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Industry Contributor 23 Apr 2021 - 5 min read

Is your creative culture kindergarten scribble?

By Karl Treacher, CEO - Brand Institute of Australia

I wrote a little piece about how the better marketers (and leaders) intuitively understand how limited Simon Sinek is – yes, as a person, and to your success. And how those who cite him as a guru do so at their own expense, self-identifying as ordinary thinkers. Confused? Now you know how I feel when people tell me they’re in a senior marketing role and then go on to quote Sinek. It’s like scientists telling me they like Pete Evans or Italians talking up Nespresso. Here’s the follow up. What does good look like and what stands in the way of good marketing?

What you need to know:

  • The typical client agency relationship is an expensive joke bogged down in long gone era.
  • Stop writing briefs.
  • Start building collaborative teams.

After 25 years in marketing I know a few things to be absolute, irrefutable truths: 

1. The society we live in and generalised culture encourages us to become selfish and self-centred. Those who buck the trend are often the best marketers. 

2. Despite the word culture being a derivative of ‘care’ Most organisations don’t care enough  about the things that matter most, their people, customers and the planet. It’s precisely why the  culture of most of Australia’s largest (not leading) companies is far from what it should be, and why these organisations under perform as a result. 

3. Culture is at the heart of great and poor marketing. A culture that celebrates heroes and not  teams encourages poor collaboration and individualists behaviour. A culture that understands and  promotes healthy relationships will solve problems and grow faster than a culture where people  collide and bounce off one another…repetitively. 

So, you say…what does this have to do with anything? Especially marketing. It has everything to do with marketing. Marketing is all about quality listening, reading, understanding and connecting. 

It’s impossible to effectively listen if you’re thinking about yourself, focused on why Brice from  MAFS should be publicly castrated or congratulating yourself on your latest campaign. The Japanese say ‘kuuki yomenai’ which means ‘read the air in the room’. In Japan this can be hard to do because of the high-context culture and volume of subtle behaviours that act as indicators of truth, whereas in Australia we have a very plain, specific language that in practice means reading the signals and signs is very easy…and yet, we still don’t do it all that well. 

So, yeah yeah - who does it well… let’s see…. The easiest and most graphic way to tell is through advertising…and sadly I had to look offshore for most of it. 

  • Nike - Don’t do it. Listening to meaningful, hard-hitting truths and taking a position on racism. An ethical leadership position. Leveraging customer respect….earning even greater respect from customers who maybe only ever saw Nike as a high profile sports brand. 
  • Uber - Thank You For Not Riding Uber. Showcasing new values and that doing the right thing is more important than fishing for scraps. Yes it had a piano playing in the background and imagery of families waving though windows (like too many ads last year) but Uber had a point to prove. Its reputation was grubby and its culture had just been publicly recognised (by me anyway) as kindergarten scribble by a lifer at Long Bay. 
  • Getty Museums’ online art challenge. As opposed to the absolutely meaningless challenges that  were tossed around last year that served no purpose whatsoever, this challenge engaged audiences in activities that related sceptically to the brand, driving tens of thousands of recreations each month. More here

The wrap 
Culture means the relationship between people working toward a shared objective. It means the expectations and examples set through interactions and decisions. In Australia, the typical client agency relationship is an expensive joke – bogged down in an era long gone. The revenue models are broken and the entire dynamic operates light years away from a true, meaningful, productive collaboration.

What suffers as a result? Relevant creativity and effectiveness suffers. So – stop writing briefs. Just stop it. Start building collaborative creative teams – client, agency, consultant, scientist, customer etc. – work up the challenge together, work through the solution together and most importantly explain what ‘together’ means and never settle for anything less.

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Karl Treacher, CEO

Brand Institute of Australia

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