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Beware of “Shiny Object Syndrome” in Marketing

While every marketer is aware of – and presumably wary of – falling prey to “Shiny Object Syndrome,” inevitably you’ll encounter a C-level executive whose teen-aged child has evangelized the next must-have campaign approach, and you’ll need a ready answer to delay any rash decisions.

“Shouldn’t we be on Snapchat? My daughter and her friends say Facebook is over; it’s all about Snapchat now. Why haven’t you guys suggested it yet?”

There are important reasons why Snapchat is not ready for marketers yet, actually – and (per our recent treatise on this very subject), as an exec who cares about quantifiable ROI – you’d be the first to wave off the notion.

“Drones! VR! AR! These are all over Techmeme. Scoble quit his job to cover VR full-time! What can we do with drones? – with Virtual/Augmented Reality?”

You know what you should do? You should wait, and watch. To create “viral-worthy” content is hard to do under normal circumstances: adding these high-end tools to current production plans is going to cost a fortune, and the ROI will be uncertain (likely non-existent). Even as a raft of lower-cost production tools readying for market makes it seem like a low-cost gamble, I still counsel caution.

You don’t want to wait? You want to BE a case study, not READ a case study? I admire your gumption. You’re eager to see what kind of drool-worthy next-generation content you could make that would get consumers gabbing with excitement about your chain of sandwich shops, or your large insurance corporation, your B2B networking gear, your (fill in the blank), etc.?

Okay. Just remember that no one is visiting the island you created in Second Life. Just make note of the fact that BMW did not continue to make A-list mini-movies (even though they mused about doing so). You want to be cool, innovative, groundbreaking? I want that for you, too. Just remember that cool people don’t consider ROI. The fiery bravado of trailblazers is often dampened when they wind up with arrows in their backs. Those who damn the torpedoes sometimes eat a torpedo and explode… (actually, that does sound kinda cool)…

I realize I am coming off as a crotchety geezer in this post. Seeing smart people fall for the hype – then beating themselves up (or losing their jobs… or blaming their agency) in the disappointing aftermath will make a fella grumpy eventually.

The issue, for me, is the headlong rush. I understand that that’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to be wary and thoughtful when endangered. In this case, your job, reputation, and sales could be in jeopardy if you make a move without pondering your next move: i.e., how you’ll explain the lackluster results.

This warning won’t ping the radar of those marketers with glorious aspirations: they likely have enough money (and enough leash) to make some big bets and live with the consequences.  There are brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Samsung, et al. who are known for throwing a lot of money at cool ideas. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they flounder. For my part, if I were running marketing at a large corporation, I’d spend a fun afternoon brainstorming about the ways my company could make a splash with VR, AR, drones, 360-degree photos, etc… and then I’d place those ideas in a desk drawer and pull them out a year from now. By that point, we should be able to point to best- and worst use-cases of these technologies, and the merits of those 1-year old ideas will be more obvious.  That’s the point at which to strike, if it makes sense for your business. When it comes to “flashy” marketing ideas, better to be the 2nd one down the trail than the guy sporting a quiversful of arrows in his back.

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This blog post was originally posted on SHIFT Communications’ website.