Uniting Brand Channels and Content

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Russ Mitchinson is the founder and CEO of Rebel Angel Strategy, a company offering unified brand thinking and solutions to ensure a brand’s media and messaging are working effectively together. He shares his experience working as a strategist in media, creative and digital agencies, and the impact that fragmented agency rosters, briefing processes, and campaign implementation have on marketing effectiveness. Plus he shares the steps marketers need to take to improve marketing effectiveness by aligning creative messaging to the channel purpose.

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with Russ Mitchinson, Founder and CEO of Rebel Angel Strategy, offering united brand thinking and solutions to ensure your brand’s media and messaging are working effectively together. Welcome, Russ.

Russ:

Thank you very much, Darren. Lovely to be here.

Darren:

Well, thank you for making the time. It’s an interesting proposition because there was a time when both channel and content, creative and media were actually inextricably linked. I think I started in the industry just as it started to be pulled apart.

But anyone that watched Mad Men would say that the two went hand in hand. What happened?

Russ:

I mean, it’s a tragedy really that I believe the industry is still living with; that separation of church and state or the false division that’s been created between media and messaging, I don’t believe has ever benefited clients and I don’t believe it’s ultimately benefited the consumer.

Because if you are already creating a schism at the beginning of the process, what you end up at the end of the process is invariably quite fragmented campaigns where the media and the messaging are not necessarily working together. Or if they are, it’s through hard work, diligence, a clear process and an integrated strategy. And in many instances, that doesn’t happen.

Darren:

I was going to say, there are a lot of elements there that you have to pull together to actually get it to come together.

Is it your observation, your experience? What was it that made this the right move at the right time to create Rebel Angel Strategy to really focus on this? Because the world’s full of strategists and all sorts of strategists. We’ve got marketing strategists, we’ve got social media strategists, we’ve got channel planners and strategists. What was it that makes this the right move at this time?

Russ:

Great question. It’s a couple of things. I suppose, firstly, the issue is there. So, it is this fragmentation is an issue for marketing directors. So, that’s a kind of clear and present danger and an opportunity.

Secondly, my lived experience is as a strategist, both at creative agencies, media agencies, digital agencies, and social agencies for brands for entertainment companies. So, I have literally circled the wagons on this and physically done the strategy in each of these instances. So, I have kind of lived the 360 integrated strategy experience and bring those skills to bear.

And then thirdly, in terms of timing, I mean, it’s a bit of a cliche, but post-COVID is a great opportunity since the day-to-day working practices have already been disrupted to go in there, to shake things up, to challenge the status quo.

And I’ve found that where potential clients have said in the past, yes, it’s an issue, but I’m not sure if now’s the right time to do it or we’ve already got entrenched relationships or processes or agencies — I find that now, coming out of COVID, clients know that it’s a problem and now’s the time to do something about it.

Things have already been disrupted, so here’s an opportunity to rethink the way that we go to market and to create new ways of behaviour.

Darren:

Well, it’s certainly, a part of our practice that is helping clients, and marketers rethink and redesign their roster of agencies. Because over the years, we’ve seen clients go down this path of ending up with a specialist agency for every capability they need. And then they get sick of managing them all and they’ll collapse it down.

And when they say they want to get down to one, they really only get to one if they go to a holding company model. But even then, you’ve still got individual agencies inside the holding company. And their frustration is that no matter what they do from the ‘village’ approach, down to the consolidated model, they find that agencies really don’t collaborate well.

That even though they expect them to, and they ask them to, most agencies really don’t get that piece together. Why do you think that is?

Russ:

I mean that is a very clear problem that constantly exists in the marketplaces you’ve just said. And I mean, part of the challenge is when this schism happened in the nineties, I believe it was for the opportunity to create more profit, to have two or three or four clear profit centres for agencies and not putting the client’s best interest at heart.

