Has the marketing crown slipped from thinking brand royalty?
Posted on 19th May 2015 by Alexandra Kent
As early-adopters of thought leadership marketing, management consultancies have long led the pack when it comes to turning big ideas into business growth.
Ideas are consultancies’ most effective sales tool – 81% of CMOs see thought leadership as the key to profitable conversations. They understand that their clients increasingly expect insight and ideas as part of the service – and know that those companies that share and consult invariably become go-to partners time and again. But our research also shows that the creative crowns of those original thinking brands are slipping.
Consultancies find ideas generation more difficult than any other profession. Nine in ten consultancy CMOs (88%) admit that their firm struggles to generate ideas and insight, and 72% say that their campaigns retread well-worn issues. Almost three quarters also believe that campaigns don’t push boundaries and just 45% rated their own organisation’s campaigns as original.
The key barriers CMOs told us they are facing are a lack of time to think for fear it will appear ‘time wasting’, a lack of inspiration for new ideas and convincing risk-adverse leaders to move beyond tried and tested formula.
But as consultancies look increasingly similar from the outside and other industries begin to embrace ideas-led sales, it is critical that CMOs overcome these barriers. The key to differentiation and competitive advantage will be claimed by true thinking brands. To reclaim their crown, consultancy marketers must continue to lead the way in commercial creativity.
After a decade helping consultancies to unleash the power of ideas to generate return, Man Bites Dog has pinpointed the DNA of an engaging, commercially effective idea:
- An original thought that moves debate forward or reframes the way we think about a particular issue.
- A direct call to action that links back to the business, its unique capabilities and what it sells.
- A personal connection and hyper-relevance to the target audience.
Generating ideas with this DNA at their core, pushing them through the firm and taking them to market is no mean feat. Here are four thoughts that will help.
Develop a creative habit
Creativity doesn’t happen by accident and we can rarely rely on inspiration to simply strike at the opportune moment. Be curious and seek out inspiration beyond your industry – the most innovative and inspiring are often happening at the fringes of art, culture and science – and feed your mind with talks, books and events. A critical stage of the creative process is also time to think, relax and ponder, so don’t forget to give yourself the space to percolate on the inspiration you’ve found – that’s often when the eureka moment comes. Try sitting quietly on your commute instead of reading the paper, or – our personal favourite – take the dog for a walk to mull over your creative challenge.
Find a sponsor
The sooner you can find a senior sponsor in the business to champion your idea, the better. Having a partner that understands where you’re coming from and what you want to achieve is the most effective way we have found to avoiding interference later down the line. They can also help to ‘sell’ it to other leaders – who may be risk adverse or worried of your bold idea – and get them comfortable right from the start.
Build in hyper-relevance
The more effective campaigns are relevant on three levels:
- To the macro environment – the state of play in the economy, trade, geopolitical risk, regulation and so on.
- To the micro system in which your audience work – the sector, size and operating model of their business.
- To the individual decision-maker themselves – their personal challenges, fears and opportunities.
Campaigns for years have focused on identifying high-level market and industry trends. Now ‘humanisation’ is taking over and campaigns need to inspire action in individual buyers on a personal level. Think about how to bring your campaigns back to one-on-one advice and how the business might become a champion of your key audiences.
Mix it up
Break free of white paper shackles! Big creative ideas need big creative launch plans and channel innovation is a key way that consultancies can set their campaigns apart. Think about how you package and roll out your campaigns and where there are untapped opportunities to be more creative, visual, interactive or groundbreaking in how you reach decision-makers. Supplementing your tried and true techniques with one ‘wild card’ is a low risk way to experiment and avoiding getting stuck in a rut.
If you’d like our help to generate a big idea, or to set us a creative challenge please get in touch.
Alex Kent is a Senior Account Director at Man Bites Dog and heads up our Consultancy Practice.