digital marketing

Is marketing the modern day superpower?

By September 29, 2015 No Comments

What’s your view of marketing? Is it a maligned profession, associated with the deliberate, cynical duping of unwitting consumers who fall prey to clever tactics? Or can it be a powerful force with the potential to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges?

As a content marketer, I believe that marketing can do great good. Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information that helps people make informed decisions. Yes, the organisation behind that activity has a vested interest in the result, but the most effective content provides a rounded, unbiased view of a given topic or situation, leaving the audience to make their own decision about the brand behind the message.

Looking beyond content, there are so many other ways that marketing principles and insights can be applied to help solve thorny issues, and this was the theme of an ambitious, bold experiment conducted by marketing magazine The Drum at the end of last week.

Everyone was excited to be involved in such a unique opportunity to put their marketing skills and knowledge to positive use

Plan It Day

Plan It Day – and part two, Do It Day, taking place in November – is described as ‘the biggest thing on The Drum’s 2015 calendar, and the most inspirational media event of the year’ during which the participants would be ‘transforming communities, attitudes and lives’. Grand statements indeed, but something I and fellow Southerly content evangelist Jonathan were keen to be involved with.

Before the event we were presented with a short synopsis of 10 social challenges, each championed by a high profile brand. These challenges ranged from helping children understand the value of money on behalf of Visa, to encouraging young women in Brazil to become micro-entrepreneurs by connecting them with female role models in collaboration with Unilever. Having picked the three challenges that resonated most strongly on a personal level, we had to wait until the day to find out which brief we’d be tackling.

So last Thursday found us walking through the doors of the Plan It Day venue in east London, unsure of exactly what to expect. A large banner proclaiming that ‘marketing can change the world’ set an inspirational tone right from the start, and the cavernous neon-lit interior hinted that this was going to be unlike any marketing event I’d ever attended.

And I was right. One hour later I found myself looking around as the audience of several hundred slightly hysterical marketers pretended to be professional jockeys, urged on from the stage by a fervent Jim Lawless.

Be disruptive and don’t take no for answer, unless no is the answer you wanted


Jim kicked off the event with a lively, witty and downright impressive talk in which we were urged to tame our tigers. This is ‘Jim-speak’ for learning to ignore the little voice inside that says, “you can’t do this”, “you’re not good enough”, “it’s impossible” – not an entirely original message, but one that was delivered in a completely original and thoroughly engaging way.

And in case anyone was left feeling anything other than energised and motivated, we then had the pleasure of hearing Dame Tessa Jowell’s first hand reflection on the vision, energy and determination required to bring about the successful London 2012 Olympic bid.

Having been urged to think big, be disruptive and not take no for answer, unless no is the answer we wanted, we were ready to get started on the challenges. I was lucky enough to get my first choice of brief set by IBM to encourage more kids into science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) careers.

Over the next five hours I worked with five teammates to break down the challenge, understand the reasons why young people are shying away from STEM subjects and brainstorm creative ideas for engaging them using the hook of fashion and wearable technology.

We chatted, we shared insights, we engaged in healthy debate, we challenged each other’s thinking and we developed an idea that we later presented to a panel of judges, including a representative from IBM, and our fellow marketers. Just a little bit daunting.

As the first team to present, we got the nerve-wracking bit out of the way quickly, after which we had the luxury of sitting back and listening to all the other teams as they shared one brilliant suggestion after another. Examples of responses to other challenges included a one-day festival for emerging African artists in the UK, a Pintrest-style platform to help teachers share ideas in class, the gamification of financial planning for children and a sharing platform for good deeds that’s ‘powered by karma’.

With several teams working on each brief, the judges picked the idea they felt best matched the vision for that project and was most suited to becoming the subject of Do It Day in two months’ time. I’d love to say my team won the IBM challenge, but we graciously conceded defeat to team two, with their plans for a platform that would allow children to customise a connected glove, to be promoted via influencers, on the radio and within schools.

One thing that was clear throughout the day was that everyone was excited to be involved in such a unique opportunity to put their marketing skills and knowledge to positive use. It might be a little cheesy to say marketing is a super power that can help change the world, but after taking part in such a creative and dynamic experience I’m even more convinced it’s true.

Now it’s time to see how those winning ideas are brought to life during Do It Day.

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