Virtually every type of business has been disrupted by transformations in technology. Some have fared better than others at driving growth in the face of massive upheaval. Ben Richards, Ogilvy’s Worldwide Chief Strategy Officer, spoke to Forbes's Robert Reiss to explain why some brands are thriving while others are fragmenting and falling behind.

 

Robert Reiss: How would you describe the current state of the industry and what clients have to contend with today in building brands?

Ben Richards: Technology has democratized inventing, producing and distributing products – just think of disruptors like Dollar Shave Club. This in turn has raised the stakes for building distinctive brands. Simultaneously, tech has created tough choices for marketers. It’s created platforms that make it easy to “personalize at scale,” but also easy to over-target and underwhelm. It’s created new connections points, but also a landfill of content. It’s created a world of perfect information, where good news about your brand can spread quickly – but where bad news and fake news can too. This all adds up to an era of great fragmentation: more platforms, more devices, more data, more stakeholders, more geographies, more touchpoints and more content. Faced with unrelenting disruption and complexity, it’s easy to be either too nearsighted to be strategic – or too visionary to deliver against business 

Reiss: Given what you just said, how should marketers be thinking about their brands to drive growth?

Richards: If you make your brand matter across every interaction, audience and time horizon – yearly, quarterly and right now – you maximize your chance of growth. We recently tested this hypothesis by surveying the very people investing the two trillion bucks that’s spent on marketing globally each year: 700 top marketers in 26 countries. Ogilvy’s study, “The Two Trillion Dollar Gamble” found that fewer than 1 in 5 marketers say they put the brand at the heart of their short, medium and long-term growth strategies. But it also found that those that do are 40 percent more likely to report growth in revenue, profit and share price.

Marketers need to understand that brands live in the hearts and minds of consumers. They are either building or destroying the brand with every single interaction. The brands that are succeeding today are the ones who are systematically building value, regardless of how small each individual interaction might seem. They are taking fragmentation and using it as an opportunity to make their brand richer, deeper and more meaningful. The laggard brands -- often pressured or hamstrung by their own organizations -- are the ones falling into the trap of isolated tactics, untethered to the brand. They’re creating nothing but a million forgettable moments. 

Reiss: How is Ogilvy working differently to help clients build brands in this environment?

Richards: With so much complexity today, clients want someone who can simplify things for them. There's nothing more simple and galvanizing than an idea. We’re bringing much more connected ideas to the table. We call these platform, program and pulse ideas. Platform ideas to help make the brand matter for years; program ideas to make it matter each quarter; and pulse ideas make it matter right now. In the face of massive fragmentation, the brand becomes anchored to these at each time horizon. This keeps it cohesive and makes it bigger than the sum of its parts.

The approach is a big hit with clients, not because it’s a piece of genius, but because it’s codified common sense. It gets to systematic, connected solutions built on complex, analytical foundations -- but expressed in simple, inventive ways.

Where our team has used this streamlined and systematic approach across time horizons in pitches we’ve increased our conversion rate. A great example is British Airways, where the client was quoted in the press as saying this “transformational model” was the reason that we and our partners won the business globally.   

Reiss: Give us a few examples of how Ogilvy used this approach to help solve a client problem.

Richards: One example is something we developed in India -- where a thousand kids a day die from poor sanitation -- for Antiseptic Soap client Savlon. It was a pulse idea called “Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks.” Children in India use chalk boards in school so our idea was to produce colorful chalk sticks infused with soap; when kids rinse the dusty chalk from their hands it turns into soap. The kids practiced good hygiene and prevented spread of disease without even trying.

This pulse idea connected perfectly to our broader Healthy India program idea and the enduring Savlon platform around Protection Power. Looking at the effectiveness of the work, Savlon is now 1.5 times more likely to recruit people into the category compared to its competitors; and it grew 1.4 times more in terms of sales in regions we deployed Healthy Hands compared to countrywide sales. It also won the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes this summer.

 Our approach works just as well for a much more tech-driven B2B brand example. Our client Adobe, who are known as providers of “personalization at scale” through Adobe Experience Cloud, chose to partner closely with our organization in key markets to drive sustained demand generation.  Our approach, backed by our deep data and marketing technology expertise, led to a series of highly targeted programs and pulses that moved the metrics that mattered most to Adobe. We reduced effort for lead generation by 33%; we increased lead scoring performance elevenfold; we also consolidated multiple marketing automation platforms to a single one to enable integrated customer profiles and centralized management. Ultimately, we’re humbled to be a partner in Adobe’s overall business success; their stock’s risen 5-fold in the last 5 years.

Reiss: What’s the "next big thing" for brands?

Richards: A client recently told me that we, as an industry, have become like dogs barking at every passing car: seeking newness at all costs. E-commerce, content marketing and social were once the “concepts du jour” believed to destroy everything that came before them. In reality, they have each become just another useful part of a dynamic marketing mix. The next big thing is focusing on the big things that will always matter. Having a balanced plan aligned to business objectives in the short, medium and long term. It’s all the basic stuff that’s the key to unlocking the future.

I couldn’t agree more. Wildly overblown promises about a particular tool or technology gather currency very quickly. Hard arguments about how you build enduring businesses aren’t as easy to merchandise in a soundbite well. Brands aren’t built overnight, and like all things worth doing, they are difficult and take time to build. And with the right strategy, the fruits of labor are infinite.

 

This was originally published in Forbes here.