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"Marketing is dead" says Saatchi & Saatchi CEO

The chief executive of one of the world’s largest marketing groups has today declared that marketing and strategy are dead.

Addressing an audience of senior business leaders at The IoD’s Annual Convention taking place at London’s 02 earlier today, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, claimed that in today’s crazy world strategy is dead, the big idea is dead, management is dead and marketing, as we know, is also dead.

During his colourful presentation, which followed on from a speech from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Roberts said: “I am a radical optimist, I don’t buy into all this recession talk. I do not think we are in a recessionary environment, but we do have too many recessionary leaders. To win today we all need to power things up and speed things up.

“We don’t just live in a VUCA world - a volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex world - we live in a super VUCA world. We live in a vibrant world where our kids are connecting to each other and to brands across the world with no money involved. To us this is a world that’s gone crazy.

“Strategy is dead. Who really knows that is going to happen anymore in this super VUCA world? The more time and money you spend devising strategies the more time you are giving you rivals to start eating your lunch.

“Management is dead. To win today you need a culture and an environment where the unreasonable power of creativity thrives. Ideas are today’s currency not strategy. Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a vision statement’ did he? He had a dream. You have to make sure you have dreams and your brand also needs a dream.”

He went on to outline how successful business leaders need to harness creative thing in the future, saying: “Business leaders need to become creative leaders. We need to change the language of business. Who wants to be a Chief Executive Officer? It sounds like you work for the government and who would want that? Being a Chief Excitement Officer would be better, don’t you think? The role of a good CEO is to get people to buy into their dreams and their company’s dreams.”

Roberts also went on to say that the age of the ‘big idea’ has gone.

“The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”

“Leaders need to become emotional thinkers. The difference between rational thinking and emotional thinking is that rational thinking leads to conclusions and meetings and more meetings. Emotional thinking leads to action.”

“There are three secrets to emotional thinking – mystery, sensitivity and intimacy. It is a lot about story telling. Brands need to tell stories on their websites, on their packaging and so on. Make sure your brand and company has a smell, it has a sound, it has a feel and an intimacy with people. Think about how you can build empathy. It is the small things that count and how consumers feel about our brands that count today.”

“Marketing is dead. The role of marketing has changed now. There is nothing new anymore. If marketers are just hearing about something going on then it is already old in today’s world. The further up in a company you go the stupider you become and the further away from new things. Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s jobs is to create movement and inspire people to join you.

“Everyone wants a conversation. They want inspiration. Inspire people with your website. Don’t just interrupt, but interact. Asking about Return on Investment is the wrong question today. You should be asking about Return on Involvement.”

This was the second time in four years that Roberts had addressed the audience at the influential IoD Convention. It was at the IoD Convention during the Nineties that Gerald Ratner’s comments about the jewellery his stores sold being “crap” devastated the Ratners brand and wiped millions off its value.