What's your question for 2023?

By Des Jones, Chief Strategy Officer, Juniper Park\TBWA


Juniper Park\TBWA
Full Service
Toronto, Canada
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Des Jones
Chief Strategy Officer Juniper Park\TBWA


2023 stands poised to be a very interesting year in marketing.

Marketing has been on an efficiency bull run. For the last decade, progress in marketing has come from better and better use of targeted and measurable marketing. Companies have been able to follow best practice across multiple platforms. Industry benchmarks have brought a focus and a level of accountability that never previously existed. And our access to competitive work allows us to see exactly what the opposition is doing.

However, this has also led us to similarity and incrementalism. It feels like there has never been less difference between brands and marketing approaches. Entire categories are only differentiated by logos and colour schemes. In chasing efficiency we have effectively been agreeing to be similar. In essence, peak efficiency has led to another state: Peak Convention.

If marketers want to break their category’s status quo, they will need to break the conventions that are maintaining the status quo. We call this Disruption® and we believe 2023 will be the year of Disruption®.

There are many positives about the efficiency we have gained, but breaking the status quo means questioning which conventions work for us and which don’t. Across the board we need to ask better questions. If we keep asking similar questions, we will keep getting similar results.

2022 was a boom year for Artificial Intelligence. In many forums AI raised questions about the nature of creativity and disruption. For us, it raised the question of questions. AI reinforced that what you get is totally dependent on the questions you ask. Predictable questions bring predictable results. Interesting questions bring far more interesting results.

Over the last decade the questions most often asked of agencies have been metric related. Asking for an increase in awareness or more click throughs. It seems our ability to measure the output has dulled our ability to ask questions.

Part of marketing will always be doing what we know how to do, but part of it has to be about facing what we don’t know how to do. We need to start asking more open and provocative questions and experimenting to find the answers. We need to spend a little less time relying on the proven and set out to prove something ourselves. Only then might we do something that our competition can’t do.

Dove and Patagonia asked fundamentally different questions that kickstarted purpose as an advantage. Apple asked why computers are defined by their processing capabilities rather than by what they enable. Gatorade asked why a sports drink shouldn’t be more important than your sports equipment. Being the first to ask a great question puts you into a category of one. Being one of the 1000’s of brands to ask the same question, makes you one in the category.

It might be daunting to pose a question when you are not sure if it can be answered. But those are the questions that Disruption® comes from. Marketing needs disrupting. It has to beak the efficiency deadlock. More disruptive questions will lead to more category Disruption®. 

What’s your question?