And of course, that financial model has, therefore, continued. So, it’s wishful thinking for a client to come in and look at different profit centres, A.K.A. different agencies and demand that they all just work collaboratively together because within the way that these bodies are renumerated, there is a disincentive to collaborate and there is a clear incentive to compete for a bigger slice of the pie.

Darren:

Yeah, because one of the things people forget is at the same time that media got split off from creative, as you say, for opportunities of multiplying clients that they could handle, we also had in many markets the loss of the commission system, the accreditation system was being questioned by clients all around the world.

And the old financial model of basically taking somewhere depending on the market between 10 and 20% as a media commission was a great way to run a business because the more the client spent, the more money you made.

There’re two things; one is splitting them off, and the other is the loss of the commission system, which actually has done more harm to the agencies themselves because we’ve had these now, 25 years of constant downward pressure on agencies.

So, while the holding companies were thinking, well, we’ll split media off and double the number of clients they can handle, they’ve actually ended up doing it for a 10th of the price in some cases.

Russ:

Yeah, very fair point. Careful what you wish for.

Darren:

That’s true. I don’t think clients actually sat down and said they wanted to separate media from creative.

Russ:

Absolutely not.

Darren:

But you’ve worked both the creative and media sides, developing strategies. Is there a big difference from your perspective in the way you approach solving the problem of the client, depending on what side of that table you’re sitting on?

Russ:

I mean, I think there are quite entrenched ways of doing things depending as you say, which side you’re on. In terms of creative agency, it’s all about servicing the creative product. And in many instances, a lot is sacrificed in order to come up with and then keep the big idea sold.

And from the media side, it’s very much based on the data and the numbers. And in many instances, I found that an understanding or appreciation of the message that you are trying to get out there in media is lacking.

And in some instances, in media agencies, the individuals or strategist, the account man, haven’t even necessarily seen the creative or watched the creative or engaged with the creative whilst they’re putting together the strategies.

So, you have a schism between one side, which is just focused on the numbers and not necessarily engaging with the creative product. And then the other side, which is all about the creative product, potentially, at the expense of the most efficient and effective strategy for getting it out there.

So, it feels like you’ve kind of got, in some instances, the worst of both worlds, which is why bringing the two together is of course the most powerful way to get a big idea out there in an efficient and effective fashion.

Darren:

Well, as you said earlier, the idea is that the two actually get developed together and that they work hand in hand. But you also made the comment that marketers see this as a problem, and want to solve it. But there are also a large group of marketers that have a preference as well.

I mean, we’ve worked with and met with clients that we’ve suggested that they start briefing both creative and media together. And they said, “No, no, no, media is much more important, we’ve got to work out the channel. We’ve got to work out where our audience is and how to reach them and what that’s going to cost, and then we can do the creative. Or the other solution is, do the creative, and then that will inform the channel.”

To your point that often, the channel gets planned without media — I use creative/content/and channel/media interchangeably. So, just-

Russ:

Likewise.

Darren:

If you follow. But it means that often, the channel is planned or strategized without even knowing what the creative concept is, which just seems ridiculous.

Russ:

Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I feel that there’s also responsibility, obviously, that the client has to take within this kind of brave, not-so-new world. And that is, if you do have multiple agencies, the client really has to be the orchestrator or master of ceremony to pick up on one of your expressions.

That ultimately helps pull together the integrated campaign and, in many instances, police that integrated process through the system, which is obviously not ideal. But I think that expecting the agencies to kind of self-police is just wishful thinking, frankly. So, clients need to take responsibility for this and responsibility for coming up with part of the solution.

Darren:

Well, one of the dangers is that power play that you would’ve seen in agencies where the clients basically say, “Well, you work it out.” And then suddenly, what they’ve actually created is a competition between creative and media over who gets the sale, who’s able to strong-arm the other into what they need.

The old-fashioned model was always, “Well, the creatives have said this can’t be communicated in anything less than a 90-second ad” and the media planners, they’re pulling their hair out because they can barely afford fifteens, let alone thirties, sixties or nineties.

