Disruption is one business trend overarching most others right now. Retailers are threatened by the looming arrival of Amazon.
TV and print media are being savaged by Facebook and Google.
Batteries are the death knell for the internal combustion engines in the cars we drive, and fintech start-ups are unleashing technologies to cannibalise banks. The opportunities are enormous for those embracing the trend.
Marketing is no different.
Lauren Fried is an adviser and business strategist who describes her agency, Pulse Collective, as dedicated to growing entrepreneurial businesses. Those causing all this upheaval need help, and there’s no doubt those suffering at the hands of disruption do too.
Fried is perhaps best known for her sharp insights as a panellist on the ABC’s advertising-focused TV show Gruen.
“There is confusion,” Fried says of the new marketing world.
“Chief marketing officers most likely are dealing with a PR company, a content company, a social agency, a creative agency, a marketing agency and might be offshoring some work with digital and a media buyer. Their role is to keep all the balls in the air.
“Imagine having to do eight meetings each week with different agencies just to update you about the same thing. It is chaos. Being in a marketing role is really hard. You are meant to know a bit about everything. If I went on holidays for six months, there would be so much change in the digital landscape that I would have to get back on top of. It is changing rapidly.”
Advertising agencies once dominated – think Don Draper in the TV series Mad Men – but their creative work is now increasingly handled offshore or outsourced.
Fried’s job is to manage this milieu while rolling out king-hit strategies. She says all her clients want to grow but they may not know how.
They want to innovate, bust into new markets with killer products or services.
But this still requires a smart marketing plan, a team to deliver it and partners to produce the creative messaging and execution. There’s not much different in the recipe but there are important new tricks.
“Every marketing campaign should be based on data – it has to be,” says Fried.
“I talk about this a lot. I am passionate about it, the role that data plays. People want to be more creative and have big campaigns but the definition of marketing is getting the thinking down.
“That is the foundation that lasts for years and years. If you are making assumptions, you could be going off only slightly in the wrong direction. But that 1% you are off compounds over time. If there is no data to tie your thoughts to and to prove them, then the marketing strategy should not be signed off.
“Businesses need to use their own data, and they also need to buy the right data to understand what a high-value customer looks like – what are their behaviours?
“If I asked ‘Would you buy a hybrid car?’, you might say ‘yes’. But would you really buy one? Maybe not.
“We use actual behaviours, not what people say they will do. They are very different things. The quantitative research tells us about people’s behaviours and what influences them.
“For example, one of our clients, a family-run business, was adamant it was 16- to 24-year-old men and boys buying their vitamin supplements. All of the data told us it was 50- to 54-year-olds with an average household income of $150,000 or more. You couldn’t get more opposite.
“Even then, you can’t make assumptions about what a 50-year-old earning $150,000 does.
“But the data told us they were four times more likely than the population to go to Bali. They were more likely to buy at online discount stores. They were premium wine buyers. This gives us deep detail.
“So we did a promotion which offered a prize of a trip to Bali. You would have thought that a 50-year-old with that sort of income would be going to Europe.
“It’s the data that tells the story. It’s a no-brainer.”
There’s an aspect of George Orwell’s Big Brother about this.
Data reveals what products people buy at the supermarket, what they spend on their credit cards and much, much more. Australian Bureau of Statistics information can also be added.
“When you merge it all together it is magic,” says Fried.
Her career started in the marketing department at McDonald’s. She left school for a career in journalism via a BA in communications. But the course didn’t offer much on how to write.
McDonald’s paid handsomely and, importantly, it was “a huge machine that was used for training and mentoring and coaching. It was the ultimate launch pad for my career”.
Five years on, Fried quit for a small, family-owned, quick-service restaurant chain but left after three weeks because “they didn’t like that I was woman”.
Then came Pulse.
That was accidental. It was meant to be a bridge to something bigger in her career but she enjoyed the work because clients gave her more control of their marketing.
She hired staff, and after four years jagged a major client in gas distributor Jemena. That transformed the business, supported its growth and taught her skills she didn’t have.
Then in 2010 came a NSW Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year Award.
“That gave us a great reputation but clients wanted me. It was tricky to manage.”
The next boost came from the national spotlight on Gruen.
Now another pivot is happening. Fried recently married Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo who owns two noted South Australian restaurants.
Fried is still invigorated by marketing but wants someone else to run the business so she can focus on advising clients and pursuing new passions in South Australia for food, wine, tourism and produce.
She is now chair of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association and a director on the Rundle Mall Management Authority.
One priority is the work that Zonfrillo’s Orana Foundation is undertaking to catalogue the thousands of native natural food ingredients in Australia. His fine dining Restaurant Orana in Adelaide is known for foods such as zig-zag wattle, sandalwood nut, kutjera (desert raisin), gubinge (plums) and Geraldton wax.
He spends considerable sums of his own each year on toxicology testing and researching native plants, and has documented up to 500 varieties. Recently the South Australian government granted $1.25 million to his foundation and its partners, University of Adelaide, the Botanic Gardens of SA and the SA Museum, to develop a laboratory and build an open source database anyone can use.
“At the moment native ingredients are so mysterious,” says Fried.
“We go out and spend time in Indigenous communities. My husband had been doing it for 16 years. Much of the food seems inedible but they show you how to make it edible. We are trying to make it more accessible. We want Geraldton wax on supermarket shelves along with rosemary, thyme and coriander.
“It is a big challenge to say we are going to preserve the sophisticated cooking methods of Australia. Normally you would start with fine dining restaurants and it would permeate through. But at the moment you can’t get a cookbook with native ingredients in it because you can’t buy the ingredients.”
Another passion that Fried shares with her husband is travel.
She says her financial goal is “to buy freedom to have wonderful experiences in life. To go to Europe and see Jock in the Highlands for a month or go to Canada, that is what financial freedom looks like to me. Not necessarily building up assets. That is part of the mix but that does not drive me. I sit down at the end of the year and say, ‘Wow, wasn’t that month we had in the Highlands fantastic!’ ”
Property investment plays a part. Fried owns one investment property and, with Jock, plans to buy more residential and commercial property over the next two years.
There is also the notion of buying a castle in Scotland. On a trip there this year, their eye was captured by one place while walking in the Highlands.
“Having a piece of the Scottish Highlands that is ours would be extraordinary. To have something that our kids go to and their kids go to. I am sure it’s not the best investment.
“We would probably be there several times a year. But that is the pinnacle. We are going back in several weeks and the conversation will come up. Jock will be into it in no time.”