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3 Ways Big Brands Can Learn From Start Ups

"If you want something new you have to stop doing something old" - Peter Drucker

It is no secret that the world is changing rapidly. In particular, the way we communicate, the way we behave and the way we connect to each other has changed more in the past 10 years than in the 100 years before that.

It is also no secret that brands need to change to prosper in this new world of connections. If it is so clear that change is necessary, then why are so many successful companies and brands struggling to adapt to this new world?

How can brands, so established and used to functioning in the old world of advertising, the world of TV reach and banner impressions, change and transform into leading communicators in the future?

  1. Bonin’s Hackonomy

Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelēz International, created the ‘Hackonomy’ concept, which is about fostering a hacker mindset in big organisations. The reason that the Amazon’s, Uber’s and Airbnb’s have been so successful in creating value is not because of the speed, time, industry, geography, age or education of their teams, but because of the ‘hacker mindset’ - the ability to look at problems in a different way. Bonin defines the hackonomy as “creating value by breaking things”.

But in order to have this hacker mindset, it is mission critical to have the right skills. Bonin lambasts the lack of talent and the gap between the skills that are needed for the digital world, and the skills taught in our top universities and MBA programs. Large corporate beasts struggle on with senior marketing executives trained in the old, pre-digital world. How can they be expected to stay on the cutting edge of digital and technical developments?

At Ad-Tech London, Bonin discussed the opportunity for brands to leap ahead of their competitors by taking ownership of the mobile space – much in the same way that P&G, Kraft & Unilever leapt beyond the competition by seeing the opportunity of TV first. Mondelez are doing pretty well on that front – here are a couple of examples from the world’s favorite cookie maker...

1) ‘ You Can Still Dunk in the Dark' The real-time marketing trick of 2013 - only made possible by Oreo’s real-time digital media room.

2) Twist, Lick, Dunk - the most successful branded game ever launched, reaching number 1 in the app store in 12 countries and even making profit.

2.Unilever’s Foundry

Unilever is benefiting from the innovation and entrepreneurship of start-ups by partnering with them and investing in them, through Unilever Foundry and Unilever Ventures.

What better way to internalise the entrepreneurial spirit, drive and innovation of start-ups than to work alongside and incubate them?

At Ad-tech London, we heard from 8 of the hottest start-ups in the marketing world competing for the chance of a pilot with Unilever.

SeenIt, a platform that allows brands to collect crowd-shot video content, were the standout entrants and winners. They will receive a £5000 prize and the chance for a trial partnership with one of Unilever’s brands.

Mark Mathieu, Global SVP Marketing at Unilever, described the world as V.U.C.A - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Unilever’s answer to the VUCA world is to collaborate, experiment and pioneer alongside leading tech start-ups.

3.Blow up the agency structure

It’s not just the brands that need to change though… Many marketing agencies have completely missed the potential of digital according to Tom Goodwin, CEO of Tomorrow Group.

Agencies are as guilty as brands of following ancient practices based on TV advertising models. It’s time for all agencies - creative, media, digital - to re-think the way they operate and position themselves to lead brands into the future. That means breaking down the old barriers between TV and digital, between creative and media, and between marketing and product. It means breaking the old models and creating new models that really answer the business challenges of today.

The agencies that can reorganise to offer this deep, cross-functional expertise, while remaining innovative enough to stay ahead of the curve, will be the agencies of the future. These agencies will be the ones that help their clients develop Bonin’s hackonomy mindset, own the digital future and, in doing so, leap ahead of their competitors.