Russ:

Absolutely. I mean, I think to flip this to the positive, the opportunities that are created with every new media channel, especially in the world of social or in the world of messaging or in the world of apps, create so many more opportunities to tell a richer and more, I would say, cohesive and consistent brand story across all of the touchpoints.

So, this is a great opportunity, obviously, for the right creative thinking to see their campaign live and breathe in multiple places and therefore, engage multiple consumers in this brand narrative. So, it is a wonderful world to work in if you can crack the integrated approach and not allow every new channel to fragment your brand, rather than build your brand.

Darren:

It’s interesting you say that because there is now more channels than ever before, isn’t there? And it must be a nightmare for marketers to be able to work through those choices, let alone the agencies. I mean, one of the big things that we’ve noticed is the power of FOMO (fear of missing out), and the number of marketers that are struggling with budgets. And yet, there’s always a new channel that they have to be in.

I think probably, TikTok and Metaverse are probably two things that everyone’s thinking that somehow they’ve got to find more money or claw some money back elsewhere to do that. But this is where strategy’s so important, isn’t it?

Russ:

Absolutely. I mean, one of the things that I found has been useful in conversations with clients around this opportunity of cohesion is making sure that you’ve got a really clear role of the channel before you even start executing within that channel.

So, if you are going to be on TikTok, what is the why? Why TikTok? Is it about unleashing the creativity of your brand? Is it about creating entertainment for Gen Z? What is the reason for being there — and only when you can clearly articulate that, should you then think about starting to execute within that channel. And if you can’t come up with a clear reason for being, don’t be there, it’s okay.

Darren:

Yeah, and that’s the great thing about great strategy, is it doesn’t just inform what you should do, it informs what you shouldn’t do. And a lot of people forget that, don’t they?

Russ:

Absolutely. It’s about saying no, as well as saying yes. And of course, if your strategy is clear and directional, it will preclude more things than it will include. So, it’s about kind of creating … I think it’s about almost creating a walled garden to play in. So, that is the space in which you can play creatively and from a media point of view, but don’t go outside. Here be dragons.

Darren:

The other thing that’s happened is that traditional — I’ll call it traditional media, but there are lots of different titles.

But in traditional media, you weren’t just buying an audience, you were also buying an environment. And you could buy … if you are a food brand and you are targeting people that were into food, you could actually target programming or environments where those people would congregate.

Whereas, you pick a lot of the social media and ads end up just popping up in the feed that you really don’t have a lot of that consideration anymore. Do you?

Russ:

That is true. Although each of these new channels does create quite a unique environment for your message to appear within and a context in terms of the other types of creative and messaging or content that’s being generated within those platforms.

So, understanding the space in which your brand is going to appear, whether it’s on Facebook or Snapchat or on Instagram, is really important in terms of the type of messaging that your brand is going to be presenting there.

Darren:

Yeah. But do you think the environment is as important now as it was? The idea of having your ad … I know a lot of the people that are against saying things like hate speech, and you don’t want your ad sitting in something that’s got a negative connotation, that you don’t want to be selling cars next to the old-fashioned thing, next to a story about a massive car accident or something.

There’s not that same sort of protection though, is it? People are much more focused on the audience and reaching the audience than they are on the environment. The environment is whatever the platform is; Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.

Russ:

True to a certain extent, although, I would say brand safety on these platforms has become increasingly important over time. And I know that the platforms have taken a lot of steps to ensure that your execution is not seen in the context of pornography or negative news stories, et cetera.

Darren:

Yeah.

Russ:

So, a challenging space.

Darren:

Yeah, so going back to this idea of aligning the two, because a part of your proposition is ensuring your brand media and messaging are working as effectively together as possible. What is that opportunity in the breadth of all of the variables that marketers and their agencies are dealing with?

