We refer to marketing risk in the same way that asset managers refer to investment risk. Conceptually speaking, there’s really no difference. Risk is risk. And irrespective of what you are investing in, if you want an increased return, you will likely require an increased amount of risk.
In the investment world, there are plenty of strategies that generate huge inflows based on the manager’s ability to assume as little risk as possible. The objective is preservation of capital. Playing it safe is a strategy.
In marketing, that doesn’t exist. There really is no such thing as preservation of brand. Brand “maintenance” eventually leads to brand extinction.
In marketing, “safe” is “risky.”
Seth Godin first popularized this idea in his book, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”.
Oddly enough, if any group should consider reading that book, it’s the financial services industry. As one client put it, “I have never seen an entire industry work so hard to look so much like everyone else.” And the reality is – if you look like everyone else, well then…your investors will most likely just pick “everyone else.”
Bold…yet still credible
Godin makes the point that your objective is not about avoiding criticism. It is very tough to stand out when you are trying to position yourself smack in the middle of a massive crowd.
Part of the reason, of course, is the particularly onerous regulatory environment distinct to this industry. But that in itself is not reason enough to totally eliminate imagination from your marketing strategy. After all, it is possible to be creative while also being compliant.
Thinking about marketing risk as you think about investment risk makes sense. Not every trade carries the same risk / reward profile and neither does every marketing decision. There is a spectrum of risk in both cases. And that spectrum has varying degrees (and even boundaries).
For example – on the “risk spectrum” most would agree that this ad falls at the high end of high risk. It is certainly not for our industry — and it’s probably not for most in the consumer products industry either.
But, it’s also not this – which falls at the low end of low risk on that spectrum.
There is a relevant point to take away from a polarizing ad like “Puppy Monkey Baby.” Whether you liked it or not, there is no question that it was remarkable (as Godin defines the word, remarkable means “worthy of being remarked about”).
And…of course, there is an optimal point on that marketing risk spectrum. That is the point that you are considered remarkable but not audacious. However to find it…you first have to move off of dead center.
By JD David