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3 Actionable Insights from… industry legend David Bell

Bell says, 'this is the moment to zero base everything.'

Now is the time to evaluate what will be most important to customers once there is less sheltering and more spending. As many difficult decisions are being made, The Drum has asked one of the industry’s most respected advisors David Bell: what do brands need to do to surface stronger? Here are the top three actions he recommends:

1. Dial up ‘digital elimination.’ “Use this time to transform the customer journey. You must take every friction point out using technology. Because what has happened is: we have all spent a lot of time online at home. Once we are out and back into the flow of the outside world, we just aren’t going to have any patience for friction. I don’t care if it’s the e-commerce piece, the customer service piece, whatever it happens to be, if there is friction you will lose. Time is too valuable. People aren’t going to put up with it and they will take their business elsewhere.”

2. Reset and surprise. “This is the moment to zero base everything. Seriously think about how you're going to emerge, better, hence different. Because the consumers and the market are emerging differently. What are the implications of this for your planning? Can you bring news to the market that connects to the new reality? Can you bring new differentiation to the market? Can you use media in surprising ways? Can you show up in a place that surprises people? Jolting people back into your brand is not going to happen with same old, same old. It will happen with positive surprise. You should be looking at all of the things in your marketing mix.”

3. Double down on purpose, for real this time. “Yes, pre-pandemic there was a purpose explosion. Unfortunately, this resulted in a number of purposes that I call pseudo purposes, because they weren't really a higher purpose. They were a purpose that maps to major commercialized objectives. And there's nothing wrong with commercial objectives, but a company’s North Star needs to, first, be important to the society. Then the commercial objectives become more obtainable. Your company’s higher purpose needs to connect to the shifting values of your customers. What do you stand for as a brand and a company, beyond quarterly earnings? What are you doing to unify, to bring together disparity, and to connect to what people care about? Now that their lives have been threatened, and the social fabric has changed, what do you stand for? People are going to want to know, even more than they did before, and they're going to want your purpose to connect it to the current reality.”

David Bell is an ad industry hall of famer who has led as CEO two holding companies (Interpublic and True North), served as an early advisor to Google and is the only industry executive to have helmed the four trade major bodies (4A’s, AAF, AEF and The Ad Council.)

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