Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

I’m a se­nior mar­keter at a medium-sized com­pany. We’ve worked with the same ad agency for 18 years – they know us in­side out and do ter­rific work, and I would not think of chang­ing them. But we have a new chief ex­ec­u­tive from out­side who seems to want to put his own stamp on the busi­ness and is mak­ing noises sug­gest­ing he’s keen for a fresh start. How can I talk him out of it? As the new CEO, he’s per­fectly en­ti­tled to re­assess his com­pany’s po­si­tion­ing; he’d be re­miss if he didn’t. And be­ing with the same agency for 18 years is enough to con­firm any thrust­ing, go-get­ting, lad­der-climbing CEO that he’s join­ing a mori­bund, self-satisfied com­pany that still chooses to be­lieve that the in­ter­net is a f lash-inthe-pan. No won­der it’s only medium-sized.

None of this may be true, of course. Be­ing with the same agency for 18 years can be laud­able ev­i­dence of a com­pany with a long-term con­sis­tent strat­egy, con­fi­dently dis­dain­ing all the tran­sient temptations of mi­cro­mar­ket­ing. But that’s not how your new CEO will see it. And the more you try to talk him out of re­view­ing his agency ar­range­ments, the more cer­tain he’ll be that you’re a dodo and the more de­ter­mined he’ll be­come to be seen to have made changes.

In­stead, look for guid­ance to ju-jitsu, whereby an op­po­nent’s en­ergy is not di­rectly op­posed but is rather turned against him. So tell your new CEO just how pleased you all are to wel­come some­one with a com­pletely fresh and un­con­tam­i­nated mind. How­ever seem­ingly successful, ev­ery com­pany needs to sub­mit it­self to ruth­less self­ex­am­i­na­tion from time to time and the ar­rival of a new CEO is the ideal mo­ment to do ex­actly that. Ask if you can be part of a For­ward Plan­ning Task Force. He’s un­likely to say no.

The Task Force’s terms of ref­er­ence, widely cir­cu­lated, should make it ab­so­lutely clear that what is un­der scru­tiny is not the su­per­fi­cial im­age of the com­pany as pro­jected in its com­mu­ni­ca­tions but its ab­so­lutely fun­da­men­tal rai­son d’être. So any de­ci­sion solely con­cerned with com­mu­ni­ca­tions must clearly wait for the fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions from the FPTF.

Cit­ing the im­por­tance of think­ing out­side the box, of think­ing the un­think­able, pro­pose au­da­cious op­tions. Con­sider wrap­ping up your re­tail struc­ture al­to­gether and deal­ing ex­clu­sively with the con­sumer. Pro­pose a sub­scrip­tion model. Sug­gest open­ing up in the US. Con­sider a merger with your big­gest com­peti­tor. Be­fore very long, your new CEO will be obliged to urge cau­tion – and your corner will have been turned.

Of course, it’s just pos­si­ble that the FPTF will hit on a se­ri­ously rad­i­cal and ut­terly bril­liant new tra­jec­tory for the com­pany. If that’s the case, you may well want to ap­point a new ad­ver­tis­ing agency. I’ve spent my whole ca­reer as a mar­keter work­ing for re­tail brands that most peo­ple wouldn’t see as very ex­cit­ing. Though it has been ful­fill­ing, I want to do some­thing a bit more ‘rock and roll’ but I’m wor­ried my CV has given me an in­com­pat­i­ble per­sonal brand. How can I sort this out? I’m sorry to have to put this so bluntly, but any­one who frames their am­bi­tions in terms of ‘rock and roll’ (in­verted com­mas and not even rock ’n’ roll) is go­ing to find it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult con­vinc­ing the 23-year-old en­tre­pre­neur owner of a Hox­ton start-up that they’re the cool dude his brand’s been wait­ing for.

Per­sonal brands need re­al­is­tic po­si­tion­ing just as much as prod­uct brands. Di­vide your Bos­ton Ma­trix into two scales, Main­stream>Niche and Es­tab­lished>Dis­rup­tive, then set­tle for the Main­stream/ Es­tab­lished quar­tile. There’ll al­ways be a need for such peo­ple and you’ll never feel un­com­fort­able. There’s an ar­gu­ment rag­ing in our of­fice about where the mil­len­ni­als end and Gen­er­a­tion Z be­gins. I thought 2000 was the cut-off year, but a col­league in­sists it’s more like 1995. Who is right and why isn’t there a le­gal author­ity to make these de­ci­sions? Stop ar­gu­ing. If there’s any value at all in these dis­tinc­tions, which is de­bat­able, it’s based not on peo­ple’s ages but on their char­ac­ter­is­tics. No le­gal author­ity can help you here.

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