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Kaizen in action

There are varying points of views on how to bring more innovation to marketing communications. Too often the discussion languishes in empty exhortations to be more nontraditional, viral, guerrilla, etc.

I met the other day with a friend and former client, Kim McCullough, the head of marketing communications for Toyota, who gave me a clear and actionable user's guide for managing innovation in marketing communications. Kim refers to it as the 70/20/10 plan.

In the 70/20/10 plan a marketer would invest 70% of its budget in proven, effective communications strategies, another 20% in rolling out new strategies that have been tested and vetted in the previous year, and use the remaining 10% as seed money for new test and learn opportunities.

The brilliance in this strategy is its clarity and simplicity. First, it recognizes that marketers should not run away from things that work simply to pursue the latest buzz marketing strategy d'jour. Second, it dedicates resources to mainstream recent tests that have proven their worth. (Too many times we see marketers test new strategies only to do nothing with the results.) Lastly, it continues to fuel tomorrow's innovations and ideas, which, if successful, will become part of the 20% investment the following year.

This 70/20/10 model creates a virtuous cycle for innovation. It is also an example of Toyota's commitment to the principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement.