Out of the Box!

My dream is to one day  be published in the HBR.

Since I haven’t made it into those hallowed halls yet, Out of the Box! was born as the place where I could express my dry sense of humor (sometimes snarky), irreverence of all things I’m told I should take seriously, and personal opinions.

There might be a career or life lesson tucked amongst these bits of wisdom too if you dig deep enough.  Cheers!

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. Michele Morrisette

Brexit, CX and Love

What does Brexit have to do with CX – the Customer Experience?

Everything.  How many times have organizations said, “oops, sorry, we forgot you!” to a critical stakeholder group? More than you would imagine.  For 100 years, the working-class of North East England voted Labour. Cameron’s pro-Remain coalition, which included Labour, forgot about them.  They and other forgotten constituents finally had enough.

How was the power of their discontent harnessed?  In the Daily Mail article from 26-June; Epicentre of the Euro Earthquake: A powerful dispatch from the ‘neglected’ North, the pro-Leave leaders said, “All we did was engage with them, talk to them, actually take the trouble to knock on their doors and ask for their vote. But the response was simply incredible: a passion and enthusiasm that I, as a 30-year old political veteran, have never experienced before.”

“All we did was engage with them, talk to them…”

Ignore at your own peril  

When leaders of organizations and countries ignore their customers and constituents, at some point those folks shut down.  They tell you, “we’re done, no more.”  Voters deliver unexpected election results and workers “check out” – the motivated ones leaving for better opportunities and working conditions.

The Customer Experience (CX)

As a consultant, I have seen numerous large, high profile projects fail. There are statistics ad nauseam on why change isn’t sustainable and what elements are key to success.  I’ve also been a part of the digital age since digital was called ‘new media’ – some 2 decades now. Having lived through transformation failures as a client, and seen clients prevail or fail as a consultant, there is one common denominator: CX.

American Express conducted research in 2013 with Neurosense to scientifically study the physiological, emotional and psychological impact of good service. The findings in part included; 74% had increased heart rate when they thought about receiving great customer service and over half experienced the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved.

According to Deloitte‘s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report; “Engagement likewise needs to adopt an “always on” approach.”

In overwhelming numbers, the voters of North East England showed how correct these studies are.  Leaders of countries and organizations must always keep an eye on all stakeholders, not just the special interest or influential stakeholder groups. The power of treating people, well like humans, can have a profound effect.

Customer Experience at its core is about how we treat our customers, our constituents.

The enablement of good CX is good change management. When we don’t manage change optimally, we lose constituent engagement. Critical, expensive transformations fail. I have seen digital projects go off the rails when a robust CX/UX strategy was not developed and implemented to integrate corresponding change management intersection points.

Typically, the change team is given the task of “making things human,” but if the overarching strategy has not been built on a foundation of robust CX that incorporates UX (User Experience) design principles with corresponding discovery and blueprinting phases, key stakeholders can be forgotten.  Program managers are focused on the “on time, on budget” component; change management teams are “all about the people.” But if program managers and change management teams are running on separate tracks without a holistic delivery plan, unplanned redundancies and misses occur. Constituents don’t feel loved.

CX: It’s all about the love.  Love your constituents, they’ll love you back.  Forget them, they’ll strike back.

Original post on LinkedIn

B-Schools: Love them or Leave Them?!

“We are facing the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. There is plenty of blame to go around. But as suppliers of ideas and talent to the business community, business schools need to accept some responsibility.”

Jay Lorsch and Rakesh Khurana, HBS, “Failure to Promote a Higher Cause”

B-school and Ivy League undergraduate programs have become a necessary evil perceived by many as the only way to get hired, be offered a fair salary and/or be promoted.  Learning for the love of learning is a secondary consideration these days.  Students take out astronomical loans with the aim of getting an edge over their competition, being hired relatively quickly and not falling into the growing percent of new graduates who are unemployed or underemployed.

The reality is that not all MBA’s or Ivy League grads are created equal.  In their quest for fast progression up the corporate ladder, with corresponding financial rewards, some take wild risks that impact not just their companies but in some cases an entire country.  Ethics and morals are tossed out the window at the thought of a quick ride to the top with mansions and boats waiting in exotic locations for their pleasure.  So that you don’t get the impression I’m an Ebeneezer Scrooge, I’ll state for the record that I have no issues with individuals who work, get rewarded and spend money on themselves and their families. I have my vices and love to travel to exotic places as often as possible.  My concern is when a lack of foresight affects more than the graduate themselves.

