What Debbie Harry can teach us about mastering reinvention

What Debbie Harry can teach us about mastering reinvention

The biggest message for me from a week at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this year was about the speed of change.

Yes, yes, ho hum and we have heard all that already yawn, etc. But when the leaders of Google, Facebook, YouTube, Vice, DreamWorks, Yahoo, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, the big advertising groups, and many others are all standing there, pale and trembling, and all saying ”WOW! Things are just changing soooo fast….” well, maybe they are. One described our business environment today as ‘an epidemic of extinction’. If we are not grasping change, and moving fast with it, for many in the advertising, creative, digital, communications, and marketing industries, this is a period of genuine and total demise.

So, how do we do it?

Blondie’s Debbie Harry put it this way some time ago:

“You must be constantly reinventing to stay on top.”

But brands that have FAILED or are FAILING, according to Collective magazine, have two problems in common:

  1. Preservation Obsession: They are unwilling to change as times and needs evolve. Traditions become an anchor that holds them back when these should be a foundation from the past that gives them something on which to build the future.
  2. Progress Addiction: It is equally as dangerous to change too much too quickly, or to simply make changes for the sake of it.

We need to be constantly challenging ourselves around ‘change’, avoid ‘preservation obsession’, and just as importantly, avoid ‘progress addiction’. And we have to change while at the same time delivering the right returns today. A big percentage of our revenues and profits comes from so-called ‘old or traditional’ marketing techniques. This will be the case for a long time. So we have to continue to brilliant at delivering what we do today, and evolving and innovating at the right pace to keep ahead of clients while learning how to make the right returns out of the new stuff. Exciting times indeed.

So, keep thinking hard about the change your business needs to deliver to clients, today and tomorrow. We need to be outstanding in trying to predict client needs. Do not think our clients know what they need. As Henry Ford said: “If I’d asked my customer what they wanted they would have told me a faster horse.”

Read constantly, keep track of what the thought leaders are saying at the big bleeding edge conferences within your specialty around the world, in our trade press, our clients’ trade press, on the websites of the very best in our industry, from the major holding company market announcements.

Ask yourselves as a leadership team: How do we need to – sensibly, commercially, cleverly – evolve and change to remain absolutely and vitally relevant to our clients businesses, to be indispensable to our clients, and to make a relevant return for our shareholders along the way.

What a great time to be in business!

More reading:

How you can stay relevant during times of massive change
Powerful innovation for agencies – Do it, or die!
How to get ‘change’ front and centre in your business


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