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The rules of the sandpit: How to future-proof your marketing strategy

Australia recently got a glimpse at a media landscape without Facebook and Google – and for veteran marketer Phoebe Wright, it put some important things into perspective.  

Mar 04, 2021, updated Mar 04, 2021
(Image: Supplied)

(Image: Supplied)

Wright is the co-founder and creative lead of WhiteSpace Marketing, a Brisbane-based agency known for its expertise in Facebook and Instagram advertising.

She understands as well as anyone how a marketing strategy can be upended by the whims of a tech giant – long before Facebook’s short-lived ban on Australian pages, her agency started devoting time each week to staying on top of the platform’s seemingly inscrutable changes to its algorithm.  

Despite the recent drama, Wright said Facebook and Google will remain essential parts of Australia’s marketing ecosystem, and marketers will simply have to accept the things they can’t change.  

“If you’re on those platforms, you have to accept that it’s someone else’s sandbox,” Wright said. “You’re just playing there, and they’re making the rules. They can change something at any time, and you have to be able to adapt and evolve, and that’s all there is to it. That’s never going to change. 

“It’s almost like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – if you’re there, you’re at risk of somebody changing the rules. But if you’re not there, you’re going to miss out on opportunities. You’ve got to be there.”  

Phoebe White, Whitespace Marketing (Image: Supplied)

While you can’t control what the Silicon Valley overlords do with their platforms, Wright said there are plenty of things you can do to take charge of your marketing strategy – now and into the future.

Never lose sight of your brand  

No matter how the marketing landscape changes in the future, Wright said that building a credible brand will continue to be the foundation stone for any business’ success.  

“It always comes back to brand,” Wright said. “Your channels will change and Facebook and Google’s algorithms will change, but your brand has to be consistent – the foundation of all of this is knowing what problem you solve for your audience and telling your audience how you solve it.   

“Your brand is not a logo, a colour palette, a website or a business card. Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not there. It’s about what you put out there, filtered through someone else’s experience. 

“Build your brand and be relentlessly consistent with it everywhere, across every platform, because if you’ve got a credible brand, that’s going to hold you in great stead when potential customers are researching you online. People still want to buy from people they trust, that’s never going to change, and they have to trust you before they’ll put their hands in their pockets.”  

Start a dialogue  

The next generation of consumers – dubbed ‘Generation Alpha’ by Mark McCrindle – is the first to be born entirely in the 21st century. The children of the Millennials have been raised on the internet, and Wright said there’s a certain sophistication that comes with that.  

“I would suggest they’re going to be able to see through any sort of sales pitch even quicker than the generation before them, and we can already see through a sales pitch pretty quickly now,” Wright said.  

“I’m the mother of a 17-year-old, and I know when she finds a brand that she likes, she’s all over it – but don’t try to sell to her. It’s about forming dialogues that are on their level, as opposed to trying to target them with direct response advertising. I don’t think that will cut through with them, because they’re going to be far more savvy than we are. Far more.”  

Faced with an audience that doesn’t respond to traditional advertising in quite the same way, Wright said user-generated content will become increasingly important. 

“Listen to what customers are saying about your brand and use it in your marketing,” she said. “The best messaging and the best positioning comes from what people say about your brand, and there’s nothing that says ‘reputable’ and ‘trustworthy’ like somebody else actually using your product.  

“Interactive platforms will be increasingly important. Even things like chatbots… the older generation looks at them and they say, ‘No, that’s too much, I want to talk to a human’, but for the younger generation, it’s no problem. They don’t care if they’re talking to a bot. It’s just a very different approach.”  

In an increasingly data-driven world, Wright said the audiences you’re able to target will continue to get more and more specific and segmented – making it easier to start those dialogues.  

“We’re seeing this with influencers,” Wright said. “It’s becoming more granular. There are always going to be people like the Kardashians, but for the most part, instead of a handful of people with massive followings in the future, you’re going to see more influencers with niche audiences finding more specific brand partnerships. The more niche and the more targeted, the better the brand relationship.”  

Fill the right roles 

Today’s marketers have access to more data at their fingertips than at any other time in human history – but to avoid paralysis by analysis, you have to know what to do with that data.  

“The data we have access to in real-time is so detailed that we can now understand a consumer’s behaviour almost to the point where we can predict exactly what they’re going to do,” Wright said.

“You can take a deep dive into data, and it’s just going to get deeper. But to take advantage of that, you have to be working with people who can sift through that data and use it to show your prospects exactly the right thing at exactly the right stage of their customer journey.  

“Of course, there are people out there who are incredibly technically skilled, who are virtually geniuses, but if they don’t have creative ideas, they’re not going to get results by themselves. Anybody can serve up an ad, but if it’s not creative, and if it doesn’t cut through, then it’s not going to get anywhere.  

“So you need that technical expertise, but you need creatives and copywriters, too. You need to tell stories, you need to create aspirational content, to connect prospects with the brand and create that relationship.”  

Don’t throw the print baby out with the digital bathwater

When we talk about the future of marketing, it’s easy to imagine a world of virtual reality headsets and neuralink implants, where traditional methods of advertising have been consigned to the pre-digital dustbins of history. But, Wright said, the reports of the death of print have been greatly exaggerated.  

“People will always like flipping through a brochure,” Wright said. “I would love to see more people using digital marketing hand-in-hand with traditional marketing. There’s an opportunity there for a lot of businesses to develop targeted print work that supports online strategy.   

“Our agency still does a lot of print work, and one of the things we’re doing a lot of, especially for B2B companies, is direct mail. Different companies will get different results, but it seems to work very well for our clients.  

“So going back to those traditional marketing methods, and then incorporating them alongside a strong digital presence… finding ways to use those platforms effectively in tandem is something that I think more businesses should be working towards.” 

Phoebe Wright is a mentor at the Brisbane Business Hub, a joint initiative of Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Economic Development Agency to help the local business community recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.

To register for a free mentoring session with Phoebe, or one of more than 35 mentors available for free one-on-one or group sessions on business strategy, finance, human resources, operations, marketing, legal issues and more, visit businessinbrisbane.com.au/mentoring    

 

 

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