Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Misadventures in Marketing

The story you are about to read is true. Names have been changed to protect… well, me, for one.

Once upon a time, a marketing consultant – let’s name him Mr. X – was doing contract work for a leading national business organization called… the LMNOP Corporation, where he spearheaded the development of a communication campaign to promote LMNOP’s new program, which in all modesty will be dubbed the “Impressive What-it-is” program.  This program is designed to work with LMNOP’s database of… professional associates to provide real-time updates on the latest corporation news and expert opinions of industry trends, as well as flag potential opportunities for LMNOP staff to contact an associate to build rapport and (hopefully) drive more business.

Boy, the “Impressive What-it-is,” doesn’t sound all that impressive, does it? Please keep in mind that (A), I am genericizing this to the extreme because I cannot tell you what the “What-it-is” actually is, and (B), this was long before the wildfire of electronic social media was even a “cinder on the tinder,” as it were.

Besides, whatever the “What-it-is” is is actually not the point. This story is really to talk about Mr. J, who worked on staff in LMNOP’s marketing department (as opposed to m…Mr. X, who you remember was just a consultant hired on contract). Mr. J was not happy with his job at LMNOP, and had his sights on a higher-paying position at major competitor WXY&Z Limited, which pretty much did whatever LMNOP could do, but their products were “packaged” and promoted differently (read: made WXY&Z look more like a follower than the leader that LMNOP was). But WXY&Z can be quite innovative. In fact, they have been working on developing their own version of the “Impressive What-it-is” independently (perhaps in the same way that two animation production companies come out with similar movies in the same year). At any rate, Mr. J somehow found out about WXY&Z’s project, and sto… used Mr. X’s LMNOP campaign ideas (and probably violated a number of non-disclosure agreements at the time) to land a job with WXY&Z to promote their “What-it-is” program, which will be referred to as the “Sass-N-Skedaddle-a-Bob” to avoid confusion (or maybe add to it; you be the judge…).

Of course, Mr. X didn’t know about this “idea theft” at the time. For all X knew, Mr. J simply turned in his resignation and left LMNOP. Meanwhile, LMNOP was busy conducting what X felt were too many viability studies and industry surveys and associate focus groups on various granular details of the “What-it-is” because the program development staff and senior leadership wanted to have everything “just right” before the promotional launch, which was significantly delayed as a result.

I’m sure you can guess what happened next. That’s right. WXY&Z became first-to-market by placing a teaser announcement of their upcoming “Sass-N-Skedaddle-a-Bob” to the industry press.

Suffice to say, LMNOP was not happy. Their “Impressive What-it-is” now appeared to be imitating the “Sass-N-Skedaddle-a-Bob”, and LMNOP preferred to be a leader than a follower (who wouldn’t?). X’s contract was terminated on the grounds that he “didn’t act quickly enough” to launch their campaign before WXY&Z.

It was about two-and-a-half months of unemployment later when Mr. X discovered what Mr. J did. However, X also discovered that while Mr. J had the shrewdness to land himself a prime job opportunity by stealing X’s plans for a multi-tiered promotional campaign, J did not possess the marketing savvy to effectively implement those plans. How did X find out about all this? Well, WXY&Z eventually contracted with Mr. X to save their floundering campaign for their “Sass-N-Skedaddle-a-Bob” and carry it to completion. And Mr. X did this so flawlessly, and even came up with a few new ideas to give the promotion more… ahem… sass and skedaddle. WXY&Z became the leader for once, which led to them leading more industry innovations in later years… not that Mr. X had anything to do with that. He was busy with other contract work after he made a reputation for himself with “Sass-N-Skedaddle-a-Bob.” LMNOP learned not to rest on their laurels, and the competition from WXY&Z, and others, inspired them to pioneer even more groundbreaking solutions for the industry, and for the people said industry served.

As for Mr. J, I really cannot say. He wasn’t at WXY&Z for very long.

Karma can be a harsh mistress.

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