It’s tempting for marketers to assume we intuitively know what consumers want. After all, we’re consumers too. But listening to the focus group of one inside our heads can lead us astray. Trying to extrapolate our personal experience to how an audience will respond is risky. Many leaders don’t recognize this blind spot.
This is particularly common in hierarchical organizations that defer to the decision of the most senior person in the room. Google has a maxim to beware of the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions). There’s a classic quote from Jim Barksdale from his time as Netscape CEO: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
Particularly in the realm of digital marketing, everyone has an opinion. We all juggle multiple devices and know our own personal experiences. But all personal experiences are not created equal. To assume that what works for a middle-aged CMO will work for a teenage girl consumer target is lunacy, but it’s common in conference room conversations to to hear that type of personal justification for a decision.
We will frequently have to make judgment calls with limited information. But, increasingly (and especially in digital marketing), we can rely on data and testing to help make more of the decisions rather than our guts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to limit the focus group of one and tame the HiPPOs.
Here’s an early version of this idea I drew 12 years ago:
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
I also want to share that we launched a spanking new Marketoonist.com website this week, as we near five years of doing Marketoonist full-time this October (and 15 years of drawing cartoons). A big thank you to Clif, Wes, and Lauren at CGD for a wonderful collaboration on this new site. A few highlights: mobile-friendly responsive design, better cartoon browsing and searching, easier licensing and credit card payments, a team overview of the Marketoonist studio, a better job showing off some of the content marketing case studies from the last 5 years, and keynote speaking clips. I’m really pleased and would love to hear your thoughts (as well as any bugs that you find too).