‘Everybody hates your brand’ Marketing Room 101 – Part 2
Since I launched the ‘Everybody hates your brand’ Room 101 here, there have been some new additions from people who I have interviewed for the podcast. Zoe Edwards, Principal Recruitment Consultant for the Industry Club said this:
I would probably put in the feedback “Not the right cultural fit.” Because I suppose in some respects I know what it means but that actually is everything that (marketing) agencies shouldn’t be about these days.
Lucy Kirby, Business owner, Entrepreneur and Influencer said:
It’s a bit of a TikTok trend trend at the moment. It’s that robotic voice that reads out captions on top of reels.
Both are worthy additions but now I wanted to add a couple more of my own.
1. Doing something for the sake of doing something
A team needs a blend of people to be effective. It requires strategic thinkers, creative types, technical brains, analytical people and more to make it work.
And every team needs a so-called Doer. The person who ensures that things are happening and that paralysis by analysis hasn’t set in. The one who is pushing for the next thing to happen, for the product launch to occur, for that new campaign to start.
For people to do something.
However, if the balance of the team is off, then bad things happen. For example, too many analysts can mean too much thinking and not enough doing.
But in my experience, there is a greater danger when there are too many Doers. When an organisation values action above all else. Where even if doing nothing is the right course of action, it’s not the right course of action.
A bias for action
The action bias describes our tendency to favour action over inaction as a default. The classic example is to think about a Goalkeeper facing a penalty. Stats show staying central in the goal would be the best way to save the penalty kick.
But if a penalty goes in right or left of the keeper then they’ll feel like they didn’t try (and so would their fans). They’d rather be seen to be doing something (and maybe feel better about themselves) than go with the statistically best action of staying put.
And therein lies the problem with action bias.
Sometimes doing nothing is absolutely the right thing to do but doing nothing is seen as lazy or admitting defeat.
Let me give you an example. At a retailer in which I worked, we were trapped in a weekly cycle that went something like this:
Monday: A trading meeting was held with the C-Suite and key Heads of departments to review last week's performance. We’d go through the numbers and how they went versus the forecast. Category by category in minute detail.
Let’s say we missed our revenue target by a certain percentage. The first question was always: Well what are we going to do about it?
And let me tell you, saying: “Well we launched a marketing program last week so maybe let’s give it another week before we write it off shall we?” is not an acceptable answer.
So then the group, usually driven by the Doers need for action, came up with some new options for which we had yet to prove their efficacy because we never get the time to test them.
Someone would say something like “Well we can add messaging to the screens behind the counter and maybe put something on the A-Frame stand outside the store?”
The Doers loved that. We’re doing something! Doesn’t matter if we know if it will help.
Tuesday through Friday: Marketing teams, already with loads to do have more pointless work piled on top of them just to be seen to be doing something.
Monday: Rinse and repeat.
All we need is just a little patience…
When the world seems to be built around doing something and failing fast, it can be very difficult to propose doing nothing or having patience with the current course of action you’re on.
I remember a conversation with a client at a large car manufacturer who said: “I don’t care what we do. I just want to do something!”.
Which is clearly bonkers.
There is a simple answer here — whenever you think about what to do next, the first question should be: What would happen if we did nothing and carried on like we are for now?
Just think about it as a possibility rather than jumping to the next action.
2. The prevalence of Black box AI
This one might come across as an old man shouting at clouds but I am not fond of using Black Box AI from a vendor to drive things like product recommendations.
A lot of MarTech companies offer this capability for brands to use on their websites and within their email marketing. It’s complicated stuff but essentially they are tools that review customers' past data (products bought or viewed online for example) and use statistical techniques to promote products they think you’ll like.
To be clear I am not against the idea of personalised Product recommendation tools per se. I think that they are great when used in the right way. That said, I have two problems with those bought from a vendor:
A. A lack of transparency.
By their very nature, marketing vendors’ Black box tools lack a clear through-line between the customer’s behaviour and the products being recommended. They’re proprietary tools after all — they don’t want to show off how they work to other vendors!
The problem is the opacity with which these tools work. That’s because it has been shown that explaining to a customer how a recommendation has been created can really help them understand why you’re making it.
Johnson & Johnson (1993) point out that explanations play a crucial role in the interaction between users and complex systems. According to their research, one purpose of explanation is to illustrate the relationship between antecedent and consequent (i.e., between cause and effect).
This in turn means they are more likely to act. Transparency is so important for getting customers to engage and act on the message.
B. It locks you into one supplier.
Whether you use Salesforce, Oracle, Braze, Emarsys or another provider they will each bring their own proprietary predictive tool. I’m sure they’re all delightful and work straight out of the box with no bother. Ahem.
But what happens if you choose to change providers? Well, you’re kind of back to square one. All that learning and improvement that has been done is gone and the new tool has to relearn using different rules giving different results.
So personally, I’d rather build something in-house or with an agency partner. Something you own. Something controllable and understandable. Something that transcends changing providers. It takes longer and maybe costs more but it’s worth it for the control and the knowledge of its inner workings.
The Bottom line
I hope you agree with these two additions and I would also love to adjudicate whether yours should go in too. Please drop your pet hates in the comments and we can continue to fill the Everybody hates your Brand Room 101 with worthy entrants!
I am a Senior Marketing Consultant with over 20 years of experience across both client and agency side specialising in CRM, CX and Loyalty. I have applied my knowledge across brands as diverse as Vodafone, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Westpac, and GAME.
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