Tom Fishburne, Founder, Marketoonist, is a marketing professional with a twist. His childhood love for cartoons meant that he would spend hours trying to recreate his favourite cartoons with his own new additions to them. But reality soon caught up with Fishburne when he realised that making a living as a cartoonist might not be the most practical plan and so he bid adieu to his passion to find his fortunes elsewhere.
But as fate would have it, he found his way back to cartoons at Harvard Business School. Today not only is he living his dream (making a living out of his cartoons) but is also having a lot of fun doing the same.
Fishburne, who had managed to reach 200,000 readers through his Marketoonist cartoon series, decided to expand Marketoonist into a marketing agency focused on the unique medium of cartoons for businesses in the year 2010. He has worked with names like Google, LinkedIn and Kronos and continues to bring smiles to faces through his wit.
In a session held at Zee Melt 2018, Fishburne spoke about what marketers must keep in mind when undertaking a marketing exercise in this data-rich and technology-heavy ecosystem. Interspersed with original, relevant and hilarious cartoons, his session was full of marketing gems and resounding laughter.
Any marketing and advertising professional worth their salt must be familiar with the formidable Mr Draper from the Mad Men series. While the show has a robust fan following, what Fishburne says marketers must keep in mind is the fact that the world has changed.
“When working at General Mills, the first brand that I handled was Green Giant, which one of those classic advertising icons from the last century. At my desk I found all these background reading on how marketing was done for the Green Giant brands, I literally found a creative brief written by a young Leo Burnett. What struck me there was they had an assumption when it came to marketing the brand and that assumption was they had a captive audience,” said Fishburne.
The idea of a captive audience works on the command and control style of marketing where a brand would create a communication and the brand with the most media dollars would reach more audience because there were only a few channels to reach the audience back then.
On the contrary, today a consumer has no dearth of options to get their information from. Reaching people has never been easier than it is today but it is also true that actually getting people to take notice of one’s brand has never been harder than it is today. We live in a world where the media is much more fragmented and therefore it becomes that much more difficult to control the conversation that happens around one’s brand. In such a world, marketers will have to think about whether the marketing they are creating is worth sharing to begin with.
According to Fishburne, there are a lot of squirrels out there to distract a marketer and new ones are coming up almost every day but the key here to not get distracted by every new technology that surfaces in the market and making optimum use of the one that is available.
“We get excited about applying the latest technology rather than the insight, the big idea and the marketing mindset we need to have before we take advantage of that,” said Fishburne.
Giving the example of Nike’s Chalkbot campaign, Fishburne spoke about how brands must think about their consumers in order to connect with them. The Chalkbot in appearance is similar to an ink jet printer, except at a much larger scale. The trailer-mounted device is fully self-contained and pneumatically sprays out either messages or graphics. Nike used the Chalkbot to spread messages of hope and cancer survival during the Tour de France. Now, essentially, the brand could have written anything about themselves but they chose to keep the people at the centre of the campaign ensuring roaring support and participation.
“Ultimately, the campaign wasn’t about the brand but it said a lot about the brand,” said Fishburne.
Fishburne is of the opinion that consistent and clever messaging is more important than making viral content.
“Having the mindset of serial storytelling is crucial and powerful. I really loved discovering the history of the Amul campaign. Over the last 52 years they have had creatives reflecting things that are happening on a topical basis whether they are global, local or related to Bollywood. It is a fascinating reflection of this mindset change that more brands have the potential of adopting.”
Listing the pitfalls of being too reliant on data, Fishburne pointed out that there are various things that can go wrong with believing data blindly. By using a cartoon he created, Fishburne showcased how data is not always correct. In the cartoon, a man sees an ad for shoes in his mailbox, then the same ad on the billboard, then on his computer, then his radio, then on TV and finally decides to buy the shoe from his mobile phone. As this data reflects, the marketers decide to spend all their money on mobile advertising.
“As we become sophisticated as data-driven marketers, we need to balance being data-driven with intuition and questioning the data that we are working with. That is next stage that we must move to as marketers,” said Fishburne.
“There has never been a time of greater change in marketing and it is going to be really interesting to see how we adapt and evolve as we grow,” said Fishburne.
According to Fishburne, the first instinct that marketers and organisations have in general is to play it safe. That could put brands in a position where they can’t take the full advantage of what is happening on ground. Citing the example of San Francisco-based clothing brand Betabrand, Fishburne elaborated on how sometimes taking risks can lead to greater gains.