Learning about the Tomorrow from the Yesterday

By Neil Follett & Baron Manett

How marketers facing the future can learn from the explorers of the past

We can't fight change—we must learn to instead ride the waves of change. Let’s start with the obvious. Now is a time of tremendous, exciting and terrifying change for marketers. As we gear up for the CMAfuture event, this has been top of mind at the CMA. This is your chance to hear insights on what is happening Now, Near and Next for brands, marketers and agencies alike. 

We are all explorers of sorts, thinking about new possibilities, challenging firmly held beliefs (the world is flat/the web is dead), and taking a deep breath before setting out on the adventure that is 2017 and beyond. 

If hindsight is 20/20, then maybe we can all learn something from the explorers of old. So here are four cues from the past we can consider when looking to the future.

1. Be Brave

Let’s face it, no one ever set sail to find a new world without being a little scared. To succeed in the future risks need to be taken and assumptions need to be challenged. Face whatever your version of the kraken is!  Don’t put everyone in a boat to sail off the edge of the earth, but commit to experimentation, stand up for new ideas, and don’t be afraid to say “let’s try it and see what happens.”

2. Get the Right Team

Someone had to steer the ship when the captain was sleeping. To face the future you need to be able to look left and right and know you are surrounded by a capable crew. People who are curious but critical, who are talented but tempered. There is no rushing off unprepared or jumping on every opportunity. The right team and agency partners will challenge you, support you, and employ the diverse skills needed to plan for the adventure ahead.

3. Assume Change will Happen

The route to the new world is never straight. Storms will brew and previously undiscovered lands will appear before you. Change will be the constant, and being ready to pivot (to throw in the 2016’s most overused term!) will be essential. No platform should be held too dear, no channel too precious. Always be questioning and be open to surprises. If next year’s brand plan looks a lot like this year’s then something is wrong.

4. Get Support from Royalty

No one ever cast off without being well-funded and properly endorsed by whoever was wearing the crown. It can take time to educate, placate and eventually gain support from those at the top, but support is critical to success. Be open about the risks, manage expectations, but be crystal clear to whoever is in charge that those who do not look toward the horizon and provision for the journey ahead will miss out on a world of opportunity.

That is about all the sailing analogies we could fit into one blog post! We are very excited for the line-up of thinkers, technologists and explorers who will present and showcase at CMAfuture and hope you’ll join us as we consider the possibilities that are Now, Near and Next.

Neil Follett, President, Brightworks and Baron Manett, Professor, Seneca College School of Business are Co-Chairs of CMAfuture on November 1. Check out www.CMAfuture.ca and register now for this morning series event and find out why tomorrow starts today.

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Tags: cmafuture, brightworks, neil follett, baron manett, seneca college, marketers, brands