Those who follow me or know about the type of things I do will probably remember that I launched a little Facebook quiz via Playbuzz that helps determine the type of strategist you tend to be. The quiz was taken by almost 7000 strategists.
While most of my writing about this quiz so far has focused on the outcome, this blog entry focuses more on some of the detailed findings, which I find both alarming and enlightening in explaining the current state of strategic marketing thinking:
An unhealthy obsession with “Culture” and qualitative research:
One of the questions in the quiz asked the question about the preferred research tool. “Cultural trend data” (34.6%) and “qualitative projective techniques” (34.2%) appear to be the most preferred research tools and I find this alarming.
The industry has had an obsession with culture and cultural branding for the last few years which while useful is also limiting. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of culture and cultural branding. I’ve always been. But what is culture really? Merriam Webster defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also :the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time”. Hasn’t understanding the cultural context of your audience always been part of good marketing and good communication? The industry has turned sound marketing practices into a buzz word, in the process implying some sort of new and magical solution to business problems. Which it is not.
My own research for positioning-roulette shows that “culture” is only one of 26 potentially successful strategies when positioning a brand (and that is based on the analysis of over 1200 case studies of successful marketing). That means that obsessing over culture and cultural branding means leaving out over 96% of the potential solutions you have at your disposal to solve a business problem in a unique and relevant way. Imagine your doctor, or lawyer or even repair shop would use a similar approach.
Further, since everyone obsesses about this new buzzword and focuses on “culture” to identify a solution to your business problem isn’t it obvious that everyone will net-out with the same answers and solutions. Good luck with trying to get your brand and your communication to stand out with that.
A lazy approach to problem solving:
The answers to the 2nd question in the quiz are even more worrisome in my opinion. In fact, 50.4% of respondents (as a reminder almost 7000 people played the quiz) claim that “they usually come to a solution rather quickly, the answer usually comes to me almost immediately”. 49.6% on the other hand “come up with a solution rather slowly, knowing that it just takes time to come with the best solution”.
Now, unless the 50% who come up with a solution almost immediately are strategic geniuses (the Bell Curve model would disagree with that) this points to a very lazy behavior. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and, because of the nature of my work, worked on more projects, in more categories and geographies than most strategists out there. And yet, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times when a solution came to me right away. And yes, sometimes the obvious solution is the best one, but we all know that this usually isn’t the case.
The answers to this quiz seem to indicate that half the strategists out there don’t seem to put the necessary effort (or can’t for whatever reason) into trying to identify the best possible solution to the business problems they are trying to solve and that ⅔ of them look for answers where everyone else is looking. Einstein’s quote about insanity comes to mind here.
So maybe it is no wonder that a lot of the brand communication out there feels so expected and generic and that so many new product ideas fail. Laziness, a focus on the obvious and a herd mentality have never been the key to success and to great brand building.
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