Source: Unsplash, Credit: Austin Neill

It’s time to step up your marketing game

How Survivors can bring themselves back to a Thriver mindset

It was wonderful to be back in Cannes for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June. I was blown away by the energy, dynamism, creativity, and purposeful intent that came across loud and clear in the talks, roundtables and panel discussions and the award entries themselves. It felt that marketing is back with a bang! And we’re certainly a long way from the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions.


But, taking a step back from the wonderful celebration of marketing success in Cannes, it’s important to remember that the last couple of years have been particularly tough on marketing professionals. The Covid-19 pandemic led to month after month of relentless change with – at the time - no end in sight. Fast-forward to today and the world has changed yet again. The devastating war in Ukraine, supply chain disruption, rising prices . . . energy, fuel, food to name a few.

Against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that many marketing leaders said their teams felt completely exhausted. They were swimming against the tide and not getting very far.  On the flip side, other marketers have been able to ride wave after wave of disruption like pro surfers! They took everything Covid threw at them and turned the crisis into a golden opportunity. And today, they’re still doing things differently and being more effective as a result.

Our latest research report, which contains data and insight drawn from conversations with over 1000 senior marketing executives around the world, identifies the emergence of three distinct groups of marketers: Survivors, Strivers and Thrivers. Seventeen per cent of those we surveyed are Survivors. Interestingly, the same percentage – 17% - are Thrivers, while the largest group (at 66%) are Strivers. So, Survivors and Thrivers represent the extremes of the marketing spectrum today. This got me thinking about what differentiates these two groups. Why have some marketers continued to thrive (Cannes Lions winners among them!) while others have barely survived? And what do the survivors need to do to step up their marketing game?

Survivors are stuck in the past

Survivors are struggling. Sadly, many are burned out. Stuck in a rut, they failed to adapt when the pandemic first struck and haven’t been able to keep in step with the pace of customer change. Perhaps more alarmingly, Survivors assume that the changes to customer behaviours caused by Covid are temporary. They’re still longing for a return to the pre-pandemic world (or their version of ‘normal’) and have failed to realise that they’re chasing a unicorn. Today’s ever-evolving situation is normal! These marketers – and their organisations - are in danger of being side-lined if they don’t make some swift changes.

Thrivers are delivering today and ready for tomorrow

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Thrivers are driving growth. Interestingly they’re doing so because of the changes brought about by Covid-19. These marketing leaders are fired up! They seized the opportunity in front of them with both hands and are boldly forging a new path to deliver outcomes their customers truly value. Ruthlessly customer-centric, Thrivers own the entire customer experience within their organisation.

They've delivered through the lockdown, they’re delivering today and – importantly – they’re ready for whatever tomorrow may bring. Thrivers have cut through the marketing clutter to focus on what really matters. They’re making the most of the digital tools and data at their fingertips to rethink marketing’s role and reimagine their brand’s purpose. And it’s paying dividends. Our report shows that Thrivers are 1.4 times more likely to perform far better in terms of revenue growth and profitability and twice as likely to perform far better in terms of customer lifetime value. And that’s just the beginning!

2022 brings a new dawn

If you recognise yourself as a Survivor right now, the situation may feel very bleak. But all is not lost. There’s still time to start turning things around. Perhaps the biggest step to take is an internal mindset shift. It’s time to acknowledge that the rules of play have changed for good. Get off the bench and step onto the field of play to start competing again. Your customers – and your organisation – need you to get to that place. Then take notice of how the Thrivers excel. To truly transform marketing and drive growth, they’ve aligned marketing with the organisation’s purpose, with their customers’ purpose and – just as importantly – they only say “yes” to marketing activities that will improve ways of working.  Follow their lead, and green shoots will start to grow!

We’re all human

Having spoken to many CMOs regularly over the last 12 months, it’s clear that even the most brilliant marketing leaders have experienced low moments. Let’s not forget that we’re all human first and foremost, and Covid disruptions have clearly taken their toll. But for Thrivers who have found themselves in survival mode from time-to-time, their mindset means they’re able to step back to positivity quickly. They haven’t wasted the Covid crisis. They’ve continued looking for the bright spark, the new idea, the better way of doing things, the opportunity to learn and grow.