2015: Hack at it

From our year-end issue, publisher Mary Maddever on reinvention and a 2015 wishlist.

This story appears in the December/January 2015 issue of strategy.

This is the issue that shows the spoils – and urgency – of reinvention, ditching the status quo and making swift and pervasive change. Since wholesale change isn’t easy, some companies are breeding a hacker culture to seed innovation. Even Microsoft, a company that knows about dreaming up new things, created a Garage program to encourage staff to work with entrepreneurs, and solve problems that fall beyond their business remit. One example of Garage hacking (pictured), inspired by Steve Gleason, a former NFL player diagnosed with ALS, resulted in a way to speed up his ability to type using his eyes and even move his wheelchair.

Kraft is also acting entrepreneurial, so we felt it was a good opportunity to encourage more brand bravery, and asked for predictions on what’s critical to get right in 2015. Here’s a wish list:

Kraft CMO Tony Matta sees a need to return to the roots of marketing – adding value via ideas: “In 2014, CPG food showed slowing growth, despite investment in driving prices down to deliver value. In 2015, big CPG will need to be more inventive in how value is delivered, getting beyond discounting, and reinvesting in marketing, innovation and product benefits that the consumer will pay for.”

Leo Burnett CEO/CCO Judy John and SVP director of planning Brent Nelsen want better intel: “Companies are using the same research processes but the landscape has radically changed. Who just watches TV anymore? Our wish is a new tool that allows us to fit the methodology to the strategic and creative need versus asking the strategy and creative to fit the research methodology.”

DDB’s Frank Palmer says big global ad agencies are also not facing up to the new realities: “CEOs are telling people that ‘all is well’ and that their agency (the Titanic) is stable. ‘The water is only up to the sixth floor and we have three floors left before we sink.’ These agencies still operate with hierarchical traditional structures with no real forward thinking because it costs money to invest. The problem is their compasses are focusing on the wrong priorities. Clients are demanding independent thinking and not cookie-cutter tactics.”

Tony Chapman sees agency reinvention as a sink or swim issue: “The marketplace for agencies will continue to contract as money is shifted into pricing, procurement hammers down costs, clients bring shared media in-house and Google and Facebook become formidable competitors. Some agencies will source new opportunities, markets and products or services that they have a proprietary ownership in, while others will watch and wonder what happened.”

Strategy‘s resolution is to keep providing intel to fuel reinvention. So let us know what’s working (or not) and join the bar-raising and collaboration-fostering events coming up like CASSIES, Shopper Marketing Forum, BCON Expo and AToMiC – and expand your innovation quotient.

Cheers, mm