In the not so distant past, the U.S. became one of the biggest victims of arrogant (or perhaps just plain stupid) B-school graduates, those high flyers with charisma but no substance as their exotic financial derivatives imploded and brought a once great country to it’s knees.  Perhaps they called it “innovation” or “thinking outside of the box” to justify their experiments but where was the risk assessment?  Oh that’s right, there was none, just as with Enron. Oops!  Whether it’s fair or not, the perception created was that  B-Schooler’s knowingly created  a catastrophe with the intent of taking personal short-term gains regardless of who was hurt.  Not that different than the robber barons who exploited others in their quest for profits at the expense of America’s native population and resources over 100 years ago.

Can B-School Grads Get the Job Done?
Observation over many years has shown me that it is a relatively small percentage of B-school graduates who are able to immediately apply their knowledge and skills through practical application upon graduation.  The others are like deers, standing in front of the glaring headlamps of a car, frozen and unsure of what to do.  To successfully integrate into the “real world” takes learning methods and specific skills from the employer hiring an individual.  Firms choosing to heavily recruit in the B-school  and Ivy League arena need to ensure robust internal training programs are in place so the  percentage who don’t intuitively “get it” are developed before placing them in front of clients.

Organisations who do not have these plans in place will suffer from the experienced hire syndrome that seems to be running rampant.  With highly qualified individuals regulated to lower levels, and in many cases forced to train their managers, the workplace isn’t very harmonious these days.

What Does the Future Hold in Store?
My prediction is that the perceptions will change, young people will no longer be burdened with ridiculous student loans and emphasis will be placed on common sense, relationship skills and the ability to apply concepts at both design and execution phases.  Focus may even switch back to apprenticeships, where new hires are assigned a master practitioner to oversee their development and ensure their success.  The days of being solely a strategist are over.  Substance counts.  A new benchmark is being set and individuals must be able to both strategize and execute. Many hiring managers are making conscious choices to hire individuals with desire and drive versus a pedigree to ensure they have employees capable of getting the job done.

Organisations who are currently operating under this model (it’s fascinating to see some late ’90’s tactics coming back into play), and have chosen to put their head in the sand like an ostrich, need to be prepared for the lawsuits that will be leveled at them. While some employees won’t bother to file- others will.  The demographics for promotion, have shifted and in one global firm known for it’s outsourcing capabilities, individuals in the 25-35 range, many on H1B visas, are selected over older, more experienced American Nationals.

Why?  An individual working for five-ten years typically makes less than someone with twenty plus years of experience and is cheaper to promote – lack of skills and ability to perform – just a regrettable by product.  It’s a case of “see no, hear no, say no evil.” The alleged leaders who allow these practices to take place look the other way and will continue to do so until they get caught.

The smart organisation will ensure diversity prevails and individuals hired for their experience, abilities and IP are given the same opportunities as the “home-growns,” regardless of what country of origin they may be from and let performance be the ultimate dictator of advancement.

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM

Those Darn Experienced Hires!

The Sting
Many consulting firms are eagerly recruiting experienced hires with promises of moving quickly through corporate hierarchies.  With all of the economic turmoil subsequent to 2008, many highly qualified and skilled individuals were displaced and had to begin new careers.  As the search for new opportunities commenced, some firms, deciding to take advantage of the opportunity elected to make low-ball offers to prospective employees – anywhere from 30-50% lower – than their previous salaries before the collapse.

Being human, and in most cases having families to support, individuals took jobs that they should have either; 1) Passed on or 2) Done a better job negotiating base and bonus pay for. The short-term benefit to organisations was that they had an influx of thought leadership and IP from these talented individuals.  But as the experienced hire’s rose-tinted glasses began to dim, they realized they had been drawn into machines that did not operate the way recruiters promised they would.  Being fast-tracked is unusual, if not impossible, at some of the Tier 1 consulting firms.  The bureaucracy favors “home-growns” those individuals recruited right out of undergraduate school and trained as analysts into a very disciplined system with guaranteed promotions every 2-4 years and younger MBA recruits who tend to have immediate executive sponsorship.

