Collaboration, not competition, is what makes better marketing

Collaboration is a learnt skill and a core philosophy that is much-needed in todays marketing environment. The awareness, knowledge and skill of collaboration is the key to working smart in the modern marketing world.

Lets also be clear about one thing – just because we say we collaborate it doesn’t automatically mean we really do it in practice. Collaboration requires conscious effort and some key operating principles (I mention Colab collaboration principles down below).

What is collaboration stated simply?

Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organisations working together to realise shared goals. Collaboration is very similar to cooperation, and both are an opposite of competition.

I find this definition (by Wikipedia) quite insightful and interesting because it highlights that collaboration is the opposite of competition.

When things change in such a way that challenges an entire ecosystem to rethink itself there are two reactions that generally happen:

1) We choose to compete with others and their organisations in order to lead the way with our own closed thinking

2) We work with others and their organisations to build the future together

The problem with competition is that it divides and separates awareness, knowledge and skill in creating new ways of doing things for the benefit of a greater level of common good. It decreases the potential for better and more agreeable solutions to be conceived and created, which builds a better system within which we can all play a part (and compete).

When an industry is in turmoil then competition is the often the enemy of constructive problem solving and collaborating. It is in these situations where healthy collaboration is much-needed. These are the times that require a greater willingness to think together than to think apart.

By collaborating and building the bigger picture together we can create systemic change that can benefit us all in the long run. Competition will always be part of getting ahead but collaboration must always be part of building the improved race track upon which you will compete for greatness!

We are in a tumultuous time right now in advertising, marketing and media where many of us are being challenged to make sense of the many new innovations and disruptions shaping each of our industries, and the resulting interrelated challenges we are all facing as a whole. It is in times like these where brands, agencies and media companies really ought to be committing to some major collaborative goals, instead of creating major blindsiding competition in all corners.

So what are these major collaborations that need to take place in marketing, advertising and media? We have given this some thought from our perspective and we have distilled our ten commandments of healthy and productive collaborating.

  1. Create collaborative partnerships through openness
  2. Collaboration requires authenticity
  3. Collaboration gains access to greater thinking and problem solving capacity
  4. A collaboration mindset builds trust
  5. Collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts
  6. Collaboration leads to positive influence and reciprocity
  7. Collaboration builds healthy and optimally functioning networks
  8. Collaborate with people you can learn from
  9. Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better
  10. We all do better when we invest in our common future

So where must these collaborations be happening across the marketing value chain? Here are some of the most important ones I can think of:

1) Marketing collaboration with non marketing departments during the marketing strategy development phase to ensure alignment and relevance of marketing strategy with business strategy.

2) Brand and agency partner collaboration during the brief development phase. Poor briefs are a major problem for us all. These briefs flow all the way along the media value chain, often leading to vague and unfocused media spend and wasted budget.

3) Brands collaborating with a larger pool of agencies and specialists to achieve ‘fit for purpose’ marketing solutions rather than having one or two large agencies doing everything but possibly not doing this well enough.

4) Brands and agency partners collaborating with consumer networks in order to better understand and deliver relevant communications, services and support to consumers.

5) Brands collaborating with each other to drop marketing costs and increase overall exposure and return on investment through joint marketing initiatives. Sharing media costs and production costs to create symbiotic content which benefits both parties.

6)  Internal marketing collaboration across non marketing departments to enable more relevant marketing communication for consumers at every stage of the buying journey, and to enable a culture of content production across the greater organisation

7)  Marketing collaboration with senior leaders outside of marketing (CEO / CFO / CIO) to ensure alignment of marketing with key business strategy and required business metrics for tracking and proving ROI.

These are some just some of the problem areas of building a relevant and effective marketing strategy. Collaboration in these areas would undoubtedly help to elevate the potential of a brands marketing strategy to deliver value to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.


Building a culture of collaboration within your marketing team is the best way to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve. Thinking together and not apart is what will make your marketing strategies and tactics more relevant, more valued and more effective to the consumers and brands which you serve.

Where do you believe a collaborative mindset is lacking the most? I would love to know your thoughts!

Are marketers in defensive mode?

Is it just me or do some marketers seem to be in defensive mode?

I have had many conversations with marketers at various levels of the marketing chain and the message I get over all is this:

“We are fine thanks. We have a clear strategy and we have delivery partners in place who are doing a great job of delivering on our strategy effectively. We have no need for new partners or any support with strategy formulation or execution”

If this is true them that is great news! I would love to learn about how you are getting it so right in all of the marketing upheaval and rapid change I am reading about and experiencing!

We should all be learning from these exemplary case studies of marketing prowess in action! It seems these marketers are not subject to the general state of marketing chaos and change that is clearly going on across the world. I would love to hear about how your brand is getting it right!

But then maybe that is just the response I have been getting because no one wants to take a positive bet on a new comer in the market, especially if this newcomer is suggesting that there are big problems in how marketing is currently being conceived, planned, executed, and measured, and that there is a big need for rethinking many of the tired old iterative strategies which run along year after year without much change. Maybe it is easier to do it this way. Keep below the radar of major change and just keep the boat rolling onwards to somewhere out there! Unfortunately you can only hide for so long. Eventually change will take hold. The big difference is that when change takes hold of you because you have avoided rising up to meet it proactively the consequences can be very serious and highly disruptive!

