Playing it Safe…


Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet some intriguing and inspiring individuals.  Some from politics, some from business, some from community facing organizations but all with a common perspective on taking on strategic risk. Whether politics, business or community leadership, a strong and well-calculated risk can be the difference maker between progress, growth and awareness versus doing what everyone else is doing, or worse yet, not keeping up.

At a marketing summit a few years ago I was introduced to Jonathan Mildenhall, previously VP of global advertising strategy for the Coca-Cola company. His brilliance in marketing strategy left quite an impression on me. His position on leveraging risk was profound and energizing. In his mind, organizations regardless of size, output or stakeholder group, should align resources around the 70-20-10 rule for dividing your marketing budget. While Mildenhall didn’t conceive of the 70-20-10 ratio, it most assuredly is a space he owed through his own promotion of the Coca-Cola marketing presentations (here).

To Mildenhall, 70% of your marketing should be the low-risk stuff. This is where you park your bread and butter marketing. This is the ‘the way we’ve always done it; steady as she goes’ type stuff that you know works but, no doubt yields with diminishing returns year over year. That next tranche of 20% should push the boundaries of innovating on the 70%. This is where you are comfortably uncomfortable, but still be within earshot of your traditional planning and execution. This will bring higher engagement and interest in products and brands while adding a new channel or something beyond what you may have considered previously becomes an important part of bridging the old and the new. Then, there is that final 10%.

In conversation, Mildenhall lights up when he talks about that remaining 10%. This is where your creative energy diverts from the path of complacency and can re-energize a brand with a single campaign. These are the ‘what if’ campaigns that while having higher risk profile, can deliver exponentially higher returns if leveraged properly. Organizations in this day and age who refuse to take on some risk, especially those who are barely keeping up in the marketing game are not only highly complacent, they are actually losing ground.

From our perspective at HOWE&WYE we see countless organizations who have given up ground to their competition, detractors or the media simply by not keeping up with the times. Strong creative, digital and interactive campaigns are the norm these days while remaining absent is actually abnormal. Gone are the days that you could launch a cool new website and watch your traffic numbers grow. Now, consumers, clients and stakeholders not only want more, they demand more.

We would enjoy talking to you more about how to build out your convention marketing program into something unexpected.

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