Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dare to be wrong!

Those who work with me know one of my favorite exhortations:  Dare to be wrong!  Take more chances; be more curious; be the catalyst that helps the team find a better idea. Waiting for the perfect solution is a sure-fire way to become road kill. 

But my exhortation flies into the headwinds of a culture that prizes perfection.   Management gurus exhort us to pursue excellence, to move from good to great.  Even social media demands that we always project the most perfect version of our lives.

My goal for the upcoming year is to spend more time celebrating “better” instead of “perfect.”

I thought about this recently after speaking to a group of college students who are considering a career in marketing communications.  One student sent me a follow up note asking this question: “Has there ever been a time where you had to execute a project that didn’t turn out as successful as you had imagined? If so, how were you able to bounce back from that?”

Packed deep within her question was the assumption that in business, let alone in life, we are expected to succeed every time and that failure is, well, a failure.  My response was simple: you will likely fail more than you will succeed, and that this is part of the process of gaining knowledge and experience, each project, each day, each year.

Getting better is a noble pursuit.  Life is a journey of learning.  So, too, is business.

Practitioners of Design Thinking, including Ford CEO Jim Hackett and my partners at Ford, embrace the principle of rapid prototyping over waiting to build a perfect representation of an idea.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is working to shift his company’s culture from one of know-it-all to one that values learn-it-all.

It’s not innovation that sets Silicon Valley apart from other centers of technological development—it’s a willingness to iterate toward an ever better idea.

Sony and Toyota, two marketers I’ve had the good fortune to work with, are dedicated to the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, which means to “change for the better.”

Digital marketing teams everywhere pursue optimization, which if you think about, is simply Kaizen – learning how to continuously improve the outcomes of our work, then do so again tomorrow and the day after that as well. 

Colin Powell, a retired four-star general and secretary of state, has a rule of thumb about making tough decisions. Every time you face a tough decision you should have no less than 40% and no more than 70% of the information you need.  If you move forward with less than 40% of the information, you’re shooting from the hip.  If you wait until you have 70% of the information, the opportunity will likely pass.  (Increasingly true as markets, customer behaviors, and competitors are changing faster than ever.)

Too many times I see people in meetings who I know have a point of view, yet are afraid to offer it up because they’re not certain their idea is right.  I’ve learned over time that ideas are usually born out of a collision between two seemingly opposing or disparate ideas.  In daring to be wrong – daring to offer up your idea – you serve as a catalyst to help others uncover an even bigger idea as they challenge and build upon your point of view.

So, here’s to 2018.  It doesn’t have to be the best year ever, just a better year.  One in which we celebrate continuous learning and growth.  One in which we dare to be wrong.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#HowAdvertisingWorks (on me) – New Balance

I haven’t owned a pair of New Balance shoes since the ‘90s.  They were my starter “premium” sneakers.

Over time I traded up to “real” running shoes.  First Brooks; now Asics.  New Balance was relegated to a distant, dated, and dusty folder in my consideration set.

I recently re-experienced New Balance, by accident, when I stayed at a Westin and took advantage of the hotel’s Workout Gear Lending Program, in which they lend guests fresh, clean workout gear if you forget to pack right. I was pleasantly surprised.  They looked and felt great.  New Balance had rediscovered its design and performance mojo.

Later that same week I was out for a run when a guy blew by me (not hard to do) wearing a snazzy pair of electric blue running shoes.  Sure enough, he was wearing New Balance.  I doubt I would have registered the brand name if not for my experience at the Westin.

A few days later I noticed an ad for New Balance while flipping through Wired.  I'm quite sure that New Balance ads have been trying to get my attention for years. But its ads were invisible to me because our brain is the original spam blocker.  My first-hand experience made me notice the ad.

The insight:  If a customer knows they don't like prunes, running ads to make prunes seem hip and cool isn't likely to work.  Sampling the all-new lemon-zest prunes at my grocery store will likely be more effective.  If tasty, I may then actually notice and “consume” your ad.

When repositioning a brand, showcase new behaviors, not just new brand messages. Customers judge brands by what they do, not simply by what they say.  Create experiences that allow them to reach their own conclusion — e.g., sampling, public displays, VR experiences, trusted peer reviews.  This sets up the advertising to reinforce these newly formed perceptions. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#HowAdvertisingWorks (on me) – Range Rover Velar

I recently was flipping through Automobile Magazine and came across an article about the new Range Rover Velar. It's stunning. Hadn’t heard of it before seeing that article. Today, the Velar was in my Facebook newsfeed. Remembering the article, I clicked into the content to see a 360-degree view. The insight: Awareness leading directly to engagement, without the help of any mass advertising. Planning earned media in sync with paid media can be a strong integration. Earned media adds third-party credibility.


Monday, August 14, 2017

#HowAdvertisingWorks (on me) – Advil Gel Minis

I’ve been fighting a cold and have been a frequent visitor to CVS.  While reaching for a box of Advil, I accidentally picked up a box of Advil Gel Minis.  Hadn’t heard anything about these mini pills, so I put them back.  I wasn’t sure it would deliver the same dosage as the regular pill.  Yesterday I was leafing through Rolling Stone and came across an ad for these Gel Minis.  My experience at CVS triggered me to take notice.  Yep, same dosage as the big capsule.  Next time I’m at CVS, I’ll get the Advil Gel Minis.

The insight:  Advertising is often actively consumed by its audience.  I notice bank ads when I'm shopping a mortgage.  Or car ads if my lease is coming due.  I noticed this Advil ad because I have a cold, and because I had a previous triggering experience.  


Sunday, August 13, 2017

#HowAdvertisingWorks (on me).

I’ve decided to note and document the ways in which marketing communications influences me. Some of these insights may seem simple. And in a way, that's the point.

We overthink advertising in boardrooms. We put the weight of the entire campaign on the shoulders of a single piece of content, forgetting how elements work together, and how triggers work in the customer's mind.

Stay tuned. Would enjoy hearing examples from others.