Thursday, 8 December 2011

Why Digital and Marketing still don't get on: The Process and the Point

I had a great time as one of the judges at Brainyhacks London last night. Brainyhacks is a bit like the NABS pitch university course, but faster, and with more booze. A real client sets a real brief to a pub full of aspiring digital marketing sorts, and they get an hour and a half to crack it. Then the work is judged and a winner is announced. Great idea by Pixelgroup, and a lot of fun was had by all.

The client was from Spark & Mettle, who are doing some seriously great work getting young people started in their careers. I want to hear more from those people!

There were some great ideas flying about in the room, but I couldn't help noticing that there were two schools of thought which really didn't seem to fit together well. This is an endemic problem in the industry. It's where digital and marketing still don't fit together well.

The problem is, some creative ideas were about the Process. And some were about the Point.

The Point is easy to understand. That's the whole... point. All good marketing campaigns have a really clear point. The point is the hook, the Big Idea. Creative Directors love ideas with a really clear Point. You can usually wrap up a point in a very few choice words. It's sunshine in a breakfast bowl. It's Open Happiness. It's The Lynx Effect.

The Process is a little more subtle, and a lot more involved. Quora is great because valuable answers get pushed to the top. And the engine that searches questions for you is terribly terribly clever. The Process is often about fitting into people's lives in a way that is so surprising and innovative that it feels like second nature seconds after you've started.

The Process is what makes Twitter so amazing. But what's the Point of it? Sure, you've got some easy-to-latch-on-to words to describe it. You Tweet people. There's a blue bird. It's news. It's social. It's immediate. But it's not really a hook that your Grandma might understand. It's a Process. It's complicated. You have to be there.

Digital innovation is about creating new and exciting Processes. Marketing innovation is about creating new and exciting Points. These disciplines are worlds apart really, except that they're both about innovation and emotional attachment and stuff that makes people tick. Oh, hang on, so they're not worlds apart, then. They live in each other's pockets.

It's just an observation but it seems that a lot of people can only see the value of one or the other. Some sneer at ideas that are all Process and revel in ideas that are all about the Point. Other people do exactly the opposite.

Really, we should value them both.


  1. That is a very very interesting post Mr. Neville. I'd never thought of it in that way. I suppose Pixelgroup are an agency that have always dealt with the process. And in my former life in advertising I did the other.

    You've made your point.

  2. Well put Rich. Good read. I will be stalking you from now on!

    I think that's why we had such a hard time deciding the winners. Some had a clear point, some clear process - both with different appealing factors. In order to produce the most innovative campaigns and digital products of the future maybe we need to incorporate both process and point?

  3. Thought provoking read, Rich - big picture vs. detail to get there perhaps? Sometimes the cunning digital processes come about to serve a purpose and others the purpose is sprung from the process.

    The Quora idea is great as the process serves the point of getting the questions that are in the minds of the most people answered first.

    Making things easy often gets things done.

  4. Thanks for the contribution Nisha!

    I've seen that once you have a defined point, the 'process' is too often seen as a given, straightfoward if not easy, a matter of thinking harder. Whereas actually it needs just as much creative thought, inspiration and genius as the point. More than nice to have both, they're nothing without each other.