good marketing strategy defines what not to do

There’s a line in 1993’s Jurassic Park that deserves more credit.

Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr Ian Malcolm, responds to the creation of the park during lunch with the park’s creator, John Hammond.

He highlights the lack of accountability among the scientists who have genetically engineered the dinosaurs. The park’s creator then argues that the scientists have done something that ‘nobody has ever done before’.

Goldblum’s character responds with the powerful line:

(They) were so pre-occupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

It’s a sentiment that would benefit from being applied more in marketing. Particularly at a strategic level.

There’s a growing tendency among agencies and marketing departments to try and cover all the bases, particularly when it comes to media touchpoints. The problem is the number of bases continue to grow. Traditional mediums such as TV, radio, print, and outdoor haven’t gone away; yet they’ve been joined by search, display, a host of social platforms, and now there’s the hype bandwagon behind influencers, VR, AR, AI Bots…etc. etc.

Spanning this whole spectrum is a mistake, not an achievement.

Yet this behaviour can be seen in agency pitches. The ones that keep on going further and further into executions – ‘this is how the idea works on the underside of a manhole’.

This highlights the next issue of a ‘could’ approach, rather than ‘should’: audiences.

The breadth of data points now available allows for a vast array of audience segmentation. Yet it is rare to see a confident approach where this information is used to properly define target audience segments, and with that, audiences who are not the priority for the activity. Instead ‘target’ audiences now often span the full breadth of viable customers and beyond.

With more options, the choice has become overwhelming, to the level that choices stop being made.

‘We could do…’ has become an issue in most agency and marketing department meetings. Adding more requirements to the activity, rather than refining them.

The list of audiences and activity grows, and consequently, the brand, product or campaign idea becomes over-stretched and diluted.

There’s too much to try and do everything.

A response that covers ‘all the bases’ is one that lacks a strategy. It spreads resources too thin and leaves a good percentage of the best opportunities untapped.

Here’s where the true value of good strategy lies: deciding what not to do.

Strategy should not be a shopping list.

It should be sharp and pointy. Defined and refined.

It involves making hard decisions because it means removing opportunities.

So next time you sit down to develop your marketing strategy, be sure to ask the question:

Are we doing this because we could, or because we should?