No Rube Goldberg strategy
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No Rube Goldberg strategy

In a complicated world, it’s better to build a simple plan.

American engineer and cartoonist Rube Goldberg delighted the American public in the early 20th century with his satirical cartoons of over-engineering taken to the extreme.

The machines he designed were ridiculous because they took a dozen silly steps to do something trivial, like boil an egg or wipe soup from your moustache.

Of course, a marketing strategy is far from trivial. After all, the company’s success – and ultimately people’s livelihoods – depend on getting the message out to consumers.

But we’ve all been guilty of overcomplicating our profession, perhaps in an attempt to blind the board with science. Or to boost our own importance within an organisation by making our job sound harder than it is.

That’s all very well, as long as it doesn’t result in extra work or confuse the people trying to carry out the plan.

After all, the world of 24/7 international omnichannel marketing is confusing enough without adding to the complexity.

So how can you keep things simple?

  1. Start by answering the classic questions used by journalists, as briefly as possible: who, what, when, where and why?
  2. Stick with the strategic – when building a grand plan for the business, including organisational and departmental barriers is bound to result in over-complication.
  3. Count the cost – a marketing strategy that’s hundreds of pages thick will take up precious resources that could be used in implementing a simpler plan. That’s a particular problem for smaller firms with restricted budgets.
  4. Stick within your capabilities – no matter the size of your business. It’s good to push boundaries a little, but drawing up a plan that is well outside the budgetary, organisational or human resources of the company is counterproductive – better to build a strategy that is small but perfectly formed than end up with a truncated mess after your ambitious scheme is cut to fit the company’s cloth.
  5. In a large organisation, break up a grand strategic plan into easy-to-understand chunks that are appropriate for each part of the business, so that everyone can work on their own area day-to-day without confusion. Still, make sure they understand the overall plan and goals through more infrequent interaction.
  6. Avoid additions. We’ve covered why digital should be included as an integral part of your marketing plan – the same goes for other areas like social media. Trying to bolt them onto the plan later on will only result in replication and unnecessary complexity.
Thomas Brown Former Director, Strategy and Marketing CIM
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