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Defend your creative marketing ideas from being ruined by your boss

Whenever you have a new or risky idea in marketing, there is going to be someone at your company who says no. Maybe they are risk-averse, maybe they just personally don’t like it. Either way, we all need strategies in our tool belt for how to defend creative marketing ideas, and how to push back on bad ones.

Read on for an overview of our recommended strategies on pushing back on bad video marketing feedback, or listen to the full podcast episode below to get all the details. Plus digressions on The Weeknd, Southwest Airlines, and mullets.

Strategies for pushing back on bad marketing feedback or ideas

Scenario: Your product or sales teams want to fill a video with lots of details and/or exact proper functionality.
Defense: Explain that the viewer of this video won’t be able to retain all the information if it’s just tacked on to a video. The video won’t exist in a vacuum. The landing page, product page, email, social post — wherever it’s going to live — can provide more information for the people the video hooked.

Scenario: Your stakeholders want everything in the video to be literal.
Defense: Show competitors’ videos and point out the tropes and cliches. Does that intersection in Tokyo really need to be included for your viewers to understand the concept of density?

Scenario: Someone says “I don’t like it” or tries to impart their personal preference in a way that contradicts your strategy.
Defense: Remind them of who the target audience for the piece is. Show them your strategy, research, audience interviews, or personas. Remind them who the piece is supposed to talk to.

Scenario: Your team is making decisions out of fear or safety.
Defense: Revisit the agency’s portfolio and remind the team why you hired them in the first place.

Scenario: Stakeholders want everything included in a video - product walkthrough, brand essence and sales video all in one.
Defense: The mullet metaphor.

Scenario: You want to try something new, but leadership wants to play it safe with activities with known ROI.
Defense: Start small. Ask to spend 10% of your time and budget on a new platform or a new strategy. Give regular updates, and let it have time to work.

What not to do when you want to try something new or take a risk

Do not surprise your boss. Get approval and buy-in early and often.

Yes, this is all easier said than done. Fighting for creative and for marketing to matter is hard. But keep in mind that if a campaign or a video fails, your leadership team will never look back and think, “Geez, our ignorant notes really made this video into a stinker.” No, they will blame the marketing team that didn’t have the guts to tell them it was wrong.

Need help defending ideas? We’re always here with a good analogy and a strategy to back it up. Talk to us.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: Hello and welcome to So You Need a Video, a podcast that helps B2B businesses create captivating content, engage the right people and drive more sales. I'm Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: And today we're going to be talking about fighting back against bad ideas from leadership departments and also defending really good ideas because that's one of the biggest challenges as a marketer, when you're trying to do something risky, trying something new. So, today we're going to be teaching some strategies for fighting back when you get bad ideas from other people and then defending the great ideas that you have.

Guy Bauer: And we noticed that all of my tips here are on the fighting back and then all of Hope's tips or most of Hope's tips are defending good ideas. So, we were just wondering before the show, what that says about us.

Hope Morley: So, dear listener, you can read into that however you would like. And maybe that's why we make a good team. So Guy, why don't you kick us off. We're going to start here with five strategies for fighting bad ideas.

Guy Bauer: Okay, great. So, first situation is when you've got a really great idea or you've got a script and it's a 90 second script and you start circulating it internally and product teams or sales people start giving you very specific product functionality notes, very in the weeds notes. You really have to defend against these notes because what the product people don't understand is that, in a 90 second video, it's hard to read into any details. And so, I've seen these and this is how a corporate video gets made. That corporate feeling is, if you let the product teams take over and drive, they will turn this into a step-by-step procedural explainer video, instead of a very high level marketing video that gets people excited and inspired by your brand. So, the little... What is this? An example or an anecdote about my Weeknd, Blinding Lights.

Hope Morley: An analogy.

Guy Bauer: It's an analogy. I'm Mr. Analogy, I love analogies. So, my little analogy is, think about this. So, Blinding Lights, The Weeknd, hottest song of 2020 by far, he's playing the Super Bowl, hit song. I've heard it at least 50 times and I've seen the music video at least a couple dozen times. I love this song, I hear it everywhere, right? But yet, I don't know the words. All I know is, "Ooh, I'm blinded by the lights. No, I can't see because..."

