Marketing Room 101
If you’re not familiar with it, Room 101 was introduced in the novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell. It’s a torture chamber in which a prisoner is subjected to their own worst nightmare, fear or phobia. Or more succinctly “the worst thing in the world”.
Grim. Not the subject of an article you might say.
But fear not, I’m talking about the long-running (primarily British I think) Radio and TV comedy panel show, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates with the host. They have to persuade said host to consign those hates to oblivion in Room 101, never to be seen again.
I’ve been in Marketing for a long time and have developed quite a few pet hates of my own. So I thought I’d start populating my own Marketing Room 101 and in this article I’m adding the first four things.
1. Objectives that aren’t really objectives
This one will be no surprise to anyone who has spent any time with me in my career.
Nobody seems to know what an objective is any more!
Whether agency or client-side I’ve seen “objectives” like:
- “We want to be connected to our customers”,
- “We want to have highly engaged customers”
- “We want to create a better purchase experience.”
- “We want to build a best in class loyalty program.”
NONE of these are objectives. They’re tactics or strategies.
Why do you want to be “connected”? Why do you want to build a loyalty program? Why do you want a better purchase experience?
If you can answer that you can get to your actual objectives — Are you trying to increase Mental Availability? Average transaction frequency? Reduce churn?
Or, more sensibly, determine what your objectives are first and then figure out what you want to do to achieve them!
And I know the SMART thing is a well-worn cliché now but that’s because it’s true. Let’s say you want to increase Average Transaction Frequency as an objective. From what to what? And how long are you giving yourself? Is that reasonable and achievable based on past history? And how are you actually going to measure it?
2. ‘Phase 2’ of projects
If anyone tells you that the key feature you really want for your new product or customer experience will have to be in “Phase 2”, in my experience you can forget it.
“Phase 2” is where features go to die.
And nine times out of ten it’s usually the best bloody features. The ones that will actually make a difference.
They get shunted into Phase 2 because maybe they’re hard to do and will take up too much time given the launch date of said project. Maybe there’s a pernicious drive to “Just get something out”.
“Fine” you think. I’ll just wait for Phase 2.
And then it doesn’t happen.
There are a bunch of reasons for that. Sometimes by the time Phase 2 is supposed to happen the business will have pivoted and investment will be going somewhere else. Or the people who promised to do it have left and the new person won’t. Or the money runs out.
Be careful with the idea of MVPs too. Done properly (launch something that addresses a real customer need and improve iteratively) they are great. But in my experience, there’s too much emphasis put on the ‘Minimum’ and not the ‘Viable’. Something is launched that doesn’t meet core customer needs, which can damage perceptions of future iterations.
3. The phrase “We just need to get something out”
I can’t count the number of times in over twenty years in data-driven marketing where I’ve heard some variation of these words. Never gets less annoying either.
Annoying because this attitude turns marketing activity into something to be ticked off a to-do list rather than something being guided by a thoughtful and well-designed strategy. It’s an excuse to hide lazy thinking, or someone’s lack of knowledge and skill in delivering something maybe a bit complex.
Add all that up and you end up with a couple of things:
a. Bland, boring, ineffective and potentially damaging marketing.
“Just get it out” leads to no or bad personalisation. It leads to Spam. It leads to no experimentation. It leads to accepting crappy targeting or creative.
And to run that to its logical end point, things like GDPR and PECR in Europe are a direct reaction to this. We are reaping that which we sowed.
b. Companies only moving forwards and not taking the time to look backwards at what they have done.
Businesses aren’t Great White Sharks. They won’t die if they stop moving.
But you would think that, given the lack of time given over to reflection. And yet that is where the learning, and hence improvements, are done.
I get that we can’t always be perfect with our comms and speed sometimes trumps care. But if this attitude is constant you’re doing your marketing an injustice. Sometimes marketing is hard, complex and frustrating but stick with it rather than compromising what makes it effective.
4. The word ‘Engagement’
One of my biggest bugbears is the use of the word “engagement” in marketing. Usually, because it’s never defined. It’s just bandied around as some sort of positive outcome.
Is engagement buying from you? Clicking on an email? Liking your post? Leaving a review? And over what period exactly?
And how is “engagement”, even if defined, helpful as an objective?
The word means nothing unless you define it and the last thing Marketing needs is to give more ammunition to those holding the money who already dismiss it as “fluffy”!
The Bottom Line
I have many, many more of these and, frankly it’s bloody therapeutic writing about them.
But I would also love to adjudicate yours too. Please drop your pet hates in the comments and maybe we can start filling our Room 101 with worthy entrants!
I am a Senior Marketing Consultant at 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.
If you liked this article please check out: