Bright Lights Project: Better Marketing Decisions

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In case you haven’t noticed, there’s no shortage of creative thinking in the marketing world. We’re awash with bold, innovative ideas that scuttle old ways of delivering content, while often times daring the truths that have survived the tests of generations (not to mention defying the laws of accounting and physical cause-and-effect).

There’s also a long list of dashboards and other technology tools for tracking marketing efficacy and calculating ROI. Every major brand uses them.

Yet many C-Suiters are suspicious of the results we marketers deliver, if not outright unsatisfied, especially when it comes to appreciating the value of branding. The vast majority of marketing campaigns perform about as reliably as a Hollywood movie  release or favorite number on a craps table. And most people in most organizations believe they could come up with marketing that topped what the marketers invent.

We don’t have an innovation problem; we have a decision-making problem.

I know it might be uncomfortable to consider, but perhaps we’re making the wrong decisions to:

  • “Educate” or convert C-Suiters to our understanding of branding, and not promote the work itself (which gets judged more often than not by the metrics imposed on us by misunderstanding execs).
  • Green light marketing based on lots of hopeful variables and not a consistent view of what makes them more likely to succeed, which then helps ensure that many of them fail.
  • Look at employees outside of our marketing department as delivery agents and not co-creators, which then could be partly to blame for their attitudes.

Here are three thought-starters on how marketers could make decisions differently:

  • Bring the fight to the C-Suite — The application of business metrics — you know, the ones that look at the here-and-now with utter disregard for the complexity and nuance of your brand’s relationship with your consumers and the marketplace — is the result of the C-Suite’s dissatisfaction with the measures for branding you’ve been trying to promote. They will continue to turn your function into another business operations unit, like managing the supply chain, until you wake up and take the fight back to them. The brand is everywhere — in the recruiting success of your HR department, in your finance department’s ability to collect its bills, and even in the supply chain folks’ work with vendors — so decide to think about your brand as something within the business, not an extension of it.
  • Make content and example-agnostic decisions on campaigns — There are an endless number of variables written into most marketing plans, and we’re consciously aware of only a few of them (and on those we’re very liberal in our confidence that they’ll turn out in our favor). What usually inspires us most are creative ideas and the “proof” that similar approaches worked for others. Both are horrible reasons to make decisions, since they’re full of holes and even the best-known successes are unlikely to be repeated. Why not reduce the decision-making criteria to the variables that are consistent across campaigns, and then apply them consistently to all campaigns? Here’s a example of what I’m talking about: projects that take longer to implement are less likely to succeed than quicker ones.
  • Involve the entire organization in marketing planning — The days of your fellow employees being brand advocates who need to be educated to adhere to branding standards are long gone; they are the brand, and they decide it every day by their actions (not just their Tweets). So why aren’t they in the room with you when you’re planning the next campaign? They already think they know more about marketing than you do (as do the folks in the C-Suite), so why not put them to the test and open your planning process to them? You might discover new ways to deliver your campaigns, including new resources (like theirs). Plus, once they’re bought-in on the front end, they’re yours on the back-end. Engagement starts within.

It’s an intriguing thought, I think, to consider that the answer to finding that next Big Idea that’s destined to work might be to skip trolling for it from a new agency or miracle technology…and instead look within, to your team and to how you make decisions. It might not seem as sexy, but it might make you lots more money.

What do you think?

(Image credit: advanced decision-making support)

Download Bright Lights – Marketing Decisions

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