Hope Morley: And see? You're already fading off.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. I don't know the words. This is a hit song on a magnitude that your video will never be at and yet, I still don't know the words. So, the idea here is, why are you putting so much detail into the video? No one's going to remember it. If they can't remember the words to a Weeknd song, they're not going to remember all the detail in your video that they're not going to watch 50 times like a Weeknd song. They're going to, odds are, watch it 0.4 times. So, skip all those details and you can use my analogy and sing to your product team, if you'd like. Again, the details will bog the video down and add no incremental value.

Hope Morley: And this is also a good moment to remind those teams that the video doesn't exist in a vacuum, no one's going to get sent this video or see this video on a completely blank, white website with no context, with no other texts, with no supporting materials. Videos are supporting other marketing materials, so there is plenty of other space to have all those details for your prospects and customers. So Guy, what's your second scenario?

Guy Bauer: Second scenario is, when again you have... And this all assumes, I guess, that you've got a really good piece of creative, right? And that you're fighting feedback. And so, the other piece is that, a lot of times stakeholders don't want to be metaphorical, they want everything on the nose, they want everything to be literal. And what ends up happening is, if you've got this really creative idea on one side and then the literal people on the other side, what happens is, there's a tug of war and you meet in the middle. And that middle is the top-down view of the intersection in Tokyo with people crossing because it's half metaphorical but also half literal. And usually, people show something about connectedness or collaboration or scale of people. And every B2B video has that intersection or all the bad ones has that intersection. So, when you meet in the middle, you get the earth rising, you get time-lapse of Times Square. All these corporate tropes and cliches, that's the result of meeting in the middle with people on one side fighting for literal and people on the other side fighting for more artsy, metaphorical.

Guy Bauer: Don't give up that fight, don't land in the middle because then you will just be in the middle and in that malaise of just corporate schlock.

Hope Morley: So, what would you say, how would you recommend someone pushes back against that when they're getting that feedback? That it needs to be literal, that you can only show volume by showing a bunch of people in-

Guy Bauer: In Tokyo.

Hope Morley: Tokyo.

Guy Bauer: Show them. Show them. Your competitors have these videos and that's really because the literal people, their little Achilles heel is, they're literal. So, if you show a competitor's video that has that same shot in there, that will defuse the situation because they'll get it. So, you have to show. And you will not have a hard time finding those Tokyo videos. Nothing against Tokyo, I love it, I've actually walked that intersection. Nothing against Tokyo but you've seen it in every corporate video.

Hope Morley: Great. All right. So, the next scenario is actually coming from me and how to fight bad ideas. And this is really how to fight bad feedback. And we hear this a lot, when you try to bring something up the chain and someone higher up than you, your leadership team, just come back and they say something like, "I don't like it" or they try to impart their personal preference in a way that contradicts the marketing strategy. So for example, they might say, "I really prefer a male voice for this." When you know from your research that your target audience is mostly middle-aged women who will respond better to hearing a woman's voice to it. So, for this to push back on this feedback, remind them or tell them who the target audience for this piece is. Your leadership might not be the target audience, so your personal preference might not be relevant. If somebody is a middle-aged man and we're talking to Gen Z women, they have very different opinions on what is and isn't cool or what they don't like, what their personal preference is.

Hope Morley: So, show them your research, show them your audience interviews if you have them, show them your personas, remind them who the piece is supposed to talk to and why this will resonate with that type of person.

Guy Bauer: And this is a great reason for getting stuff approved early, meaning getting a video marketing strategy approved just at the strategy level with no ideas, no creative. Get that strategy approved early because then, when they give you a note that contradicts the strategy, you can literally, again, show them the strategy and remind them that they approved it. And nine times out of 10, that does defuse it because they don't want to appear like a flip-flopper.

Hope Morley: And the same can also be used when you have someone in a leadership team emailing you a video that they think is really funny or great, that they saw another company do and be like, "we have to make our own version of this," and you watch it and know that it would not appeal to your target audience at all, just because they liked it. Same thing. You can use your research and your marketing strategy to push back and show why that wouldn't work.

Guy Bauer: What we found is, the strategy is the logical explanation that allows us to be creative. The strategy is the logical license to be creative and stick to a creative plan. So, really get those strategies approved early and often.

Hope Morley: All right Guy, what's next?

