Stress. There is no doubt that many people in this industry would say they feel it almost constantly in the day-to-day agency workplace. And that feeling is very valid. To get factual about it, Harvard Business Review recently showed results that 57% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have been in their current position for less than three years. CMOs are frequently the first to be cut when a company suffers from underwhelming growth or targets are not met. Hence the revolving door of these positions.
And when it comes to producing, we often find or stumble upon a winning formula and end up repeating it time and time again until we find another winning formula. After all, short-term failure seems to be looming at every turn. Staying safe seems, in the short-term, a better option than being more dynamic in our approach, shaking things up and opting for disruption.
When companies and agencies rely solely on patterns, best practice and case studies, we can easily look at a long list of those that have closed up shop. And there’ll be more to come.
It is easy not to change when your competition isn’t, or only to the extent they do. It is an everyday fact in all of our business lives, as the inevitable company instinct is to look inside itself or at best to look across at its competitors and measure transformation only by that yardstick.
The answer? There are hundreds of them and at the same time none at all. And that is the beauty of if it. There are a few points which might help you find the order in chaos and a direction which is new and unseen. And that’s what should excite us, not the formulas.
- Don’t focus on categories. Look outside the category and learn from other adjacent or completely different categories instead. It’s meant to be intentionally disorienting because all your traditional bearings, prejudices and leanings get thrown out the window and you have the freedom to create something new. Study the world of political marketing (Obama 2008), movie marketing (Deadpool) and fashion/e-commerce marketing (Chubbies), respectively, to get to a completely different marketing playbook.
- You aren’t in the business you think you’re in. Is Coke in the soft drink business or in the business of celebrating special moments? Is Airbnb an online booking app or a new portal to experience the world like a local? Is Uber in the transportation business or in the data business so it can market ancillary services to you? I think you know what’s going on here. One answer can block you in. The other can open up new ways to grow a business.
- Bring down the accepted norms. Ask yourself, “what if?”. What if transportation were on demand like movies are and gave you the option to choose what type of ride experience you wanted? Goodbye, taxis. The taxi industry believed they held their customers hostage. You were at their mercy: when and if they were available, when and if they stopped to pick you up, and all at the price and experience they dictated.
Disorder must be planned
Chaos is not just about getting to a fresh perspective, but also about incorporating it as a disciplined part of your planning practice. Ideally, it should be as regular a part of your business check-in as your annual budget or marketing plan reviews. A little disorientation on a regular basis may be just the thing needed for you to shake up your long-term thinking.