Don’t forget to destroy
Every marketing agency I have ever worked for claims to have some proprietary process(es) that are designed to give clients reassurance that the agency has a plan they will work through when presented with a marketing problem or brief.
These processes are reassuring, adding structure and a clear path for any client. It makes the agency look smart, experienced.
“We’ve been through this before and here’s our battle tested process that only we have.” they seem to say.
Whilst most agencies will try and layer some eye candy on top to give it that proprietary feel, most of the time its window dressing on a process that usually is based around some variation of the 4 D’s.
Now that all looks very logical right? And it is. It works. It’s a great way forward to delivering a marketing strategy, a tactical plan, a suggestion for a new loyalty program or launching a chatbot.
All that said I believe there’s a problem with it.
The missing D
I believe it misses a stage out — Destroy.
It is imperative that during the process of designing, developing and deploying you have the ability and clear headedness to destroy what you are creating if it isn’t working.
Agencies want to show best case and positive thoughts only. They want to assume that whatever they are tasked to produce will of course hit the objectives set for them by the client. You don’t set out to fail after all.
But I would suggest having Destroy as an explicit step through your process is crucial. It will act as a break in the process and force you to assess what you are doing.
Beware the Sunk Cost Fallacy
It can be an emotional thing to destroy something in which you have invested your time, effort and money. Especially if you built it as part of a team in a collaborative effort. The idea of “losing” that investment can sometimes mean that people continue down a path that they shouldn’t.
There’s a name for that phenomenon actually — the Sunk Cost Fallacy — which builds off the idea of Loss aversion. This quote from Nobel-prize winning Psychologist and Economist, Daniel Kahneman sums it up rather nicely:
“All too often a company afflicted by sunk costs drives into the blizzard, throwing good money after bad rather than accepting the humiliation of closing the account of a costly failure. In this situation the choice is between a sure loss and an unfavourable gamble, which is often unwisely preferred.”
The Bottom Line
It’s simple really. Never be too scared to destroy something that you know isn’t working. Make sure that it is built into your process — because sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
As hard as it is to let go of something, remember the phrase from writer and Nobel prize laureate William Faulkner:
“Kill your darlings”
I am a Senior Marketing Consultant at with nearly 20 years of experience across both the client and agency side. I have applied my knowledge across brands as diverse as Vodafone, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Westpac, and GAME.
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