13 October 2010

Gigantic Venn Diagram and the Rube Goldberg Machine

This past week I had lunch with a client for whom we are handling a multi-channel project including advertising, digital and retail, plus a collaboration with their public relations agency. We talked about the complexity of projects that juggle many strategies and much execution.

Gigantic Venn Diagram

We’ve mentioned the Gigantic Venn Diagram before (here, here and here) so it’s worth defining the term.

The Gigantic Venn Diagram is the complete range of channels available to marketers today. Every conceivable broadcast medium, digital application, retail program, PR initiative – it’s impossible to even list everything because new channels emerge every week.

Moreover, the Gigantic Venn Diagram is dynamic. Not only are new channels emerging, they are converging and moving in relationship to one another. Like any Venn diagram, the circles overlap, but in different combinations each time.

The overlap, in fact, is different from brand to brand, from project to project, depending on the strategy demanded by the business objective. You should never have the same diagram twice.

Making sense of the Gigantic Venn Diagram is the key challenge of any marketer today. It’s also known as channel planning, or in some places “comms planning”. You must have a well-defined business objective, a clear consumer insight, and a channel-neutral mindset.

Rube Goldberg Machine

Let’s say you’ve succeeded at writing a modern channel plan. Your Gigantic Venn Diagram will be the blueprint for a Rube Goldberg Machine. If you didn’t know, Rube Goldberg was an inventor who built contraptions of impossible complexity. Real-life examples include a popular Honda commercial and the children’s game “Mouse Trap”. My real-life examples are marketing programs that attempt to drive awareness, entice with sampling, engage online, and a host of other things that will sell more products.

All Rube Goldberg machines are tricky. Making the parts work together is a complex task of turning many strategies into much execution. It’s hard to draw Gigantic Venn Diagrams and build Rube Goldberg Machines, and not many teams succeed at both. The most spectacular failure in recent memory was the short-lived Enfatico, a one-stop agency consisting of different WPP resources created especially for Dell. A new example is Travelocity hiring the Publicis combo of Razorfish, Zenith and Leo Burnett. Also new and intriguing is Ruth, the new integrated services boutique of PR giant Edelman.

Can One Agency Really Do It All?

We addressed this question in a recent post (“Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?”) and also started a few LinkedIn and Twitter discussions to gain wider input. There seemed to be two camps: optimists and pessimists. Count me among the optimists, mainly because I’ve seen the magic of channel-neutral planning.

Still, it depends on what you mean by “all”. If we mean one agency handles channel planning or comms planning, yes, there are several agencies that can do that. If we mean one agency draws the Gigantic Venn Diagram and builds the Rube Goldberg Machine – well, then the field narrows considerably.

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