At the Swedish marketing firm Chimney Vigor Group, which produces marketing content for firms ranging from Volvo to Pfizer, the projects embrace strategy, production and tech.
I recently asked Chimney founder and CEO Henric Larsson to share his thoughts on the current marketing landscape.
Paul Talbot: When the history of marketing during the pandemic is written, what do you suspect the significant aspects will be?
Henric Larsson: Many brands dropped the ball by waiting for COVID to be over until they started to invest in marketing. The cost of acquiring new consumers has never been cheaper. This situation is not unique for COVID. Many brands that invest heavily during a crisis gain market share and benefit more than their competitors when the recovery kicks in.
Talbot: One element of marketing strategy suggests that the organization defines itself not by the products it sells, but by the benefits it provides customers. Does this resonate with you? If so, how does this translate into the actual creative content?
Larsson: I am not sure if it is this simple. Would Steve Jobs agree on just offering a benefit to the customer, or did he promise something ‘bigger’ than that?
Clients should demand that you have a vision that is larger than their own. Generic benefits are not enough to build a successful marketing strategy.
Talbot: When we consider the often-awkward relationship between creative teams and analytics teams, what might we consider to make this relationship less combative and more productive?
Larsson: The relationship between creative teams and analytics teams is often non-existent. This is a significant problem in the way things work today. The analytics team should help the creative teams by preparing the perfect brief.
However, the creative teams should have the freedom to interpret it, as to not only offer the target group what they expect but also something fresh, unexpected and engaging. This relationship should be a two-way street and although rarely seen, if positive collaboration can occur, it could be the holy grail for many brands.
I often compare it to some of the entertainment content we produce and the ‘positive’ tension between a producer and a director. Typically, a feature film that wins awards will not have the producer and director coming out of the shoot as best friends.
Talbot: When you recruit creative talent, where do you like to look?
Larsson: This question is tricky. Some of the most outstanding artists in history were not team players, so sometimes they can be challenging to get on board.
However, to build effective workflows on a global scale, you need an aligned team. Therefore, I think both team players and individually-minded associates are necessary.
Since one lousy hiring could ruin the team spirit, hire deliberately, evaluate quickly and act when needed. Although this may sound like common sense, brilliant and crazy minds must come in and out of the team to change the status quo over time, keep things fresh and avoid becoming generic.
Talbot: When you focus on the retention of creative talent, what works and what doesn’t work?
Larsson: I would say that the ambition and passion of the leadership need to be on par with the creative teams. Our most extraordinary creative minds love to do non-creative stuff now and then but not all the time.
They are like a soccer forward, who when they see an opening, might run for it, but 90% of the time, their focus is on having the team play well.
Having creative teams that understand this mindset and leaders who work and lead with ambition are essential components of retaining creative talent. The retention and turnover of creative talent will ultimately depend on the overall corporate culture and industry the brand is in.
Talbot: Any other insights you’d like to share?
Larsson: The owners and C-level associates need to realize that they should invest more into branding and marketing. Fifty years ago, a business owner could have the competitive advantage of R&D, distribution and building factories, but nowadays, with services like DHL and Alibaba, anybody can have that in place from day one.
Investing in creativity comes with a risk, but with all competitors having access to the same data as you and tools to optimize it to death, creative risks and bets will be how you deliver added value to your clients and retain them over time.