“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them.” Jack Welch

The Reality
Forget labor laws, they are violated every day when the demographics of individuals being promoted are analyzed.  However, instead of making a fuss, it’s easier for this seemingly forgotten group of employees, to find a new job and move on – choosing to maintain amicable relations – than filing a claim as required by the EEOC and asking for the right to sue.  While I can’t say for certain, not having been privy to the risk assessment and reserves former employers had in place, it is evident some companies are prepared to have a revolving door of talent due to poor, or no, inclusion processes for experienced hires. In many cases, these talented individuals are asked to train the younger and less experienced managers they are assigned to work for.  Ouch! That stings, can be demoralizing and lead to workplace relationship issues that no one has time to deal with.

Déjà vu
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but tends to happen when leadership is short-sighted and inferior HR practices are in play.  In the late ’90’s Jacques (/aka/Jack the Knife) Nasser was CEO at Ford.  I have always felt that he almost single handedly set the company up for failure when he tried to make his mark by going on a shopping spree and buying market share with numerous name plates.  Whilst it was nice having Aston-Martin and others in the stable, I was always partial to Jaguar and Land Rover, it wasn’t practical and his deals were ROI losers. The Kwik Fit debacle, sold to shareholders and employees as such a great deal, suffered from either; due diligence not being performed, the people performing it not being qualified to do so or the books were just plain old cooked, leading to hundreds of millions in losses.  Jacques was an elitist (or perceived to be so by many). It was perhaps while taking a break from his Rodeo Drive shopping spree, that he sent out a decree to amp up recruiting at the big name B-schools, Wharton, Harvard, et al, to bring in individuals who allegedly had high potential and would “help” the company flourish.  My opinion on B-Schools can be found here.

What he seemingly failed to recognize were four key points; 1) The buyers who made up Ford’s core client base, 2) That it can take years to master the basics of automotive operations, 3) The rage and bitterness many long-term employees – with high potential – felt at having opportunities taken away and, 4) That these skilled workers would take their IP and years of know-how and walk away.

Ford suffered this loss of IP and and other dysfunctions for several years with share prices plummeting, lack-luster models and Bill Ford Jr.’s attempt at being CEO after “The Knife’s” reign until Alan Mullaley came to town and saved the well-known American icon. But that is another story for another day.

What to Do?
For the experienced hire workforce, which can turn up to 78% in 18 mos., remember who you are.  If your firm is not currently valuing what you bring to the table, you should be looking for new opportunities.  Don’t fall into the trap that was set – where if they can make you believe you are “worth less” than you used to be – that it actually means you are worthless.  Pull up your bootstraps, find your self-esteem and negotiate better next time around.  Find the top two or three areas that you were known for/made your reputation on previously and showcase those skills.  Make yourself so valuable that you have more than one offer to consider.  When you make the move, go to the firm that has the best cultural fit so you don’t repeat the experience you just extricated yourself from.

Organisations, you need to get real. Leaders need to take a serious look at the costs of offering higher salary’s to experienced hires to ensure longer retention versus the astronomical costs (typically one years salary that is just gone- poof!) of recruiting and on-boarding due to high turnover.  It’s tough to go wrong when you embrace valuing employees instead of seeing them as interchangeable commodities. Valuing people through recognition, reward and advancement really does pay off.

One woman who is beginning to make a difference in how both employers and employees perceive and operate in the workplace is Liz Ryan at Human Workplace.  Her mission is to bring  the human factor back into the workplace and encourage leaders to see the harm draconian HR practices ultimately do to their business.  You don’t have to be a slave rowing endlessly under the threat of being whipped, you can find opportunities at progressive firms who choose to value employees as their greatest resource.  As a wise man once said; “Be the change you want to see!” You should take his advice.

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM

Spanish Red Wine and the Entrepreneur


What I learned from drinking Spanish red wine (a Rioja if my memory serves correctly) is that it’s best not to mix vintages.

