Monday, 25 November 2013
A few thoughts about Like Minds London over tea
Normally Perkins glides silently from the room after delivering the tea. It is a moment when one needs sheltering from the distractions of life, and as an accomplished gentleman's gentleman, Perkins knows this instinctively. And yet on this occasion, there he remained. Something was afoot I gathered.
"Yes Perkins, what is it?" I asked.
"Forgive me sir, but you specifically asked me to remind you this morning to work on the blog post for the Like Minds London beginning on Tuesday 26 November sir."
"Yes sir. You were adamant I insist you began immediately upon receipt of your morning tea, sir. Shall I fetch you the laptop, sir?"
Efficient valets are a must when one requires a seat booked on the 12:15 from Paddington, or desires trouser creases so sharp that they provoke admiring comments. They are dashed inconvenient, however, when one wants an extra five minutes in bed to finish the first cup of tea. Still, there was nothing for it but to crack on and apply the nose to the grindstone until the blasted post was written.
There was one saving grace worth noting, however. My desire to remain tucked into the bedclothes was not owing to a sore head brought about from a night on the tiles. It was merely the result of being terribly busy. Clients were requesting more and more of my time, and new clients were appearing around every hill and dale.
"I didn't happen to say what I intended to write about when I was doling out instructions, did I Perkins?"
"I believe, sir, you intended to address the recent Bellweather Report from the IPA, sir. The one that revealed the highest ever increase in marketing spend during the third quarter of 2013. "
"Crikey!" I said. "No doubting that trend, is there? I mean, there's oodles of work out there at the moment. Not sure this will make much of a blog post, though. Somewhat thin, if you don't mind me saying."
"Not at all, sir," Perkins explained. "If memory serves correct, however, this was merely the jumping off point. You intended to explore the state of digital marketing skills in the workforce in light of increased marketing spend. That is a topic Like Minds London will focus on, to help businesses understand what they need to pay attention to, and what they need to be doing."
"Ah," I said meaningfully. Or at least I meant it to sound meaningful. The conversation Perkins was alluding to suddenly appeared in the memory in full. No detail was missing. Unfortunately, as I could now remember with total accuracy, this is where our conversation had stopped and I hadn't given the topic a moment's consideration since. Much too busy, you see.
Perkins was just turning to glide away when I said, "Do feel free to give me your thoughts on the matter, Perkins. An amateur's perspective can be very refreshing, you see. No doubt it will spark a few ideas. Helping me view the matter with fresh eyes, I mean."
Perkins assented gracefully with a nod, and then after taking a moment to collect his thoughts held forth:
"It seems to me, sir, that this upturn in marketing spend will be like none other in the marketing industry's history. What I mean to say is, the marketing landscape has changed almost beyond recognition since the recent economic troubles began in 2007.
"Six years ago social media was still a plaything of the young and had yet to prove its relevance as a marketing tool. It was growing rapidly as a phenomenon, but it was hardly the monetized product one sees today. Smartphones were only just appearing, and barely anyone knew what an 'app' was. In 2007, if I remember correctly, mobile telephones existed mostly for making telephone calls.
"The world in general, and the world of marketing in particular, has undergone a revolution, sir. But this revolution has, counter-intuitively, occurred during an economic downturn. CEOs are restoring their marketing budgets in a world that is vastly different than the world when those budgets were reigned in. The skills of a new world will be needed, sir, and I fear they will be in short supply."
This was hot stuff, I don't mind admitting, but it is never good to let one's valet become too pleased with himself.
"A laudable attempt, Perkins. Perhaps I will work a bit of that into the end of my piece somehow. But may I ask, by skills, do you refer to technical abilities such as coding, data analysis and the like?"
"I do sir," he replied, "but I also fear there is a danger these skills may become over-valued as the influx of money into the market grows."
"Over-valued?" I asked, skeptically. I thought this unlikely and arched an eyebrow meaningfully to alert Perkins to this fact.
"Perhaps 'over-valued' is too strong a word, sir, but I do think the coming demand for technical skills will not replace the most important skills in marketing."
"Go on," I said, intrigued.
"Well, sir, it seems to me there are more opportunities for reaching the consumer than ever before, more ways to test any marketing campaign than ever before, and more ways to analyze and learn from the results than ever before."
"Sounds about right," I said. "What of it?"
"Does marketing work any better as a result, sir? It seems to me that if these vast technological advances were working to plan then marketing would become more efficient. And if marketing were more efficient it would be costing less. But the cost of marketing is not dropping, sir, as we have just noted. Marketing spend experienced its biggest increase in Q3 since records began.
"Perhaps, sir, it is the old-fashioned ingredients, such as creativity, intuition, and hard graft that are still required to market effectively. There will no doubt be a shortage of technical know-how in the marketing world as spending rises, but CMOs need to make sure their teams are stocked with the best in creative talent as well as technical talent. The coming fashion for technical prowess will no doubt mislead some into forgetting this."
I sipped my tea silently and thanked Perkins for his comments.
As he withdrew I said, "No disturbances for the next hour if you please. I had some inspiration strike while you were prattling on and need to put it into writing."
"Very good, sir," he said, and was gone.
Follow the newly-appointed Chap Associates David Rose, Kat Rutherford, Lisa Bollins, Katie Burdett, and Joe Birch as they tweet and blog from Like Minds London for all three days: 27-29 November.