How do you stay true to your marketing musical roots, keep in tune with your strategy, deliver on the business baseline and not get distracted by the latest marketing fads and fashions? Robert Rose suggests the answer is in The Princess Bride, want to fight him on that?


The Princess Bride is one of the best movies of all time. I will fight you on this.

In one of the many classic scenes of the movie, Princess Buttercup, frustrated, shouts at Wesley “you mock my pain”. Wesley response “life IS pain your highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.”

I picture in my head a similar scene playing out in the boardroom. The frustrated young CMO is trying to explain that every time he evolves his marketing teams into a new structure, they inevitably find themselves behind. “We’ve changed 6 times in the last five years”, he says exasperated. “We had our digital-first initiative, then our specialty focus on social, then our customer experience teams, and now we’re transforming into content and first-party data. How can we know what’s next?!?”  The CEO calmly asks, “oh boo hoo, why does that matter, isn’t it just marketing?”  “You mock my change!”, the CMO blurts out. The CEO leans back, and puts her hands behind her head. “Strategy IS change. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.”

In one of my favorite business books of all time, The End of the Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath vividly illustrates that all competitive advantages are now transient in nature.

In my experience, this realization, and the resulting transformation is the core of the function of today’s marketing strategy. It’s what we work on helping our clients to realize and understand. Ultimately we are not there to help them change into something new. We are here to help them structure their operation into something that has the ability to change. Full stop.

Specialties – whether they be digital experiences, a focus on data-driven marketing, ABM, or even Content Marketing will never be a sustainable competitive advantage or differentiator. Instead, we as marketers who utilize people, processes, and technology in order to deliver customer value need to change our perspective and understand that WE are a competitive advantage.  It is our ability to move in and out of “arenas”, as McGrath calls them, and create temporary advantages, that will be the critical determinant of success.

The high-performing organizations we see are reorienting their businesses and finding that “more and faster” (technology, content, data campaigns, etc…) are the wrong metric and that they must step out of it. The fear of moving too slowly is causing marketers to do foolish things and to specialize in “small marketing” with a default digital destination rather than trying to optimize a portfolio of well-defined media experiences.

Our ability as a marketing team (no matter the size) to come together, de-silo from our 1.0 shells, and develop more dynamic, fluid, consistent, and adaptable teams that can create value in any new environment is the essential skill in the next successful marketing strategy.

When change becomes imperative, our response as marketing leaders should be as simple as it is in The Princess Bride: “Change? Of course. As you wish.”

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