How learning from the past can help drive business growth

By Mia Bowyer in Marcoms News on
Explore history to dramatically improve your marketing practice
By Mia Bowyer, Internal Communications & Knowledge Executive, Ogilvy Public Relations
Marcomms professionals spend a huge deal of time looking at the future, but they should start realising the great value found in the past.

The rapidly evolving world of communications has led many to believe we can’t progress if we are focused on the past. We are pushed into a mindset of innovation, disruption and technological advancement.
Yet, history can reveal some of the greatest insights imaginable! To ignore our history, means missing out on a profound advantage to accelerate our learning.
Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns stated perfectly: “Business leaders ought to study history. You can’t possibly know where you are or where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
For a company to truly improve, we must be learning constantly. While the future is silent, the past is a never-ending, fascinating dialogue, which can help us to be more informed in our own time.
Let’s look at it practically. Today’s marcomms  professionals don’t have endless amounts of time to stroll through libraries, watch lengthy documentaries or visit museums. So how do we use the past to drive innovation and growth?
Implementing a Knowledge Management System (KMS)
Think of knowledge management as a digital library for all the best work created by your company. You have a new business proposal and you’re looking for a template? Chances are your company has it!
Creating a KMS isn’t rocket science, and reusing information has been proven to be beneficial for organisations as it cuts through redundant effort, minimizes rework and accelerates progress. Not only that, but it allows you to share lessons learnt and gain marketing insights from past successes or failures.
You can learn a great deal from your company’s past work instead of starting from scratch. To get started, check out Axero’s 7 simple steps to create a killer knowledge management strategy .
Research past examples of success or failure
History is always repeating itself. Company’s successes and failures are broadcasted on the internet.
Next time you’re about to jump head into a campaign, stop… research.   
You might be inspired by great ideas or enlightened by bad ones. Regardless, you’ll find key messages that resonate deeply throughout your professional practice - planning, timing, tracking analytics, brand perception, and the importance of brand health assessment.

Take the example of the Adidas 3D-printed sneaker - it is made from ocean waste. Adidas tapped into the difficult issue of oceanic pollution, tackling it with creativity and flair. The campaign exploded across the world and landed over 12 million video views. You might not be prepared to design a sneaker made from 95% of recycled Maldives plastic, but campaigns like this can be a springboard, inspiring marketing professionals to rethink the nature of consumerism and imbue creativity into timely issues of concern.
And finally, we can’t ignore learning from the book of history.
It’s about time I fessed up. I’m a complete history nut. I studied five units at school, drag my friends to museums and am forever engrossed in documentaries.
Ancient cultures once used history to understand their purpose and existence. Yet, modern society has turned its back on this deep practice of learning.
We favour where we are going, not where we have been. But history is alive and has profound relevance in the 21st century.
A marketer’s core purpose is to persuade consumers toward a certain point of view. Cutting through the noise is a highly complex and difficult task. Many get caught up with the bells and the whistles of engagement, yet grounding yourself in the core teachings of persuasion will be a game changer.
Aristotle, the master of persuasion, outlines three modes that convince people toward a point of view.
  1. Logos – The reasoned logic or ‘proof’ used to make an argument. By backing up claims in the customer journey through data, facts, research findings or client testimonials, you instill trust and credibility.
  2. Pathos – A marketers efforts to influence the emotional state of their consumer is pathos. This is achieved by putting them in a certain frame of mind. We are emotional creatures, we will connect with brands if they connect with our emotions.
  3. Ethos – The personal character of the speaker / brand. Let the audience gain a deeper understanding of your message, vision, values and establish your/ your brand’s unique likeable qualities.
Aristotle’s modes of persuasion should be at the heart of every marketing campaign. They develop trust, connect with emotion and inspire action.
If you dive into the past you will find a treasure trove of good ideas. This can be as practical as a trend report written by someone two months earlier, or a deep philosophical understanding to inform your life today.
Regardless of how or why you’re using the past, I urge you to take a moment, turn off the machine of progress and appreciate the plethora of wisdom that’s gone before you.
You can’t possibly know how to tackle the future, without learning from the past.

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