What can Brexit teach us about our own marketing functions?

A funny thing happened: when I posted my last blog, it turns out I wasn’t the only person with the Dunning-Kruger phenomenon on the mind – Tim Minchin brought it up in episode 117 of the awesome No such thing as a fish podcast that very day!

This is Tim Minchin, out of interest

Since then, the referendum result has shocked us all. The Remain campaigners have been left in disarray as they try to figure out what went so wrong. One of the biggest things to emerge was clear; they failed to understand where they were weak, where they were stronger and where they should have invested more time and resources.

This led me to consider the other side of the Dunning-Kruger coin, and pose a slightly different question. What happens if we can’t diagnose the weakest elements of our marketing function?

Dunning-Kruger is very compartmentalised – it applies equally to everything you do. As marketers that means that the things we think we’re terrible at are not likely to be our biggest weaknesses. These are actually more likely to be something we think we’re doing successfully. 

These problems are compounded when considered holistically, and particularly when the task of measurement is taken into account. The ability of marketers to create effective metric models is often predicated on their existing preconditions, which will promote and exacerbate their existing poor practices in a vicious cycle.    

Fresh blood may bring fresh perspective- but if you’re not aware of your blind spots during the hiring process you’re unlikely to stumble across the answer in a new member of the team.

This is where the process of benchmarking is absolutely vital in the arsenal of tools a marketer has at their disposal. If you have  a scientific outlook and are willing to be proven wrong, external benchmarking can work well as an initial diagnostic tool to determine where your weaknesses lie and what you need to work on.

Perhaps if the Remain campaign had taken a longer look at the impact and efficacy of some of their own messages and branding, we would have seen very different outcome to the result on Friday… Food for thought, perhaps.