It’s been on my mind a lot recently, perhaps because I’m in the middle of my MBA and taking Entrepreneurship right now, but a key success factor for entrepreneurs is having the right people around them at the right time. An organization is no different. You need the right blend of styles and skill sets on a project or team to ensure everything gets done on time while generating a profit. The counterpoint that some will take is; “Well people have to learn to work together!

Yes, you can force individuals to work together by giving low performance ratings and other draconian means but at what cost? What if you are stifling one of your “best and brightest,” forcing them to conform and  to “get along” when a change – although possibly inconvenient – would allow you to leverage the full value both individuals bring? Just putting the idea out there…it’s a new way of looking at the situation and thinking outside of the traditional box of “comply or die!”.

“Just as it’s best not to mix vintages, it’s best not to mix personalities that blatantly clash. As coworkers guardedly tap dance around each other, waiting for the other to strike, work piles up and customers are neglected.”

The Story
It was a sweltering hot night in Puerto Rico and the “Father of the local Ford dealership cartel” (I’m joking… well, kind of…), Jorge, was trying to educate us Gringo’s on the differences between the various types of Spanish red wine that were available and what made each so special. Jorge was the leader in my mind. He owned two dealerships and had a knack for choosing just the right wine at dinner. We were at a group dinner that evening and I was the top dog from a status perspective from the factory (as always, we were there to “help” our dealer partners). As was customary, I ordered a nice bottle of Spanish red for the group to go with dinner. It was moderately priced, perhaps $17 back in 2001. As dinner progressed we became more intrigued about the description of why some Spanish reds were so superior to others. I threw caution, and the fear of facing our Finance staff when I turned in my expense report, to the wind and challenged Jorge. “So, what would you have selected if there were no limits?” He looked me down and returned the challenge by giving the vintage and dollar amount, about $75 dollar a bottle.

I looked back at him and said “Order it. Let’s see why this is so special.” He accepted the challenge and we quickly had our new bottle of wine to sample. My coworkers were looking at me with varying degrees of respect and horror. I could hear them thinking everything from; “she’ll never get this one paid for” to “at least someone has balls around here”. As the waiter made his way around the table, I must have inadvertently moved my hand in what was a “go ahead” sign and he began filling my glass with wine. It was like watching a car wreck that you have no way of avoiding. The most lovely, pure Spanish red was being commingled with the moderate wine that I had not finished drinking before my glass was refilled. My eyes wide with horror, I knew there was nothing to do but bluff my way through this debacle.

As I had been taught, I swirled the glass while carefully holding the stem and watching for “legs,” the more the better according to wine aficionados and took a small sip. I looked up at my colleagues and said, “Not bad for a $40 bottle of wine.” I like to remember the incident as though we all laughed together and overlooked my horrific faux pas, that I hadn’t been looked at with varying degrees of sympathy for not understanding what the waiter was looking for when he reached my chair. I didn’t get to taste the beauty or bouquet of that high priced wine that evening but I’ve always wondered what it would have been like, if I just hadn’t accidentally waved my hand that night.

Practical Applications In class the other day, we were talking about the difficult personalities that employees with an entrepreneurial streak can bring to an organization. My classmate, Kinglsey, made this post: “Entrepreneurs are transformational (not transactional) leaders and can be good managers/employees when the situation is right. Entrepreneurs are great if they are managed correctly. You wouldn’t tell Mike Tyson that he needs to start with 2 left jabs then a right cross before backing out and repeating two more before starting combination #24. You would just tell him, “Go out there and knock ‘em out.” There is a fine art in managing an entrepreneur- you must give them the freedom to find their own way yet make sure that they know where you want them to go. If you need a transactional leader, and likewise a transactional manager, it is best not to hire an entrepreneur for the job.”  I think Kingsley nailed the point home perfectly. Just as I don’t recommend mixing two significantly different bottles of Spanish red, I don’t recommend putting the wrong personalities together in a work setting. An entrepreneur working for a micromanager is a disaster in the making.

As leaders in organizations, it is incumbent on us to take the time to place the right people in the right positions. It is not always easy, especially now when resources are scarce. But just as I never fully experienced that $75 bottle of Spanish red, an employer will not experience the full potential, that unique bouquet from the individual employee, if they put them in the wrong position. They will get a diluted, not so satisfactory experience for both sides. Depending on manager and employee maturity and experience levels, the wrong combination can be toxic. Results can include horrifying HR intervention steps that could have been avoided at the outset. Taking time to understand up front what the employee skill and personality sets are, and what they can become when blended with other employees, is critical when seeking to fill positions in today’s economy. Ensuring the right people are in the right positions leads to optimal outcomes for both employee and employer. Hire in haste; repent in leisure.

