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Maxis marketer Tai Kam Leong on navigating media proliferation

The pace of media proliferation is immense. It feels like just yesterday when we were trying to figure out whether TV was dying (again); if augmented reality could be mainstream; should we build a mobile-first channel; and would people really care about videos that only lasted a day. There used to be a time when an application or platform was highly specialised, but that’s quickly changed.

Facebook has Live, Instagram has TV, Twitter has Periscope and YouTube has subscription channels. That means as applications grow in popularity, expand features and time spent soars, the formats multiply exponentially. More people have more choices to express themselves in more ways. We, as double-hatting consumers and creators, live in truly empowered times. Marketers, however, feel increasingly powerless. As media fragments, we chase after our own tails in an attempt to keep up. We turn to snake oil charmers and less-than-transparent advisors on yet more new ways to reach and engage people. It’ll work better than ever before they say!

Ride on the new wave! Everyone is doing it! Hurry hurry hurry! I would like to offer an alternative view that navigating this future lies in counter-intuitively doing less, but doing it better. There’s no need to give in to the fear of missing out.

First, get a grasp: Be meticulous and prioritised in what you currently do and how those efforts specifically are truly doing. For many businesses, attributing success to sales is challenging, but accepting what we know, while pursuing what we do not, is not a failure. As a start, we must recognise that not all business goals are about conversions at the marketing level.

Perhaps you close the deal at a brick-and-mortar store, stimulate an otherwise long purchase cycle gap or customers really only buy your service after they have consulted your front line at length over the phone. If we identify the drivers of business well enough, we can better set up the right marketing performance yardsticks. There is no one-size-fits-all for understanding how your marketing is doing. Even the appallingly basic “views” and “impressions” could at times be a very plausible goal.

Second, strategies still count for something: Derived insights – not that reading a data point does not qualify for an insight – still matter. As a matter of fact they count for more now than ever before. Being confident about an insight that informs a strategy often requires time and deliberation. I find myself fighting the impulse to latch on to the next data point that surfaces. And because there’s so much data today, this strength of restraint is tested frequently.

Breathe. Pause. Think. Rethink. And when we get there, commit to strategies. A well-crafted approach will govern the way your brand and team navigate the chaos. It will be easier to “sacrifice” some tactics, and stay poised in some. In most cases here, less is more

Last, go make friends: The best multiplier is likeminded brands, organisations, publishers or even individuals with a following. Marketing in times like these simply means one can’t afford to buy everything to broadcast or solicit interaction. Partnering others is a great way to mitigate the burden (and cost) of originating content on your own, and harnessing the equity and strengths of others.

Admit it, your brand can’t be great at everything and be relevant to every consumer. Done right, working with the right partners gives you credibility and reach like never before. By the way, this will also challenge the age-old adage that we should spend three to four times on media for every production dollar, as friendly efforts together require some resource commitment. But that’s OK because when it comes to this, more is more. The key to navigating the chaos that is change, is to simply take stock, be deliberate, do less (but well), and to do more with others.

The writer is Tai Kam Leong, head of brand and partnerships, Maxis. The article first appeared in A+M’s The Futurist print edition.