I always thought of Forrester as an IT-oriented research house. And then they were on stuff like supply chains and outsourcing. However, they are now getting talked about for their thought pieces on where advertising agencies are going.
This suggests two things to me:
- Forrester is good at figuring out what's hot
- Marketing, advertising, and brand building are hotter than they have ever been, but also under more scrutiny than ever.
I have other evidence of this trend.
The Globe and Mail, my daily must-read newspaper, never deemed marketing topics worthy of business coverage. [Well, any kind of coverage, actually.] Not long ago -- within the last 18 months for sure -- they have added regular material on this topic. It's thin, but it's there.
Friday, I heard Terry O'Reilly speak at a conference on qualitative research. Mr.O' Reilly is a regular feature on CBC radio, and known for his expertise in advertising, as both a creator and a commentator. Here's one of the notable things he said on the topic of insight and advertising:
"Creative ideas born of intuition are the last legal means of gaining a competitive advantage over your competition."
I thought this was a) brilliant, and b) true.
Forrester seems to think that advertising agencies are not helping marketing people connect with consumers and customers in a meaningful way. This is the summary of their recent research report, The Connected Agency: Partner With An Agency That Listens Instead of Shouts
"Today's agencies fail to help marketers engage with consumers, who, as a result, are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other. To turn the tide, marketers will move to the Connected Agency — one that shifts: from making messages to nurturing consumer connections; from delivering push to creating pull interactions; and from orchestrating campaigns to facilitating conversations. Over the next five years, traditional agencies will make this shift; they will start by connecting with consumer communities and will eventually become an integral part of them."
I have not read the whole report, but I am having trouble seeing this as news. And it's far too easy to just blame the agencies, who are under tremendous pressure to deliver results these days. But they can only do what they get a mandate and a budget to do from the marketing people. Surely marketers themselves must take responsibility for connecting with consumers.
And so must executives.
Being in the insight and intuition business myself, I can only agree with Mr. O' Reilly: we need better strategies. We need insights. We need innovation in marketing and advertising.
At the same conference where Mr. O' Reilly was a headliner, I presented with a client a case study on some innovative research we did together. When we got to the Q&A, the biggest question that came up -- which we brainstormed as a group -- was HOW to convince executives to do something less conventional than a focus group or a survey.
These researchers and marketers -- they want to deliver innovation, they want to deliver category-changing insight, but feel challenged to sell it into the organization.
We came up with a flip-chart full of ideas of how to do this. Things like: start small, start with intractable problems where there is motivation to try something different, and so on.
But as one of the research buyers said, "We want innovation, we want to do something new, and we want amazing insights, but we only want it once it's been done before. How do you sell this into the organization?"
Of course, we on the practitioner side have another challenge. Having promised these category-changing insights, we need to stand and deliver.
I only wish these insights that can change the landscape could be produced on demand. [I'll be hunting for a good one this week, wish me luck.]