I am not for a minute suggesting that there are not brands and providers out there that are not doing a great job of adapting to the many changes affecting marketing practice. These brands are adapting to a new way of marketing. One which drives effectiveness through intelligence. Technology and data driven strategies which use validated information to drive decision making and budgeting as opposed to marketing strategies that are executed based on assumption and guess work.

It is probably more likely that I haven’t found the suitable engagement approach yet, through which I can uncover the real truths about what marketers are finding overwhelmingly difficult to navigate and manage. I need to work harder at presenting my potential aid to marketers perhaps?

Despite the potential flaws in my approach to business development I do feel that many marketing teams out there are not willing to see the ever widening cracks in their marketing strategies . As the c-suite applies more pressure on budget accountability and increased effectiveness marketing teams huddle closer together in unison and choose not to acknowledge the truth of what is going on around them. Change is outstripping their capacity and capability to deliver relevant strategies that take these changes into account.

Like ostriches with their heads in the sand they continue on rote to commission yet another costly TV ad or perhaps another billboard along the highway? Saying what exactly?

“Come with us and we will give you the best products out there for your needs. Our brand X is the best there is!”

Then there are those delivery partners, the agencies that are taking money from brands and making so much stuff with it! Stuff without any real strategy supporting it.

Content without strategy is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff! These providers are focussed on making creative stories and design experiences which can win awards, and they don’t necessarily care too much about whether it makes sense within a brand strategy or not. So long as the brand decision maker has said ‘go for it’ they are fine and dandy.

The problem though is that in these cases the decision maker doesn’t know what they want, and they are often reacting to uncertainty and no clear view of a strategy, without clear objectives to achieve useful or valuable return. Isn’t this what agencies should be advising these brands on? Rather than making crazy creative content because they have been given permission to do so surely these agencies should be saying ‘we can’t do that because we don’t have a clear strategy or clear measures in place to prove effectiveness.

There is a greater need for more agencies to actively seek out the strategic reasons behind creating branded content, and to become the trusted custodians of the brand narrative based on validation and strategic purpose that supports clear business strategy objectives.

Again I am not painting all agencies and brands with the same brush so please don’t take what I am saying personally. Just consider for a moment the following items before you decide to go ahead with your next marketing strategy or campaign:

What don’t we know that we don’t know about our marketing health and effectiveness?

Do we have a clear marketing strategy in place that is aligned to key business strategy objectives?

Do we have the correct agency providers in place and are they able to and willing to say ’no’ because they are protecting our brand from making the wrong creative and content decisions based on a clear reliance on strategy to determine what is created?

Do we know exactly who we are communicating with and are we creating a conversation based on their needs and wants?

Are we measuring what matters?

Is our approach to marketing aligned to the goals and desires of non marketing decision makers like the CEO, CFO and the CIO / CTO?

Are we avoiding the change that is creeping closer and closer to our way of working?

What can we do to shake up the status quo of how we approach marketing in our business?

Are we willing to try and test new methods to find better strategies that achieve better and greater returns from marketing?

I can understand why many marketing teams are defensive by nature. Gate keeping is important, especially when you have every Tom, Dick and Harry trying to get in touch with you to revolutionise your marketing approach. I understand this completely.

But maybe this defensiveness also become a major barrier to finding the new and innovative thinking that can make all of the difference to your marketing success down the line?

Just a thought!

To get the best results; You need to work with the best people.

Successful Man Image

While this may seem obvious, subtle reminders like this are sometimes just the motivation you need to take action and reach out.

Every business leader regardless of industry or business size can consider these six points to improve their own business results:

1. Know Thy Self
You can’t improve what you don’t know. Be vulnerable to your weaknesses and be humbled by your strengths. Don’t focus on your competitors focus on new markets and opportunities. Share this knowledge with your teams so you can help each other succeed together.

2. Be Open to Collaborate
Your business outputs are not the sum of your team and suppliers contributions but the average.

Make sure that you collaborate with the best staff and business partners to ensure that you deliver above-average results. Work to develop an open and mutually beneficial relationship build on respect and results.

3. Ask ‘What if I did the Opposite?’
Humans are creatures of habit and naturally risk obverse. By asking this simple question, you will be amazed at the potential solutions to business problems. You need to be

‘Disrupted’ in order to ‘Disrupt’. This culture needs to be adopted from the CEO down to the Marketing intern in order to be relevant and implemented.

4. Listen to Customers & Experts
Your customers are the blood in your business and consultants are like doctors. Listen to and engage with a cross section of your customers regardless of your existing segmentation biases.

Furthermore get a fresh perspective by engaging with experts that may provide value by looking at your business and challenges from an untainted viewpoint.

5. Measure & Optimise

“What you measure usually gets paid attention to.
What you pay attention to, usually gets better.” Seth Godin

There are a tidal wave of business ‘Measurement’ quotes such as my favourite

‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

This is with good reason. You should pay attention to them. However don’t be paralysed by analysis, as the intangible measurements are as important to the tangible ones. Define your own measurement and have a plan to optimise your business and marketing performance against these benchmarks.

6. Share
Have a ‘Growth Mindset’ instead of a ‘Scarcity Mindset’ and look at your bad business experiences and share them. Since the story from the bad experiences are always more important than the good ones. Being vulnerable attracts good people that want to help and be open to this help. While this might be difficult in Corporate world, having a culture that embraces ‘Sharing’ is a key success factor.