Sonder | What marketers can learn from pilots
Will short termism define 2017? Probably, unless marketers can be more like pilots and take a longer view of the business destination.
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What marketers can learn from pilots

What marketers can learn from pilots

A long haul airplane will point directly at its destination for less than 10% of the flight. Which means that for 90% of the flight it looks like it’s going somewhere else. This occurs because the pilot has to make allowances for the curvature of the earth, wind, weather conditions, air traffic etc. But despite hardly ever pointing at its destination, a plane will (thankfully) most often make it to its destination safely.

Marketing is now a complex, whole-of-business function that is reflected in myriad ways to a customer. Now more than ever the marketer’s role is more like the pilots. Getting to the destination safely by allowing for changing economies, technology, changing social trends, structural category challenges, competition, new opportunities etc. The destination of course being the business goal.

This view is counter to the current pervading global marketing behaviour, which is rampant short termism.

Industry luminaries, advertising associations and marketing institutes have all called out short termism as detrimental to the marketing profession and businesses as a whole. Bob Miller, former president of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) recently highlighted the behaviour and suggests a different view for marketers to “create reasonable expectations of future cash flow at net present value”. So, invest now to gain later.

Earlier this year, Peter Field of the UK’s Institute of Practicing Advertisers authored a report on short termism. He believes long-term strategic marketing is a “rarity” and that short-termism has created a “sharp decline” in the fame of UK brands.

He puts much of the blame for this practice squarely on digital. The fact that for over a decade now we have been led to believe that digital is measurable and instant has created this obsession with speed and short term results. How ironic then that, after a decade of being “measurable and instant”, Facebook still can’t get the measurement bit right, but that’s a topic for another post.

Short termism is a defining characteristic of the 2016 marketing world. But will it continue in 2017? The answer is probably. At least until a number of assumptions are changed. For example, the focus of marketing will need to shift from sales-driver to business-driver. Advertising and media decisions will need to be based on commitments not campaigns. And personal remuneration plans will need to reflect a longer term focus. If the marketing horizon can be elongated, marketers will be more like pilots.  Not distracted with short term urgencies, but getting businesses to their important destinations safely.