Star Wars, Marketing and the Evolution of Communication
Sep 29, 2016
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a young Luke Skywalker, er…Mark Hamill, asked George Lucas on the set of the first Star Wars: “What’s the key to success in the movie business?”
George Lucas replied, “I don’t know.”
Lucas explained, “What success means next year will be different than what it did this year…and this year is completely different than last year.”
In other words: What people want in their entertainment is always evolving. What people see this year will shape what they want to see next year – but rarely can they tell you what that should be.
That above anecdote came from the conversation between Mark Hamill and Joe Pulizzi at the closing of Content Marketing World 2016.
It connected with me because that evolution of expectation in the entertainment industry is so tightly paralleled in the realm of marketing. That “next thing” is something that even people like George Lucas have to feel their way through. Most likely he did so, and continues to do so, by being very connected to the way people responded to what he’s doing right now.
So, what are the conditions agencies, in particular, need to establish to be able to evolve with—and shape the evolution of—marketing?
Agencies should have an approach to solve problems for humans, rather than an approach that always leads to specific tactics.
The agency of the future defies categorization – whether “traditional” vs. “digital” agency, or even “content marketing” vs. “inbound marketing.” And they are continually expanding (and healthily pruning) offerings and actions based on achieving clients’ marketing goals.
Agencies should be providing solutions based on current context, rather than pre-planned “it worked before” notions.
The successful, evolved agency must be able to act—through content and experiences—at a pace which matches the pace of the marketplace communication. We’re talking about real-time (or near-real time) creation capability. In any medium. In any channel. And as though they were the brand itself.
Agencies must be willing to let audiences set the pace.
The evolved agency isn’t cool hunting (looking for the next experiment free from business goals) or trying to be so cutting edge that they’re too far in front of the audience preferences. But they have to be “in the know” of what’s possible in all channels and mediums—even if they’ve never been there and done that before—so that they can act when the audience takes them to that opportunity.
Based on all of the above, agencies must accept they can’t do it all. The path to success in modern marketing is through creating more powerful collaborations.
That’s collaboration between:
- Agency and Client
- Agency and Other Agencies of Client
- Agency and Technical Provider
- Agency and Client and Influencers
- Agency and Brand and Audience!
And that’s just scratching the surface
Now, this is far from an exhaustive list. But it’s enough of a list to start (hopefully) a formative debate about whether agencies can drive the evolution of marketing… and whether they should. Please join me in the debate! What should be added to the list? Scratched? (What would you like to throw rocks at me for saying?)
Let me know on Twitter – I’m @johnvlane.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline.
Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.