Training: DowntoEarth Idea Generation Workshop for Experiential Agencies
Whilst many business leaders are very clear about the role innovation plays in creating and sustaining competitive advantage, they often lack the means (time, patience and structures) to empower their teams with the methodologies to deliver innovation in the workplace. This does not leave out experiential marketing agencies.
According to BoyeAdefila, a marketing coach based in Lagos, the issue of innovation is a two-pronged challenge: “Take experiential marketing for example, a sector yearning to leverage its greatest potentials, innovation is under extreme pressure; partly because clients give impossible deadlines to agencies and partly because agency leaders are unaware of the urgent need (or platforms) to teach innovation techniques to their teams.”
It is indeed a fact that marketing agencies sometimes outsource the idea generation element of their experiential/activation briefs to experts, who may or may not meet the impossible deadlines available to the agencies. The result is often a repetition of the last ‘Wow’, again and again!
Continuing, Boye said that “It is okay to outsource, either because one does not have the competencies in-house or one desires to add to the overall basket of excellence. But I am privy to the downright horrible timelines that many activation firms are given by their clients, to generate great ideas, source production quotes and produce roll-out plans for pan Nigerian campaigns, sometimes within 24 hrs. It’s crazy!”
In fairness to the clients, especially the big players, they are also battling with both direct and indirect competition from new entrants eating into their market share or carving out new market categories right under their noses. Therefore, if the big clients, who can afford activation firms, don’t react to these threats fast enough, they would lose most of what they built over decades in just months.
The case of Molfix versus Pampers diapers is still a fresh case study. According to a report based on A.C. Nielsen data in 2017, “Barely two years after it entered the Nigerian market, premium diaper brand, Molfix, assumed the leadership position of the diaper category with 44.3% of the total market share.” The report also indicated that Pampers, the previous leader in the baby diapers category, was then trailing with a 37.3% market share.
So, indeed the crazy deadlines are also in context. So, what is the way forward, if innovation is to thrive and thrive constantly as a means to creating and sustaining competitive advantage?
One way is for the primary brand custodians (clients) to have a mix of long- and short-term focused briefs for the agencies. Today, the propensity of “Now-Now” and short-term oriented briefs is mind-blowing. Whilst it is true that agency teams sometimes work best under pressure (and no one works under pressure like an activations firm!) it is counter-productive to always work under pressure. The obvious casualties are innovation and employee burnt-out, which continue to reinforce each other until mediocrity becomes a common denominator. We must, therefore, be careful, such that in the bid to move fast, we don’t sacrifice excellence.
Another negative consequence is the tendency for team leaders to short-circuit Excellence-Templates created by agency leaders. An Excellence-Template is not a red-tape rule. It is, in fact, the opposite. It seeks to disrupt bureaucracy and, in its place, install a way of solving problems that’s faster, more cost-effective and least abrasive to all involved.
Another way forward is for agencies to push back (strategically). Whilst pushing back could lead to loss of business, pushing back strategically would achieve a win-win situation. This involves a multi-faceted approach that, first of all, sets aside a reliable cash-cow for the business (related or non-related to agency business), whilst picking their negotiation battles one client at a time.
Of course, stakeholder engagement strategies must also be deployed, to persuade client representatives, that short-circuiting agency’s excellence-templates would either produce mediocre work and results or at best, missed opportunities. If a company, for instance, is busy celebrating 100% sales growth, the same company could have been celebrating 400% sales growth, if only they’d allowed their excellence-templates to run the full course.
Talking about excellence-templates brings to the fore the issue of capacity development for innovation to become a culture within agency teams. The Innovative Ideation Programme for Experiential Marketers, scheduled for this July by Downtoearth Marketing (a training firm for marketing professionals), is one avenue for learning excellence-templates that are purpose-built for experiential marketing, especially those saddled with the day-to-day task of generating fresh ideas or new ways of executing old ideas.
Billed for Ikeja, Lagos, the programme is expected to take no less than 30 delegates in the methodical approach to innovation. According to Ogechi Ikemefuna, training manager at Downtoearth Marketing, “Although there’s a common approach to the development of all innovation, there are sector-specific templates that, once learnt, would equip practitioners to become ideas machines, regardless of the brief at hand, and in record time too”.
In the same vein, the CEO of Aster Integrated Marketing, Tolulope Medebem, lauded the learning initiative, saying that there was an urgent need for more capacity development programmes in the experiential sector, as opposed to the tendency to recycle great hands over and over.
Audu Mohammed, a fresh graduate of marketing, reiterated Mrs. Medebem’s sentiment by saying the training programmes he often runs into are largely of a generic nature. “I would love to acquire knowledge in special areas of my choice.”
Former Snr. Manager (Consumer Segments) MTN Nigeria and Group Business Director at SPV Nigeria Limited, Saidat Lawan-Mohammed, is in alignment with Tolulope’s view. In her words, “Only purpose-built training interventions will address purpose-built industry challenges”.
Chief Eshiet Essien, managing director of Brand Believers Limited and African Wild Dogs (an activations firm), said “New knowledge is critical to competitive edge and so I will be at this training with three of my managers.”
It is hoped that come July 16, this most promising sector of marketing would start witnessing an era of customised learning modules for innovative challenges in the experiential marketing world.