30 second summary:
- A controlled, chaos mindset helps brands and smart marketers see the inherent biases that guide research and execution.
- The first parts to be removed from the budget are the listening and planning parts of the planning process, which creates several problems for marketers.
- Max Braun, Deputy Director for Experience Planning at RAPP, gives five steps to dispel prejudices, gain a more precise perspective on the customer and drive real innovations.
Controlled chaos. Is that the state of our union? Maybe minus the “controlled” part. But seriously, this is not a political essay of any kind. It is a claim that the key to a more inclusive and innovative customer experience lies in a controlled, chaos mindset that allows brands and smart marketers (like you) to freeze the inherent biases recognize who guide the research and execution.
Business leaders are often asked to make incredible profits in no time. As a result, they try to increase efficiency by preventing chaos and reducing the number of inputs in the planning process. They prefer to make smaller profits over a shorter period of time to show that they are competent leaders, which is an understandable defense mechanism.
It is important to take the time to understand the problem in order to develop a strategy. Unfortunately, the first items to be removed from budgets are usually the evaluation and listening parts of the planning process. Eliminating these parts creates several problems for marketers:
- We’re starting to confuse a marketing goal with a strategy, leading to creative work that thinks only as hard as your wallet.
- We only open our planning process to the quantitative and qualitative data that is already available in our organizations. This means that distortions already occurring in the process and within the company only deepen over time. If we use biased data to identify the problem, biased data will influence the solution and increase the marginalization of disenfranchised customers.
- While these approaches may be easier to sell to the company because they are written in a language that brand and product managers are familiar with, they offer nothing new to the outside world.
The overall result is lackluster innovation and short-sighted creative work. The better approach is to manage a manageable amount of chaos in order to dispel the prejudices, develop a closer perspective on customers, and drive real innovation. Controlled chaos is just a well-organized process that handles a much wider range of clutter in the evaluation phase of a planning project. Rather than focusing too early on a single insight or a small segment of existing data, marketers should look at a much broader range of inputs and take bold steps to disrupt the market.
There are plenty of good reasons
There are many benefits to introducing controlled chaos into the planning process when properly managed and the appropriate time devoted to collecting and evaluating your research. By incorporating more qualitative and quantitative data into your assessment, you increase the likelihood that you will discover not only new but also extensive insights that take into account the perspectives of a more diverse group, not just the “general consumer”. The work that is being done in the marketplace is more honest about the brand, product, or service, and your customers feel less “sold” than “invited”.
There are good examples of this approach. One of my recent favorite examples is Apple’s Behind the Mac campaign. Apple always seems to get it right, but what makes these campaigns so powerful is that it could easily have set up the Mac to celebrate Vogue’s history. Instead, the Mac simply stands in the background as a device that makes work a little easier. The real story is about Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer for Vogue’s cover, and Mac is only there to support his story.
Another great product experience marked by controlled chaos is the Bumble app. It is not only advertised with inclusiveness. Bumble builds it into the final product and addresses gender and racial prejudice directly. Whether you’re looking for your best friend, a casual date, or the love of your life, Bumble has created a unique user experience that makes it the second most popular dating app in the U.S. (and) with more than 5 million monthly active users to catch up to Tinder.
These products and campaigns wouldn’t work if the leadership and marketers didn’t cause moderate chaos during the development phase. Two recent examples come to mind as one ponders the implications of streamlining the planning process rather than taking the time to gain deeper insights.
The first is practically unknown. Face recognition software developers develop face recognition algorithms that are widely used by governments, local authorities, and law enforcement agencies around the world. But what if you only include white faces in the equation? Simple: the algorithm does not exactly recognize the faces of others. This embarrassing oversight ruins the customer experience. The pursuit of “order” leads to (and amplifies) distortions in our data.
The second is common, but is a pure example of what happens if you don’t provide representative leadership to your organization. Adidas has been using black superstars in its marketing for decades. However, due to its culture of excluding a diverse group of executives from the decision-making and planning processes, the brand has overlooked an important traffic sign. There is a fine line between raising the voices of people with color and appropriation. Even a well-intentioned strategy can fall apart without proper consideration.
Encourage more upheaval in your campaigns
If your organizational thinking can handle a bit of controlled chaos, there are five steps you can take to effectively mess things up:
1. Take enough time
You have to allow yourself a significant number of hours to collect and analyze data. Whatever you think, you need to get enough research and evaluate, double – no, triple – it. Too many people try so hard to solve the problem that they simply jump into the data they already have and forego any additional insights that may be there.
2. Diversify the data
Don’t just take in more data. accommodate more types of data. For example, don’t just look at how many leads have come from a website. Instead, look at it all together, including how those leads got on the page in the first place. There may be an error in the way you are collecting the data.
3. Consider all parties
Make it a goal to incorporate the non-buyer perspective into your planning process. It’s important to consider your base, but too often we consider non-buyers to be “rejecters” when they may not be invited to the table to experience your brand in the first place. This could uncover a tendency you weren’t aware of by showing a consistent trend among customers avoiding your brand. Always ask yourself why and speak up when you notice these inconsistencies.
4. Embrace individuality
Limit the categorization as much as possible. While it is human nature and good data science to find and define patterns in a bunch of customer data, categorizing too much leads to sweeping generalizations that can overlook important behaviors and perspectives. Rather, look at all of a client’s possible needs and motivations and identify a range of possible outcomes.
5. Distribute the force
Give decision-making power to a more diverse group of leaders. Too often we think of diversity by only having people of color in the room. This is wrong. Not only do we need different people to be present in the planning process so we can take their viewpoints into account, but we also need them to feel empowered to make the kind of changes that are needed to drive insightful work. It’s not just about saying you are an ally. It’s about actually taking the steps necessary to invest in change.
Max Braun, deputy director for experience planning at the marketing and advertising agency RAPP, is a strategist with experience in leading passion brands such as Slack, Google Cloud and McDonald’s through award-winning experience transformations.