Russ:

It’s a good question. I mean, the way that we go about it is to have, first of all, a really clear audit of your media and your messaging to look at all the different touch points; how you show up as a brand within them, and look for the opportunity or the problem within that. Then working on that really important integrated strategy, which ensures that the media and the messaging are working cohesively together rather than potentially against each other.

As part of that, obviously, having kind of a clear proposition to springboard from communication principles as to how that shows up within the different media choices. And then as I’ve mentioned before, that really clear role of channel, so that clients have agreed to and understand why their brand and their messaging is showing up on these channels, and the way in which it will show up and also, the way in which it won’t show up.

And making sure that that is understood through the organization so that when in many instances, internal briefs are coming in for a piece of content on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok — those marketeers already have an understanding of the way in which the brand is going to show up on these channels or is not.

So, that kind of help with a more kind of cohesive process internally and the types of briefs and hence, messaging that shows up on these channels. So, you’re beginning to create a much more cohesive kind of structure around the communication.

And then coming back in afterwards to do an effectiveness audit to see what have been the efficiencies made in terms of the kind of the refreshed strategy and media messaging choices. And also, what is the return on marketing investment. And finally, what are the learnings that you can feed into the next iteration of that strategic process to ensure that it’s a virtuous cycle ongoing.

Darren:

So, it really is, in many ways, an end-to-end process because it’s not just about getting the strategy right up front, but it’s at every point, ensuring that you’re getting that alignment, I guess, to the strategy and measuring the results that come out of the other end.

Russ:

Absolutely. Yeah, it’s an important process to go through right down to almost the minutia of having a media messaging matrix where you’ve got the audiences, the channels, the message, and also, the measurement goal for each of those laid out. And then finally, right down to integrated briefs, which ensure that the strategy is either executed internally or amongst the agencies.

Darren:

And for the clients you work with, let’s not name any names. But for the clients you work with, when you start working with them, is there often a lot of misalignment or are there often a lot of opportunities that are not even recognized?

Like I’m just wondering because certainly in conversations we have, it’s seen as an issue, but rarely then taken to the next level down of being able to identify how that issue’s impacting their go-to-market strategy. Is that something that is probably the “oh, wow” moment when you’re working with a client?

Russ:

I mean, I know that there is initially an understanding that things are not as cohesive as they could be and that the communication is somewhat fragmented. And in many instances, it’s how the brand shows up on social media that’s a very kind of clear indication of potentially a lack of cohesive story across the different touchpoints.

So, clients have that understanding initially, but they don’t necessarily know the stages between having a kind of clear brand strategy or a clear creative idea. And then how that has shown up in a fragmented fashion across the different executions.

And part of what Rebel Angel Strategy offers is almost the connective glue between the brand idea or the creative idea, and how it’s then executed on channel. And I mean, I sound like a bit of a stuck record, but it is about having that clear role of channel and communication principles as to how the brand comes to life in those channels, and having that in place before anybody starts executing.

Darren:

Yeah, it’s the fact that the channel is not just about reaching more people or reaching the same people, but it actually has a role beyond that.

Russ:

Absolutely. It has an impact on the types of messages that, therefore, show up on that channel.

Darren:

It was interesting while you were saying that, Russ, I was thinking I’ve seen this, particularly in things like in categories like telco, and financial services, where there’s a performance marketing team that are absolutely chasing the numbers.

And often, or sometimes will lose sight of the overall strategy because they’ll end up creating content that performs well, but is not necessarily on strategy. And so, you can almost see them just start to peel off because they’re getting results, but they’re getting it at the expense of sort of the brand consistency and representing or reinforcing what the brand actually means. It must be horrendous from the point of view of a brand marketer, trying to keep that type of machine on track.

Russ:

Yes, that’s a very good point. And I’ve also experienced clients who’ve said “Yeah, our performance team is getting the results,” but no one has helped them execute in a way that is both effective on their channel and builds the brand as well.

Darren:

Yeah, has the discipline-

Russ:

So, it shouldn’t be one or the other.

