Creative Marketing and the Painted Forest

Why did I include a picture of the Painted Forest on my Website? Where is it and what’s it got to do with marketing?

In April 1994 I travelled to a peace conference in Gernika, in northern Spain. My host was Gernika Gogoratuz, the Basque peace research institute. The time that I spent there, participating and learning about conflicts and peace-making, was to change my life. However, that’s a story for another day. For now, let’s focus on communication and its importance in all human interaction and relationships.  This is why effective marketing communication is so important to building your brand. Indeed, it serves twin purposes,  establishing customer relationships as well as communicating the availability of a product, service or idea.

Not far from Gernika, in the province of Bizkaia, is the forest of Oma. There is much to admire there. For Agustin Ibarrola , artist and sculptor, has transformed the natural beauty of the forest into a living canvas. 

Artist and sculptor Agustin Ibarrola has transformed the natural beauty of the forest into a living canvas

It is now known as Bosque Pintado, the Painted Forest or Bosque Animado, the Animated Forest. Ibarrola’s anthropomorphic shapes and symbols challenge us to think more about our interaction with each living tree. They help us see each tree on its own, and in relationship with others, questioning our perception of the forest and our interaction with the natural environment.  As the trees and forest continue to grow, so the installation will change and evolve. It is very much, a living canvas.

Marketing Communication

Art can be appreciated by everyone, yet each of us will react and interpret it differently. It is both a medium of communication and a communication message. Our interaction with art is based on what we see, what we feel and what we think.  For what we feel and think is often stimulated by memory and association. Put another way, what we see is denoted and what we think is connoted.

In early Christian times, when few people could read or write, art was used by the church to teach people the bible stories. At that time church and state were one and the monasteries were the universities of their times. Monks spent their time creating and copying books by hand.  The Sovereign gained his or her power and legitimacy from the church. This is why the symbols of state and church often mirror each other and why the great masters were so often commissioned by both.

Brand Building

I included a photograph of the Painted Forest on my website as a symbol of how creative design and marketing campaigns can transform business. They can take the ordinary, add value and change how we perceive a product or service.  

Great design can stimulate desire, motivate purchasing decisions and even add to the customer’s level of satisfaction.

They have a role to play in helping us sell more, to build relationships with our customers rather than just one-off transactions.  Great design can stimulate desire, motivate purchasing decisions and even add to the customer’s level of satisfaction.  The commercial transaction is now transformed into a mutually satisfying experience, like Ibarrorola’s Bosque Pintado,  This is the essence of great marketing and the key to Brand building.

hot marketing trends mobile

Technological change and digital innovation are having a revolutionary impact on marketing. The average SME and business start-up can easily become lost in a digital blizzard of marketing information. But what are the essential marketing trends emerging in 2017 that they should know and exploit? Here are 4 I think all SMEs need to be aware of.

1. Marketing trends: Creative Visual Content

Differentiation is vital to marketing success and creative visuals are becoming even more important in digital marketing. According to HubSpot, “B2C marketers still place more emphasis on the importance of visual content in their marketing portfolios. But B2B marketers are catching up quickly.”

the really big trend in 2017 will be video

The primary driver is the desire to make content more compelling and shareable. The more we use social media and digital channels, the greater the need to use creative visuals to differentiate and communicate. Social media posts already share and combine photographs, images and text, and companies increasingly use info-graphics to simplify and share complex information. Free online design packages like Canva can help SMEs maintain branding while coping with the diverse posting sizes of various social media. But the really big trend in 2017 will be video.

2. Marketing trends: Make Websites Mobile Friendly

In 2014 mobile devices officially overtook desktops as the preferred method of viewing web content. By 2017 over 64% of website views were from mobiles, yet many small SMEs have still to adapt their websites to the viewing technology. Almost all CMS now allow you to view your website as it will look on a desktop, a tablet or a mobile phone. By the end of 2016,  50% of all B2B companies had implemented a responsive design for their websites. Unfortunately, SMEs are lagging well behind. One thing you can do in 2018 to improve access to your business, is a quick redesign of your website. Ensure it’s optimized for all viewing formats and linked to your social media channels.

3. Marketing trends: Personal NarrativeExecutive Branding

Executive branding is one of the growing trends of 2017. The internet, mobiles and apps have revolutionized delivery systems and increased product and service innovation. However, what can really make your business standout from the competition, is a focus on your people.

