Just Ignore That Standard Definition Of Insanity

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome”:  Many people refer to this quote as “the definition of insanity.”  Sorry to say, but that is wrong.  That has nothing to do with insanity.

Insanity is actually defined as “the state of being seriously mentally ill.”   I guess one could be considered mentally ill if they keep doing the same thing repetitively, but it would have to be taken to the extreme to truly be considered insane.  One could argue that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is actually more ignorant or stubborn than insane.

Of course, the question you should be asking right now is, “Why is this column talking about insanity?”

There is a lot of stubbornness in marketing through digital media.  Marketers commonly will continue to do the same things repeatedly because that’s “how they did it before.”  I have heard this explanation for years in many different situations across different companies.  I don’t consider any of the people who uttered those statements to be insane, but I do think many of them are stubborn.



I get it.  Humans inherently don’t like change.  Change is uncomfortable and unpredictable.  That all being said, change is necessary.  Situations change and people have to respond in order to succeed.  The same goes for marketing.  The landscape changes, your audience evolves, and you have to respond.

A good example is what is occurring now that cookies are starting to fade away.  I am constantly being asked by site after site if I am willing to accept cookies.  Both on mobile and desktop, the question pops up and I, as a marketer, tend to accept cookies because I know how important they are to the business whose site I am visiting.

I fully realize that most consumers don’t think like me (few people truly do), so the acceptance of cookies is probably decreasing rapidly.  This means we are being forced to rethink how we measure the effectiveness of our campaigns. 

Even without a cookie, you can see gross engagement metrics on an ad or piece of content.  You may not be able to accurately follow the post-engagement activity, but you can still build correlative analyses of each successive step of the customer journey.  High click-through and conversion rates are indicative of strong messaging and a qualified audience. 

Without cookies, I would argue that messaging is even more important than media.  The medium is selected to reduce waste and deliver a targeted audience, but message testing in a fast manner is how you will increase success over time.  You used to be able to feed data back into your targeting to deliver efficiency, but that data loop is going to be harder to maintain now, so the message increases in value.  After all, great media could never cover up bad creative.

So, if you are a media person, begin to get more focused on the creative and the message as well.  Just because you never had to deal with the story in the past doesn’t mean you can continue to stay removed from that section in the future.   Your future value depends on the ability to do both, and not just one aspect of the go-to-market.  Thinking any other way could be considered stubborn -- or insane, if you want to hold onto that old cliché.

Yes, I realize Albert Einstein may have made that initial statement about insanity -- but as smart as he was, he was also a little crazy.

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