Darren:

It has the discipline to keep the brand as the foundation or the platform, but also, allows them to then test and respond to, well, the results they’re getting.

Russ:

Yeah, absolutely.

Darren:

I’d imagine also, there’d be a point creatively as well because a lot of people thought integration was having the same collar and cuffs, and that somehow making the creative piece a two strategy and then just rolling it out is also an issue, isn’t it?

Because there was a time — and we work a lot with a guy called Michael Farmer, and collectively him in the U.S. and us in Australia, we noticed that from 2005 to 2019, the average number of outputs per brand delivered by an agency for a client went from around 200, 250 to 3000 plus. And that’s driven by all of these new channels.

But the danger is that while you’re producing a lot more volume because it’s often done under time and cost pressure, what they’re inclined to do is just do cut downs of the same work. And yet, from what you’re saying that the channel purpose or the channel positioning or what was the phrase you used?

Russ:

Role of the channel.

Darren:

Role of the channel, yeah. Role of the channel — it means that you can’t or you shouldn’t necessarily be doing that, should you?

Russ:

Absolutely. The opportunity is obviously, to be choiceful around the volume of audiences, messages, and channels, but when you have selected that to have a clarity of strategic purpose or creative idea, which is broad enough to flex across the channels, but also, as I said, having that clear role of the channel so that you can adapt and change that messaging in a way that fits and is fit for purpose on the channel, and isn’t just the cut down of the Gloria 60-second TVC.

Because why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you have more fun on tick-off? Why wouldn’t you have a straighter message on corporate channels like LinkedIn? Why wouldn’t you be creating more community around the idea on Facebook?

Like the creative opportunities are all there, it’s just about having the clarity of strategy before executing, I would suggest.

Darren:

It’s interesting when you talk about the role of channel, because it’s also, the role in the way the consumer leans in or how they consume it. You know, what’s their mindset at the time, isn’t it? But it’s also the format as well.

It’s interesting, Twitter famously changed their format from 140 characters to 280, and then with all those media embedding and TikTok has changed their format as well. And yet, you hear in the industry, “Oh, six-second ads, we’ve got to get it across on YouTube in six seconds.” But very hard to cut down this 60 or 30 to six seconds, isn’t it? And make it meaningful.

Is the role of the channel also dependent on where it sits in the customer journey?

Russ:

Absolutely, absolutely. At what point does this touchpoint engage the consumer and what’s their mindset within that moment? So, again, this isn’t about matching luggage, which is a kind of executional consistency.

This is about having strategic consistency across that total journey, ultimately, that ecosystem of communication that still allows you creative freedom to adapt per channel in terms of the message or the content, but making sure that it is still paying back to the brand and ensuring that it’s the consistency of messaging across these different touch points.

Darren:

Yeah, Russ, one of my bugbears is the way that the industry likes to take complex issues and break them down or try and make them conform to what I call false dichotomies or false dilemmas. And in some ways, much of what you’ve set up with Rebel Angel Strategy to do is to solve this problem of content and channel and bring them together.

But I actually saw even recently in the trade media, that they had one of those debates about which one was more important. How would you answer that if you were asked by an industry journalist: is channel or content more important?

Russ:

I mean, for me, it is about having the right message in the right place at the right time. So, obviously, the message is critical, but where you are telling that message and when you are telling that message, obviously, has a big impact on the way that that message is received.

So, the two are inextricably linked with each other and you will create more powerful messaging if you can get the medium right as well.

Darren:

Yeah, absolutely. And I was picked up once, I said the right message at the right time to the right person. And they said, “At scale.” And I went “Okay, at scale as well if you want to add one more in.”

But I mean, that then brings its own problems, doesn’t it? Being able to deliver … personalization was a hot topic for a while. And I remember seeing someone make the proclamation that personalization is dead, that we don’t have enough real data to be able to do that properly.

Look, I’ve got another thing that I wouldn’t mind checking just with you, and that is that a lot of clients are really struggling with short-term, and long-term. Does that fit getting your strategy for long-term brand building?

