more digital subscribers than the Herald.  We must not lose our core competency – the truth.”

Keep up with the conversation with #makedisruptionpay

Take a look at the pictures from the event here​.

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