It’s not just the Steve Jobs and Alan Dyson’s of this world whose stories we want to know. It’s you as the business owner or senior executive we want to hear from.

We shouldn’t be too surprised about this. After all, marketing is about satisfying customer needs and building relationships, not just about selling. And all the evidence is that people relate to people. In an increasingly atomized society there is considerable power in the personal narrative. This is actually good news for SMEs where the sole trader or partners are closer to their customers but were previously reticent about executive branding. And social media presents great opportunities for SME business owners to share their stories, challenges and success alongside promoting goods and services. The real challenge is in getting the mix right.

In an increasingly atomized society there is considerable power in the personal narrative

4. Marketing trends: Video and Visual Storytelling

Which leads naturally to the other big trend for SME’s in 2017, video. Over 1 billion people use YouTube on a regular basis, a number that has increased about 40 percent since March 2014. All other social media platforms are cashing in. Facebook launched Facebook Live in April 2016 giving all of us access to broadcasting on the world’s biggest social-media channel. And marketeers have embraced the new capability and are adapting its capability to increase ROI. From webinars to live stream broadcasts from trade conventions, anyone can get in on the act. The cost of entry is low which should help SMEs. However, content and quality will still be king. The real challenge is to ensure where it fits in your marketing mix.

© Fergus Cooper Linen Green Marketing

The Economic Benefits of Marketing

A new report, Marketing Multiplied, cites empirical evidence that marketing communications positively impacts on the economy. What’s more, the report provides evidence of both macro and micro economic benefits.

The authors of the report are:

  • Chris Johns, a former economic advisor in HM Treasury;
  • Jim Power, former Chief Economist at Friends First Group And Bank of Ireland and
  • Alan Cox, CEO of Core Media, Ireland’s largest marketing communications group.

They state:

“the evidence is clear about the influence of advertising on economic growth: it is positive and large. The debate is mostly about the size of that effect.”

They cite research that suggests that for every €1 of advertising spend €5.70 is generated within the Irish economy.

The report concludes that marketing communications has a central role to play in a market economy. It informs consumers; increases consumer choice and welfare and develops markets. It enables producers to increase sales while at the same time increasing competition to restrain prices. Increased economic activity also leads to increased employment and opportunity.

Advertising and Economic Growth

The report explores and confirms a strong link between advertising and economic growth.

“Advertising is extremely important for the overall level of economic activity; it oils the wheels of economies, provides jobs and boosts growth in an unambiguously positive way.”

The Irish findings are supported by research from around the globe often citing similar findings though often with larger impact. Economists have paid much more attention to advertising’s relationship with competition, innovation and prices. Again, the evidence points to robust conclusions: advertising promotes competition, boosts innovation and helps to lower prices.


economic benefits of marketing global advertising spend

Marketing –  Impact on Business

Creative advertising and marketing campaigns can have a significant influence on the growth and profitability of individual businesses. The decisions and level of investment made in creativity therefore, will impact directly on the growth and the profitability of the brand.

Creatively-awarded campaigns are 6 times more efficient in growing market share than non-awarded campaigns. Recruiting new customers is more profitable than trying to increase frequency of purchase. It truly does pay to be creative.

Brand Size

The size of a brand has a major impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing communications. Large brands have inherent advantages over smaller brands; they have higher penetration, better distribution, stronger range and pricing strategies that help to maintain and increase share. Short-term marketing is on the rise and it is damaging the profitability of marketing.

Campaigns sustained over the longer term are, on average, 3 times more efficient than shorter term campaigns.

Short-term initiatives are more effective at driving transient sales effects They are weak at delivering long-term growth. Business needs to employ both strategic and tactical techniques but favouring the longer term.

Campaigns Need Emotion

Emotionally-based campaigns outperform rationally-based campaigns on every business measure. They are:

  • more profitable
  • better at raising awareness
  • stronger at creating differentiation and
  • build consumer brand loyalty

On average, marketers should spend 60% of their budget on brand-building activity (long-term, broad reach, emotional) and 40% on sales activation (short-term, tightly targeted and information rich), to achieve maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness. Brands that use paid media, normally grow up to 3 times faster than those that simply rely on PR and sales promotion.

Who Should Read Report?

Marketing Multiplied is packed full of case studies, facts and figures, that confirm that marketing is central to economic growth both at business and national level. At 130 pages it is an essential read for marketing professionals, academics, economists, politicians and insomniacs.