And I say this because all the reports say we’re heading into some economic headwinds as the euphemism for a recession, but as we do, by getting those two aligned, is there something that delivers a benefit to marketers in the face of those sorts of economic headwinds?

Russ:

Absolutely. I mean, for a start, getting a more cohesive and integrated communication strategy brings with it efficiencies and effectiveness. So, there are cost savings if you are being more choiceful in your channels and your volume of messaging and your number of audiences, and you will also be more effective in terms of the return on marketing investment that you see.

So, that’s one of the benefits of cohesion. And the other is paying back to the brand and ensuring that you even in performance driving executions, ensure that you are paying back to the brand. I’m always a great believer in the good old Les Binet’s The long and the short of it. And the ultimately, building brands over the long-term with potent brand building activity, also yields financial benefits in terms of sales.

It’s not one or the other, and potentially, going into another R word: one mustn’t lose sight of the power of brand building to build the business and to drive the bottom line as well.

Darren:

And especially because so many brands immediately make cuts to all of their marketing advertising activity, and particularly, to brand building. And yet, I saw a great quote that came out recently in a recession, and let’s say the R word — let’s not treat it like “Voldemort, shan’t be named.”

But in a recession, if the consumers are not actively in the market at that particular time, you should be looking to reinforce long-term so that when they are, they’ll immediately pop back. In some ways, putting more money into performance marketing is going to be a fool’s errand because there will be less people in the market at any particular time.

So, you will only convert those over there. The long-term brand building is the opportunity, and to your point, this consistency of aligning brand and comm strategy with channel strategy, has to pay off dividends.

Russ:

Absolutely, it’s the right financial choice.

Darren:

Now, without this being a sales pitch for yourself, what are some things that marketers should be thinking about now if they feel like they’re not getting this alignment, not getting this cohesion between the two?

Russ:

I would suggest that the first port of call is an audit, whether done by Rebel Angel Strategy or by others to really understand what your state of play is right now, in terms of your media and your messaging, and the efficacy of that or otherwise.

And then I would suggest it’s about working collaboratively on an integrated strategy that works across a refined choice of channels, audiences, and the messages they’re in. And as part of executing that strategy, making sure that you have integrated briefs and briefings.

So, both when I’ve been on agency side, but also, when I’ve been a client, I’ve always insisted on either receiving or writing an integrated brief, and briefing both the media agency and the creative agency at the same time with one singular brief, because if you start writing two briefs at the beginning of a campaign, you’ve already begun to fragment it. And demanding that they come back with an integrated response together.

And off the back of that, giving them (in plural) an integrated response and then trafficking or managing the integrated process from strategy right through to execution, and ensuring that you as a client, either bring someone in to manage that process or you facilitate that process yourself.

But I think expecting the agencies to come up with a kind of self-regulating process is a fool’s errand. And I would suggest as a client, making sure that you’ve got a clear, integrated process that gets you the integrated strategy, the integrated execution, and then ultimately, come back in at the end, and do that integrated post campaign report looking at the efficiencies and effectiveness of the campaign and market, and then feeding that all back in to the next iteration of the campaign.

So, the upshot is, ensure that you are integrated at all points throughout the campaign, and that’s how you are going to create a more effective and efficient piece of activity in market.

Darren:

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? In some ways, it’s like this is what you should do, and everyone would go, “Of course,” but it’s a lot harder, isn’t it? And I know from seeing clients that immediately put on a media brief, they have a reach and frequency target.

And then on the creative brief, they have a “This is what they’re thinking now, and this is what we want them to think.” The one bit that’s missing is what is overall the objective of this activity? We’ve got this amount of money that we want to invest into the marketplace to achieve some sort of movement, some change; whether they want to measure it against sales or inquiries or whatever.

But already, to your point, they start with briefs that have totally different KPIs, totally different objectives. And they’re often paying their agencies or measuring their performance on totally different sets of numbers and behaviors, aren’t they?

