The Most Dangerous Phrase In Marketing

There is one phrase -- one mindset -- that holds back more progress, creative thinking and innovation than any other. It promotes complacency and sends a clear message that stifles curiosity and experimentation. Unfortunately, it is also a fairly common saying within organizations: "That's not how things are done around here."

No organization formally establishes guidelines or policies that prohibit creative problem-solving and new ideas. "That’s not how things are done around here" will not be found in any employee handbook, training or orientation. This mindset is not a stimulus, but rather a response. It is the result of either submission -- yielding to a rigid underlying corporate culture that does not reward new approaches – or the result of fear, when new ideas have been shot down in a negative way, or new ideas that were implemented but unsuccessful were treated as abysmal failures rather than learning experiences.

If employees feel as if their efforts are made in vain, or are not challenged to push themselves to serve the best interests of the brand or company unconditionally, complacency sets in and inspiration wanes.



The digital shift fosters change. It disintermediates industries. It blurs lines that were once clearly defined. In many ways, it creates complexity where there once was order, or at least the perception of order. While the shift itself is well recognized, its cultural impact within marketing organizations is often overlooked -- or at the very least lacks a champion and steward.

We must each find within us the voice to stand behind, and the logic to support, the right recommendations, even if the direction may not fit within the mold of the way things have been done in the past.

Executive leadership should empower employees to confidently yet prudently explore new methods of consumer influence, measurement, applications of data, workflow, collaboration and process. Why restrict your potential because "That’s not how things are done around here"?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller.

6 comments about "The Most Dangerous Phrase In Marketing".
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  1. Jon-Mikel Bailey from Wood Street, Inc., October 18, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.

    I think a lot of this stems from a fear of change. The new blood can be very intimidating to the established order. It can be tough to let "the staff" come up with new ideas but those ideas tend to be right on point. We encourage our team to be open and to share their ideas with us. Great post and words to live by in this day and age.

  2. Rick Monihan from None, October 18, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.

  3. Rick Monihan from None, October 18, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.

    I should have put some context to that youtube video. I googled "that's how things are done" and received this. It is appropriate.

  4. Rick Monihan from None, October 18, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.

    Well, most of the video was appropriate, anyway. The end...not so much.

  5. Joe Bencharsky from iNet Entertainment, October 18, 2011 at 1:37 p.m.

    Agreed. The Einstein definition of "insanity" is what I keep running into. People with a mindset that is "forwardlooking" to the 1980's trying to do what worked for broadcasting and fitting to an interactive digital medium in and age of social media interaction. The corporate mind does not want to think creatively, and the creatives are too fearful of venturing into uncharted waters where they cannot justify the innovation.

    This type of stagnation and cookie-cutter marketing is far too entrenched in the market and in the corporate culture preventing what promises to be a new revolution in customer engagement that could translate to massive sales increases.

  6. Michael Baer from TechCXO, October 18, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.

    Another phrase that is a creativity and innovation showstopper is "We've tried that already (and it failed)". As if things couldn't possibly different this time, the dynamics different enough, or that simply the times and contexts aren't different enough to try something similar again. Or even, the past failed attempt might have been poorly executed. In any event, users of this phrase are trying to kill new thinking while appearing innovative themselves (having "tried" an approach already).
    Michael Baer

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