A Method for Marketing Madness

A Method for Marketing Madness

I sat in on the New York Times “Page One” meeting the editor holds twice a day. Section editors gathered, the Foreign Desk called in from Paris and laptops opened as I sat against the back wall of a round room. A fly on a wall at the center of the media universe.

Round-robin style, the editor called on his reports. He reacted to work, asked questions and made suggestions. He brought together ideas, he connected dots and orchestrated the New York Times right in front of me.

It was routine and rigor in a chaotic world. I saw behaviors and a process that I could leverage in my own work as a marketer, learnings that I brought back to my team where I ran Global Social Marketing at Intel.

But here’s the thing…

There is a method for the madness. I got a glimpse of a well-oiled communications machine. Media and journalists have their method, fined-tuned over 150 years at the New York Times.

But here’s the problem… I work in Marketing. A profession that has no uniform process or method. Each brand or agency, each team or channel has their own processes, tools and technology. Its messy, not always creative and leads to burnout.

Marketing’s evolution is unparalleled. Once viewed as a soft refuge for creatives, marketing has become a complex matrix of journeys, channels and data-science. It can make or break a business, especially in our digital world.

Marketing is at an “Inflection Point” as my old boss Andy Grove would have said. The old way simply doesn’t work anymore, as the McDonald’s CMO proclaimed during Advertising Week in New York.

“Small changes don’t work, old approaches can’t work.
We need a new way.”
-Deborah Wahl, CMO McDonald’s

Marketing Has A Systemic Problem

3 things are abundantly clear to me:

1.The marketing process is broken.

2. It’s getting more complex.

3. Behavioral changes are required.

No one working on the brand has the complete picture, no process is wholly aligned and few brand teams share the same methodologies. Your web team is disconnected from your email team who in turn has limited visibility into social, retail, media, etc. Strategies fall apart and your experience suffers.

Meanwhile, complexity is increasing. Screens are multiplying, audiences span across a fragmented landscape, brand touch-points have reached the Internet of Things. Many brands are still centered around campaigns in a 24/7 world where media sophistication wins political office.

Applying the NYT behavior

As far as the New York Times Page One meeting – I did bring those behaviors back to Intel. We did mimic their model. Here’s our weekly routine:

  • Monday AM – 2-Hour “War Room” – A standing all-team and all-agency mandatory meeting. We review the work looking two weeks out on the calendar. Each member reports out their work as they are called on. We edit, collaborate, ask questions and make changes in real-time. To be effective we all need to be looking at the same thing.  We need a source of truth.  We worked directly in Opal in our case.
  • Tuesday/Wednesday “Virtual Collab” – Each member edits and make adjustments to their work as recommended in the War Room. We finalize the calendar and prep for Thursday’s Exec Review. We make sure that our work looks beautiful and reflective of reality.  We are all contributing to the same body of work in Opal – our one source of truth.
  • Thursday – 30 Min – Exec Review – Our VP walkthrough. They can see the timing, the relationships between programing, the exact creative. It’s basically the brand as the consumer will see it. We aim to get buy-off and approval when necessary.
  • Friday PM – Work Due EOD – All work due in Opal for next Monday’s War Room. Work not submitted is either pushed out or cancelled entirely. If it’s not in Opal, it’s not real.

This rigor and routine set clear expectations, attained flow and aligned everyone on our strategic mission. The muscle-memory eased change-management and execs were aware of key programs. It worked.

It demonstrates that adopting methodologies from other disciplines, like journalism, is a worthwhile and effective tactic. Disciplines like software development, political campaigns, even power-generation offer methodologies useful to the brand marketer.

A New Mindset

Part of my work as Director of Strategy at Opal is tackling the systemic problem of marketing. I’m building out our StoryFirst program – our Framework & Methodology for the brand marketing process. Taking my 20 years as a brand marketer, coupling that with Opal’s unique position as the collaboration platform for some of the world’s leading brands and establishing a world class methodology to help our customers and the industry at large.

I take pride in working on the Methodology that so many brands desperately need and surprisingly few have – the behavioral changes, helping brands obtain flow, alignment and efficiencies allowing individuals to behave like modern marketers. The roles and behaviors to succeed in an environment of constant change.


Bryan Rhoads is Sr. Director of Strategy at Opal and has been a brand marketer for 20 years. He brings experience in digital, social, events, innovation labs, designing omni-channel experiences and researching digital business at MIT.