I’ve been talking about the problems around short-term and tactical thinking for a long time now, but I think that we’re finally seeing a broader realization that long-term and strategic thinking is incredibly important and that we’ve lost a lot of credibility in our obsession with efficiency.
In 2013, Les Binet and Peter Fields published an enormous study in their limited book “The Long and Short of It,” where they warned marketers to avoid the temptation to focus on data, data, data as it would hurt their brands in the long term. Sure enough, more recent studies, including this one by McKinsey, have shown that companies focusing on long-term strategies outperform those who focus on the short-term and, in fact, those who focus on short-term create long-term damage for their organizations.
The issue lies in the “shiny object syndrome” that is even more attractive with the amount of data at our fingertips. With so much focus being put on “viral sensations” and enormous (but meaningless) numbers like impressions, it’s not hard to lose faith in a long-term vision. In this current environment, I’ve yet to encounter a potential client who is willing to invest in a 3+ year strategy, even though that used to be considered short-term.
One year that I attended The Gathering in Banff, Alberta, I was struck that the honorees of their Cult Brand Awards all claimed that their success was due to similar inputs: a dedication to purpose (the desire to build something of meaning and leave a better world behind them), a commitment to community (local, customer, worldwide) and an unwavering focus on brand integrity. Over and over again, I listened to companies that made decisions along the way that would actually HURT their bottom line in the short-term because they were focused on doing the right thing in the long-term. When asked about metrics and performance, every single one of them talked about customer feedback and stories and used terms like “Return on Emotion.” These were all financially successful brands that attracted the top talent and whose customers weren’t just loyal, they were super fans.
Over on Marketing Week, they ran a series that focused on effectiveness over efficiency. This series is a battle cry for the exact same things I talked about in the above video.
All of this gives me hope that we’re in the midst of a re-balancing. Even though I’m a big fan of measurability and data (heck, I’m a market researcher first and foremost), I think we’ve lost so much in our obsession with short-term results and hyper-focus on analytics. As I’ve said many times before, metrics lie to us all of the time. We still need human beings and less algorithmic ways of understanding our audience and their needs.