Every once in a while, I get happily blindsided by a superb business adage. An instant classic. One for the ages. Better still, one that needs to be emblazoned on a T-shirt, or at least on one of those motivational posters that still line many offices across this great land of ours.
Best of all, one that encapsulates my weekly lesson in a handful of words and one full swoop.
This one happened in Colorado last week, at a client meeting I was attending with partners from a tech powerhouse. (Yes, this is another one of those posts where I can't reveal names due to a number of issues real and imagined, but trust me, they are of little relevance to the ultimate outcome of the story.)
At said meeting, which included people from different sectors of the client company, its marketing and media agencies alongside yours truly and the aforementioned partners, we discussed a groundbreaking, brand-shaking marketing initiative. This was to be a game-changer that would take everyone in the room down a new path, and well outside their respective comfort zones.
Needless to say, there was a touch of discomfort in the discussion that followed the revelations in the campaign presentation. One participant in particular expressed -- well, continually expressed, to be frank -- his concern over possible backlash to the bold, forward-thinking moves his company was about to make.
The company's head of marketing -- responsible for setting the stage and pushing the envelope -- listened patiently and addressed the concerns quietly and relatively passively...the first few times.
And then, the levy broke.
In a tone that truly defined the term "with all due respect," the marketing head thundered these words of wisdom:
"Stop worrying about backlash. If we HAVE a backlash, that means we HAD a front-lash!"
End of debate.
And the birth of a shining new adage!
Look, I understand the employee's reticence. It's scary to take risks. But to NOT take one on the fear and unlikely chance that it may blow up in your face is scarier still. To expect a backlash is to flatter one's self.
Let's face it, these days, most marketing moves are overwhelmingly ignored. Lots of money and time spent, lots of good intentions, lots of expectations...and ultimately, crickets.
The ONLY way to cut through the clutter is do something magnificent and exciting. And to do so is to walk a tightrope over the valley of disaster.
Now I'm not advocating doing things blindly or recklessly; rather, I'm suggesting it's ultimately better to calculate your risk and err on the side of overconfidence.
Great marketing is a taunt. It's a challenge. You want people to notice you and take action. And sometimes, you may miscalculate and the action taken ain't exactly the one you were hoping for. But at least is was an "action," and not an "inertia."
Any half-decent business can find its way out of an "unfortunate episode." Like a GPS, businesses can "recalculate" and choose another direction when faced with problems.
But as the marketing head said, having to react means that someone actually acted in the first place.
Or, put another, WAY better way, someone actually front-lashed!