Stop Asking Us To Build Bridges

Search Options
Blog Search
Sign up for our monthly marketing trends enewsletter
  • 10/23/2017

    A few of years ago I got hit on the head with a baseball bat. Hours later, my wife noticed that my pupils were two different sizes so we made a quick trip to the emergency room. When we got to the intake nurse she asked why we were there today. I told her that I thought I had a concussion. “Don’t diagnosis the problem—that’s the doctor’s job,” she said curtly. “Just tell me what your symptoms are.”

    While I didn’t appreciate her surly bedside manner, I did understand her meaning. Because this is the same sort of issue marketers deal with every day.

    Every client or potential client who walks into the agency has a marketing issue they need help with. But nine out of ten times, they don’t really understand what that issue is.

    “My website looks stale.”

    “I need a new brochure.”

    “We need an SEO campaign.”

    None of the above are real marketing problems. They’re symptoms.

    Now, for example, let’s say the client really does need a new website. But it’s not because it “looks stale,” it’s because it no longer reflects the company as it currently operates or the design doesn’t resonate with new customers or the business mission has changed and the website hasn’t kept pace or any of a dozen other issues.

    Clients often say they need us to build them a bridge when what they really want is to just get across the water.

    A recent article in the Harvard Business Review revealed that a majority of companies surveyed admitted they were bad at problem diagnosis, which carried significant unwarranted costs. Managers want action so they often jump right into problem solving mode without fully understanding the problem at hand.

    Hence, “Build me a bridge.”

    But a bridge might not be the best solution. Maybe it’s a boat. Maybe it’s a helicopter. Hell, maybe it’s a catapult or diverting the river entirely. The problem is that when you already have a solution in mind, it limits the agency’s ability to think creatively and suggest innovative solutions.

    The same Harvard Business Review article outlines the “slow elevator problem” in which tenants of a business tower were constantly complaining about the slow elevator. The building owner immediately jumped into problem solving mode and considered adding a stronger motor or replacing the entire elevator system with a newer model. These options are expensive and time-consuming, but would solve the problem.

    But what if she took a step back and reframed the issue? Looking beyond the obvious she discovers that it’s not really about the mechanics of the elevator, it’s that the wait is annoying and boring to the tenants. The solution? Pipe music into the lobby so there’s something to listen to, and put up mirrors so there’s something to look at (yourself).

    This solution didn’t solve the problem as originally conceived, but by seeking a way across the water instead of just building a bridge, the building owner ended up with happier tenants and had to spend next to nothing to do it.

    Next time you’re evaluating a marketing challenge, keep an open mind and try to reframe the issue in terms of what is really causing you pain, not which symptom is the most obvious or bothersome. Don’t just ask for a bridge, be open to other ways to get across the water.

    About the author::Craig Israel is the Creative Director at thunder::tech. He steers creative strategy for the agency and leads a team of rock stars who regularly create crazy beautiful and stupid impactful work. Taller than average.
  • How a UX Designer Approaches a Project
  • 919
  • What Social Media Channel is the Right Fit for my Brand
Sign up for our monthly marketing newsletters