Full disclosure:  I started B-school with the intention of completing my MBA but 3 moves in 4 1/2 years, while working, was more than I could manage and I didn’t submit my dissertation in time to get credit.  Completing the coursework let me receive a Postgraduate Diploma instead of an MBA.  Just want to make sure my digital profiles match 🙂
Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM

Measurements & Marketing

“JD Powers is the root of all evil.”

I heard this comment as I was having dinner with a very good friend, a former colleague and superb service manager at a Toyota automotive dealership (I will refer to him as DC for the rest of this article).  DC was unique in that he had previously worked for Toyota as an OEM representative so he was not blinded by only one point of view.  I didn’t immediately know how to respond and as I tried to formulate the words, I finally came up with, “what did they do to give you that feeling?”

DC shared that the surveys created and administered by JD Powers, in an attempt to quantify customer satisfaction and vehicle quality had become tools that in his most recent experience, were being used punitively against dealership employees by leadership teams at dealerships who were trying to gain financial prizes or benefits from the manufacturers for having achieved the pinnacle of customer satisfaction.

Sometimes in our quest to create the campaign that will turn a company around single-handedly, we lose sight of what the true aim of a campaign is and while we measure results, they aren’t necessarily the ones that we need to be monitoring.

Recently I participated in the Google AdWords International Student competition.  Undergraduate and Graduate students competed with a pre-assigned budget of $200.  In AdWords there are two pieces; 1. Brainstorm the key words that you think will be used in a Google search of your business and 2. Create a three-line ad that will be displayed at the top right corner of a search page and be clicked on, leading a potential buyer to your website.  The optimal outcome is to capture a new sale.

As I was writing this article, I went back to all of the reports to try and tell you how successful we had been.  The problem was I couldn’t figure them out!  The reports look just great.  There are maps of the world and things that show you where the views came from, which is very helpful.  I just got lost in the trying to find which key word generated the most response.  I have an email into our team captain who I am hopeful will help me remember how to read them all.  What AdWords did not do, was trigger a conversion in the case we tested.  The business did not receive the phone call or e-mail requesting a call to discuss the service or ask for a bid.

The million dollar or euro question now is, what kept the conversion from happening?  Was it the website, was it the service, does AdWords work better with products than services, what?

This is a real dilemma for all business owners but small ones in particular.  I was grateful it had been “play” money and not real advertising dollars that were being invested.  It was a learning experience.  This was a potentially new channel of advertising but left me feeling a bit empty at the lack of results (no sale, no results in my opinion).

Overwhelming a business owner or department manager with beautiful reports that may take hours or days to create and decipher may not be real helpful.  Keeping the statistics meaningful should be a core focus.  Turning around and then using these types of metrics for performance appraisal purposes needs to be carefully managed.  Often these types of performance metrics are used to award bonuses, base pay, potential for advancement and so on. But what if they are not even the metrics that would be most effective to track?  What if, horror of horrors, employees have discovered  how to manipulate the results to their benefit as my friend DC expressed had been his experience in some cases?

I’m still waiting for the Google report that summarizes why the key words we chose didn’t generate a sale.  In the end that’s what we should be interested in, making the conversion!  Aiming to make sure metrics are aligned with business objectives and not just randomly spending advertising dollars because you are responsible for making sure the Internet channel is covered should be the focus.  I have a cousin at Microsoft who is known to agonize for days with team members over one word on a survey to make sure the right or perhaps it’s really, the metrics being sought after by management, are achieved.  He is crazy busy during the end of year wrap up with executive management calling and quizzing him over and over on metrics because, you guessed it, the big bonuses are tied into the final results.

Bringing Back Focus
Going back to DC’s original comments, perhaps the “root of all evil” is really when we lose focus on our customers and what really effects our profits.

When measurements are not aligned properly with overall objectives, revenue targets, job responsibilities and accountability of the positions, they can become meaningless.

