It has been said that Shakespeare was lucky to have lived at the time he did. The second half of the 16th century was a time of unprecedented travel, scientific discovery, economic exchange and literacy, and as a result vocabulary and forms of expression multiplied.
I believe there is a parallel to being involved in the field of marketing today. Thanks to the likes of Byron Sharp, Daniel Kahnemann and Herb Sorensen, we know more now about how marketing works than ever before. The technological explosion offers almost infinite opportunities for rapid ‘up-close’ learning and experimentation, and vast proliferating media have never been such an intimate and ever-present part of people’s lives.
What’s more, despite the mind-blowing number of products and services now available, true product differentiation is getting ever more difficult to secure over the long haul. Knowledge transfer results in product parity and catch-up on rapid timescales, so increasingly marketing is becoming the key dimension on which companies can differentiate.
I don’t mean that our job is to put advertising lipstick on the pig of a useless product. Bad products have an ever-decreasing shelf-life in a connected consumer world. I believe that our ingenuity and creativity are increasingly the defining keys to business success. The opportunities our era grants us give marketers the chance to write our own stories based on human truths and the truths of our brands—with more effectiveness, impact and flair than our predecessors could possibly imagine.
In this column in the coming months I’ll look at some of the ways we can do this. It might not be Shakespeare—but I intend that it will be equally of its day.
James Thompson is global managing director of Diageo Reserve (Diageo’s luxury portfolio)