by Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) As marketing professionals, we have all been at the receiving end of rude jokes and criticism for one thing or another, but the biggest accusation seems to revolve around lack of effectiveness on our part. Even though I have strong views on the subject of marketing legitimacy, the purpose of this article is not to defend the profession but to unpack the drivers of effective marketing.

Brilliant marketing basics

South Africa has a lot of good marketers and ad folk who are trying their best to deliver marketing ROI through a combination of the right inputs and flawless execution. Many have embraced brilliant marketing basics, such as the need for simplicity, single-mindedness, the pursuit of a golden thread that strings all the mix elements together and, more recently, the need to be digitally and tech savvy. The belief is that, if you get these basics right, your prospects of success will be enhanced

The latest thinking around marketing and advertising water-coolers is that the mighty television should be reined in and digital should lead the ideation process. This is because of all the good things that digital makes possible, such as affordable scale, better measurability, better accessibility, tighter targeting, quicker turnaround, more interactivity and advocacy, among others.

Yes, we are operating in a digital world and we need to be guided by how consumers consume content today, but that doesn’t mean we should elevate digital as a medium above all else. The bull’s eye we all should be aiming for is a good idea and it shouldn’t matter where the idea comes from. A good idea is a good idea, full stop. Each channel has merit. TV has served us a well for many moons; its pervasive scale gives it impact. Digital has introduced much-needed affordability, speed and granularity when it comes to targeting audiences. Public relations is brilliant at ensuring that a brand has a relevant and persuasive narrative for each stakeholder or influencer. An effective campaign is one that borrows from each of these platforms.

Budget allocation

I’ve seen many marketing plans fall flat because of budget-allocation decisions. Some media are underfunded while others are allocated more budget than they deserve. We need to understand the bare minimum required for effectiveness per channel. I’ve seen some television budgets get slashed to a point where it is actually pointless being on TV. I’ve also seen digital budgets so tiny that they hardly have any impact. It’s more effective to have fewer media platforms than to spread our resources across a long tail of platforms. Many clients are guilty of wanting to achieve too much with a tiny budget, and many ad folk are guilty of wanting to 360 everything. When in doubt, less is more.

Earlier, I alluded to the need to unpack your stakeholders and do a thorough needs-analysis for each so that your message is relevant. This continues to be a challenge for many. Most of us start with an external perspective and only think about appealing to internal stakeholders, such as staff, later. I think there’s a lot of merit in starting internally to ensure that the people tasked with delivering a product or a service are passionate, well-informed and well-capacitated to delight customers and consumers. You should let PR lead the charge sometimes and see what incredible discipline this brings to message management.

Criticism around marketing legitimacy comes from our stakeholders, yet we continue to ignore them and only focus upon those who buy our products and services. Stakeholder theory reminds us that we should start by defining what value looks like for each stakeholder and then ideate on ways to bring this value to life.

Missed opportunity: campaign postmortem

Another missed opportunity in our lives as marketers is our lack of discipline around campaign postmortems. We are generally very bad at reviewing our own work; we’re quick to move on to the next campaign without thoroughly analysing the previous one. It’s true; many creative souls are insecure and defensive, but if we are ever gonna get close to finding the marketing holy grail, we need to be open to reflection.

We are equally bad at objectively critiquing and learning from other people’s work. We either dismiss other people’s work as “lame” or we just say “that was cool” and walk away without delving into what makes it lame or great.

Going forward, my wish is that we will look closely at each platform and borrow what works while we discard what doesn’t work. I also wish that we would pay closer attention to all our stakeholders and find that golden thread that binds them together around single brand proposition. I wish that all the content we produce will tell memorable, engaging stories that make consumers want to spend their precious time with the brands we represent.


Alistair Mokoena November 2014Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) is a Unilever-trained chartered marketer with lots of blue-chip marketing experience who switched from client- to agency side at the end of 2012 and is currently MD of Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg. One of his favourite pastimes is driving around in the bush, photographing wildlife. He contributes the monthly “The Switch” column, covering relationships inside agencies and between agencies and clients, to

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