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Maintenance over innovation in marketing

It can be good to be ambitious. But I’m going to try to convince you that maintenance, not innovation, is one of the biggest things that can help marketing succeed.

I’m not personally a big podcast person (Aaron is, though). But one podcast that has stuck with me over the years is one Freakonomics did in 2016, “In Praise of Maintenance.

While the focus is more on the tangible items we need to maintain, like roads and or personal homes, I think the premise translates well to marketing, too.

One of the key takeaways from the podcast:

The name of my book is More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology From the Open Hearth to the Microwave.

That’s right: she found that home inventions that were supposed to free up women from labor often led to more labor.

It’s an interesting, and perhaps humbling, lesson from the past – that innovation doesn’t necessarily decrease the time we spend on maintenance. Which brings us back to how we’re supposed to pay – not only in dollars, but in time – for the maintenance we need to do, even if we don’t want to do it.

For marketing: how many budgets and marketing dollars have been wasted chasing new and shiny tactics? New and shiny tactics with no easy way of tracking success?

How many man-hours have been spent trying to use and setup new tools, new systems, new programs in hopes of accomplishing great new things that are then promptly forgotten by the next quarter?

Innovative campaigns can be very memorable, sure. But to form a brand, you must pick some channels and maintain them. You can be innovative within your maintenance and make the maintenance creative or efficient in new ways – things usually achieved through innovation.

But the key is still maintenance.

Sometimes, I think of really great marketing agencies as just really great project management agencies. The great marketing campaigns and streamlined efforts by companies involve overcommunication between the teams, consistent marketing materials going up digitally or non-digitally, and regularly saying “no” to the bright new opportunities that may not fit into the existing plan.

As the podcast stated, “It’s all about prioritization, one step at a time.”

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