Falling in love with Marketing. Again.

A retrospective on Festival of Marketing 2021

Fiona Gray, our Marketing Director immerses herself in the virtual world of Festival of Marketing 2021 and comes away with new energy for Marketing. Discover why Marketing is still where's it's at!

The Festival of Marketing is truly one of my conference highlights and attending makes me fall in love all over again with my chosen industry. 


I did a roundup a couple of years ago that included the superb Louis Theroux and my overall experience at Tobacco Dock.  Alas, Louis was not in attendance this year, and thanks to that small global pandemic we are still in neither was I.  But I did have the pleasure of being virtually present and got a huge amount again from the sessions.


I could share my scribbles but thought a wee list of my top insights would be easier to digest.  Here they are.

Understanding your brand is more important than ever.

Mark Ritson was as engaging and sweary as I’ve come to expect – always great to get a reality check and have him remind us that “We know nothing about our brand.  To consumers, it is a piece of dental floss.”  It is so easy to get caught up in all the positive attributes of a brand, but Mark quite rightly pointed out that understanding the negative associations should also be part of an analysis.


I also really enjoyed hearing from TUI’s Katie McAlister who talked about their need in the last year to listen to customers to inspire their campaigns and planning, and how that translated into their Nothing Compares messaging.  I’m sure we’ll see that relaunch once we’re given the green light to travel abroad again.

"We know nothing about our brand.  To consumers, it is a piece of dental floss."

Being timely isn’t optional anymore.


One of the key benefits of digital we talk about almost daily is the ability to be in that micro-moment, presenting to the right user at the right time.  But often we plan for that months in advance, sometimes a year at a time.  Sara Bennison (CMO at Nationwide) was named Bravest Marketing Leader of the Year by The Marketing Society and after listening to her I can see why.  “Why you don’t always need a plan” was the theme of the session and perhaps a slightly misleading title – it’s not that a plan isn’t required, it’s more the flexibility that exists around it that is essential.  Whilst Sara recognised that the impact of changing marketing plans many times in the last year was significant on the team, on stakeholders, and on partners – that focusing on the outcomes rather than the plan itself enabled flexibility to be engrained.  Nationwide still ran their savings campaign but shifted their messaging to be about “Saving for a rainy day” – timely indeed.

Facebook is still the most effective social platform for reaching business goals.
With the likes of TikTok and Snapchat often dominating the headlines it can be easy to get caught up in having a social strategy that spans all platforms. But the cost-benefit analysis is an important consideration as often the effort involved in being active doesn’t translate to effectiveness. Hootsuite’s annual Social Trends report reveals that Facebook is still considered the most effective platform for reaching business goals by 78% of brands, despite the fact Instagram is the channel likely to have the biggest increase in spend.

Only focusing on short-term ROI is a recipe for disaster.
Having short-term sprints and planning can be great to keep things moving, and to encourage that all-important flexibility. But having those in isolation, without an overarching strategy will inevitably lead to, at best, a lack of growth. My favourite session over the conference was Jerry Daykin who talked about the slippery slope of focusing only on digital metrics, and that good marketing balances the long-term brand activity with short-term sales activity. He talked about a study GSK ran with Facebook that looked at key brand aspects such as ad recall, brand awareness, and purchase intent and it showed that none of these had a correlation with clicks from social platforms. He also spoke about one of the best ways to get ROI is to drop spend levels, and if you only optimise towards ROI you’ll have very few channels as part of your mix and any good marketer knows that a well-rounded mix is essential. Not only to encouraging engaged customers but tapping into new ones. To quote Jerry “Getting a new customer is more costly but it’s how brands grow”.

Passive engagement is not a bad thing.

One of the things I love about digital marketing is the ability to report back on KPI’s. But I also encourage my team to look beyond this as it doesn’t tell the full story. It was encouraging to hear so many sessions cover the importance of looking beyond metrics like ROI. The IAB’s guide “Measuring Digital Advertising – Don’t be a Clickhead” was mentioned and summarises this much better than me.

A particularly important reality check: people primarily want to connect with each other online – NOT BRANDS. And 68% of people say brands don’t share interesting content. In fact, the average Facebook user has only shared 1 piece of content in the past month. If you are only focused on driving engagement then you are going against what people are likely to do on social – but if you do expect this you need to provide them with something worth engaging with. Loved the campaign from Coors Light which aimed to combat “sucky, suck, suck, suckiness”.

Often passive content consumption is a metric worth considering.

Marketers are here to make money and that’s nothing to be ashamed of

Another one from Jerry.  A lot of us have done a fair bit of soul searching in the last year and I’m sure wondered if what we do makes a difference.  A reminder to us all that yes perhaps we are here to make money, but that what we do is not only scientific in its planning and execution but highly creative too.  There aren’t many career paths that allow you that.  And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, I’m proud of it. And contrary to popular belief, we can do that ethically, considering aspects like the true “health” of our campaigns.  Was the ad in a good place?  What is that ad funding?  What content is it appearing next to?

"What we do is not only scientific in its planning and execution but highly creative too"

So much info on post-cookie world. But very few solutions!

The last few months have reminded me so much of the build-up to GDPR. I remember discussing even back then what our digital world would look like without cookies – oh the horror. And yet here we are, it’s going to become a reality. And there are a lot of people out there talking about it and the implications. Quantcast has been developing a solution that DFS are implementing, but there will be a lot more required of course than one platform having a solution. The focus is on collecting 1st party data now – but of course, being compliant about it. I thought Catherine Woodward from DFS summed it up perfectly “So much information, but very few solutions”.

The principles of marketing haven’t changed

It’s easy to make bold statements like Marketing has changed forever in the last year.  Consumers and their behaviour and needs have perhaps shifted, but one of my key takeaways from the last few days is that Marketing is not at its core any different.  


I think one thing our industry is agreed on that has changed is how we implement and utilise our marketing.


Who’d have thought that Wagamama would feature in Google’s top searches last year for their infamous Chicken Katsu Curry, and that to respond to that their head chef got cooking with his wife filming on an iPhone?  Brand saliency is something Wagamama has always done well, but never through means like this.  Keeping their profile up was certainly at the heart of this activity – but the method to build on it has certainly changed. 


And with that, I’m off, Katsu Curry in my mind and Marketing reaffirmed in my heart.

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