Our opinion on... The future of the marketing industry in Canada Whether or not the communications business in Toronto is in deep trouble, is an open question. What is certain, however, is that with the hollowing out of branch plant brands, and the global focus on global marketing, the opportunities for applied creativity, both strategic and words and pictures, are diminishing by the day. And while this might be expected, in the short term, to result in better quality and greater creativity (more great minds focused on less work), this is obviously not what’s happening. In fact, what will probably happen is that great creative minds, starved of the opportunity to stretch and express themselves, will leave the industry and find opportunities elsewhere. This is sad, not only for those who choose to move on, but also for those who could have learned from them. In the end, if there is sudden, or gradual, flight of smart people, the industry as a whole will be diminished, a tipping point will be reached and Toronto, which could have/should have been known for its creative communications community, will become a marketing wasteland. As each issue of Marketing crosses my desk, as each week (or is it two weeks – I forget) flies by, I see this outcome as more and more inevitable. I search the pages to find the part where the industry leaders are having a conference on the future of business in Canada. I scour the artfully set type to find the words that tell me that a group of visionary leaders, the so-called Great and the Good of the marketing world, have forced the city and the province and the federal government to join together in a task force to determine how Toronto can become the most vibrant centre of creative thought in the Americas and beyond. None of this is happening. Articles are being written about the problems, about the dangers, about the barriers to progress, but nobody (except for Tony Chapman) appears to be giving this issue any real consideration. And nobody, including Tony Chapman, is doing anything about it. Through the unyielding pressure placed on the municipal and (to a lesser extent) provincial governments, the Toronto Summit Alliance is changing the direction of the city. Individual industries are working with various levels of government and public-private partnerships to change the international image of Toronto, not by sucking and blowing, but by changing the way they view their industries and the way their industries are viewed by others. It seems ironic that at a time when Toronto is being reborn as a creative city, as Richard Florida (probably by following the tenets of Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”) wills us into the 21st century,
Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm. Since 1997 we have been helping large and small companies convert brand value into higher margins and bottom line profits by understanding their stakeholders needs; building powerful strategies; and aligning business practices with marketing and sale to a common goal.
the traditional creative class – adboys and
Our economic history is defined by our ability
girls -- is withering away.
to produce massive amounts of base resources
In the same way Toronto is claiming leadership in manufacturing, biochemical and high tech innovation, we need to become the cen-
that others have been able to exploit. We grow the wood, but others make the furniture. We are best at delivering high quality ingredients.
tre of marketing and communication innova-
Our technological leadership is not based on
tion. The traditional objection, “But our market
developing the most innovative high tech
is so small we never get to try new stuff,” is
products (although RIM did just that). Rather,
irrelevant. Being the centre of innovation tran-
it is based on developing the most vital com-
scends “testing new experiential marketing
ponents that make innovative products possi-
ideas,” and undoubtedly has nothing to do
ble. The ideas on which world-changing inno-
with the best advertising idea.
vations are based. Think: the telephone, the
Being the centre of marketing and communication innovation suggests being thought lead-
light bulb, the technology behind AM radio, telephone computer delivery systems.
ers; gathering bright minds to innovate, con-
Similarly, our industry’s future rests on our
sider and share knowledge. We need to ac-
ability to position ourselves as the source of
tively promote cross-functional dialogue be-
unrivaled marketing and communication ingre-
tween the academic communities and the in-
dients: ideas and inspiration; It does not rest
dustry. And we need to understand the impor-
on our ability to compete with US or UK adver-
tance of ideas.
tising giants by building great advertising
Would a concerted, strategic program to position Toronto as the global leader in marketing and communication innovation, have any im-
campaigns. We need to deconstruct the industry, identify the components we are best at and sell these ingredients, globally.
pact on the economic issue – the business is
In other words, if this industry is going to
going away? It would. And for a strangely Ca-
flourish, we need to get into the business of
selling knowledge, ideas, inspiration; and get out of the business of selling ads.
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Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Protean Strategies/The Bay Charles Consulting Group Limited. He has been a leading proponent of the “new order of differentiation” and has written and lectured on the subject of
Protean Strategies 80 Cumberland Street, Suite 1503 Toronto M5R 3V1 Canada 416.967.3337
experiential branding and intrinsic/extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the US, Europe and China. In addition to a highly successful 20 year career in advertising and marketing he held senior positions client side in hotel and hospitality companies. Laurence attended the University of the
Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Cornell University in Ithaca , New York
Published on Jun 28, 2010
Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm. Since 1997 we have been helping large and small companies convert brand va...