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Picture: 123RF/rawpixel
Picture: 123RF/rawpixel

I recently judged the MMA Smarties Awards, sponsored by Meta, MTN, Standard Bank and The Pendoring Awards. The Smarties winners were announced late last month. Throughout my career I’ve worked to realise the business objectives, be it growth, revenue or diversification, of the business I’ve been involved in at the time, and one of the main things that struck me at the Smarties Awards was a disconnect between brand and business – of the right hand not always knowing what the left hand is doing.

Of course there was no disconnect in the cases of the winners of the MMA Smarties. It was clear from a number of award entries that the business goal fed all the way through and created a real connect between start and finish so that the sought-after result was delivered.

The creative is not the hero

But not all campaigns work like this. In some, instead of working through the beginning, middle and the end, the departure point is the middle, so that the creative is the hero and often does not tie back to the business or the campaign’s results. Yes, the technology and innovation are the sexy parts, but at the end of the day we also need to consider how these shiny new toys will deliver for the business, not only the brand.

At Hollard we have introduced internal awards, to allow our marketing departments the opportunity to really think hard about how their campaigns are pulled together. We encourage thinking about the start, the middle and the end, the brand’s and business’s objectives, the key messages and the return on investment – all the building blocks of a successful marketing campaign.

Understand each other’s motivations and needs

It starts with dialogue between brand and business. Understanding where the business is going is vital to any marketing initiative. After all, its purpose is to drive sales and affect revenue. If we as marketers don’t know where that revenue is coming from, it can be hard to align our efforts with the overall business strategy.

At the Smarties, a fair amount of attention is given to business results (40% of the total mark, versus 20% for the creative) so it’s key that what agencies set out to achieve at the beginning shows through at the end. Where we have seen this work extremely successfully is in the cases of social impact campaigns. Here there is no room for fluff; pledges, donations and support are all clear calls for action and if the campaign falls short of meeting these deliverables it has not done its job. Social impact campaigns are also intricately tied to business objectives, making the entire process work more optimally, as it should.

Working with less money

Award entrants have also had to contend with an environment of budgets being smaller. We all know that when times get tough, marketing budgets are the first to go. But this leaves us with a great opportunity. We can say, along the lines of what Adam Morgan writes in his book A Beautiful Constraint, that less money requires one to have a laser sharp focus and be absolutely clear about what a brand is and does. Anything superfluous is just that, and what you get is often very compelling pieces of work that are sharply directed at the end goal.

Let what we learnt from the pandemic keep us in check

The pandemic has had a significant impact on how we as marketers do our jobs. We were often cut off at the knees financially, and there was increasing pressure from the business to make marketing “work”; to create really meaningful, deep work that would retain brands in their target audiences’ eyes while also doing something of true value.

It was, and still is, tough, but the talent that exists in this country asked the hard questions: what are we really trying to achieve here; are we creating marketing for marketing’s sake, or are we able to do something really impactful with what we have at our disposal? When life returns to “normal” I hope that what we learnt from the challenges we have overcome with regard to understanding the business better and delivering real return with less money remains.

Entries that were awarded bronze, silver or gold at the Smarties overcame these challenges and I think exemplify how things should be done. With fewer resources and more expectation, beautiful things can happen – and did.

We need to be inventive, design for the constrained times we live in and change our approach from starting in the middle to really getting to grips with starting at the beginning, even if that means pushing our way into the boardroom to understand what the business wants, while also ensuring the link between marketing’s purpose and the purpose of the boardroom is the same: to obtain results.

To view the Smarties 2021 award-winning work, visit the case study repository here.

Brauer is the chief marketing officer at Hollard and was a MMA Smarties 2021 judge.

The big take-out:

Are we creating marketing for marketing’s sake, or are we able to do something really impactful with what we have at our disposal?

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