I Dare You To Get To 10%

Lately I’ve been describing myself as the Robin Hood of marketing. If I look back at my four books -- “Life after the 30-second spot,” “Join the Conversation,” Flip the Funnel” and “Z.E.R.O.” -- they all have a common theme of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Or, in marketing speak: budget optimization (sounds less daring when you put it that way).

I challenge marketers to rethink the way they spend other people’s money in favor of a scenario which I believe more realistically reflects reality – or, at least a reality grounded in consumer insights and the actual behavior of the people they call consumers.

Inherent in the final optimization is the belief that we need to create innovation budgets. My co-author and fellow Online Spin writer, Maarten Albarda, dedicates an entire chapter in "Z.E.R.O." to the budget-setting component of the Z.E.R.O. action plan.

The creation of new budgets and allocation of funding is nothing new to marketing or media. I wish I could tell you this was the first time we are discussing this, but if I did it would just be déjà vu all over again. Every new medium has faced the same challenges when it comes to begging for scraps, justifying its existence and making the case for a spending level commensurate with consumer behavior and media consumption.



I only need to think back to my agency days recall the eye rolls when I pleaded for dollars that I believed were justified -- if not right then, certainly in the months to come.

I also remember being told that there are two types of people: pioneers and settlers. The pioneers get killed and the settlers take the land. “Joe, my boy: you are a pioneer!” Gee, thanks (I think…).

It takes a bold individual to put that stake in the ground (versus having it thrust through their heart). Chuck Fruit did it at Anheuser-Busch and The Coca-Cola Company with regards to cable television (ESPN is still grateful), and most recently, Mondelez’ (a client) Bonin Bough did it with respect to mobile.

In the world of digital innovation, we constantly hear about the 60/30/10 -- or 70/20/10 as a slightly more conservative -- rule being applied, led by the uber innovator, Google and in the corporate world, Coca-Cola (again) respectively. Coke refers to it as Now, New and Next.

So with all that said, what percentage of your budget are you spending on innovation -- aka “next”? Do you even have a budget to begin with? And if so, do you have a dedicated champion internally, and partner externally, to help you execute against it?

It dawned on me last week as I was immersing myself in the startup world of Silicon Valley that this 10% dream is really just a pipe dream to marketers. They talk a big game, but walk an entirely different one. I realized that 10%, while realistic and practiced by a handful of progressive brands, is unattainable to many others.

So I thought I would take the hatchet and lop off an entire digit, leaving us with a solitary and pretty binary “1.” I challenge the marketers still standing to get to 1% for innovation. Could you do it? Could you do it this year? And no, the year is NOT almost over. What about next year? How embarrassed will you be when you get to the end of NEXT year with still nothing NEW to show for it? Shouldn’t you take the first step NOW? 

For your first step, why not move the decimal place one more time to the left: 0.1%. On a $50 million spend, we’re talking about $50,000. How about 0.1% of your spend on a test, experiment or pilot program. I don’t care what you call it, as long as you call it. As long as it isn’t others calling… time of death. Yours.

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