Less Is More: Learning to Focus in 2017

Originally published in Linkedin.

We have a “more” problem.

In the brand and agency world, we’ve been compiling ever-more data from ever-more sources. We’re making more content for more platforms. Our ad serving and targeting abilities have grown exponentially. Currently, there are more than 2,000 ad tech companies. (Seriously, I counted each one myself.)

The psychologist in me would say that we have a crisis of confidence. In the absence of knowing what to do, we’re doing all we can. For brands, that means more agencies, more partners, and more specialized functions. For agencies, it means more content and more ads targeted at ever-more precise segments.

Unfortunately, something happens whenever you try to do more: you do it all less well. In the rush to create so much content, you actually end up being less effective. Some recent statistics bear this out:

That’s why the big idea for 2017 may be less. Brands and their agency partners should start shifting some of their resources to focus on smarter, more impactful experiences. We need to identify the opportunities to be creative again. This can happen not merely in traditional ad spaces, but across a wider spectrum of digital possibilities. Some examples might include:

Build custom commerce channels

Commerce is a huge missed opportunity for many brands. In fact, most are still leaving it to channel partners, rather exploring their own digital possibilities. But if the rapid rise of companies like Dollar Shave Club and Trunk Club is any indication, consumers want more contextual and relevant ways to buy. Investing in better commerce experiences can differentiate a brand in an increasingly noisy and commoditized world.

Integrate CRM with communications

This could be the year we stop thinking of CRM as a sales tool and start using its data set for good. By accessing rich profiles of customers’ interests, purchasing patterns, and demographics, we could make content for audiences much more on point. We could also know where to invest in experiences that will truly resonate.

Invest in creative UX

Even though we’ve seen a lot of improvement in this area, the user experience is still one of the most important opportunities we have. We either improve existing experiences or break the mold and build custom content that adds value and utility to people’s lives.

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list of possibilities. The main point is to find those areas where you can stand out and make a difference. In a world awash in competing media, only the brands that are useful, authentic, and valuable will win.

So let’s all stick a stake in the ground for less (but smarter). We may end up with a lot more as a result.

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