Marketers, drunks and rats' tails.

A policeman sees a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. the drunk explains that he is looking for his keys. After a while the policeman asks if he definitely lost them there. The drunk replies no. So the policeman asks him why he is searching there. The drunk replies’ because this is where the light is’’

What as marketers can we learn from this?

Essentially that if we put our focus on what’s easy to measure then we’re going to miss out what is actually of value to us. Email opens and clicks, retail footfall mean nothing without an understanding of the impact they have on the KPIs higher up in the hierarchy, Sales, NPS etc.

What about the rat tails?

Hanoi 1902 and the outbreak of Bubonic plague led to the authorities offering a bounty for every rat tail handed in. Thousands of tails were brought in.

But is seemed the rat population actually increased, in particular rats without tails! In fact some rat-catchers even began breeding rats specifically for the bounty offered. The rat population continued to swell and the bounty program was discontinued.

Poorly created targets and KPIs will often instill the wrong behaviour in our own organisations . A short term view will only have a detrimental impact on what we are trying to achieve in the long term.

Put simply, don’t just value what you can measure, measure what is of value. Deliver rats, not rat tails