Three minutes before you go into a client meeting to review the latest campaign work, ask an older Creative exec what he thinks the client feedback will be. If he’s on his game he will say, “Shouldn’t we make the logo bigger?”
It’s an old joke (and even a popular blog by that name). But it references a constant in the world of marketing – senior client executives so far out of the loop that the only “value add” they can offer is a comment on an ad’s graphics.
I thought of this when I saw a report the other day from Nielsen (who seems to be very busy lately publishing its various research studies) about the dynamics of new product development. In so many words, it concluded that CPG companies with less senior management involvement have more successful new-product launches. In an ideal world, marketers should be able to apply this to campaign development – keep the VP of Advertising, CMO, et al. out of the way until after the campaign launches.
Unfortunately, marketing is anything but an ideal world. Management consultants call this technique of cutting out senior input as “asking for forgiveness, not for permission.” In marketing, however, this is asking for being fired.
New product development is mostly science, so keeping unknowledgeable execs out of the lab makes sense. But, as Yogi Berra might put it, marketing is mostly science too – it’s just that the other half is art. And there isn’t a senior executive alive who doesn’t think he or she is a consummate artist. Which is how we often end up at “make the logo bigger.”
Cutting an “artist” out of the marketing planning process is a recipe for disaster. The better way is to…
- Lay out, and get buy-in to, a solid plan of action
- Supply research-based customer insights frequently
- Update senior managers on progress weekly
- Force senior managers to give continuous feedback – make them vote early and often
- Document and publish the feedback (aka “CYA emails”)
- Ask “why?” or “why not?” every time the senior exec opens his/her mouth
You will know that you followed this technique successfully if the CMO gets to the final meeting and says “Shouldn’t we make the budget bigger?"