Russ:

Yeah. And the upshot of that is you will end up with fragmented brand communication.

Darren:

Yeah.

Russ:

So, bring it all together, make sure it’s cohesive, and find that opportunity for holistic strategy at the heart of your brand and communication, or talk to Rebel Angel Strategy.

Darren:

And there was the ad. We will include the website on the notes.

Russ:

Couldn’t resist.

Darren:

That’s fine. You’re a man in advertising, you’ve spent a career in advertising. You should be promoting the business.

Russ:

Well, I believe in what we do and I believe it is of import and effective for building brands. So, I’m happy to champion it.

Darren:

And I imagine the type of work you do would appeal across a very broad range of advertiser because I know from experience that when you’ve got smaller marketing teams, they will often struggle with how to manage the various agencies.

When you’ve got very large marketing teams, you then have the problem that you have specialists. Often, you’ll have a media specialist in-house and a creative specialist or a brand specialist in-house who are already talking to their agency as if they’re separate. Is that your experience? Is there a very broad opportunity here?

Russ:

Yes, I would agree that there is a broad opportunity. I have found that part of the opportunity is in complexity. So, the greater the volume of audiences, messages, channels, and agencies that a brand or a client has to deal with, there is an increasing need for a more cohesive and coherent strategy that sits at the heart of it.

So, yes, it’s kind of the problem of abundance sometimes. More is not necessarily more.

Darren:

Well, I love complexity theory and I love the fact that people hate complexity, and yet, manage to create it in every aspect of their lives. Especially in marketing, it seems to be a natural … what’s the measure of entropy and marketing is constantly increasing — disorder is king.

Russ:

I totally agree. Without it though, where would we be, Darren?

Darren:

Exactly. But I think to your point about complexity, there’s organizational complexity, there’s structural complexity. Often, though, there’s also complex … and I’m talking medium-sized clients, I’m not talking the SMEs.

But we’ve seen quite tight marketing teams, and when I say tight, could it be less than 10 people in that marketing team really struggle with clarity? Because one of the things is that there’ll be lots of points of input into that strategy from the business, from the various suppliers, that type of thing.

And so, they will end up with lots of target audiences, they will end up with lots of messages even on the one brand. And it’s difficult then to get that clarity that leads to simplicity.

Russ:

Yes, I think that’s a very fair point. And part of what you can offer clients is sometimes the fragmented nature of the business is reflected in the fragmentation nature of the communication. So, it’s kind of, the issue is one to fix internally first before you can then worry about fixing the external challenges of fragmentation.

So, providing clients with clarity around the brand, the communication, the ways to go to market, an integrated process, how to show up on specific channels — all of that. And dare I say, even helping them create a culture of social or a culture of digital inherent within the organization is part of the battle to get a more cohesive and consistent execution of that brand externally.

So yeah, there’s a lot that you can do to help internally first, before you worry about the external communication of that.

Darren:

Yeah, I love this concept, Russ, because I wrote an article which said there’s no strategists left in the world, they’re just sales people. Because I’ve never met a media strategist that didn’t recommend media, I’ve never met a comms strategist that didn’t recommend PR.

What I love about this is by taking a very broad view of strategy and bringing that discipline and that cohesion to the process means that the focus is on results and not on selling the services of the person that’s hiring you.

Russ:

Absolutely. I mean, we don’t have a creative arm, we don’t have a media-buying arm. There’s no production arm, it’s just strategy. Which I believe there is a purity of purpose to a strategic endeavor, which is about meeting that objective in the best way possible without being wedded to the way that that’s executed. So, thank you.

Darren:

Russ Mitchinson, Founder and CEO of Rebel Angel Strategy, I’m sorry, we’ve run out of time, but thank you so much for coming and having a chat with us.

Russ:

Darren, it’s been an absolute delight.

Darren:

I do have a question for you, and that is: with your experience on creative and media side, which one pays best?