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Covid: One year on 8 Apr 2021 - 4 min read

The customer isn’t always right (think: toilet paper), overarching culture is a myth and first party data at scale will be vital: Liana Dubois

By Liana Dubois, Director of Powered

There is no such thing as one cohesive office culture, Liana Dubois says, but many sub and micro-cultures. She learned a lot in 2020, including that experience is worth paying for and growth comes through partnership with trusted brands. She also shares her three biggest lessons.

"Leaders across the industry have been quoted as struggling with the impacts that re-mote or flexible working has had on company culture. I wonder though if it’s more about the perceived struggle to restore order and maintain a feeling of control that sits at the heart of commentary.”

Liana Dubois, Director of Powered, Nine

The Customer ain’t always got it

The customer isnt always right.

Flash back to March 2020. Supermarket customers rushed to stock up on the great white roll and all the beige food their little arms could carry, all of which was somehow going to save them from the apocalypse.  

Customers of the media industry rushed to cancel campaigns across Television, Digital, Radio and Print despite all the eyes and ears now quite literally a captive audience in their homes. Many brands (those whose category was not decimated) looked to rebook just weeks later having realised consumers were still spending and they were now not communicating with them at scale.

At its worst, ad spend was down some 40% YOY, while some savvy Marketers (again whose categories were not decimated) took the opportunity to capitalise on the long and short of it by increasing their share of voice and commanding a higher market share. The research from ghosts of recessions past a good place to seek counsel on how to successfully come out the other side.

So whats the lesson? Experience… Its worth paying for in marketing teams, in media and creative agencies and in media owners. It’s the ability to recognise what has and hasnt changed and the experience to know the difference.  

If paying for seasoned and diverse experience wasnt a key lesson of 2020 that should redefine the face of industry teams, Ill eat my hat. 

  1. Techo schmecho

The acceleration of automation, ease and speed of transaction and greater adoption of e-comm are all obvious impacts of the past 12 months. Around the corner, were staring at a large and very real change to data capability in a cookie-less world.   

Welcome to people based marketing… an odd phrase really, given marketing has always been about influencing people to choose a product or service over another. But now were talking about targeting and about the need for 1st party data sources attached to real people with real wallets. Working with partners that can support a Marketer’s data transformation is critical right now and its hard to imagine that changes. If youre a marketer, look for partners with 1st party data at scale and work with them directly.

Were fortunate to be one of those.   

“If paying for seasoned and diverse experience wasn’t a key lesson of 2020that should redefine the face of industry teams, I’ll eat my hat.”

Liana Dubois, Director of Powered, Nine

Media and trust

Trust. Its on the decline across the globe. Fake news and echo chambers are obvious challenges, but Australians continue to turn to proven and effective media channels that they trust. 

Traditional mediaas it’s known should probably get a rename to Trusted Proven Media. Trusted, proven media is legislated media. It’s regulated media. Its media that holds itself to account and self-regulates as well. Its media that listens and makes positive change. 

Trusted, proven media is also very effective media, if youre a marketer.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to channel mix, we all know that, and that mix changes depending on what youre trying to achieve and the dynamics surrounding you and your category.  Lets start with the growth outcome were aiming for and work backwards… outcomes. We like outcomes. Thats what Marketing is for. 

Creativity the standout differentiator

Creativity in all its forms, is the standout differentiator in business. Were fortunate to have a culture of creativity, which also means a culture of learning and exploration (and being comfortable in some failure). Creative problem-solving and innovation has been key to Nines significant transformation over the past five years.

When it comes to advertising specifically, it is creativity that differentiates brands and causes a human to think feel or do something as a result.

Its well documented by some of the world’s most successful brands and businesses that the creative can be responsible for up to 50 per cent of the impact of a campaign, with reach being responsible for the rest. That doesnt mean you spend anywhere near 50 per cent of your budget making the ads — because you need as much of your budget pointed at reach as possible. But it does mean that quality creative minds and output should be highly regarded, valued and invested in.

Partner parables

Almost every business is being asked to deliver more, with the same or fewer pots of gold. That means there is a growing need for fewer, deeper partnerships with shared outcomes.  No more long tails and countless ticket clippers. Targeting scaled partners, with depth and breadth, that have invested in experience and intelligence and who are prepared to share the risk and reward will be the road to growth.

Not everyone will be willing or able to relook at existing models, or find new ways of working, or enjoy being held accountable to outcomes, but for those who can or will — the challenged become the challengers.  

Company culture and the flexi-force can thrive in harmony 

The idea that a company needs or has a single overarching culture is a fallacy. 

Leaders across the industry have been quoted as struggling with the impacts that remote or flexible working has had on company culture. I wonder though if its more about the perceived struggle to restore order and maintain a feeling of control that sits at the heart of commentary. 

Most (hopefully all) companies have a people and culture strategy, with guiding principles and company values — but it is people, not companies, that ultimately drive culture.

Organisations are made up of countless people, usually sectioned into various teams.  Each team or division has its own micro or sub culture.

Covid didnt introduce micro or sub cultures, it only highlighted their existence.

Embrace micro-cultures and sub-cultures, along with a broader culture of creativity and high performance. 

Why? Because the whole purpose of culture is to serve to connect people, to increase quality of working life and overall wellbeing, to make people actually want to work, want to achieve, want to collaborate and create and that happens in their tribes and villages.  As long as they know where the north star is and why, the path they choose to get there is less relevant, as long as they get there.         

Managing high performance teams has become more focused and effective

Remember the days of everyone being in the office, tapping away at their computer, being busy and effective inside their workplace for five whole days a week? No one slacked off, no one used company devices to online shop or check their socials, no one had a lunch break longer than their designated hour, no one arrived late or left early, no one took personal calls on the clock, no one went to the gym during the eight-hour day and no one needed to be performance managed.

No? Neither. Rear view mirrors are often rose-coloured.

Insert the flexi-force of the past 12 months and we now have the perfect opportunity to spot and manage underperformance, more than we ever did before. 

How? Because what we now have is a laser-like focus on outcomes and output, contribution, deadlines and results. The physical presence of teams prior to Covid, in some cases, hid the reality of effort and input.

High performers have accelerated to new levels. Remote or flexible work has not negatively impacted their ability to get it done and deliver, or to cook up new ideas or propose innovations.

Valued team members have steadied the ship, been consistent and stable. The rocks.

The flexi-force is here. How are we all going to get the most out of our people and maintain talent in the arms race for smarts?

The leaders to come out on top, will be the ones that lead towards innovation and outcomes supported by a blend of micro, sub, creative and high performance cultures.

The talent to come out on top are the ones that realise the immense personal responsibility and accountability they have to deliver, to drive value back to their organisation and propel their organisation forward.

Were a pretty resilient bunch.

In the past 12 months weve learned to roll a little more with the punches, weve built a tolerance to the unknown. 

We found work arounds and solutions. We solved challenges, creatively. We collaborated and I imagine we found ourselves working with people and organisations we perhaps hadnt before because there was a new necessity to do so. 

Were a pretty resilient bunch, more than we might have given ourselves credit for in the past. 

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