It’s always prudent to measure some tasks and customer perceptions but it’s being able to differentiate and challenge the counter-productive measurements that takes courage and the owner and management team who are willing to take a hard look at what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Link to the original article in Profit Magazine Measurements & Marketing-1

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM

Responsibility in Advertising

Information overload has reached a critical level. Recent research has shown that an average worker can lose 10 IQ points after one workday.

Marketing at its core, is really about creating and communicating a value proposition.  The aim is to have consumers respond to the story being told and take a corresponding action, purchasing a good or service.

Where things can get sticky is in the varying opinions and qualifications of those in charge of creating and communicating a memorable message.  Finding the right message for the right target audience is no easy task when marketing departments (often the most poorly trained area within a company) are commanded to “take the company to the next level”.

The average consumer sees over 3000 commercial messages in a day and knowledge workers are interrupted an average of 168 times per day. That’s more than 20 times and hour, or once every three minutes all day long.  Information overload has reached a critical level. Recent research has shown that an average worker can lose 10 IQ points after one workday.  That’s more than the 4 IQ points lost to smoking marijuana, who would have thought?!  Note: I am told that the effects are not always permanent.

What to Do About the Clutter?
Taking on the task of communicating a clear message and bringing responsibility into the process is nicely demonstrated with the two companies highlighted below:

European based Diana Derval created, “Wait Marketing”, which she defines with the following 6M’s:
Mission: What is the objective of your communication?
Means: What is the size of your budget?
Message: who are your customers? Which main message do you want to deliver?
Moment: What is the best moment for approaching your target customers?
Media: Which media are available and which ones are the most adapted to your offering?
Measurement: How to measure the return on investment of your communication?

Ms. Derval’s structured approach to creating Wait Marketing campaigns that communicate “the right message at the right moment” can have tremendous returns for companies.  In the case of TomTom, a GPS provider, COO Alexander Ribbink approved an investment of a quarter of their turnover into advertising. This bold investment paid off handsomely when the company’s turnover quintupled within the year.

“It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activity or methods.  It must always relate directly to how life is better for everyone..” Dr. Edward Deming, 1900-1993, American Statistician

Outsource Marketing
Pioneer of the Responsible Marketing TM process, Patrick Byers and his team say it “combines the tactics our minds tel us we need to prioritize, with the principles our hearts tell us we need to embrace”, through application of:

Strategic Responsibility: without planning, projects are doomed.

Message Responsibility: Tell the truth and make it clear, avoid clutter, speak in a human voice and begin talking with your customers, not at them.  Seek permission and honor privacy.

Casting Responsibility: Have the right people in the right roles, both internally and externally.
Execution Responsibility: Require hat all plans flow from a strategic plan, follow or develop best practices, learn to love project management, follow timelines, stay within budgets, develop metrics for each initiative, apply lessons after every project,

understand that reactive marketing happens but make it the exception, not the rule.

Environmental responsibility: Address eco-initiatives; such as recycling through the establishment of empowered teams who ensure everyone understands what internal processes are to be followed.

Social Responsibility: Help reverse the disturbing lack of corporate trust to improve public opinion, enhance customer relations and attract and retain talent.

ROI Responsibility: Post-campaign assessment results are a must, a plan without metrics of some type is incomplete.

Why Bother? I’m Too Busy! Using proven techniques such as these, marketers can begin to bring accountability and trust into what at times is a shattered organization.

I’ve heard that in many European cities, dogs are so well trained, they are let off their leads and remain obedient with no mishaps.  It seems only fair that marketing departments be required to invest the same level of expectation and training into the employees who are so often called upon to produce miraculous results.  A poorly trained employee can inadvertently contribute to unnecessary revenue losses, something to be avoided in both cases.

Becoming responsible takes discipline but the payoff can be tremendous. Focus and perseverance allows us to earn the gratitude, appreciation and most importantly the long-term business opportunities from the many internal and external customers that we serve.

