There is a secret in advertising that everybody knows, but few will admit to: there is never a quick fix.
In fact there is a cycle that works like clockwork in this business, it looks like this:
Sales are declining, flat or not rising as fast as someone wants.
A decision is made to shake up marketing. Someone wants a grand slam home run- without bothering to plan how to get the bases loaded first.
A new CMO, agency, or plan is put into play. They may or may not come up with some deep new understanding of the marketplace. The plan is wildly cheered and latched on to. Yet, after too short a time- the results don’t match the enthusiasm when the new journey was plotted. A course correction is ordered.
This is the proverbial fork in the road. Do we deeply, truly believe this is the right strategy? Or, are we scared- and reach for reassurance? So often, the reassurance comes with the line “this has worked before” or this is “tried and true.” The safe option is on the table. Probably 90% of the time- it’s implemented.
The original strategy is either abandoned, or diluted. The course is reset. All the metrics are thrown off and no lesson is learned. before long, the process begins again. It’s a circle- a rotary engine- it goes round and round.
The funny thing is- despite witnessing this over and over with marketers- the place where it became painfully obvious was made clearly watching network TV dramas- good shows, that didn’t get the early ratings they deserved. An “expert” was called in- adjustments are made, and new characters are introduced. The good show- just became a mediocre one- because the initial creative brief- the storyline- wasn’t being given time to grow.
Everyone wants a grand slam- they want a viral video like “I’m on a horse”- or Subservient Chicken- but, aren’t willing to understand that these are the few and far between. They are also not true engines of marketing- just a one time spark. Sometimes the spark is all that’s needed. Altoids got a jump start with a small successful revamped campaign- focusing on mints so strong they come in a metal box and some nice visual puns “Nice Altoids.” Instant hit- for a sleepy old brand- but then, brand extension nearly killed the initial success.
“Just do it” has been a strategy that Nike hasn’t been able to leave. They’ve tried- several times to move away from what is probably the strongest marketing positioning ever- only to realize that those three words are more valuable than the swoosh. The thing for marketers to remember is that it took years before Wieden + Kennedy came up with those three words. There is never a quick fix.
The Wankel engine is different from all other engines in that it is a rotary design- with a three sided rotor. The three faces are much like the three phases of marketing- they can change phases- but the amount of power derived just depends on the amount of pressure (interest) put on on the three faces. Which brings us to your goals as a marketer-
First is to make sure the motor is spinning and generating enough power to make your company run.
The next question is are you aiming to make what you have go faster, more efficiently or stronger?
Or, do you want to trade in the whole motor for a new one- bigger, better different? You may believe this is what you want- but, most of the time you only make en effort to do the faster, more efficient stronger. And that’s why you are in a rut.
Switching engines, despite one being a better design, doesn’t happen quickly, and requires lots of adaptive learning.
Most companies fail to realize that switching engines is a complete transformation- not an adaptive one and that’s why the new plans almost always fail- or the agency gets blamed.
In order to hit the grand slam home run, you must realize that loading the bases is a series of singles- and that Grand Slams might not be the goal at all- runs are.
So despite all these mixed metaphors and stories in this post- if you are looking for a new marketing mechanic- first figure out what you want to fix- then make sure you are ready to fix what’s broken.
It may not be the engine at all.