I’ve had great opportunities in my career, from director to SVP, and I’ve found that the higher the title, the less connected I am to the work that actually touches people--which at the end of the day is how we change the world. I’ve worked on some amazing brands: Burt’s Bees to Zales, eBay to Nike. But in almost all of those companies’ career tracks, there is that inflection point where you end up spending more time with excel spreadsheets looking for insight than you do with the customers you want to create useful products or services for. And for the love of all things sacred, I am not talking about focus groups.
Don’t get me wrong, there is huge insight to gain from understanding the overriding themes from big data captured in Excel or from listening to a focus group, but in both cases turning these themes into things you can test in the wild is critical. I was doing some positioning work for a brand that hangs its hat on its special technique for piercing ears. After interviewing a boatload of folks at corporate, I went into the field and yes, got my ear pierced as a typical consumer. It was nothing like the process that corporate had described. In a different state, I took my young daughter to have her ears pierced at the same brand. Another non-standard process piercing. The end result: three pierced ears (two on my daughter), no brand technique used. But, it gave me real, unassailable experiences to talk with my client about—and some real upsell and cross-sell opportunities to bring to the table outside the positioning process.
When I’m talking with someone about a smaller job or mid-level engagement, sometimes they wonder why I’m interested in working with them. The reality is that I simply enjoy working for and with real people AND developing strategy that works in real life not just in really big spread sheets.
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