CMOs, Pledge to Fight the Status Quo

Despite All the Talk, Not Much Has Changed in Marketing. Here's How You Can Shake Things up

By Published on .

Seth Matlins
Seth Matlins

In marketing -- like government, education, financial reform, health care -- the status quo is a slow death. It's killing progress and stifling creativity and innovation. It's the competition.

There's been so much talk for so long about how everything has changed, but most marketing hasn't changed. Despite fundamental shifts across landscapes, marketing's behavioral shifts aren't commensurate with evidence, and old habits hang on like so much meat on Lady Gaga's shoulders.

The good news? We think more of us are inclined to FSQ (that's for Fight the Status Quo, or F#ck, depending on your conviction) than actually are. This isn't anyone's fault, though. It's everyone's.

Our challenge isn't one of reason or rationale. Our individual and collective death-grip on the SQ is irrational (by definition) so the challenge is one of overcoming emotional hurdles, not intellectual ones.

What are the emotional hurdles? Well, among them is that not enough of us feel (not think, feel) we have the "permission" from our CEOs, boards, shareholders or employees to try the new and embrace the risks of failure inherent to pursuing meaningful, enduring innovation. Add this to inertia and habit as steep hills to climb, and uncertainty is being a big buzz-kill on "What if?" and -- voila! -- the SQ.

And a lot of marketing organizations don't feel they have your permission to change. So despite intent, without permission, too few are doing anything differently, and look where that's getting us. So what do we do?

We give ourselves and each other the permission to do otherwise -- to FSQ. Like not texting and driving, we sign a pledge to change. Specifically, we sign the FSQ Pledge on Facebook. That's it. A simple call to action and place to start.

Signing will do what? Not much, perhaps (though a FB page did start a revolution in Egypt; just sayin'). But not much is a lot better than nothing. And it'll signal our intent to do differently, which maybe helps us do differently.

So go ahead. "Like" the FSQ Pledge on Facebook. Make it your screen saver. Frame it in something fancy and put it on your wall. And applaud smart failures -- yours and others, because standing up for change is a whole lot more worthy than sitting still for the SQ.

Like the fight against global warming, fighting the SQ happens one light bulb, one flipped switch, thousands of small actions, decisions and behavioral modifications at a time. One dollar spent differently; one search for a better idea; one decision to stick with something that didn't work the first time; one decision not to do something. They all FSQ.

And one from many add up to lots. And we need lots to change.

As the CMO:

1. Re-evaluate everything that matters. Or might. Every user experience, assumption, touch point, interaction. Every dollar spent. Who you consider competition -- and why. How you define engagement, operations, product, service, brand, media. And most important, how you define marketing.

Zappos did and F'd the SQ by re-conceiving the marketing value of customer service. Tom's Shoes did and is F-ing the SQ and redefining cause marketing as a reason to be, not just a campaign.

Also, stop thinking you can and should measure everything. That's a new SQ premise. You can't and you shouldn't. You're wasting resources.

2. Stop thinking everything's changed. Only most things have. The CMO's job is the same as it ever was. Sell stuff. Capture attention, and influence attitudes and behaviors. It's how you sell stuff that needs to change, and it's still just about smart ideas well executed.

American Express Open Forum? Still selling AmEx cards and services. Pepsi's Refresh Project? Still selling Pepsi. Just differently.

Most of us are still just in the same one or two businesses we've always been in -- the businesses of helping people add pleasure or avoid pain. That's it, and that hasn't changed.

3. Think different. Please. I know. But this Apple tagline is a fine true north for FSQ. Do different things. Do things differently. There's a reason Apple, Nike and Virgin are cliche examples -- it's because their SQ MO is to always FSQ.

So many want things to be different. All of us want things to be better. Now, more of us have to do something about it. Give the gift of permission and help reject status-quo thinking, definitions, approaches, problems, problem solving, tactics and excuses whenever and wherever you can. Fight them. And yes, f*ck them or indeed they shall continue to f*ck us -- and not in the way we like.

Help the SQ die a timely death. Go to FSQ Pledge on Facebook, "Like" it, add your name, your voice, your actions. It can't hurt. The SQ. We can't afford another year of it.

Seth Matlins is founder of That Was Then Enterprises, a brand and intellectual-property development company. He was previously CMO at Live Nation and a co-head of the corporate marketing group at Creative Artists Agency. He abhors the status quo and thinks you should too.
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