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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

I don't know...

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

It's been a bit quiet on my end for a while now. A new job will do that.

You make an agreement with yourself in those first few weeks that it'll be intense and all consuming to start, but it won't be long until you get back into your old routine. Alarm, gym, coffee and breakfast, work, drive home in the daylight, bath time for the lad, put him down for bed, dinner, reading or writing, bed. Repeat.

But, as of the next few weeks, it will be a year since I found out I was coming to this amazing club, and I've still not picked up my old routine. But I'm not here to write about that. However, I am here to write about something... that something being what I've found to be the most confronting, yet rewarding and humbling parts of taking over marketing here at the club. And something that I'm sure many others have had to address to in their time leading and working within marketing.

It's something that I never anticipated. It's something that my ego, nor my belief in myself would ever have me accept... before. It's a place of significant vulnerability that seems to fly in the face of being renowned or pursuant of being a marketing specialist.

In it's simplest form - it's about admitting and accepting that when it comes to key marketing questions (which can pretty much be anything in business), the answer, as a marketer, must always be... I don't know.

I learnt very early in my career from my mentor, Paul Fishlock, to appreciate that the minute you cross the threshold to become a marketer in a brand, you leave behind the world of the consumer. You are no longer the consumer. You'll never be able to see your product or service, your price, your communications, the way your consumers see it. Whether you think it impacts you or not, your experience - what you see, hear, learn - coupled with the copious amount of time you spend thinking about your brand, just isn't replicable on the outside. What you think and feel is not what your consumers think and feel. Regardless of how much you instinctively believe so. The context and the content your exposed to means your thoughts and knowledge is biased.

Understanding this is proving to be more and more vital. My opinion isn't just worthless... it's dangerous. The humility and discipline of marketing is about accepting this.

When you accept that you don't have the answers, you realise that it's your job to go and find them. To connect to consumers quickly and efficiently and hear and understand them. And in doing so, taking the entire organisation on that same journey. The text books call this market orientation.

It is through this that I have found a love and appreciation for research (not many people do agency side). In the acceptance that I, and the club, don't know the answers to many questions we've been asking ourselves for some time, 2018 was spent digging deeply for those answers... for connecting with our people to understand better.

And whilst there were many professional highs in 2018, it's been the research and strategic unpacking of that research that has been possibly my most rewarding professional endeavor. And whilst I'm not at the liberty to discuss those answers yet, we've a host of questions, some listed below, that we now have much greater and valid insight into:

  • What market do we exist in?

  • How big is that market? How many South Australian's are AFL fans?

  • What's our share of that market? How many South Australian's are Port Adelaide fans?

  • Where is short term growth going to come from?

  • Where is long term growth going to come from?

  • How do people consume sport?

  • Are there different types of sports fans?

  • If so, how do behaviours and attitudes differ between these fans?

  • Who is our audience? Audiences?

  • How are they the same or different to each other?

  • How does someone become a fan?

  • Are there specific themes or stages to sports fan development?

  • Have we got the right products to offer all the different types of fans?

  • What does our brand mean to people?

  • As a brand, what do we own that nobody else can or does? What's distinctively us?

  • Why don't people come to games when their intentions indicate that they will?

  • What's important to our people both on and off field?

The list goes on.

Before I started at the club, when I would ask myself questions in preparation for what others might ask, I found myself admitting to myself that I didn't know - which only made me anxious and nervous. But now, I know that's OK. That's my job. I get excited about not knowing because it means that we get to go searching. It means we have a better chance of getting things right.

Since joining the club, asking these questions and then pursuing the answers has given me the opportunity to work with some incredible people including renowned Professor of Marketing, and now mentor, Heath McDonald, as well as the globally renowned, and largest centre for research and marketing, Ehrenberg Bass Institute, specifically Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp (who rather than work with, shared a stage with). And many more, including some incredible internal team mates.

Switching to client side has been incredible, albeit a steep learning curve in areas. For anyone else that's planning the move themselves, considering a career in marketing, or entrenched in their own career and seeking insight, my final comments are a few key insights that I figured would be worth sharing in the hope that it helps you both prepare and not put so much pressure on yourself:

  1. Learn to let it go - let your opinion and point of view go. Know you're not the consumer and force yourself to go out to the market to understand.

  2. The humility of marketing - understand that we literally know nothing and it's our job to connect with consumers to find out.

  3. Enemies of market orientation - learn to fight back against time, costs, pressure in your organisation and make space to understand the consumer.

  4. The organisational challenge - get the organisation to realise its central mission is to serve the consumers.

It all feels somewhat counter-intuitive, and perhaps even harder than it should be. But, it's a hell of a ride. Enjoy it and by all means, keep me posted!


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