The changing face of marketing, Colin Anderson ASG, Belfast

COlin andersonThey say the hit TV series “Mad Men” gets its name from Madison Avenue in New York City and not because you have to be mad to work in the advertising industry. Sometimes we do wonder.

If you’re not familiar with it, Mad Men is a fictional look at an advertising agency set in the 1950/60s. Now I haven’t been working quite long enough to know if the depictions are all true, but what I do know is that a lot has changed in marketing since 1982 when I first set up Anderson Advertising.

A few big changes are obvious: firstly we didn’t have mobile phones, never mind the world at our fingertips with a smartphone.

Secondly, there simply was no internet. There certainly was no online virtual news network or community of like-minded people.

If you wanted to know something you had to go out and read about it, listen to the news or actively look for it.

If you wanted to discuss something with like-minded people, you had what was called “a meeting” and you got to look at the whites of their eyes, shake their hands and get to know them face to face.

Although the technology that allows us to communicate has undergone a massive change, what hasn’t changed is that people still need to buy stuff and companies need customers. As modern marketers, we still help companies and organisations find the right ways to reach the people they need to.

In today’s marketing world, communications must be integrated: lines are blurred, social media links to TV, print links to outdoor, bloggers are all-powerful, and online advertising links to – well, to the palm of your hand or your computer screen without you even looking for it.

Nowadays, there is rarely a one size fits all marketing solution that will positively impact your company’s bottom line.

As we have evolved, ASG now applies a straightforward approach to providing marketing services: joined up thinking. We are like one of those fantastic Swiss-army knives – we have it all cleverly contained in one finely engineered tool. We’ve also been here long enough to know that use of a bargain-bucket screwdriver is likely to guarantee your shelves will fall down under even the slightest pressure.

Marketing teams must consider advertising, public relations, email marketing, social media, newsletters, and trade shows (to name but a few) in order to reach current and potential customers. The truth is that they all complement each other and must be used in parallel.

To that end, we have recently renamed our client handling team to embrace what we consider a more appropriate name for our executives. Account Director/Manager/ Executive becomes Client Marketing Director/Manager/Executive.

It’s not just a name change; it’s about recognising the shifting skill sets required by the executives who now have to embrace a whole plethora of media, old and new. At the heart of this, regardless of title, is our commitment to working as a marketing partner with any client and delivering excellent service on any brief.

Another major change (more so in the last few years) is this idea of ‘viral marketing’. It’s all about low-cost, unconventional marketing that spreads like a virus such as flash mobs or off-the-wall videos.

It takes a lot of confidence on behalf of the company but if done well, it can be highly effective. The problem comes with the client who demands “make me a viral video”. It generally doesn’t work like that and here’s the reason: the power has shifted. It is now in the hands of the audience and not in the hands of the seller/advertiser. Stunts are easily sniffed out and instantly dropped by cynical audiences.

Finally, there’s been a development in marketing post-recession, which for many agencies, has been a challenge – centralisation.

After 2008, a lot of marketers pulled their advertising and communications back to a single national campaign and have forgotten the fundamental issue that people in the various UK regions have different thoughts, backgrounds and cultures.

In Northern Ireland, we are quick to respond positively to a locally-tailored message and we can be quickly turned off with an obviously “blanket” UK or global type campaign. Brands must have a connection with and sensitivity to the local market, otherwise consumers can lack trust and confidence in them.

ASG has been here for 30 years, we know what works and we know what doesn’t. We love social media and we love having individually tailored information in the palm of our hands, but you can’t beat a good old cup of coffee, a warm hand shake and a face to face meeting to build a relationship.

Some old fashioned values are worth holding onto.

Colin Anderson, Chairman and CEO of ASG in Belfast

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