The importance of stability and long-term thinking in a short-term focused world

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The importance of stability and long-term thinking in a short-term focused world

303 MullenLowe Perth’s Head of Planning, John Linton, says while marketing’s drift towards short-termism continues, two recent presentations have reinforced the value of a longer term vision.


Stability, balance and long-term thinking. Hardly sexy marketing concepts, but two recent presentations have reaffirmed their importance in my eyes.

The first was a webinar from Rob Brittain and Peter Field about their latest report: AuNZ Advertising Effectiveness Rules: Winning or Losing in a Recession. On par with their past work (and of course Les Binet’s), it was brilliant. Clear, informative and evidence-based – something we can all use a lot more of, as opposed to hot-takes on the ‘new normal’.

What I found most interesting was that even in the context of past recessions, their research found strong evidence to discourage brands from going ‘dark’ and ‘short’ with their advertising. At a time when CMO’s would be forgiven for cutting back and focusing short-term, Brittain and Field were doubling down in their belief that it would be brands who were able to maintain a long-term outlook – keeping their advertising share of voice above their share of market, and balancing their sales activation and brand building activities – who would come out on top.

Perhaps even more telling was that a live survey of marketers watching the seminar found that the majority weren’t currently following these guidelines.

Fast forward to a second presentation, this time from MullenLowe Asia CSO, Jonny Stark. Jonny took us through his DigiCon keynote ‘The lost art of strategy in a connected age’.

He highlighted a growing trend in his market of agencies being engaged more and more to help with execution and implementation, and less and less for more holistic strategic development. Among a number of contributing factors, Jonny made an interesting connection between this trend and the decreasing length of tenure for the average CEO and CMO.

He pointed to the increasing pressure facing the C-Suite to deliver immediate results, which is driving focus from long-term activities like brand building, towards those that deliver more visible short-term results, like digital performance media. From his point of view, the balance that Brittain, Field and Binet champion was most certainly off.

What’s pleasing to me, is that while there’s no doubt a rise of short-termism in our industry, I can quite easily point to examples right here in Perth of clients who are applying global best-practice principles – and running counter to Jonny Stark’s experiences – to great effect.

At Edith Cowan University, Julia Turner has led the Brand and Marketing team for over 9 years, supported internally over that period by Debbey Jones and Andrew Dunbar (among many others), and externally by 303 MullenLowe. This consistency’s created an environment where one eye is always on the long-term health of the brand while the other ensures the university’s annual enrolment targets are met amidst changing market pressures – resulting in a healthy advertising mix between long and short-term activities.

Most importantly, this stability and balance has had a very large business effects, including growth in student enrolment which has risen by 12.8% from 2015 to 2019.

The importance of stability and long-term thinking in a short-term focused world

25kms down the freeway is customer-owned bank, P&N. For the past five years, Anna Pearce, Kelly Fryer and team have forged an advertising program led by the brand’s belief in the power of the collective to enhance the value of the individual.

Much like ECU, P&N has consistently engaged 303 as a strategic partner in delivering on their vision, and just like ECU, P&N has always adhered to the principles of balance and long-term thinking in their marketing.

Over the past five years – and throughout the COVID period – P&N has maintained a presence in market above their share, and a strong balance between brand building and sales activation – decisions which have helped the organisation powerfully enhance the health of the brand while growing its membership by over 11% since 2015.

Looking at these two Perth-based exemplars of global best-practice, maybe stability, balance and long-term thinking are sexy. Because, they’re certainly effective. And that’s a point I think is worth underscoring in a time we’re being told is ‘characterised by unprecedented change’.