Knee-jerk Reactions Are Rarely Good -- Especially In Business

The Albarda household has been fully vaccinated, as has a growing percentage of the population. We see a slow reopening of offices and workplaces. I have gone inside a Walmart for the first time in over a year. I have eaten a meal inside a restaurant. And I am up in the air again. It is a wonderful feeling.

At the same time, we are witnessing long waits and apologies in advance everywhere on account of staffing shortages. Many companies, especially those in the service and hospitality sectors, made deep cuts in staffing when the world came to a halt, and they are now struggling to get back to the staffing levels needed to service the outgoing public.

Case in point: When I needed to make a small change to an itinerary, I tried to do it on the airlines’ website, as instructed. It did not work, and the website suggested I call customer service. Exactly three hours later, of which two hours and 47 minutes were spent on hold, the change was made. The customer service rep told me that three hours was actually pretty good. He had heard of customers on hold for up to five hours. The airlines’ Twitter account took seven hours to respond, and its response came at 3:58 AM. The change to my corresponding hotel booking took another 30 minutes on the phone.



I understand that running service and hospitality businesses is hard, and that cuts needed to be made when COVID stopped us in our tracks. And I also understand the various reasons why getting people back into these industries is challenging.

But my experience also goes to show that knee-jerk reactions can have lasting effects down the road.

I was reminded of this when I sat through one of our most recent media reviews. With the amount of data now available, we can see our marketing activities deliver in almost real time. Not all data points come in at the same time of course, and do not cover the same time period. But we had launched a campaign and reviewed data for the first six days.

Mind you, this was output data, measuring performance in terms of delivery and not effect (which would be outcome data). We reviewed impressions, cost, reach, frequency and other metrics. We saw that some of our selected touch points were racing fast and overperforming. Others were a bit slower and appeared to be behind planned levels. We spent a good hour poring over the data with the agency.

And then what?

That is where I come back to the knee-jerk reaction. Because we can see the performance of our activities so closely following the actual activity itself, there is a temptation to start adjusting the plan. Those slow performers? Cut them back and shift that budget to those touchpoints that seem to be racing ahead!

Bad idea! That would make media optimization more akin to day trading of stocks.

It’s important to remember that the plan you’re reviewing was created on the basis of solid analytics and insights. Perhaps it was even modeled. And it is there to deliver an outcome for your brand or service, like brand health or brand sentiment. That type of outcome does not shift in six days. So be like Warren Buffett and not like Keith Gill (the man who started the recent Gamestop frenzy). Give the plan time to breath and grow. Optimize, but don’t knee jerk!

1 comment about "Knee-jerk Reactions Are Rarely Good -- Especially In Business".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 28, 2021 at 1:52 p.m.

    Good one, Maarten. Sadly, it's been my experience that most media" plans" are heavily orchestrated by client dictates or mandates and, as a result, the planner has no alternative but to await developments as freedom of response---even in recommendation form----is often lacking. I can only hope that as we get more and more sophisticated in terms of audience and response data that advertisers---"clients"---will see and understand that media planning/buying is ---or can be---a major contributor to the success of a marketing plan---but only if the media function is truly integrated with the marketing and "creative", and not seen as merely a way to buy eyeballs for exposure to the ad messages. Anyway, one can hope, can't one?

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