Zag Ed. 14 – Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable, Why Marketers Should Study Lean Manufacturing, and Big Advertisers Ditching the Super Bowl for TikTok

📈 Growth comes from (the right kind of) discomfort. You don’t lose weight if you don’t spend time being hungry. You don’t get stronger if you don’t spend time putting your muscles under stress. The same principle applies to teams and business growth – you don’t grow if you’re always comfortable. It’s easy, especially in bigger, more traditional organizations, to just settle in, go with the flow, and not take any risks. In fact, many corporate cultures discourage risk taking! Which is a huge part of what makes them vulnerable. Challengers encourage taking the right risks. They want people to feel a little uncomfortable with the ideas they consider and the executions they take on. You can’t be uncomfortable all the time with all things (just like you can’t starve yourself or work out 24/7), but challengers create a culture where it feels a little uncomfortable if you get too comfortable.


Tell your team (or yourself) that you want to see one idea that will make you uncomfortable with every initiative or plan they present. You might not choose to do the uncomfortable thing, but it will set an expectation that you don’t only want safe, comfortable ideas. You want to see them pushing the boundaries and taking risks – that’s where the growth will come from. It’s usually also where people get most excited and engaged!



🤫 In one of Jeff Bezos’ last Amazon letter as CEO he wrote about a time when he did not want to green-light an Amazon Studios project. He didn’t think the numbers made sense, didn’t think the project would be popular, and was certain it would lose money. But instead of nixing the project, he signed off on it, famously saying he disagreed with it, but committed.


That is really hard to do at any level, but especially in formulated and structured teams. But when thinking about how to build a structure that encourages risk-taking and moving fast, you must prioritize those opportunities that come along and not worry about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘how will we pull this off’ and ‘what if this doesn’t work’? You just have to get out of your own way sometimes.  (Thanks to Richard Dedor of Analog Marketing  for the contribution here)



🏭 There’s a lot that marketers can learn from lean manufacturing.

(Brush up on the basics here, or check out a summary of our favourite book on the subject)

Content marketing is a manufacturing process. You’re building a factory that produces content.

And just like a traditional factory, you can drive more efficiency and output in your content factory.

Three lean principles that will help:

  1. Focus on maximising throughput. You need a high quantity of high quality content to stay relevant.
  2. Fix the bottlenecks. Go step by step through your content production process and figure out how to make the system move faster.
  3. Push for constant improvement. Always look for little changes that can help drive more efficiency and output.

Treat your content production like a factory with lean manufacturing as the playbook. Any brand you seeing producing good, quality content consistently is operating with these principles (whether they know it or not!)



⏩ If speed is moving quickly, evolution is learning quickly. Challengers have a cultural bias and often even an explicit commitment to learning with everything they do. They recognise that the short-term is just an opportunity to get better in the long-term. They execute well on what’s needed now, but they make sure they also get smarter and stronger with every campaign and initiative they run. If a challenger and incumbent team are both a 4/10 today in a certain competency or area of understanding, the challenger will be a 6/10 3 months from now while the incumbent will be a 4.5. Evolution is as much a bottom-up process as it is top-down, but the leader of a challenger marketing team needs to ensure he/she is always asking the team to deliver long-term learnings from their work, not just short-term results.



📺 The Super Bowl is the epitome of traditional, TV-led advertising. For decades, it has been the holy grail for incumbent (and sometimes challenger) marketers and (especially) traditional creative agencies and CMOs. Is that starting to change? State Farm announced that it is skipping the Super Bowl this year to focus on TikTok. One of the topics we’re researching is how challengers make their media budgets go further by finding underpriced attention channels and more creative ways to get earned media in those channels. TikTok is still a channel where brands can find underpriced attention (even if it’s getting a bit harder to do so). It’s nice to see a big incumbent thinking and acting like a challenger, even if some people still think Super Bowl ads are underpriced 😉



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