Guy Bauer: When you can tell decisions are being made out of fear and/or being safe, you need to take a step back and not fight that because if you fight it, you will appear risky. What you have to do is, take a step back and go, okay, hold on a second. So, you think this is a risky decision. Let's go back and look at the agency's portfolio that we're working with and look at all their work. And you need to reinspire your stakeholders that, no, remember this is why we engaged in this project, to boost our business, to get to the next level. Being safe will just keep us where we are now. The other analogy I use is, as an agency principal myself, I have no interest in failing. Just like when you fly, the pilots have no interest in crashing.

Guy Bauer: So, there's always this moment after takeoff, it's usually five minutes after takeoff. The engines are at full thrust but the engines pull back and the nose comes down and everyone has a negative G experience and you feel yourself slowing down. And I've flown thousands and thousands of miles, I was Southwest A-List Preferred, I don't know anymore. But every time it happens, I get that feeling of, whoa, what's going on? And the reason you're doing that is, the pilot needs to make those moves to be safe. Air traffic control probably told them to slow down and maintain altitude. It's meant to keep you safe but relative to you, the passenger, it feels risky. We should just be at full power climbing in altitude, not lowering power, it's relative to you, it's a uncomfortable feeling. And what you need to think about is, just again, the pilot is doing that to keep you safe.

Guy Bauer: Use this metaphor, this analogy, on your stakeholders. Sometimes it works because, again, the agency is doing things that may appear risky but in the end will keep everyone safe and making safe decisions or manipulating the agency and their creative by committee, is actually equivalent to passengers going up in the cockpit and all giving conflicting advice to the pilot and the pilot actually listening. That's very dangerous, I would not want to fly in an airline that does that.

Hope Morley: And it's not just the pilot keeping everyone safe but it's literally the only way to keep moving forward and get to where you want to go. You can't get to your destination if you're too scared to let the pilot fly.

Guy Bauer: Oh, I never thought of it that way. That's true.

Hope Morley: If you were too scared then you would just land and then, sorry you're not in Houston. I don't know where you're going.

Guy Bauer: Why would you go to Houston? Again, nothing against Houston.

Hope Morley: Southwest, I don't know.

Guy Bauer: And it's just taking a step back and reinspiring the stakeholders of, no, no, no, this is why we did this. We did this to boost it, to get to the next level, not to stay where we are. Love that, thanks Hope.

Hope Morley: You're welcome. All right. What is our last piece of advice for someone who's getting bad ideas or bad feedback?

Guy Bauer: When stakeholders want everything in a video. So, they want something that energizes an audience and does a product walkthrough of our software as a service solution and then also gets people to buy and oh, and then it's got to be really upbeat and totally motivational and uplifting.

Hope Morley: But also inspiring and emotional.

Guy Bauer: But also salesy and product walkthroughey. And this is what I call a mullet video. So, I'm going to look at a timer here so I don't go over time here. All right.

Guy Bauer: So, if you think about a spectrum of videos, right? So, you have inspiring on the left side and salesy and product walkthroughey and reassuring on the right. So, on the left inspire, on the right reassure. And that's really the steps in a proper sale too. Early on in the sale, you want to inspire your prospect, later on in the sale, they've been inspired, now they just have to be reassured as they go to pull the trigger. So, there's these two halves on the inspire side, that's the rock star piece that you need, that inspires someone of the possibilities. If you think about a rock star, they're loud, they're cool but underneath they really don't have much substance. If you were to talk to them, I'm sure they wouldn't have much to say. So, think of on the left side, a rock star with long hair, cool people, right? On the right side, you've got the reassure and this is the product walkthrough. These people have tight hair, right? Close cropped hair-

Hope Morley: Tight hair?

Guy Bauer: I think of military, high and tight, they call it. They've got short hair, they're all business, right? A lot of businesses make the mistake of mixing the two. And what do you get when you combine long hair on the left and short hair on the right? You get a mullet in the middle. A mullet has long hair in the back so you're cool with your friends and short hair in the front so you're safe with grandma. But the thing is, mullets don't look good and that's what those videos look like, when you make mullet videos. When you make videos that say everything all in one video, that's all just down the middle, you are making a video mullet. So, what you have to do is separate everything. You've got to separate all the inspiring stuff into one video and all the reassuring stuff into another one. Don't let them pile everything into one video and you are free to use my mullet metaphor. Copyright Umault.

