What if we shared FAIL studies along with case studies?


FAIL Studies

Yesterday my colleagues Jeff and Milly proposed an idea to our team: “If we’re truly this brave and unique agency we aspire to be, let’s share FAIL studies along with case studies when we’re pitching new clients.”

“Everyone shares their success stories. Let’s be the team that’s honest enough to say, ‘here are stories of when we’ve failed and here’s what we learned from them.’”

Really? Hell yeah.

I imagine a list like “SRH’s Branding & Marketing Traps… And How to Avoid Them”—a proprietary map that reveals all the hazards and landmines we’ve discovered over the decades… and routes around them.

For now, I just want to share my favorite sparks of thinking…

We (SRH + client partner) always fail when we _________

… Assume ‘safe’ creative and placements will produce ‘safe’ results.

… Set out to inspire disparate audiences rather than playing to win on a tightly focused group (“the surest way to inspire nobody is to try to inspire everybody”).

… Don’t collaborate as a client-agency team but rather work in silos and formally ‘present’ to each other.

… Don’t align on goals before moving to strategies and tactics.

… Allow dogma, edicts and “this is what we do every year” to put rails on our thinking.

… Start by obsessing over scopes, budgets and timelines rather than ‘what’s the real problem to solve’ and ‘what’s the best way to solve it?’

… Confuse measurability with efficacy (outdoor billboards don’t produce analytics but the right ones are still really effective).

… Use the brand guide as an excuse to leave creative territory unexplored—even just interesting colors!

… Attempt to solve disparate problems like “we don’t have brand awareness” and “we can’t convert warm leads” with a single campaign.

… Work harder to please ourselves & internal stakeholders than end customers.

… Make creative decisions by committee (“The chances of an outstanding advertisement coming from anything but a creative dictatorship are so slim as to be negligible.” —Legendary ad man Howard Gossage aka The Socrates of San Francisco)

… Settle for ‘good enough’ or ‘that will get the job done’ rather than ‘we can’t wait to share this with the world!’

… Don’t respect our customer and appreciate the barrage of crap they encounter every time they scroll through their LinkedIn feed—and deliver something that’s truly worthy of their time and attention.

As our accountable team coach Eric Coryell says, “You get what you tolerate.”

What if we simply didn’t tolerate any of the behaviors on this list?

That’s precisely where we’re headed… and that discipline begins with us, NOT our clients or partners.