Monday, January 2nd, 2012
It's time to stop being distracted by “mostly irrelevant information”, says South Australian creative strategist Sputnik, who also calls Gerry Harvey’s stores “Halls of Boring”.

Sputnik, of Adelaide-based creative services company Out of this World, blames the meteoric growth of Social Media for lazy attitudes towards communicating with the market, but says there are opportunities aplenty in the year ahead for businesses that are prepared to think and act smarter.

“Social Media has fooled a lot of people into believing people are inherently interested in what they had for breakfast,” Sputnik says. “But they’re not. They don’t care if you just scratched your nose, or whatever other inconsequential piece of information you feel like sharing. Traditional media like TV and radio may well be crowded, but there’s the better part of a billion people trying to share their every thought on Facebook right now so you’re going to have to do better than talk about yourself to get noticed.”

Having worked with clients including Coca Cola Amatil, Unilever, Chevron and Tourism Australia both here in Australia and South East Asia over the years, Sputnik says it’s time for businesses to stop being distracted by what he calls “mostly irrelevant information”.

“The days of propping up an average product or service with a fancy ad campaign are long gone but those businesses that get on with creating genuine value for their clients or customers will do well in 2012,” he says.

“Don’t think an ad is going to be your panacea. We’re finally starting to see companies going to a bit more effort to get the marketing basics of their offering right.

“Gerry Harvey can whinge about online sales and GST all he likes, but the truth is his stores are big, cavernous Halls of Boring, staffed mostly by people with poor product knowledge and they’re not that cheap. And he’s blaming online for sluggish results? You’d think Gerry might be rich enough to afford that reality check he pretty desperately needs.”

As often as not, the Out of this World business model includes working with clients to ensure the proposition is right, before any advertising work is ever developed. While lead times and R&D costs for developing new products or services are sometimes restrictive, Sputnik says there’s almost always something that can be done to improve a company’s value proposition.

As for the online sales juggernaut, Sputnik says he believes they will continue to thrive as long as the Australian dollar remains strong, but should it dip below about 80 cents as it was less than two years ago, we’ll see a move back to bricks and mortar stores - providing there are any left!

“There’ll be a place for retail stores for a while yet, don’t worry about that. We’ve seen lots of myths busted, including the fact people won’t buy things like clothes online which is something that was widely believed to be true. Then there were all those safety concerns about using credit cards online. But when the price was right, all that went out the window and people were more than happy to buy to their hearts’ content.”

The trick, he says, is to not just wait and hope the dollar will fall or something else will give, but to start developing strategies to make the retail experience worthwhile.

“It’s tempting to get caught up in worrying about external economic factors, but we don’t have control over those in any case. So it’s time to stop whinging and get on with the business of doing something that’s of value to people. Despite it being a so-called tough time for retail, we’ve just seen people handing their money over by the truckload during the Christmas sales, so which is it? Is retail tough? Or is it OK? Or does it simply depend on what’s on offer and how it’s promoted?

“It was, is and always will be the absolute fundamental of marketing to offer the right product at the right price in the right place, and then promoting it properly. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but what’s the alternative? Sit there and complain all the way to your creditors’ meeting? Sometimes it takes a little more thought and a lot more effort to re-invent your business model, but it can be done and we should accept that it’s a given in these times of fast-paced change."

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