We Found Influence In a Fragmented Age #AWEurope

I’m slightly obsessed with influence at the moment. Rereading (well, listening via Audible) Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has reminded me of the numerous tactics you can use to – I’m loathed to say it – get what you want.

Providing a reason for your request is one such tactic. Suffixing an ask with ‘because’ and giving a justification is more likely to yield more successful results. Don’t ask me why…just because.

So when I was invited to The Guardian Leadership Breakfast: Influence in a Fragmented Age at #AdWeekEurope this morning I went with an open mind to find out how my favourite word of the day operates today.

Hearing tales of idea hierarchy (creative TV thinking passing on to the other comms channels) was a gentle reminder that getting marketing – or influence – right in today’s media landscape is becoming ever more complicated. People are more critical, more switched on and more fragmented in what they think, feel and do.

The one part of the discussion that really stuck out for me was a term Ruth Mortimer from Centaur Marketing coined: ‘marketing as a service’. In the same way software has become a service (disclaimer: I work for a leading travel SaaS start-up), Ruth argued that soon marketing will go down the same route.

It’s both interesting and worrying to think about how this will impact the agency model. A key tenet of any SaaS business is defining a pricing model that makes the automation what you offer as easy as possible. Automation leads to scale. Scale leads to success. The current agency pricing models (at least the ones I have witnessed) rely on either a retainer or a project framework. The trouble with retainers is that the outputs they provide are usually inconsistent month-on-month. The data provided, be they results or hours spent, will never be as accurate as the data that can be provided by true marketing as a service provides such as Hubspot. And if inbound marketing has the same – or better – business impact as let’s say PR – then why opt for the latter when you can have a data-fuelled service at your fingertips?

It’s worth noting that these are the sorts of services that brand owners can engage with directly, effectively cutting out the need for an agency.

Mark Creighton, UK CEO of Mindshare, expressed concern that ‘agencies could just become buying shops’, something that I’m inclined to agree with. The real value of an agency is having a team of experts who are able to influence on your behalf through various outlets, be it press, TV or now social media. As these channels converge and more focussed around data metrics, is it not easier for the brand owner to manage them directly? It cuts out the interagency love/hate relationship and can often be more beneficial to both ends. To demonstrate with an example: since going client-side I have been approached directly by Google to work on our keyword optimisation, a task that previously would have been placed on an SEO agency to implement. As marketing becomes automated, right now it becomes an opportunity to operate directly.

Was there a clear conclusion? No. But what’s clear is that the media landscape and marketers ability to influence will continue to evolve at a speed that on the one hand is overwhelming and on the other is extremely exciting to be part of.

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