The Polarization Problem

Ah, these times we live in. Polarization is in. Balance is out. Being right is more important than making progress. In the last few years, this worldview has infected our industry. And that’s too bad. Because if you’re a marketer trying to do good work and deliver results, polarization is, at best, distracting. And, at worst, destructive. Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Each of these framings is interesting, but the last one allows us to view ideological polarization through a more rational, evidence-based lens. Les Binet and Peter Field have been researching marketing effectiveness for over a decade, and their work draws a clear distinction between brand building and sales activation.

  • Their conclusion: a balanced approach is best. Specifically a 60/40 balance in favour of brand building.

  • As you might expect, our polarized industry is falling short of this ideal balance. Specifically, the sales activation side is “winning”—pulling us away from healthy equilibrium in the process. A 2017 report from Bidet and Fields found that 72% of recent UK campaigns had activation objectives.
  • Our advice: don’t worry about getting the percentages exactly right. The most important thing is to avoid getting caught up in the polarization and embrace a mix of methods that work together—not in conflict—to deliver the results you need. With that in mind, let’s end on these wise words from Rory Sutherland.

Issue #54
Sep 30, 2018

Further Reading