The Problem with Best Practices

We’ve created this series, The Future of Marketing and How to Win, to not only share ideas on where the future of marketing is headed, but to also provoke some new ways of thinking about brand strategy and marketing.

In video 3 of a 9-part series, we answer the question, “Why don’t best practices work and what is the better way?”

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Hi, I’m John McGarr. I’m the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Fresh Squeezed Ideas, and we help progressive marketers engineer breakout brands. So, we’ve created this series, The Future of Marketing and How to Win, to not only share ideas on where the future of marketing is headed, but to also provoke some new ways of thinking about brand strategy and marketing.

Why don't best practices work and what is the better way?

Now, of course, brand management in marketing has been around a very long time, and I often get asked the question, “Why do I need to rethink my best practices?”, which is a fair question. The problem is best practices are based on hindsight, based on all the things that have been done before, which can really limit a marketer’s thinking. And, what worked in the past, won’t necessarily work in the future because what mattered to consumers in the past, may not matter to them in the future, because culture changes. You need to be looking ahead. Foresight is not about predicting the future, but it is about anticipating the drivers of change, which gives you the opportunity to hypothesize around future risks and opportunities that could help drive your business.

So, a great example of this is the financial services industry, banks, and wealth investors. Since PayPal came on the market many years ago, it’s not too difficult to have drawn a straight line all the way to the roboadvisors that are currently emerging. What has made that possible are the changes in consumers’ values around privacy, security, and where they look to expertise for their financial advice. Now, the problem with foresight is that for some organizations, they struggle with the fact you can’t quantify it. There are some organizations that are very well aware of the changes in consumer attitudes and are ahead of the technological change in wealth investment, for example. Where there are other organizations that struggle with this kind of ambiguity, and they’re behind the times.

Best practices based on models from yesteryear don’t take into account the shifts in culture, and going forward, we need a way to do that. Now, I know that most of the marketers out there will say yes, big data will save us, and we’ll use all the analytical power we can to reveal all, and the challenge is, and unfortunately big data does a wonderful job of quantifying touch points that every brand can have based on all the click behaviour. But unfortunately, it doesn’t answer the whys behind the behaviour. And when we’re talking about things that are culturally relevant, they’re impossible for people to answer. You really need to look to ethnographic investigations to investigate the whys, the motivations of the behaviour. And this is often subconscious to people. So, you can use your big data, but it’ll tell you what, but it won’t tell you why, and it’s really the thick data that comes from the ethnographers that allows the kind of insight that you need to build a brand that’s both culturally relevant, culturally resonant, and ultimately built to a brand purpose that will guide you forward.