Saturday, September 02, 2006

Scientific Marketing Planning?

My 2 week old post about Clausewitz and his philosophy of insurmountable strategic uncertainty in military situations, as well as its applicability to business situation, triggered more questions of how this kind of thinking can better shape a more sophisticated approach to marketing planning. Most marketers, on client and agency sides, are still developing rather unscientific, purely calendar driven marketing plans with the goal of cramping all different marketing programs into a more or less complex excel sheets or PowerPoint bar chart. The general feeling is that as long as one can show most marketing programs on one sheet, then one has achieved a coordinated and holistic planning approach.

What? Yes, this is preposterous and has nothing at all to do with utilizing state of the art planning tools and methodologies to solve these kinds of problems. My hypothesis is that the core challenge of planning marketing programs across a particular timeline is not a marketing problem per se but a multivariate scenario and planning optimization challenge. What does marketing planning need to do? It needs to build scenarios of how to plan events (=marketing programs) with limited resources (=Marketing budget) across a multitude of dimensions (=segments, channels, regions, products) with a multitude of options per dimension across a certain time span (=calendar year). This is a similar problem that military strategists or logistical planner face.

So, what can we learn from these other planning and optimization challenges. Let me try these following elements:
  • Any planning output needs to combine a scenario component to model the impact of certain decisions and as a planning component to help guide the execution of potentially hundreds of different events/marketing programs
  • Any planning methodology needs to include as key output a time based marketing plan that shows the marketer which programs a brand should run
  • Any sophisticated planning application needs to be able to be refined and improved in an ongoing and very flexible manner.

The whole idea of building a more scientific and intelligence driven marketing plan is long overdue. But it’s important to start it than to contemplate for too long about its complexity or the impossibility of ever achieving full certainty. This is not the goal. The goal is to plan our marketing programs less gut driven and in a smarter way.


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