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The Problem with Best Practices

Best practices based on models from yesteryear don’t take into account the shifts in culture, and going forward, we need a way to do that.


Editor’s Note: Fresh Squeezed Ideas created a video series, The Future of Marketing and How to Win, to not only share ideas on where the future of marketing is headed, but to also provoke some new ways of thinking about brand strategy and marketing.

By Fresh Squeezed Ideas

Why don’t best practices work and what is the better way? Explore why you should look beyond these best practices in the third video of a 9-part video series entitled “The Future of Marketing and How to Win”.

Brand management in marketing has been around a very long time, and a common question is, “Why do I need to rethink my best practices?”, which is a fair question.  The problem is best practices are based on hindsight, based on all the things that have been done before, which can really limit a marketer’s thinking. What worked in the past, won’t necessarily work in the future since what mattered to consumers in the past, may not matter to them in the future, because culture changes. Foresight is not about predicting the future, but it is about anticipating the drivers of change, which give the opportunity to hypothesize around future risks and opportunities that could help drive a business.

A great example of this is the financial services industry: banks, and wealth investors. The problem with foresight is that for some organizations, they struggle with the fact you can’t quantify it. There are some organizations that are very well aware of the changes in consumer attitudes and are ahead of the technological change in wealth investment, for example. Where there are other organizations that struggle with this kind of ambiguity, and they’re behind the times.

Best practices based on models from yesteryear don’t take into account the shifts in culture, and going forward, we need a way to do that.  Now, I know that most of the marketers out there will say yes, big data will save us, and we’ll use all the analytical power we can to reveal all, and the challenge is, and unfortunately big data does a wonderful job of quantifying touch points that every brand can have based on all the click behaviour.  But unfortunately, it doesn’t answer the whys behind the behaviour.  And when we’re talking about things that are culturally relevant, they’re impossible for people to answer.  You really need to look to ethnographic investigations to investigate the whys, the motivations of the behaviour.  And this is often subconscious to people.  So, you can use your big data, but it’ll tell you what, but it won’t tell you why, and it’s really the thick data that comes from the ethnographers that allows the kind of insight that you need to build a brand that’s both culturally relevant, culturally resonant, and ultimately built to a brand purpose that will guide you forward.


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One response to “The Problem with Best Practices

  1. Best practices is the non-scientific term for doing research in a way that has proven to be successful and either eliminates or significantly reduces incorrect answers. Yes, it relies on prior data, but that does not invalidate a technique. You make predictions from your data – if the predictions are good, the technique has worked for you. In a business that is sensitive to cultural changes, a best practice needs cultural trends as part of its “model”. It can still be a best practice.

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