Hope Morley: And now that we alienated all of our mullet haircut listeners, I apologize to any of you out there listening who thought that was a good look. I hate that we're the ones that have to break that to you. All right. So, let's get into defending good ideas and pushing back and really how to fight for what your marketing team wants to do and accomplish. A lot of, especially the B2B clients that we talk to and that we have, often are working in a much more conservative environment than some other marketers might be in the DTC or B2C world. So, you really need to have a good arsenal of how to defend good and novel ideas.

Hope Morley: So, first situation that you might be defending a good idea is, when you have an idea of that you want to try something new. So, say you want to try a new platform, you want to try TikTok, you want to try creating a podcast, which isn't that novel anymore. But for some businesses that is a really risky perceived move. So, what we recommend doing for that is, always when you're trying something new, people have higher tolerance for risk when it's a very small portion of your strategy or a small portion of your budget. So, keep 90% of your budget and your strategy on what you know works, the known ROI, for you that be white papers, that might be LinkedIn advertising, et cetera.

Hope Morley: But take a risk, convince your leadership that you can take a risk with the other 10% of your budget. So then if it works, hey, there's something you can add to your safe 90% next year. If it doesn't work, uh, it's 10%, who hasn't lost 10% or 5% of their budget on anything? And what you have to do, as the marketer, is stay strong and give it a chance to work and defend what's happening. You might have to remind your leadership of how long your sales cycle is, in some cases. If they're looking for results after just a quarter and your sales cycle is six months, it's not realistic that you're going to see any results yet. So, stay strong and if it doesn't work, convince them that, hey, 90% of this did work and look at what other great work we did.

Guy Bauer: And this is easier said than done, I totally recognize that. When you've got people breathing down your neck for SQLs and there's so much pressure to deliver now that, what are we doing talking about TikTok? Or what's the other one I just joined Hope?

Hope Morley: Did you join Clubhouse?

Guy Bauer: I did join Clubhouse. I don't get it.

Hope Morley: That's another episode.

Guy Bauer: I don't get it but it seems cool. I don't know. But I think that's where staying low on the budget but then also low on the time commitment too. It's almost like I would try to make this, if you're talking about this in a meeting, save the last 90 seconds about it, "oh and by the way, we're trying this blah, blah, blah. It's not much money, it's not much time." And just fly under the radar and almost as much as you can, make it a skunkworks operation, that's how I've seen this stuff work because there's not much, it's almost like Schrodinger's cat, right? As long as you don't open the box, you don't know what's inside. But imagine showing a box of a cat to your boss.

Hope Morley: Is that our new KPIs? How many cats did you trap this quarter?

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Wait until it's baked and then show it off. And if it fails or doesn't really work then...

Hope Morley: Sweep it under the rug.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Exactly.

Hope Morley: What's one dead cat? All right Guy, what else do you have on a defending good ideas?

Guy Bauer: This one's a very practical one. I think if you have a great idea that's risky and needs lots of vision and again, lots of risk, you can go to bat fighting and coming up with PowerPoints and all this stuff and that may or may not work, it's a lot of energy. Another way to do it is just to, almost Schrodinger's cat it. What you do is, I come up with, I call it a barbell strategy, where you make a creative, risky piece and you make a safe, de-risked piece, all at the same time, using the same resources. So, if you're doing a video shoot, it's both videos, both scripts, are ready to go, using the same exact talent, same exact location. You make a very safe, de-risked version and you make your great idea, that's a little risky and needs all the vision. This way, you don't need to sell it to your boss, all the risks, you just give them the safe one.

Guy Bauer: And we've done this a few times and 99% of the time, they never use the safe one because the risky one turned out to be the good idea or the better idea. But it allows you to bypass all the conversations and all the stress. Just give them what they want but make the good one on the side or at the same time. And you can do it pretty cheaply too because if you're leveraging the same shoot day and the same crew and-

Hope Morley: There's a lot of economy of scales in video production, especially, so doing two ideas at once is a lot less expensive than doing two separate video shoots or redoing a shoot because leadership won't sign off.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. We did one over the summer. The day was for the risky idea but then we took about an hour to go do a very safe, direct piece, that's totally safe and so direct and clear and everything. And I don't think they ever used the safe one, they used the risky one.

