“Think creatively, otherwise, you won’t survive digitalisation,” counsels Milan Formánek

Marketing expert Milan Formánek of Red Bull Media House completely filled the largest classroom at NEWTON College’s Brno campus. In his lecture Modern Marketing, he introduced the students to methods for leading successful marketing in today’s dynamic world full of ever-changing trends. Read some of the most interesting points from the lecture.

At the beginning of the lecture, Milan displayed a well-known optical illusion with two lines with arrows at their ends. He asked which of the two was the longest, and the students adeptly answered that they’re the same length.

In reality, however, Milan had purposefully extended one of the arrows in the image.

Thus, he demonstrated one of the main thoughts of his lecture – breaking free of routine patterns. According to Milan, people have many things in both life and marketing needlessly automated.

When the students saw this optical illusion, they expertly answered that both lines are the same length. They didnt know, however, that Milan had lengthened one of the lines to trick them.

From the invention of the telephone, it took 75 years before it was used by 50 million people. For the mobile game Pokémon Go, it took only 18 days. “My grandma doesn’t know what a floppy disk is but neither do my children today,” says Milan, demonstrating the rapid development of trends in technology and more. They’re changing so fast that it’s hard to react to them in time, which is why companies need to always keep with the times, think creatively, and innovate.

“Even though many amazing things are being developed today, such as augmented reality, only 8% of companies believe they’ll survive digitalisation with their business plan,” recants Milan Formánek, pointing out the paradox of today.

To this end, he asks the question why companies don’t do something with their business model and why they aren’t preparing for the oncoming changes. According to Milan, it’s because the human mind develops linearly, while technology progresses exponentially. With linearly thinking, you only perceive what you explicitly see, while exponential thinking forces you to overcome deep-rooted models.

Learn, innovate, and develop

Most people don’t like learning new things after their thirties. If you don’t have this problem, you’ll have a massive advantage and always go with the times. Milan described his experience with presenting new marketing trends to companies he works for. Their leadership and marketers were often engaged, but because they don’t have time for new things, their company doesn’t evolve, they don’t go with the times, and they only end up running into problems.

Investing in new tools and trends slows us down compared to our competition, however, in time, you gain an even bigger lead. Milan likened this process to the comics with cavemen who don’t want to exchange their square wheels for round ones because it would require extra work.

Innovation significantly strengthens a company in the future, but it requires putting in the effort.

“If you invest in linear technologies, you’ll grow linearly. If you invest in exponential technologies, you’ll grow exponentially,” Milan explains. Stores in America that grew for many years suddenly suffered giant losses or filed bankruptcy because they didn’t want to invest in technologies connected with digitalisation. One of the few companies that was able to adjust was Amazon, which then saw extraordinary growth.

Milan demonstrated his concepts with the story of Kodak.

Kodak created the first digital camera in 1975. It weighed 4 kilograms and had 0.1 megapixels. The leadership didn’t believe in it, even though they were the first in the field with a digital camera. Later, they received another chance with online photography. In 2001, they owned a website for sharing photos. Again they didn’t believe that people would like having photos on such small displays, so they used the website to promote classic printed pictures. At that time, they had the idea and many larger resources to create Instagram and further their old slogan “share memories, share life”.

“How many of you today use Kodak and how many have an account on Instagram?” asked Milan rhetorically.

Marketing has changed

“Before not long ago, marketing was the same as it was 100 years ago,” notes Milan. “You need to get from Prague to Brno, for example, and marketing told you the best way to do it.” The past few years, however, it hasn’t been quite that simple. For instance, when you want to go to a restaurant, you don’t look at the billboards or advertisements on TV, rather you look at how people have ranked things and at TripAdvisor or Google Maps. People believe other users more than ads they consider to be manipulative.

According to Milan, outdoor advertising and website banners serve no purpose. As sample feedback for these kinds of marketing techniques, he mentioned the giant number of users who have AdBlock installed. And even though the number of clicks and impressions might look good, a large part of the users click on the ad by mistake and then quickly leave the website, which brings zero benefits to the company

A marketing problem for many companies can also be found in the fact that they arent consistent in their brand. They’re constantly changing the logo and names and mixing one campaign with another. Other companies make the mistake of coming up with marketing plans needlessly in advance. In today’s dynamic world, its difficult to guess what the trends will be in a year.

Milan also recommends investing more in brand campaigns instead of performance.

“Doing marketing only for a short-term return on investment is foolishness,” he points out. Return on investment should follow along with a two or three-year horizon, never quarterly. Performance-related marketing has a quick return on investment, but the revenue doesn't add up until you start brand building. This is why Milan recommends combining brand and performance campaigns from the beginning. “You can recognise with simple things that you have a brand. Even if you were to stop all your campaigns, you would still make sales.”

The graph that Milan presented at his lecture. Performance-related campaigns guarantee quick, short-term revenue, however, only brand building guarantees constant revenue growth.

It’s most important to think creatively

In the last few years, companies began to realise that their employees’ most important quality across all their departments is creativity. That is why today’s HR professionals require it from all candidates, everyone from marketing to IT to accountants.

“Maybe you don’t want the doctor who’s currently operating on you to be creative. But, for the future and development of medicine, it’s an important quality,” Milan explains while demonstrating his claim on the example of a Czech physician who developed the nanorobots that carry sperm to the ovaries. Even for doctors with many years of experience, if they constantly innovate their technologies, they will be successful while also helping the entire world.

And this is why Milan immediately tested the students’ creativity at NEWTON College.

He handed out a paper with nine dots to the audience and asked them to perform a simple task: Connect all the dots using four lines. This task, however, couldn’t be completed if the person didn’t think creatively and outside the usual rules. It wasn’t until the listeners drew a line past the dots on the edge that they could successfully connect all nine.

Thus, Milan displayed the issue that people often take the old rules and apply them in new, unrelated situations. Most of the audience members didn’t draw a line past the edge of the dots because, thanks to geometry, they were used to not crossing the line segments.

This is what Milan’s puzzle looked like and one of the possible solutions.

“The next time you’re solving a problem, think about whether you’re not needlessly adhering to restrictions that don’t even apply,” advised Milan to his listeners.

Who is Milan Formánek?

Milan Formánek has worked 13 years as the manager of Red Bull Media House. He enjoys testing innovative approaches and pursues modern trends in marketing. He’s already completed over 200 projects, where he not only helped companies but athletes and artists as well. He also launched the marketing for the successful fashion brand ODIVI. At NEWTON College, he held a lecture on Modern Marketing.