I spend most of my life dodging pot holes. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that creep up on you. Ones that you see from a mile away. Part of the DNA of an account person is to be paranoid. To plan for the worst and push for the best. You plan as far ahead as you are able – trying to see what hidden gremlins might lie around the corner to ensure that your best laid plans come to fruition. To dodge those pot holes. I wonder though, how much does this paranoia become a crutch? A drug that marketing folk become addicted to. The problem being that you are so fixated on Plan A, B, C and Z that you aren’t able to simply “run with it” anymore. To throw caution to the wind and embrace the random. Because when we do embrace it, some of the rewards can be that much greater.
Last week we spent some time with the good folks at Fallon. We went through the “alchemy of advertising” which was their chance to share their thoughts on things past, present and future in our industry. And it was great. Very insightful and very useful. One quote in particular stood out to me though. Mike Tyson’s philosophical outlook is a strange place to draw inspiration, but he once said “everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face”. It’s a big thought. The world of boxing is riddled with plans and counter plans. You plan for when you’ll start flurrying the body with blows in the middle rounds. You plan for how to combat the opposition’s counter punching. You plan for everything. But at the end of it all, when you are in that ring and getting punched in the face, all those plans soon go out the window. Instinct takes over. You hope that some of that planning will help you and guide you, but ultimately you have to embrace the new direction of things and fight back. If you don’t, then you stand still and perish.
The world of marketing can take a lead from this. I’m not advocating that we should throw out all plans and sing to hell with it. But embracing change / the random / the chaotic can not only produce interesting new directions but also be the difference between success and failure. I see all too regularly what you might describe as “plan paralysis”. A paralysis borne from being so wedded to plans in place that we become unable to adapt and continue moving forwards. It has been the difference between great work being borne and work that is just OK. The difference between being ahead of the curve or falling in with the rest of the crowd.
I’m not saying that it’s easy. It runs contrary to many of the impulses that make you a good marketeer. But sometimes ignoring those more rational plans, and embracing the more emotion led gut instincts, can be just the ticket. The reason being that in order to do something that is genuinely new, that will genuinely cut through in such a crowded market, we sometimes need to embrace the chaotic or random and include it in our thinking. Otherwise we’ll always be caught up in things we know. Things that are familiar. And that just doesn’t sound as interesting…..