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The Primal Urge Marketing Lacks

Wired continues to surface some of the best stories out there. This one, derived from Coders is a beauty and got me thinking about why so many marketers aren’t obsessed with driving efficiency. We are often so focused on the outcome we fail to acknowledge the inherent inefficiencies in what it took to get there. When we go in and look at marketing teams – often for frustrated CMOs, CEOs and boards we see common threads:

  1. No operating system or cadence – everyone busy as busy in their swim lane but no systems to orchestrate work and optimise processes
  2. Little data on the work being done – no idea on what output requires what input and how to 10x both
  3. A purely financial lens zoomed in on campaign ROI – and this ROI is largely only calculated on the media spend, not the cost of human and creative capital to pull it off
  4. Overinvestment in demand-side technology – and underinvestment (frequently none) in the marketing platform that would enable marketers to do their best work
  5. Little understanding of capacity constraints – endless, mindless meetings; endless distractions; no blocking off time for focused work

There are many more. So much can be learned by any marketer by hanging with their respective tech development teams – or finding the best out there and hanging with them. Look at their tools, disciplines, rigour and ask the question – “what if we did that?”. What if we increased the metabolic rate of marketing as a function:

The thrust of Silicon Valley is always to take human activity and shift it into metabolic overdrive. And maybe you’ve wondered, why the heck is that? Why do techies insist that things should be sped up, torqued, optimized?

There’s one obvious reason, of course: They do it because of the dictates of the market. Capitalism handsomely rewards anyone who can improve a process and squeeze some margin out. But with software, there’s something else going on too. For coders, efficiency is more than just a tool for business. It’s an existential state, an emotional driver.

So many of us have become observers of the data we generate as humans – our steps, fitness, heart rate, calories consumed.

Maybe we’re becoming uncomfortable with how we, too, in our daily habits, have embraced the romance of hyperoptimization. Look at the scene on any city street: Employees listening to podcasts at 1.5X speed while racing to work, wearing Apple Watches to ensure they’re hitting 10,000 daily steps, peeking at work email under the dinner table. We’ve become like the coders themselves, torquing every gear in our lives to remove friction. Like any good engineer, we can make the machines of our lives run awfully fast, though it’s not clear we’re happy with where we’re going.

The question is how to do it without removing the very human elements that make marketing so wonderful. For many geeks I know, this in fact is the goal:

Christopher Thorpe, a veteran of more than a half-dozen tech firms, told me about “an incredibly talented engineer” he once worked with who fit that bill. “He was very upset with me that we told jokes in all our meetings, because we were wasting time. ‘Why are we spending five minutes having fun with 20 people in the office? This is work time.’ Everybody is laughing—but, you know, you’re wasting all this valuable time.” The joke had frittered the time of 20 people! This guy would begin rattling off the math: “Five minutes times 20, that’s like, you know, you’ve wasted an hour and a half of person-time on these jokes.”

But what if we focused more as marketers on the inputs that generate the outputs? What if we focused on taking the friction out of marketing?

Either way, Coders is a great read.

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