The Value of Fresh Thinking

Ted WilkinsGrowth, Optimization

For marketing-driven companies the value of fresh thinking can be enormous. There are innumerable examples of once-mighty brands that lost their way (and profitability) though complacency. McDonald’s was once considered an unhealthy fast-food choice and was exposed in the 2004 Super Size Me documentary. Harley-Davidson Motorcycle almost went bankrupt in 1985 due to product quality issues.  Both companies infused fresh thinking into their companies and turned around their businesses with new/better products and refreshed branding to support.

Those are just two examples from the mega-brand world, where in theory the management talent is top-notch and resources plentiful.  But if they could lose their way, what about the much larger universe of small and medium sized businesses?  While some are surely more agile and innovative compared to large corporations, others are challenged by talent and resource constraints.

For newer companies that rely on digital and direct response channels there tends to be a recurring theme: The founders start with a great idea and rightly focus intensely on go-to-market activities, with the primary goal of generating growth. A top priority is to establish a compelling brand identity, from which marketing campaigns are developed to generate leads and eventually new customers. Execution is sometimes handled internally, but frequently outsourced to agencies to leverage their resources and expertise. Everyone is heads-down trying to keep the train on the tracks and generate growth – resources are limited, and no one has the time to take a step back and identify opportunities for improvement.

In our work with such companies we’ve observed some areas where fresh thinking can really make a difference:


Considerable work may have been put into branding and messaging during the launch of the business – but does it still resonate?  For example, perhaps the target customer base is materially different than the original expectation.  Or maybe new products appeal to customer segments that were not anticipated at the onset.  And after the initial period of high growth, what has the company learned about itself that is important to its overall brand identity?

While some companies may have had focus on these important dynamics throughout periods of high growth and adjusted accordingly, others may have had less focus and evolved to a place where their branding and messaging is stale and ineffective.  A brand/messaging audit can go a long ways to identifying gaps and strategies to resolve.  


Every company has a multitude of data associated with its digital and direct marketing efforts and internal lead funnel, and the most successful ones consider that data to be an extremely valuable asset. They consistently develop reporting and analytics that generate insights, from which actions can be taken to increase marketing effectiveness.

For example, while a company may know the customer acquisition cost (CAC) of the pay-per-click search channel, do they know the difference between Brand and Non Brand search terms? Or within Non Brand, the CAC of the different ad groups?  It’s possible that the CAC of some ad groups might be incredibly high, and that money could be better spent in other channels.  Or what about after leads are acquired?  As we’ve written before, it’s critical that marketers analyze internal lead flow to identify opportunities to improve conversion rates and lower CAC.

But many companies do not leverage their marketing and lead funnel data effectively. Sometimes it’s not easily accessible. Even if it is, they may not have the right resources on their team to dig in and unlock the value their data asset holds.

Marketing Execution

In many cases companies start by outsourcing their digital marketing work to an agency – it’s a smart move when a company wants to get into market quickly and leverage the expertise, resources and infrastructure an agency can offer.  But over time some issues can emerge.  For example…

Does the scope of work agreed upon at the outset of the relationship still make sense for the business now?  Or does it need to be amended in terms of services, resources and cost?

Is the company effectively managing the relationship? This dynamic is incredibly important on two dimensions: First, the company needs to be sure the agency is delivering the agreed upon work with expected quality and timeliness. Second, the agency needs a strong internal partner to ensure that direction and priorities are clear and that they receive the support they need to be successful. 

Or does it make sense to insource some of the work, especially once one or more channels have grown and demonstrated their importance to the business?  Many companies find that having an internal resource focusing 100% of their time on marketing can yield big dividends compared to having the work done by an agency, where resources are typically responsible for multiple clients and may not have enough time to really dig in. 

These are just a couple of examples of where fresh thinking can make a big impact on marketing performance.  What examples do you have?