How a Risk-Taking Approach Delivers Marketing Results

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    July 08, 2015

How a Risk-Taking Approach Delivers Marketing Results


With great risk comes great reward.

We’ve all heard this old adage. Some people live by it; others think risk is something we should be programmed to avoid.

I spent 25 years on the client side of the business. Throughout my experience, the agency relationships I valued most were the ones that regularly pushed and challenged my own way of thinking.

In most organizations, the marketing team is encouraged to look for the sure thing. But sometimes, the “sure thing” will only return incremental results. That’s why, when I sat on the other side of the table, I consistently asked my agency partners’ creative teams for a range of ideas—from “safe” to “scare me”—with one caveat: the scare me options had to be strategic. They couldn’t be bold for the sake of being bold.

More often than not, the out-of-the-box, unconventional ideas our partners generated were the ones I selected. These seemingly off-the-wall strategies rose to the top because they were smart, demanded attention and had the potential to generate the step change and significant share gain so many brands desire.

I’m not advocating that everyone in this business suddenly swing for the fences. I don’t recommend that you use “high-risk” as key criteria for every decision you make. But adding an untested program or pushing your thinking regularly can prove valuable in a landscape where every brand is fighting for the attention of its target audience—particularly since avenues for reaching that audience continue to multiply.

At Wray Ward, it’s our nature to always ask, “What if?” Our desire to push our clients’ thinking and provide fresh perspective to support that thinking is at the core of who we are, and our clients should expect it of us.

Our recommendations and ideas are rooted in a deep understanding of:

  • Objective and strategy
  • Client profile
  • Market makeup
  • Target audience

When we develop strategies, we include a range of options from safe to reach and—yes—scare me. While the boldest ideas aren’t always selected, they often plant seeds that evolve into new ideas and opportunities.

At a conference I attended last winter, one of the panelists shared a great approach to taking risks. Each year, this particular marketing executive allocates his annual spend as follows:

  • Sure things: 70 percent
  • Educated bets: 20 percent
  • Untested ideas: 10 percent

This balanced approach allows him to constantly introduce new ideas and approaches for the brands he manages while ensuring he delivers the results necessary to support the spend.

We’re getting close to that time of year—the beginning of budget season. As you prepare to allocate your marketing spend for 2016, I encourage you to ask for those bold, untested ideas. One of them might just generate the step change you’re seeking for your brand.

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