How can marketers can adopt calm technology?
Nathan: I work in marketing technology. Many of our audience are B2B marketers. They’re buying the latest marketing technology. Seven years ago there was 150 companies identified as marketing technology companies. And last year there was close to 5,000. I’m just wondering what advice you can give to marketers about how they think about technology that they are either consuming, buying, whether that’s marketing automation, or the technology they are marketing themselves. What should they be thinking about?
Amber: For marketing, it’s different because you’re dealing with ideas, and trends, and temporary everything. So, with marketing it’s kind of like a Swiss Army Knife. You want to just try everything and see what sticks. And you want to be able to very quickly switch from one interface to another. Because people will abandon one space in favor of another. Or the demographic will split and you need to follow them into all the different demographics, or demographic splits, or interfaces, or surfaces, or communities that they’re part of.
So, as a marketer it’s not, ‘Here, have this one really good piece of technology that can last for 20 years.’ You might stay with something for 15 months, but that’s probably the maximum. Twitter’s been pretty long, but remember all the different Twitter tools that there were, search.twitter.com, and Twitter Analytics, and Twit Stats. They’re all gone. But for a while, marketers were like, yes, these are great. And then they went away. I think for marketers, it’s all about constantly being on the exploratory edge, discovering new territory, finding new tools, seeing what’s there, using a mix of market research, qualitative and quantitative approaches.
I’ve gone to a number of market research conferences last year, all the way from Dubai, to New York, to London, it was all about quantitative analysis. And then all the speakers came in and said, ‘Well, in quantitative analysis you could find that the pet treats aren’t selling very well in the store. And you could just stop carrying the pet treats, the dog treats.’ But you could have an anthropologist or a qualitative person come in and look at the purchasing pattern in the store, and realize that it’s grandparents and kids that want to buy pet treats, and not adults. When you put those pet treats on a really high shelf, nobody could reach them. And that’s what’s declining the sales, not the pet treats themselves.
But if you just rely on the data, you’re going to be missing out on the other miniature stories. And there’s less funding for qualitative research, and information architecture, and things like that. But once you get somebody who can come in and give you more of the macro trends, and the kind of universals, and start applying those, then you can balance your strategy from this kind of whiplash effect of, ‘My gosh, we got to do this, and this, and this.’ To where we’re going to do this and this this, but there are universals on every interface in sight, and tools for how we approach things.
And that kind of slower method, let’s say that kind of Calm Technology, that calm approach, is what I saw made the biggest difference for Wieden+Kennedy. I used to work there in 2009, and it was really a dangerous time to work anywhere because the economy was so bad. We could’ve lost Old Spice, and Levi’s, and a bunch of other accounts. But it was Wieden+Kennedy Entertainment in the basement that came up with these crazy ads for the Old Spice guy. And being able to watch that happen was really interesting because it was, ‘OK, we’re going to look at the space, we’re going to do something totally outlandish, and mix the new and the old, and make these incredibly high production value ads, and respond to people on Twitter.’ And it was just right out of an old advertising playbook, which is well you have to have a mascot for the brand like the Marlboro man. But let’s just make a crazy one that’s over the top and experiment. And it was those experiments with the new media in all these different shapes that did a really good job.
I mean it’s also like learning from art, hiring artists, and mischief makers, and weirdos, helped too. I mean that’s what got Crispin Porter & Bogusky so much pickup, but also so much trouble from all those Burger King ads. But fundamentally it’s memorable, it’s that experimental lab-like nature of playing, and having fun, and mixing things up. I think there’s never one solution for marketers at all. And it’s exciting times. Just kind of expensive times.