Kate Howe: Who’s going to solve our complex problems now?

Kate Howe is executive director at MSQ Partners, working with the group’s portfolio of agency brands to enhance the Group’s reputation and drive overall growth for the agencies and their clients alike.

Previously, she was Executive Director and Chief Growth Officer for Dentsu Aegis Network UK and Chair of DAN’s business-to-business agency, gyro. Her career spans roles both client and agency roles including a four-year stint as CMO for Gala-Coral Group. Kate’s also Honorary Secretary of the IPA and a Trustee for Macmillan Cancer Care.

Together We Create graffiti - Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

Discussing the potential changes the worldwide marketing sector may see as a result of the enforced innovation driven by lockdown around the world is Kate Howe, executive director of MSQ Partners.

I suspect few people will challenge me when I say that the landscape businesses have to navigate today is becoming ever more complex.

We talked a lot about innovation before the lockdown. In the last eight weeks we’ve seen just how quickly the future can arrive with many examples of innovation speeded up

We’re also watching China-US trade relations play out daily. We’re wondering how the differences in culture and work ethic across Europe will impact the future of the EU. We’re observing the GDP of the Asia Pac region rise as their economies prove their resilience and looking to them for lessons on how to come out of lock-down. We’re discombobulated by oil prices and seeing Putin’s approval rating fall to an all-time low, 20 years after he was first elected to power.

We’re worrying about inequality, always a global concern but now an increasingly significant one at home too. And then there’s the massive debt burden that we’ll emerge from C-19 with – that’s government, business and personal debt all with huge implications for business decision making.

Add to this the Surveillance debate - the power of the state versus the privacy of the individual as we are all urged to download apps. We may be observing very high levels of trust the UK Government but what about Russia? Serbia? China?

All of it in the context of the issues the C-Suite were already wrestling with pre-Covid; Increased regulation, of which GDPR is just one piece; the quickening pace of globalisation; the quickening pace of technology driving the need for new skills and impacting our organisational cultures.

And Brexit which has gone quiet on the news agenda recently but hasn’t gone away.

There’s also the productivity gap. The UK has very low employee engagement which drives productivity. It would really help if we could fix this. Engagement is, in part, related to brand and business purpose and employees understanding of the strategy. Marketers can influence this through the way it is communicated.

So right now is the time for us marketers to be more engaged, more aware and more competent than ever before. Marketing and marketing agencies have a huge role to play in our economic recovery and we need to start immediately.

Because while the CXO are dealing with all of the above, marketers are the voice of the customer. Customers have great expectations. They want joined up, consistent and connected experiences every time, all of the time, everywhere.

And they have no idea how challenging that is for organisations to deliver. Yes, we have big data and AI and ML but no, most organisations haven’t conquered how to knit it all together for maximum effect.

The companies that will recover the fastest from this challenging time will be those who are the most entrepreneurial, agile and strategic. New companies will be born and thrive, old ones may not survive. In truth, that’s how it was anyway but it just became a lot more intense.

So how to do we equip ourselves to succeed?

There has never been a time to be more focussed not just on what we do but also how we do it.

Our way is to equip our clients with senior teams – practitioners with experience, people who’ve seen it and done it before, more than once – and support them with best in class delivery teams with deep expertise, a single commercial model and a strong delivery system.

Project management skills come to the fore to enable right first time, on-time, on-budget delivery. The concept of test fast fail fast remains. To quote Mark Ritson “You may not get it 100% right, but inertia is not an option”.

That said, getting it right will really help and we’ve designed our operating model on that basis. Flexible, collaborative and commercial, now is a time to strive and not to compromise as we face into the complexity to write our future.

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