Only Wet Babies Like Change

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

Today, I had the pleasure of helping coordinate an event in partnership with Google for senior leaders at Omnicom agencies in the Midwest. The theme of the day was “Looking beyond the :30 Spot” and one of the highlights was a keynote from John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern University.

Throughout his 90 minute presentation, John peppered in some true gems like the title to this post. Here are some more nuggets from his talk:

Greening’s basic premise was that, in a world that’s customer-controlled, marketers need to think about the relationships they cultivate through their brands. He used the framework of a friendship as what all brands should strive to create.

Thinking about how the digital platform has changed the landscape and how marketers have been slow to react, Greening dropped this apropos analogy -- “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.” In other words, you don’t have to have it all figured out to dip your toe in the water and try something new. It was also with this context that Greening worked in the wet babies quip.

Greening framed the marketing evolution we are experiencing as a process of “unlearning” -- we need to unlearn all our old media habits as the days of one-way (broadcast) communication are dead. To that point, Greening relayed this quote -- “I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.” He then went on to describe the traditional media buying process as “I buy ears and eyeballs and if I say it loud and often enough they’ll succumb to my wishes.”

In thinking about the collision of the old and new media models, Greening observed that “there are no new ideas, only new combinations of existing ideas that arrive at the right time.”
To make his point, Greening referenced a Mensa/Washington Post contest that asked people to combine words. Here were some of his favorites:

  • “Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.”
  • “Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.”
  • “Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.”
Greening preached that we need to evolve from brand communication to brand service. We need to go from “Find Me… Sell Me” to “Know me… Help Me.” To accomplish this, marketers and agencies should:
  • “Think like a Publicist not a Message Maker”
  • “Use Messages to Serve, Customize and Remind”
  • “Understand the difference between Shopping (buying something I didn’t know I wanted) and Buying (actualizing my intentions)”
Greening concluded with some key attributes to strive for in a brand’s pursuit of “friends.” He urged marketers to go “from centralized to scattered, from authority to authenticity, from conduit to content and from spaces to audiences.”

Finally, he listed these 6 takeaways:
  1. “Offline and online are inextricable”
  2. “Service marketing has never been more important”
  3. “Small content can be big”
  4. “Don't make people leave their digital environment”
  5. “Shut up and Listen”
  6. “Remove the filter”

Jolly good show.


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