Column: The New Next - Let's Cut Out the Bull

by Paul Woolmington

Let's hear it for the unsung heroes, especially those wonderful folks who pay our bills. When contemplating this month's column, it occurred to me that one community that often goes without credit for great innovation and ideas is the marketing/client community. The advertising and media industries are full of awards where we pat ourselves on the back for great ideas and executions, but seldom do we share the podium with our clients who, let's face it, deserve much more credit. So this month, we're going to redress the balance somewhat, and look at an incredible in-house contribution from Deloitte Consulting, which without a creative or media agency created a "why the hell didn't I think of that non-traditional campaign?"

All the more commendable is the fact that the effort was for corporate consulting, an unsung business-to-business category using a relatively unsung discipline - direct marketing. Let's face it, corporate consulting isn't the sexiest or most lighthearted of industries. What Deloitte firstly identified was that its industry was full of bull, literally. Initially, the firm designed a piece of software that searches documents for egregious bull words and then delivers blunt feedback and no-bull alternatives. The software provided a bull composite score for every document. The program was launched internally to 15,990 employees and became wildly successful. Deloitte then decided to launch it externally via direct marketing and public relations within its community of clients and prospects. The genius idea that business today is full of anachronistic jargon really hit a nerve and enabled Deloitte to embrace and own a big idea that drove a movement.

The direct marketing piece was appropriately dubbed "Bullfighter," a CD wrapped in red velvet and gold-embossed covering. It provided an incredibly powerful direct marketing message in a light hearted and fun, but deep down, very memorable and poignant communication. The communication was delivered via multiple contact points - the Deloitte consultants and employees, direct marketing pieces, worldwide pr, word of mouth, and ultimately, delivered within the privacy of business users' PCs via the Bullfighter software. Even the stuffiest old consultants and business partners began to believe they weren't boring, and that plain English was better than the stuff they had been shoveling.

Imagine for a moment, a world where it becomes unsafe to blurt out "repurposeable knowledge capital" or in our industry, "leverageable branded entertainment." What a wonderful world that would be! The campaign created a movement with very little money. "Bullfighter" was virally passed to hundreds of thousands of people. The Web site was barraged. The CD version sold out within three days.

There are a number of lessons learned from this case. One, no discipline or function should ever be undervalued as a source for brilliant ideas. Two, no category or marketing discipline should be considered too dry or a ghetto vis-à-vis innovation and creativity. Three, we should never underestimate the power of an empowered workforce as an important medium and advocates for a brand movement - just look at the 15,990 Deloitte employees. Four, we as a media and marketing industry have incredible parallels with the consulting world. We're all guilty of presentations and documents loaded with irrelevant jargon and marketing bull. So maybe we should all cut out that bull and return to good and simple straight-talking English. In fact, a Deloitte study after the deployment of "Bullfighter" later went on to prove that companies that use less bull were much more successful.

When you write that next document, or you're talking about that new piece of software, just remember that straight talk and transparency are important. And above all, let's remember to have a good laugh. Maybe we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. Deloitte didn't, and the result was great marketing. And that's no bull.

Paul Woolmington is president-CEO, founder, and chief chef of The Media Kitchen. (pwoolmington@mediakitchen.tv)