Tony Chapman: Can mass and purpose co-exist?

I feel more excited than any time in my career; I wish I was 20, each day was 48 hours long and I could survive without sleep.

I feel more excited than any time in my career; I wish I was 20, each day was 48 hours long and I could survive without sleep.

My reason? I get to create and craft, collaborate and participate in an era that history will mark as one of monumental change. I equate it to invention of the printing press, television, steam engine and electricity compressed into a brief moment in time, all governed by the lawlessness of the Wild West, the unpredictability of China and of course, our consumer, now demanding both value and values.

We aren’t experiencing an evolution or even a revolution, but a sudden and permanent upheaval of everything we know about the business of doing business.

At the centre are the consumer and retailer smashing your brand equity with a sledgehammer, and without remorse. The wall that used to protect you – consumer and trade loyalty, habit and ignorance, and your ability to draw upon fat profit margins to fund a chokehold on media and distribution – is crumbling under the attack.

So why am I excited?

Every consumer in every category and every retailer is up for grabs, but what got you here won’t get you there.

It’s Darwin’s survival of the fastest and the finest. Marketers will need to invent new models to connect with the consumer and trade, and to drive profitable and sustainable market share. Those who fail will not survive. Those that do will thrive, as will the agencies that support them.

Your role has to change dramatically.

You are no longer employed to spend your company’s budgets; you are now being paid to invest it. You will be measured on the return you generate from the capital you deploy. Your success in this sea of commoditization will

be your ability to uncover meaningful insights, to gain first-mover advantage by turning these insights into big ideas and to choose where to amplify these ideas to generate results.

My hope is that the remuneration paid to you and your agencies will become variable and uncapped, as will your marketing budgets. All will be earned based on winning share, not awards.

More than ever you will be competing for limited resources, so prioritization and focus are essential. Intelligence and data, not ego or blind ambition will shape brand strategy and tactics.

My guess is that only a handful of your brands will have any hope of iconic status. These are your big bets, and they deserve your personal attention. I would make sure your entire organization understands the unique purpose they serve, and their role as an enabler for the consumer.

iPod is 1,000 songs in your pocket. Dove’s purpose is to free the next generation from false beauty stereotypes. Find your purpose and then socialize it, not advertise it.

Build organic loyalty by seeding ongoing conversation and exchanges with your consumer and then benefit as they share with their social network.

As a leader, hire sociologists, political scientists and journalists to create advocates that will attract other like-minded people. Use the wisdom of your community when shaping your innovation, strategy and tactics.

Most of your brands will fail the relevancy test, and their only hope of survival will be winning at retail. Price and trade spend will be the tie-breaker, so cost control and supply chain management is paramount. Don’t waste effort creating annual operating plans for these brands. Smash your internal silos to create constant collaboration between marketing, sales and finance.

Your goal is to win with speed, out-maneuvering your competition. For these brands hire people who grew up playing team-based videogames, who mastered the art of winning by solving problems on the fly, with continuous adjustment of tactics based on data inputs.

Every consumer is up for grabs, but even with this prize your ability to change isn’t easy, especially during volatile times.

Change takes courage and a burning desire to be part of the next generation of marketers who learned how to create and lead a culture of innovation fueled by data, speed, insight and ideas. A culture that designs new models for connecting with the consumer, for inventing and championing purpose-led brands through socialization and commodity brands through in-store habitation. A winning culture, paid for winning results.

What a wonderful time to be competing in a brand new world.

Tony Chapman is founder of Toronto-based indie agency Capital C. www.capitalc.ca