Marketing with a focus on digital

Marketing Changes and the Half Life of Facts

You Are Not So Smart. Just kidding, you are. That's actually the name of a podcast I've recently started listening to. Its theme is "to explore self delusion," and it can get kind of trippy. Like when episode 103 had me yelling "No no no!" in my car. Listen, you'll hear what I mean. 

But it's episode 99 that I really want to share. The anecdote used to introduce the episode is this: A common practice in medical schools is to tell new students that half of what they learn won't be true by the time they graduate -- but nobody knows which half. It's supposed to put students in the growth mindset needed to succeed in a rapidly changing field. The host then elaborates about the "half life of facts" and the impacts of change on people and society. 

The episode really got me thinking about everything we as marketers do, how fast our field is changing, and how much change it requires from us. Making changes can be hard. Many of the changes we make, especially the bigger ones, require communicating to audiences outside of our own team.

Often those audiences are less used to the constant churn of change in marketing today, and the frequent and potentially drastic changes we bring to them are unsettling. In those situations, making changes can open us up to claims that because we're making a change we must have been wrong in the first place. And though that isn't usually right, when people think it privately -- or even voice it in a group setting -- it can undermine trust and confidence in us. 

I recently made and implemented a relatively major change decision, and knowing that it would probably evoke the feelings described above, I began questioning myself. How could I have changed my mind on such a big thing? Does that mean I was wrong? I cognitively knew it didn't, things just changed. But I could preemptively hear those phone calls and see those emails in my head. So how do we implement something so it reflects the reality that "we're continuing to be right," rather than "we stopped being wrong?"

This episode helped me reconcile that. I was able to look at the slow, small changes that happened in several areas that led to the change, and verified that the original decision's context made it right. My realization was that, because the change resulted from new context, we're not really changing our mind as much as we're making a separate, new decision. 

With so much change happening in marketing, I just wanted to share this to give us all a communication framework for making changes that leaves our audiences with the understanding that 'we're continuing to be right" rather than "we stopping being wrong."

If this rings true for you, I'd definitely give episode 99 a listen on iTunes or Google Play