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Agency FAIL: Why We Keep Repeating Our Mistakes

September 11, 2018  /  by  Diane Callihan

You’ve probably heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again but expecting different results.

I was thinking about this past weekend. My husband and I were walking at Honeymoon Island, and I suggested that we go walk on a popular path called Osprey Trail.

This was not our first time on the trail. One time we got caught in a raging thunderstorm and had to run the whole way back. One time we took bikes that got bogged down in floodwaters and wet sand, so we had to essentially drag our bikes the whole way. One time, we were attacked by bees and horseflies.

So why, why would I suggest we go there again?

This time, as soon as we got into the woods, we were devoured by blood-thirsty mosquitoes. We ended up running back to the car, covered with welts. And I told my husband to remind me next time not to go there again.

But why do I need reminding?

It could be that I’m an idiot. Or that people have a natural tendency to remember the good rather than the bad (I saw my first armadillo on that trail…that was cool.) Or we feel we have limited options, so why not give something another try (or two or three)?

This phenomenon seems to happen frequently at marketing agencies, where change is the norm and turnover can be high – so sometimes people don’t know what has been tried before.

Years ago, I worked for a company that was really hot on doing webinars. They put a ton of time and expense into promoting and preparing for them, and yet each time, registration and attendance was dismal. The last webinar they had had three attendees and only one stayed for the whole thing.

And yet, every time the marketing department met to discuss new campaigns, someone INEVITABLY said, “Let’s do a webinar!”

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to come up with some fresh solutions that you’ve never tried before. Or at least, if you are revisiting old ideas, be smarter about them this time. Think of what caused them to fail and make provisions. (In my example, wear bug spray.)

Recognize insanity when you see it. Learn from it. And move on.

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