Link to original Profit Magazine article Responsibility in Advertising-1

Outsource Marketing’s Responsible Marketing TM,: http://outsourcemarketing.com
DervalReserach, Wait Marketing,: http://wait-marketing.blogspot.com

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM

Experimental Design in Advertising

There are two status quos from my perspective in traditional advertising today. The first is that many companies retain an agency that provides multiple concepts for review. The other is that we have fallen into the conventional methodology of in-series campaign design. Michele Morrisette

Before staring my own firm, I spent many years in a large corporation where each year, we were given annual sales objectives and a corresponding marketing budget. Being located in the head office, I served the various regional offices in Asia-Pacific, Middle East/North Africa, Israel, Caribbean and Sub-Sahara Africa.

What drove me crazy for almost 16 years was that there was very little, to no accountability for the resources that were allocated to each region. We had anecdotal information that told us if a campaign had been successful or not and then there was the actual sale of a product or service that might indicate a campaign had been successful. However, there were always factors such as weather and economic conditions that may have influenced campaign results but their impact could not necessarily be quantified. It was always, “let’s move on to the next campaign”.

As employees in a company, I believe that we have the responsibility to manage marketing budgets as if the funds were coming from our personal household accounts. Would you spend money at the market hoping that your family will eat food that you randomly picked off the shelf without any consideration for their personal tastes or even allergies? Probably not.

In many cases, that is what businesses do every day; spend money in the hope that their product will yield additional response rates that will be converted into sales. The aim of starting my own firm was to find something new, something innovative that would really change the way we do business. Where the results could be better quantified to understand what worked and what didn’t work in traditional marketing campaigns.

My journey led me to the discovery of experimental design of advertisements. Beginning in 2003, there had been some buzz about what a California based engineer was doing by taking Taguchi Application Design of Experiments into marketing and advertising campaigns with phenomenal success rates. Most people in marketing and advertising had no idea who or what Taguchi was, including me.

Did you know that if you choose just 15 different elements in a marketing campaign to test, with two options each, you could test the equivalent of 32,768 possible combinations using only 16 tests? How cool is that?!

A new world opened up and I felt as though I had perhaps reached nirvana from a marketer’s perspective. We could test up to 32,768 possibilities in one campaign and have statistically valid responses at the end of the test.

Knowing that experimental design can help optimize an advertising campaign, why would agencies and organizations not embrace creating multiple designs and testing a sample audience to arrive at an optimal design and then deploy that message to the mass target audience?

There are several reasons. From an agency point of view it is frightening to think that their creativity might be challenged. Creative people don’t necessarily want to know the quantitative results of their campaign. While they want to please the client, they also have an objective of aiming to win the coveted creative awards that are so highly regarded in the industry.

From an Ad agency point of view, accountability might limit their creativity. From a company point of view, many decision makers are like I used to be, a bit naive and are not familiar with the concept. They just allow the agency to guide them along believing, that based on the vast sums of funds spent, accountability will be part of the process.

Another issue is that there are a wide range of available techniques; from the very basic method of assigning a priority to key words for internet and web landing page use, to very intensive on-sight brainstorming and facilitation sessions with internal and external customer input. The channel of advertising is also very critical.
While these techniques can be applied to newspaper and television campaigns, the more immediate return of results and investment will be seen in direct mail and Internet advertising campaigns.
The results can be staggering.

In a study run at Dell in 2004 the focus was on internal employees and the company e-mail ad sent to this group.An 18-test layout was created and in this case, the 520% increased sales results speak for themselves[1]:
• Click Through Rate increase: 5.2 times
• 7.1 times more sales per e-mail
• Annual sales before optimization: $8,900,000
• Annual sales after optimization:  $63,100,000

It also requires both agency and client embracing a new way of doing business. Instead of perceiving the testing as a threat, it should be perceived as a tool that can help an agency provide those quantitative instead of just qualitative results. In fact, a really progressive agency might see the potential application when aiming for that creative award.

Instead of quietly submitting the one brilliant idea, that the client considered to be too risky, to one paper for the purpose of making it eligible for judging, why not show the client how it can be tested and take away the fear factor and openly test the concept?

I believe the first agency willing to embrace the experimental design concept will achieve not only higher client satisfaction but also be able to add to their bragging rights. Now they can claim that along with being the most creative agency, they are also the one that is looking out for the client’s best interests by ensuring that the optimal campaign is deployed.

Link to the original article in Profit Magazine Experimental Design in Advertising-1

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. Michele Morrisette