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The ‘Long-Near Reality’ Is Closing In On Marketers

In an age of super connectivity and rapid innovation, there is a sense of time getting shorter while the opportunities appear endless. For businesses, this is placing ever-greater emphasis on the short term, even though a long-term view is essential, not least because that’s the best way to protect and grow a brand in times of rapid change and uncertainty.

It’s an outlook that has been dubbed the “long-near,” and it is forcing marketers to ask awkward questions and embrace complex situations. For businesses, the question is not “if,” but “when” their brand, competition, category, or consumer will dramatically transform, making it more necessary than ever to broaden the focus from today’s priorities and this quarter’s actions only.

The “long-near” is a reality that marketers must accept if they want to achieve long-term brand success, and there is no better way to be prepared for this than to adopt a two-speed approach to planning and action: to plan for the long term and act in the near term.

This long-near way of marketing planning can be applied in four ways:

Develop A Long-Near Vision
Setting a very long-term vision is not just an exercise for a team away day but rather a skill that needs to be adopted in all marketing planning cycles, and not just three or five-year planning. It means developing a clear, ambitious vision that looks out 10, 20, 100 years to where the business or brand will be, what markets it will serve, how it will succeed, and what its legacy will be.

Scientific and cultural projects serve as inspiration, such as the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which took more than 15 years from start to the first bytes of data received back on earth. Or Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood,” which took 12 years to make. Use these projects as a starting point to invest in an initiative of your own—one that you may not see the fruits of for over a decade.

Taking such a long view does not mean that more immediate hard work couldn’t begin today. With a long vision set, zoom back to the near and define the actions required today to realise your ambition for the future.

Uncover Long-Near Insight
Consumer insight has always been essential to effective marketing and competitive advantage. With more data available every day, a greater ability to understand behaviours, and an appreciation of the power of emotion, that’s unlikely to change.

Use a combination of data, intuition to identify the early adopters of today that will signal more mainstream behaviour tomorrow, and unlock sources of future-consumer insight. Once long insight is defined, start the groundwork to appeal to those future consumers today.

Take Long-Near Action
Every organisation has blind spots, what you could call a Kodak moment. These are inevitable changes that, with the benefit of hindsight, we were aware of but didn’t act on.

Planning for long-term action requires businesses to consider many possible futures—where will demand, growth, and differentiation be optimised—before assessing the potential benefits of each and setting a course towards an idealised future.

Essential to this long-near plan of marketing action is the agility, the continuous re-evaluation, and recalibration of current and future scenarios. With a set of long-term actions, near-term approaches can be defined with greater confidence.

Measuring Long-Near Performance
The greatest threat to long-term success is a fixation on short-term results. Whether it be marketing measurement or employee remuneration, the performance measurement tools and criteria we have undermine and undervalue a need to focus on longer term.

If you subscribe to the adage “what gets measured gets made,” it is essential to put in place hard measures to evaluate your trajectory towards a vision that may be a decade away, to assess your future consumer, or quantify the impact of future actions.

Measuring near-term performance is important, but, as with the measures outlined above, the key to breaking the cycle of short-termism and immediate gratification is to define a set of long-term measures to keep marketing and marketers as obsessed with the long as they are with the near.

By planning for the very long term, the effectiveness of your very near-term marketing can be transformed.

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