Opinion: 'Do you want to settle for mediocrity?'

Opinion: 'Do you want to settle for mediocrity?'
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This year as you may know, McCann enjoyed unprecedented success at Cannes. Some called it McCannes, in fact. We made history with 5 Grand Prix winners and narrowly missed out on being the most awarded agency in the world. 

In its 60th year, the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was bigger than ever, with 12,000 attendees – of which 3,000 were clients. Over the past 60 years the number of Cannes Lions categories has grown as creativity and communication channels have expanded. Just as importantly, the proportion of clients attending Cannes has also steadily increased over the years.

Why are more clients going to Cannes? It’s simple really. Cannes is a celebration and a study of how creativity drives business success. Clients have come to understand that there is a direct link between Cannes success and shareholder value. P&G knows this, Unilever knows this, Coca-Cola knows as does VW. So does Intel, Nike and Ikea, and it’s why CUB, Kia, Hyundai, McDonald’s, Lion Nathan and Microsoft were all there this year. They were in Cannes to win or to learn how to win.

I am convinced we will look back at this time as a golden era of marketing. M&A activity is down, organisations are lean, consumer credit behaviour is in decline and economies are not growing. Even innovation is less radical than it used to be as brands and companies rely more on incremental innovation instead. 

In such an environment, organisations need to market themselves to win. The best marketers are hugely rewarded – they can command double-digit growth, but not by applying the same old rules or ‘codes’ of marketing. Category norms give ‘normal’ results, not the outstanding success needed to thrive in today’s economic environment. 

The work honoured at Cannes, including our own 'Dumb Ways To Die', did one or more of the following: broke with conventions (in Metro’s case, safety messages had never been entertaining); challenged the use of media (Dove, Intel, Dumb Ways and Coke all used earned not bought media); gave purpose to the brand (and focused less on a product attribute); didn’t limit themselves to one media channel but leveraged every channel and critically enabled consumer participation (Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’).

Finally, none of these winning campaigns had been done before but the heart of each idea was very simple – so simple you wish you had thought of it yourself.

Those brands that break out and reward consumers with standout creativity are in return rewarded by consumers with sales. Numerous studies have shown that Cannes Lions result in a higher share price. This year’s Cannes Marketer of the Year, Coca-Cola, has long been a believer in the correlation between creativity and sales success. As Jonathan Mildenhall, Coke’s VP of global advertising strategy & creative excellence, said of Cannes last year: “If Cannes has taught me one thing, it is that creativity drives effectiveness. You cannot have one without the other.”

The brands with the best, most creative communications can command better trading terms with retailers as a result of consumers actively seeking their product. It’s easier to drive margin when consumers choose you first. Apple dictated trading terms of its iPhone and despite recall issues, VW has waiting lists for the Golf GTi. 

As Coca-Cola’s global marketing chief Joe Tripodi said when he got up on stage in Cannes to accept the Marketer of the Year crown for 2013, Coke doesn’t change its product – it relies on its marketing to drive innovation. Yes, marketing alone can innovate and invigorate your brand and business.

It’s up to you – or your CEO, CMO or CFO – to decide whether you want to change the game or settle for business mediocrity. It’s not easy, but nothing that matters ever is.

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