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News Analysis: Could ISO 10018 Affect Advertising?

A more focused approach to Quality People Management supported by ISO 10018 standards could draw dollars from traditional mass-marketing as organizations shift their focus to building more meaningful one-to-one relationships with everyone who counts. 
By Bruce Bolger 

This past year, Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s largest advertisers, reportedly pulled back over $140 million from digital advertising because of the inability to measure the results or control the content environment in which its brands appeared, and others appear ready to follow suit. In his recent book, The End of Advertising, author Andrew Essex argues that the advertising field requires a complete reset because the old model isn’t working, and he suggests an entirely new way for marketers to become part of the conversation instead of being “interrupters.” 
Essex leaves out the biggest reason advertising doesn’t work: the failure of marketers to keep their promises. What does ISO 10018 have to do with this? These standards focus strategically on how to ensure that the brand consistently delivers an inspiring experience by engaging everyone who can make a difference. Advertising has more impact and authenticity when it's truthful. 
In The End of Advertising, the author, a former editor and currently an advertising executive, argues that the ability for people to block ads, access Internet TV with no interruptions, share product and service info via social media, and the growing exasperation with “interruptive” or misleading advertising have sounded the death knell for advertising as we know it. He asserts that the industry will have to learn an entirely new way of communicating in which the brand becomes part of the conversation, instead of interrupting it. Essex cites as a stellar example the highly successful Citibike rental sponsorship in New York City, which he credits with fostering enormous gains in the bank’s brand at a cost far below that of many traditional advertising campaigns. 

The Need for Authenticity

For Essex, the solution lies in having ad messages appearing in the right context so that they are welcome; “minding one’s manners” by delivering the “marketing equivalent of a thoughtful housewarming gift” and by being “altruistic”; telling “interesting stories” that make your “brand the thing and not just the thing that sells the thing”; adding value through enhanced services or by helping to fix a problem in the brand’s community; using targeted coupons or “contextually relevant discounts” (but only if people have opted in); using data to create better strategies; and measuring “what actually matters.” For instance, “how about calculating the real damage incurred by being annoying?” 
Where does “delivering on the marketing promise” figure in this equation?
Advertising is everything Essex dislikes, in part because most companies don't strategically make sure that they consistently deliver on their marketing promises, not to mention the many whose ads outright deceive. In marketing, what story is better than the one that is true? At best, most advertisers wield a big budget to make splashy promises, and then generally deploy a much less focused process to make sure they deliver them, so that today most people say they generally are skeptical of any claims made in advertising. 

ISO 10018 Application for CMOs

How does the ISO 10018 framework provide a fresh approach to marketing? By focusing specifically on everything that will affect customer satisfaction and a willingness to recommend across the organization. After all, ISO 10018 is not a human resources standard; it was created by the same committee that runs the ISO 9001 Quality Management standard, which is anchored in the principles of customer focus. Here’s how a Chief Marketing Officer can use the ISO 10018 framework to develop a more effective and measurable marketing strategy: 
Define the enterprise brand. What does the brand stand for to all its audiences—not simply to its customers, but to employees, distribution partners, vendors, communities? What are the brand’s explicit and implicit promises and values? Why should someone do business with your organization? How are we going to make sure that our organization delivers its brand promises every step of the way? In the era of social media, delivering on marketing promises is as important as keeping them, because social media has significantly increased the megaphone of word-of-mouth. 
Precisely identify external and internal audiences. What are the audiences that can affect the impact of your brand? Is it only customers, or is it distribution partners, employees, vendors and communities as well? Who are the people who affect your success now and what specifically are the most effective media to reach them? Today, identifying audiences gets as granular as knowing each customer, employee, distribution partner, or other contributor, past or current. 
Align the brand, leadership recruiting and coaching. How is the organization ensuring that it recruits and coaches leaders at all levels steeped in the brand and its values and who have the ability to inspire, so that employees focus each day on how they can directly or indirectly affect the customer experience? Many companies today have budgets for employing brand advocates, when their own employees, distribution partners, vendors, or other communities can also be powerful brand advocates.
Assess engagement across the organization. Regularly tracking and analyzing engagement of all audiences and their level of knowledge and skills related to the brand and making sure that information is fed back to all relevant parties and incorporated into ongoing planning are critical to marketing success. Research shows a clear connection between customer and employee engagement, and both customers and employees can benefit from ongoing training to fully understand the capabilities of the brand’s products and services. 
Make communication useful and meaningful. What is the best way to communicate with our customers, distribution partners, employees, vendors and communities so that everyone has common expectations and employees and other business partners know how they can contribute to fulfilling them? In this new world, other than to announce news, communication is about building a community of informed customers, employees, distribution partners, vendors and communities who are up to date with the brand’s journey. To build trust, information must be useful and accurate. 
Teach relevant skills on an ongoing basis. What skills do people have to benefit your organization or its products, and how can we make sure they have them? How much greater productivity and job appeal can we achieve by cross-training employees so they can assist in other areas or change up routines? Most of us have little idea of what people do just down the hall in our organizations and, as customers, often use only 50% or less of the capabilities of the technology or devices we have. How many of us are ever seriously encouraged to discover these tools and why do organizations build them if most of us don’t use them? The same applies to employees. 
Continually promote innovation and collaboration. What is the organization doing to energize all its audiences, from customers and distribution partners to employees, vendors and other communities, to help find new ways to enhance or improve the product or service?
Build communities online and offline. What is the organization doing to build a community of people across the enterprise that shares ideas, recognition, useful information, volunteer activities, etc.? The most powerful branding creates a community that binds people emotionally. 
Rewards and recognition. What is the strategy for supporting the brand and actions with meaningful, carefully selected and presented rewards that resonate not only with the recipient but with his or her community and co-workers? Most organizations give little thought to the presentation and customization of rewards given to their most valuable people. Talk about a missed branding opportunity. 
Measurement. What is the benefit of clickthrough rates compared with such measures as revenue per customer, retention rate, willingness to recommend, distributor loyalty, revenue per distributor, revenue per employee, retention, relative ease of recruiting, quality and productivity indices, wellness and safety, absence of litigation, etc.?

More Dollars Will Flow to Other Engagement Media

Advertising is not likely to go away; it remains a vital means of building brand awareness and informing people of new products, services and features. As part of a communication strategy, it can also support learning, innovation, community-building and even rewards and recognition strategies by helping to get the word out. Author Essex correctly points out that the advertising field will have to transform itself in a way that will require an entirely new set of content, learning and internal communications and general story telling capabilities not yet available at most ad agencies. 
The principles of ISO 10018 make a strong case for shifting media marketing dollars to more targeted ways in order to become part of the conversation and enrich customers and prospects on a more one-on-one basis rather than simply being “the thing that is trying to sell the thing.” 
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