How Planning To Fail Can Succeed [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Recently an interesting question popped up in a marketing group I follow on social media: “What content should we create?”

The first few comments on the post are what you might suspect. Some people encouraged the publisher to interview people who match their personalities to see what they encounter. Others have talked about bypassing writer’s block. A few of them suggested listing every question their potential customers might ask and write posts about it.

The original publisher responded by acknowledging the value of these responses but clarified the question. They did not ask what to write that would resonate with the target audience. They are looking for content ideas that will drive the most feedback. a point.

They wanted to stir up controversy, provocation and a level of masculinity. Theory: Do something that makes a lot of noise and inspires a large number of people to respond, then the right people will pay attention to other content that focuses on the things you do.

As expected, the tone of the discussion turned into a fiery debate about the misconception (if not morality) of that theory. Let’s save this discussion for a different day.

But it made me think. Is there a situation where it makes sense to post content you don’t like, approve, or approve of – with the express intent of failing?

My answer is yes.

Is there a situation where you should post #content with the explicit intent of failing? Yes, says @Robert_Rose via CMIContent. Click to tweet

Why intentional failure can be a good thing

We all know failure can be a productive outcome. There are whole books written about how people tend to learn more from failures than from successes.

But this concept is almost always covered in the context of failure when trying to succeed. In other words, you do your best to get something done – and something fails in that approach. The lesson is that you should have done something different.

I’m interested in what happens when Deliberately Try to fail or at least try something the world deems wrong. Either you confirm what you were expecting or you are surprised by the results.

Of course, some activities lend themselves to this approach better than others. For example, I wouldn’t try to fail while learning to fly an airplane. However, in marketing – and especially content – this approach gives you an invaluable opportunity to expand your toolkit.

According to Paul Schoemaker’s book Brilliant Mistakes, advertising icon David Ogilvy repeatedly made willful mistakes. He was showing ads that he and the client team just rejected to test their collective thinking. Most of them will fail. But a few, including the announcement of Hathaway’s iconic T-shirt, will become legendary campaigns.

Consider allowing time, money, or content to test your basic instincts. I don’t mean to do a simple A/B test to evaluate two good efforts. This just determines which one resonates better.

I suggest you try a piece of content that brings up an idea that you flatly rejected. Or try investing in a channel that looks wrong from every angle. For example, later this month, I’ll try TikTok. I am 99.9% sure I will fail amazingly.

What if you invest in a channel that looks wrong from every angle? Soon, Robert_Rose will try on #TikTok via CMIContent. Click to tweet

But what if I’m wrong?

There is a famous quote attributed to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson: If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” It seems to me that there is only one mathematical way to double your failure rate – and that is if you deliberately try to fail.

How to fail on purpose

A friend and I had a funny saying we used to say to each other whenever we failed a test in school. We’d say, “I’d rather get a zero than 59.”

why? Because getting 59 means we tried and still failed.

Of course, we weren’t saying that one should never try. We were silly teenagers.

In content marketing, we know the value of testing and experimentation. However, most tests are performed to confirm the initial assumption. In fact, the essential part of A/B testing is to form the hypothesis first. You have a suspected or proven winner, and you are testing an alternative version to see if it works better.

Making an intentional mistake is a little different. In these trials, you assume that you will fail.

What could be the value of doing this?

Well, there can be two valuable outcomes. The first is that you confirm your assumption of failure and learn something. The other is that you succeed (in other words, you fail to fail) and that this long-term effort may well pay off. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve learned something.

If you make an intentional mistake and succeed, not only will you learn nothing, but the takeaway can pay off well, says Robert_Rose via CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click to tweet

There are different types of intentional errors. One of my favorites was the Vice President of Marketing for a large B2B company. Over the years, it has amassed tens of thousands of email newsletter subscribers. Every week they were sending out nearly 90,000 email newsletters, and every week, engagement rates were very low.

So, the vice president did something interesting. Send to a large segment of the subscribed but unengaged audience an email with the subject line: Sorry to see you go.

In the body of the email, the copy informs the recipient that the company is sorry to unsubscribe from the newsletter. But, follow the text, if they think this opt-out might be in error, they can respond by clicking on a survey.

This move was clearly a deliberate mistake. Most, if not all, of these subscribers will certainly not interact with the email. But their marketing team decided it was worth making the mistake and risking losing more than 30,000 subscribers to see if they had any shot with this unengaged audience.

Results? About 60% never responded or clicked and officially unsubscribed from the newsletter. But 40% clicked and answered, “No, that was a mistake.” The subscription has not been cancelled. For a while, this email had the highest CTR.

Another surprising result? Among those who responded, about 10% indicated that they would be interested in subscribing to a different topic the company is taking on.

The Vice President of Marketing told me, “We learned a lot from this ‘mistake’.

There are a few key moments when intentional mistakes may make sense in your content marketing:

1. There is little to lose

It is clear that risk plays a role in how big a mistake you must intentionally make. Skydiving, for example, is not the best activity likely to pay off from intentional error. You don’t want to post a piece of content completely off-brand, conflict with legal or compliance issues, or really offend your audience. But like the VP of Marketing at a B2B company. What could they be missing out on other than a third of an email database that wasn’t shared anyway?

2. Strict institutional rules

When you make a mistake intentionally, you are more likely to go your own way when the mistake goes against an institutional rule or a strict and outdated tradition. A good example of this is the marketing of the movie Deadpool. It has been, for the most part, a campaign riddled with deliberate errors. Possibly the largest outdoor advertising campaign with a skull, tube emoji and the letter “L” with a premiere date. Adweek described the campaign as “so dumb, it’s genius.”

A panel with a skull, tube emoji and the letter L.

How about this rule that blog posts are never posted on weekends? Everyone says it doesn’t work, and posting in those days is a mistake. Why don’t we make this “mistake” and see what happens?

3. You are a beginner

The best time to make an intentional mistake is when you are new to a particular problem or challenge. This is the time when your audience, clients or colleagues tend to forgive your mistake – and then, of course, you can go back to the first moment above.

One of my close friends was the Marketing Director of several startup companies. He tells me that when he joins a new company, he goes on a “listening tour” to hear from practitioners. It often introduces a novice marketing blunder into the conversation to see if the practitioner will answer, correct, or go with the flow. He certainly risks appearing to be inexperienced. But most important, he says, is that they start on an equal footing, and he can start a dialogue with his new teammate.

failure in failure

Of course, not every intentional mistake will end in a successful outcome. Sometimes a mistake is a mistake – and making it deliberately will get you exactly what you ordered.

One thing is for sure: if you fail only when we try not to, you may just miss proof that you should trust your first instincts.

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Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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