We have this ad campaign. 42 people have spent millions getting ready. We executed well; the campaign looks good! We bought millions in inventory and are committed.
As the Christmas tree aside the racetrack drops light after light and our foot is poised above the metaphorical gas pedal, every heart on the team is beating fast and hard.
At that moment we get an unmistakeable signal of enormous risk.
It is unambiguous.
Our brand, by chance and through no fault of our own, is caught in a global mess. It is obvious to everyone from the CEO to the bright eyed intern that we no longer understand what impact our campaign will have.
We should probably reevaluate everything.
But we don’t have time.
What to do?
We would lose millions. The opportunity cost of failing to run it is that our very able competitors will eat up the mind share and we will fall behind. We need to appear competent and make competent executive decisions so the the boss or the shareholders don’t abandon us.
We can’t do nothing. We have to do something.
Ok, let’s run a teaser, a trial balloon. Let’s see how people react. We will use some of that commitment on social – we lose it anyway at the end of the month.
And our justifying minds tell us, now, that “this’ll show em!” The world needs to see that we are still here. That we are unafraid. We need to renormalize the practice of seduction of our customers. They may be in shock around our brand but let’s whisper in their ear once again and they will learn again to love it.
So we put this on Twitter and your dear author sees it this morning in his twitter feed:
Wow, I say, out loud in my bed at 4am as my partner sleeps beside me.
What were they thinking? I don’t imagine this will go over well. I just spent thousands of dollars last night shoring up my disaster readiness, Because of my position of privilege and insomnia I am read up and informed and ready. I am relatively safe. I am not agitated.
Others May be more stressed about this.
Maybe my often-wrong social instincts have failed me again. Maybe people think this campaign is fun! Let’s look at the comments…
Ok, no. My instincts were not wrong.
You must not let momentum or false urgency drive your decisions. You must master the urge to “do something”. You must train your organization to do this systemically, to be able to arrest momentum, to pivot, to carry the bad news safely to management who may still be stepping hard on the gas. To be able to stop. To be able to pivot.
Easier to say than do?
It isn’t that hard if you have prepared for it. Here, let me make up an alternate strategy for Corona: stop all ads immediately. Sunk costs and each impression wounds so in this world there isn’t any opportunity cost because no advertising opportunity exists.
Ramp up PR at the parent company brand. Redirect any uncommitted capital from the campaign to the CDC or the Red Cross or to communities or hospitals for preparedness. PR can manage a careful exposure of this that feels organic. The company should be seen to be just helping and must not be seen telling people about it. Renegotiate with the channels to donate the inventory commitments to the government or a public service charity to get the word out. Do not put your brand on that repurposed outreach although it will be tempting to your ad team. This can also be carefully leaked. It’s ok to make the news but if you do you have to be on message. “This moment isn’t about us. Yes it’s a bad brand situation but we want to turn our resources that we can’t otherwise use into a civic good, if we can. So let’s take the rest of this discussion to talk to Dr. So and So, who we brought with us to discuss how to prepare.
I’m no marketing whiz. The above may be wrong. The point is there exists a pivot to every awful situation – to every single one. Inculcate habits of being aware and nimble in yourself and your team.
Remove the behavior of intertia pushing you forward. Inertia destroys time. It is deadly.
Regarding the risk of the Corona virus, don’t let inertia leave you unprepared. Pivot now to a strategy of preparedness. Someone you respect may have told you “the Flu is worse”. They have a fundamental misunderstanding of the risks involved.
In the sense that more people die from cows falling on them than terrorism, people argue we worry too much about the latter. But the risk of death-by-cow cannot grow into the ruin of a nation death. Accidentally murderous cows have no growth strategy and do not need to be countered.
The flu is killing more, and heart disease will kill more. But the math on the corona virus has exponential growth built in.
Take the time immediately to be prepared. If I am wrong you will be out some hundreds of dollars and you can elicit my sincere apology later. If I am right then you can significantly raise the probability that you and your family don’t lose all the rest of your time.