Build The Horse, Not The Camel

You've probably heard the maxim "a camel is a horse designed by committee," which comes down to: despite a singular vision to achieve a specific goal, the various participants can't (or won't) selflessly bring their expertise to bear on the problem. This is because there are too many outside motivations or distractions impeding the process. Or maybe it's because the participants are not really learning the real needs of the end user. The end result? Today's brand marketers have bought themselves a football field full of spitting camels that were meant to be thoroughbreds.

Don't look to round up the usual suspects. It's not because there are so many new "channels" (e.g., mobile shopping), "platforms" (e.g., Facebook) or technologies (like the DVR which can render the: 30-second commercial irrelevant). Blame Don Draper. Or, more precisely, blame the way advertising agencies have evolved from the 1960s to the present day.

Here's what happened. In those halcyon days, the consumer was not in a dialogue with brands. The information was strictly top down and the purchase cycle was basically retail-based. The news of the day hit your front porch in the morning and your living room at six o'clock at night. You looked in your neighbor's driveway to see what kind of car to buy. Of course it made sense for the brand messages to be delivered from the monolith of Madison Avenue. Art director plus copy writer equals output. Full stop.



Today, the consumer experience has many touch points. The consumer decides where and how to buy (online, bricks and mortar, tablet, mobile, social). They don't say "now I am shopping online" or "now I am shopping mobile." They are connected and shopping and they expect an excellent experience no matter when or how they do it. For the consumer, there is no "moment in time" where they can be marketed to. Remember, now they decide when and where to get their information in such a way as they can glide by classic forms of advertising if they want to.

How did Madison Avenue think to match this paradigm shift? They ignored the need for fluidity and nimbleness in the changing customer experience. Instead, they created new fiefdoms of spin-off experts who could address the rapidly changing needs. Here's the digital agency. Here's the mobile agency. Here are the ecommerce consultants. All part of an enormous holding company's matrix that demands huge margins from each sub-agency, creating a dog fight mentality when what's required is the ultimate in partnership.

So how does a marketer get the horse instead of the camel? Where I work, we've come to a different conclusion -- we tore down the walls by taking the individual P&L requirements out of the picture. We are one team with the right skill sets that are deployed to serve the best interests of the brand while all the time considering the customer's needs and behaviors. We try to bring a global mindset to the work, realizing there are no more borders when it comes to the buying experience. We have a culture of high performance and of course people are rewarded for excellent work.

But we also look at the end result for the client. Did we understand how consumers behave with our brand? When we converse with them are they engaged? Are we channel agnostic -- meaning it doesn't matter where or how but in the most appropriate way? In the consumer experience, have we created a dialogue that allows dissatisfied customers to find help at any hour of the day or night, in any language or format they need?

These are early days of the second decade of the 21st century. It's unlikely we'll ever find one right answer to anything as complicated has human nature. But if you want to build a better horse, first build the better barn. Preferably without silos.

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