Non-traditional marketing success starts with non-traditional ideas

By Geoff Tan

SPH Magazines

Singapore, Singapore


When times are good and manna seems to be falling unceasingly from above, there is little reason to think about new ideas or crack your brain to discover innovative ways to derive new revenues to shore up the bottom line.

It’s sad to note, but so predictably true, that only when the taps start to run dry and phones stop ringing do we suddenly realise the dire need to do something to address the situation and rescue ourselves from the bloodbath of the red tide!

Innovation is required to bulk up the bottom line.
Innovation is required to bulk up the bottom line.

To continuously re-invent to stay ahead of the game, whether in good times or bad, is a rare phenomenon resident in most organisations. If you happen to work in a new-age, digitally oriented, forward-thinking organisation, this ideology would most probably already be part of its DNA.

However, if you are embedded within a legacy outfit trying its best to be relevant and successful in today’s economy, the concept of re-invention will be new to many and will require selling across all quarters before it can gain any traction and be recognised as a necessary ingredient for survival.

I’ve been asked by industry acquaintances to share my take on things after I was appointed in August 2016 to take charge of the luxury portion of my company’s magazine business. I soon realized that changing the game within an established business infrastructure is more challenging than birthing a start-up.

Six months has gone by since my appointment, and it was only at the beginning of the 2017 calendar year that I began to see a glimmer of potential results.

Having seeded the ground initially with an arsenal of ideas across a myriad of strategies, I was starting to feel discouraged that nothing seemed to be taking root. Although my conscience was clear that this could not be for a lack of trying, I was hoping for some positive results to reinforce what my team and I were trying to achieve in breaking through with new revenue streams.

Without going into the specific details of these initiatives, suffice to say the principle of re-inventing and changing the game lies in the practitioner’s ability to look at the situation in a non-linear way.

It is only when we start adorning omni-powered prescription lenses that fresh, non-traditional opportunities appear in our line of sight. The publishing model isn’t broken; it just needs a paradigm overhaul. The advertisement/media model is not passé; it just needs to be redefined.

The old way of selling subscriptions and display advertising is already Jurassic. The digital revolution, changing face of today’s consumer, rich tapestry of social media channels, physiology of how our minds are wired, exponentially growing affluence in the marketplace of the 21st century — these and more factors directly affect how businesses stay relevant in this day and age.

This, in turn, affects the way we deliver the most opportune solutions to our customers in return for their continued patronage.

We have evolved from The Age of Scarcity to The Age of Abundance. Previously, we could only choose one of a few options. Now, we are spoiled with choices with an avalanche of ways to attain the same or a better outcome.

I am a firm believer that one size will never fit all; one strategy will never enable you to achieve your target. Putting all your eggs in one basket is not the best option. Shoot in different directions, try many things, learn quickly, augment intelligently, iterate promptly.

For me, this includes looking specifically at non-traditional market segments, moving away from title-centricity toward audience-centricity, turning the pricing model upside down and charging our customers differently, ramping up new sponsorship columns and native advertising opportunities, and re-thinking the stand-alone editorial team model and shaping it into a more efficient resource-sharing one.

It also means moving away from demographic targeting to a more lifestyle-oriented approach, considering a revenue share with re-sellers rather than selfishly hoarding everything for yourself, and leveraging on the power of user-generated content to empower both content and reach.

There is never ever a dead end.

At the gym where I currently work out, my friends and I are all going through pre-Spartan Race obstacle training. The 7-foot wall was one I dreaded taking on for the longest time. However, when I went through the instructional and watched videos on how to scale it, I surprised myself by doing it.

The same applied for the rope climb, and the Tyrolean traverse. One distinct thing I took away from this was that it took more than brute strength to overcome these obstacles. Technique and creativity were key in giving me the edge over those with more muscle power.

Remember to never underestimate the power of creativity. When the going gets tough, the tough must get ideating. Who dares will surely win!

About Geoff Tan

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