Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week, Ian Truscott jumps off the marketing hamster wheel to explain exactly what he means by this term and how exactly its effects could be damaging your marketing efforts.
I often refer to the “hamster wheel of marketing” and rail against “execution marketing”. I did this the other day in a presentation at a customer event but one of my senior colleagues congratulated me on being an “execution” marketer, obviously not understanding what I meant by the hamster wheel and feeling that this was a compliment. So I realised I had some explaining to do.
On the surface, being seen as an “execution” marketer is positive. It could be read as being reliable when getting shit done, but there is a less positive activity happening as you drive to get shit done - you don’t look up, you don’t think, you say yes, you don’t ask why, you don’t ask how could this be done better or who cares. Why would you? You don’t have the time, this is how it’s always been, and this is what is expected. You are on the Hamster Wheel of Marketing.
But the Hamster Wheel is lots of activity, without really moving the ball forward.
"...and the job turned out to be more of an on-demand vending machine of web copy, technical documentation, and sales materials."
“We did create a plan. But we’re so busy that we just have to keep producing stuff. And my manager is annoyed because we aren’t delivering against the goals in that plan.”
The weird thing about the hamster wheel is that our organizations are normally complicit and supportive of them, within a large range of tolerance no one will get fired for being busy or for delivering and you know marketing is just an expense, a tax on doing business - it’s expected.
Yet, this to me is a low bar, it shows a lack of ambition.
The job of marketing is to be a little bit bold. Unless you live in a world where you can win on price or scarce availability, no brand, product or service today gets noticed for its sameness, for its average always-done-it-this-way marketing material or the datasheet for a new feature in point release 7.75c which was published two days before the product shipped.
No one falls in love with a datasheet. They fall in love with stories, ideas and people.
I once ran a content marketing workshop for an automotive brand and it was almost the saddest day of my professional life. The first half of the day we talked about stories, of how they could delight female car buyers, how we could promote the female executives inside their business and make some changes to the car buying experience. The creative juices were flowing and this group from various parts of their marketing business leaned forward in their chairs into the workshop - the room was excited.
Then, as we moved onto next steps, the energy evaporated, as one marketer said, “but I need to launch some new roof rails for the car model I look after next week”. And as we moved around the room it turned out that someone else had the launch of slightly different version of a diesel engine that would occupy her time, another couldn’t really think about this as they were trapped in an operational silo, and another had their hands tied by HQ.
So I asked who would care (aside from internal folks) if there wasn’t a brochure dedicated to new roof rails, who would notice if the press release that talked about the 204B.56 spec engine replacing the 204B.43 spec engine didn’t happen and how any of this would this impact their high level objective to attract more women buyers…
The air somehow found a way to escape from a windowless conference room.
And as we concluded, they all said that they had a lovely afternoon, but it was back to the hamster wheel.
Now, clearly, for these folks the hamster wheel was institutionalized and of course we all need to get shit done. The routine of getting shit done might feel repetitive and it’s an extreme example.
But, even if you are in such an institution, like Gandhi said (OK maybe he didn’t ): “Be the change you wish to see” and it’s beholden on us as marketers to lift our heads, to ask questions, to try to do something different, ask why and who cares and maybe say no occasionally , so that we can create something which someone will really fall in love with.