‘Marketing in the 21st Century’: Lessons from the Open University

Every day gives you the chance to learn something new or build on your existing skills and, in a fast-paced PR industry, it’s always beneficial to reacquaint yourself with the fundamentals of how successful brands are built.  

During the early stages of lockdown, many institutions made their training courses free, so I took the opportunity to broaden my horizons and revisit the basics with an Open University course, Marketing in the 21st Century.

With six hours of study time, I blocked out two morning sessions with my manager, got to work and here’s what I learnt. 

Back to basics

The marketing world is fast-paced and continually evolving, so to keep up with and solve strategic challenges, you need to know what the latest trends are to assess whether they are simply fads or if they are more worthy of consideration for any campaign planning. But, before any of this, you must always ensure the basics sit at the foundation of any activity.  

In order to deliver effective marketing, you need to not only identify and anticipate your target audience but continually assess message penetration and commercial performance to make sure the activity stacks up. What you did even last month might not be the best tactic for the next placement, especially in the ever-changing Covid environment.

This infographic, courtesy of the Marketoonist, nicely demonstrates the pitfalls of losing sight of the core tenets of effective marketing:

Source: Open University’s Marketing in the 21st Century

Adding value

The key to brand loyalty is recognising the emotional connection your customers have with the brand1.

Whilst the product or service you provide needs to remain the focus and be of high quality, adding value to your brand through other marketing tactics will benefit your organisation and build your reputation.

Using emotion in your marketing tactics is a great way to engage with your audience and create a stronger bond. Consumers remember the brand that made them laugh or cry over those that simply promoted products. And it pays back with more resilient brands and higher levels of ROMI.

A great example of this is Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Aiming to build self confidence among women and young children, Dove created advertisements, videos, workshops and events. Using real life models of all body shapes, Dove challenged the norm and interacted with an audience on a much more personal level.

Ethical trading

Company ethics is an important and growing discussion within marketing, from the perspective of both marketers and consumers. As the latter are becoming increasingly aware of ethical issues this shines a spotlight on all activity, not just marketing and holds brands accountable for keeping a high standard.

Brands such as Amazon often come under attack on issues around tax avoidance and treatment of workers. As a mega-corporation, they are often under scrutiny and are judged on how they respond. Spokespeople for the company actively reply to comments by claiming they are investigating the issue and regularly monitoring processes.

Responses like this however raise the question ‘is this enough’? Should companies be held more accountable for their actions? PR can be vital to diagnosing any issues and finding the answer to these questions. Using a range of methods including sentiment trackers, polling the public and hosting focus groups will help to establish the best way to communicate a company’s voice and start to rebuild trust and reputation.

Here at One Brand Magic, we can help your brand ensure that your messages appear in all the right channels to connect with your audience as effectively as possible. You can get in touch with us via email at [email protected] or give us a call on 0161 968 6900.



1Open University – Marketing in the 21st Century 2020