Commentary

The Phone Didn't Ring

In a previous Online Spin, "The Opportunity Cost of Inertia,” I wrote about a keynote I delivered to a room filled with senior brand marketers at the ANA’s (Association of National Advertisers) digital and social media conference last July.

At the end of my presentation, I challenged the audience to do one thing in the remaining six months of the year: test or pilot an innovation program that took them out of their comfort zones and allowed them to experience an emerging technology or perhaps just one platform they were deficient in.

I invited the brands to call me on New Year’s Eve, saying I would be close to my phone and looked forward to hearing a first-person account of their program, what they’d learned in the process, what they would do differently -- and most importantly, what they would do next.

Dec. 31 came. Dec. 31 went. The phone didn’t ring.

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Even sadder was that I always knew it wouldn’t.

But why?

Scenario A: The overflowing glass

In this exceptional scenario, the brands were already piloting, accelerating, even investing in technology, platforms, startups and/or projects designed to obliterate their competition. They didn’t call because they didn’t need to call. They had successfully moved beyond dipping their toes in the water and didn’t need me to give them a gentle nudge (shove) into the blue ocean.

To them, I say: You’re awesome, but you still should have called. At the very minimum, I’ll profile you and your company in my next book. While I recognize your need not to share your successes with the outside world, you are in fact so far ahead that the others may never catch up. Plus, this is the sharing economy -- and if you want to learn from others, you should contribute to the growing pool of best practices and case studies.

Scenario B: The glass half-full

Let’s say every marketer left the event energized and emboldened to innovate. They ignored the hundreds of political and yet banal emails. They even delegated the “fires” back at the office to underlings. Instead, they piloted to their heart’s content. So why didn’t they call? Perhaps they thought I was joking. Perhaps they figured their job was done when they checked 1 x pilot program from their 2013 to-do list.

To them, I say: The only way to keep on innovating… is to keep on innovating. Now that you’ve completed one successful program, what will you do next? Innovation is a journey, not a destination and you will NEVER reach the finish line. Whether covering the digital, social, mobile or emerging categories, there will ALWAYS be an area where you’re lagging.

Scenario C: The glass half-empty

Same as earlier, except the programs didn’t work as well as perhaps was anticipated. Why didn’t they call? These brands didn’t want to admit failure, and so they refrained from calling out of empathy and consideration: they just didn’t want to let me down.

To them I say: Keep your head up. You are all winners. There is no such thing as failure in the Age of Improv. It’s all about the pivot. Don’t give up. You’ll be so much better next time.

Scenario D: The empty glass

Flatline. You did nothing. You forgot. You didn’t care. You were distracted. You didn’t have enough bandwidth. Your agency talked you out of it. Your boss talked you out of it. You couldn’t sell it. You gave up. You didn’t believe. You didn’t care. You weren’t motivated enough. Something came up.

Pick your poison. This is not mutually exclusive multiple choice. Check all that apply.

To them I say: you just lost ANOTHER six months. You bet the farm on the status quo, with hope springing eternal that the IPSOS data would be your salvation. You put your stock in the new tagline or campaign or promotion and the result was crickets.  And in July of 2014, when the next speaker challenges you, you will have lost yet another six months.

Stop the rot. Make that change. Commit to action. Time flies when you’re stuck in purgatory, waiting in vain and resigned to die.

Those are my four scenarios. If you were in the audience, which one did you fit into? And if you weren’t there, which one do you think was the more likely scenario?

I think you know which one I believe is the more realistic outcome.

Why is this the case?

What needs to change to avoid this mindless reenactment of Groundhog Day?

The clock is ticking. Or maybe it’s just stuck.

1 comment about "The Phone Didn't Ring".
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  1. Steve Climons from Crossover Creative, January 20, 2014 at 1:51 p.m.

    Sorry nobody called but really like and it's worth repeating….

    "Stop the rot. Make that change. Commit to action. Time flies when you’re stuck in purgatory, waiting in vain and resigned to die."

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