“I’m gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name.” - Irene Cara, Fame
It’s okay; admit it. You’d like to be famous. You want to succeed. You want to make a difference. You want to win.
Well, act like it! I think that anyone with ambition wants to make a difference. That said, for some reason, most of us simply don’t act that way. We’re just not ruthless enough. We let politics, niceties, organizational structure and time itself get in the way of doing what it takes to win. We’ve all seen managers make the easier choice, one that leads to losing, instead of the tough decision that might lead to winning.
Over the course of a year, a senior marketer will face a host of little decisions and only a couple of make-or-break decisions. The trick is to make the small ones quickly and intuitively to only get the majority right- and then fix the minority that prove to be wrong. Bat above .500 on the small stuff and you’ll be just fine.
By comparison, you simply cannot get the big stuff wrong. Here, you have to be completely ruthless. Think about these decisions, but then make them boldly. Make them count for something. Make the big decisions in the right ways, and you could become famous. Always adopt that attitude, even if it’s unlikely that you’ll really become famous.
One illustration close to my heart is found in advertising.
I’m all for ongoing agency of record relationships – but it needs to be based on performance. Once every few years a business needs a brand new campaign, a campaign that could possibly transform the business. You’ve seen it happen in the past:
-McDonald’s turns a few syllables into a more contemporary position
-A real live Jack helps save Jack in the Box
-A gecko transforms the culture of an insurance company
-An introduction to The Most Interesting Man in the World pushes Dos Equis into the spotlight
-A new Old Spice Guy ressurrects a brand on life support
These campaigns can transform a business, but we also know that they are a distinct minority.
So when you arrive at an inflection point and need the campaign to make you famous, you need to be ruthless. For example, offer a couple million dollars to the top three creative agencies in the country. Better still, locate the top three creative teams in the country and make the offer to them directly. Winner take all. Once it successfully runs, thank the creators for their work, pay the winner, and tell your agency of record to get back to work.
On the other hand, if the winning campaign idea is merely good, and not the earthshaking concept you need, do not say yes. Start over, and over- until you are truly ready to make history.
Keep in mind this is an inflection point for the entire business. A chance to elevate. How can you not do everything possible to create this kind of marketplace leverage- including putting your maintenance agency on hold and rewarding one of its competitors for a great idea? Your job is to succeed, not to protect the feelings of your partners. Your partners are smart. They’ll get it, even if they don’t like it.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy
Stay tuned as we turn to thoughts on the customer in the coming weeks…