Hope Morley: So, for both of these, I want to be clear in what we're saying. This is another tip here of what not to do is, we touched on this a little bit but, we do not recommend the surprise the boss strategy. We have seen people fall on their faces way too many times, more than I want to admit for this. When you're trying something new or risky, do not completely hide it from your manager, from your leadership, bring them in as early as possible. Do not wait until a video has gone through three rounds of revisions and then decide that that's time to show it to your leadership team. You don't want to surprise the boss with your great work, especially when it's something that has a really big price tag like a big brand film campaign. It's a lot easier to defend great work when your leadership has been along for the ride and knows the whole back story, they know that strategy that we were talking about and that they've maybe approved some intermediate steps, approved the script, approved the concept.

Hope Morley: I think a lot of us, we want to do something really great and then be able to have the big reveal of it and then we get a parade around the office from management. That very rarely ever happens for us, even if something is great. It feels anticlimactic to have your leadership along for the whole ride but it actually tends to help you defend good ideas when they feel like they have some buy-in.

Guy Bauer: It's baby steps, Richard Dreyfus in whatever that movie with Bill Murray. What about Bob? You got to do baby steps, baby steps. And it's like how to eat an elephant one bite at a time. If the more micro-steps you make with your stakeholders, the less chance that... It's almost like climbing a mountain, right? The more of those things you put in, what are those things called Hope? Those things they nail into the side of the-

Hope Morley: Are those crampons? Or are those the things you put on your feet? I think those are the things that are on your boots.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, whatever, those thingies, the more-

Hope Morley: Mountain climbing.

Guy Bauer: Mountain climbing spikes that you nail into the thing, then if you do fall, right? Now, you got-

Hope Morley: You can catch yourself halfway down.

Guy Bauer: Exactly. What she said. All right Hope, what's the final one?

Hope Morley: And the final one when you're- . Final piece of advice to defend good ideas. And this is just this whole episode, enlist your agency's help. So, if you are working with a marketing agency, a consultant, a video production company, and you as a marketer are really excited about what they're doing and then you take it back to the wider team and you're getting pushback, don't think that you have to come up with the defense completely on your own. You have this team behind you and we spend all day helping people fight bad ideas, defend good ones, explain how the strategy works and how it's coming through in this video piece. So, if you're getting pushback in a meeting, if your company culture allows for this, ask for some time to go back and think about it and talk to your agency, bring it to them. They might have a great metaphor about mullets and flying airplanes that you can put in your back pocket and or even get them on the line with your leadership and have the agency defend it for you.

Hope Morley: It might not always work, at the end of the day, but this is what we do and this is what you're getting into this agency or consultant partnership for.

Guy Bauer: And we literally did this on a project. Every step of the way, our clients were getting this onslaught of notes that would, in the end, ruined the video and we helped them through metaphors like hope said. Mullets and flying and Blinding Lights by the Weeknd. And it worked, it was crazy, it worked. Let us help you or let your agency help you.

Hope Morley: So, to sum it all up, all of this, it takes a lot of courage and it takes a lot of work. It's easy to let your leadership dictate what your marketing team is doing but if you can find the courage, if you've got the right agency team behind you, you can really make some really great exciting work.

Guy Bauer: And one other thing too, is, keep in mind there's, and I'm sure I don't need to say this but in the end, if the thing doesn't work and you've given up all the creative ground to your stakeholders, they're not going to look inward at themselves, "oh, well, it was all of our bad notes that destroyed this thing." They're just going to blame you. So, you've got to fight, definitely have to fight. And hopefully these tools help you.

Hope Morley: So, if you have any questions about this, if you just want to talk about how to defend some bad ideas within your company, hit us up. You can find us at umault.com, that's U-M-A-U-L-T.com. Send us an email, find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, we're all over the platforms. And apparently Guy's now on Clubhouse, so find us wherever you are.

Guy Bauer: Try to figure out what the hell to do with this thing. And you just go in these rooms and it's just like a phone call. I don't know. It's just a random phone call and people grunting and I don't get it.

Hope Morley: So, for more hot takes on all the new social media platforms, please leave us a review or subscribe if you liked what you heard or follow us at, like I said, umault.com, U-M-A-U-L-T.com. Thanks for listening.

Guy Bauer: See ya.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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