Inspiring fundamentals: Part 1 – How not to plan


For some time now we have held occasional internal inspirational sessions conveniently dubbed “inspirational Friday”. Set in our comfortable office living room these sessions served two separate but equally important purposes. On the one hand they’re designed to inspire all of us at Carat to go out and do our best work for our clients in an ever evolving way. On the other hand, they’re in place to further help build our collaborative company culture. Because what better way to promote collaboration than by having coworkers talk about their personal expertise, hobbies and interests. So far, these sessions have been a huge success, visiting a broad range of topics such as cognitive biases, the worth of privacy and culture maps. Each session being met with enthusiasm and ending up in thought provoking discussions, all while enjoying a drink and sociably engaging with colleagues.

Inspiration Friday gone digital

Due to the fact that we’re currently all working from the safety of our own homes all of our planned sessions have been thwarted. This got us thinking about how to proceed, and how to engage an even bigger audience with these sessions. The option to make “inspirational Friday” type content a part of our externally shared pieces to inspire client and partners as well was one that fit the bill perfectly. It is, however, best to stick to a topic closer to our professional nature for those pieces of content. To kick off this new initiative, a.k.a. Part One, we’ll be running through the findings and insights of a few key marketing and advertising books/researches. After all there is no better way to improve our craft than by strengthening our fundamentals. And as the proverb goes “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now”, which applies to self-improvement every bit as much.

How not to plan?

Starting things off we’ll be running through Les Binet and Sarah Carter’s book “how not to plan: 66 ways to screw it up”. Rather than showing their audience how they should go about doing their marketing and media planning by showing them success stories they’ve opted to take the opposite approach. And this opposite approach, showing planners how not to go about their jobs, is potentially even more effective given the fact that it allows us to learn and reflect on our past mistakes while making sure we don’t repeat these same mistakes. Throughout the book Les and Sarah run through the entire planning process from setting objectives through to brand & communication and rounding the entire process off with a chapter on effectiveness and evaluation. I’ll be running through a few of the many great insights from the book in short over the following couple of newsletters but would strongly recommend anyone interested in marketing & media planning to read the entire book, which is for sale at

#1 How not to make a plan: setting objectives

The entire planning process starts off with setting the right objectives and doing so in the right way. While we’re pretty much always told that our objectives should be SMART hardly any of the objectives in many marketing briefs are formulated according to the SMART principles. Often big budgets are committed to briefs with objectives that aren’t backed up with numbers. It’s okay to be ambitious, but make sure to crunch the numbers and create realistic ambitions because after all “a goal without a plan is just a wish”.

#4 How not to ‘convert’ people: don’t sensationalize

Another key point raised in setting your objectives is making sure to use the right language. Language in briefings (and marketing in general) is one of the more understated items that heavily influences the way the brief is perceived. Marketeers like to talk about conversion campaigns, while the effect their campaigns have are more akin to nudging someone into a direction. By using the word conversion rather than nudge we overstate the impact our marketing campaigns tend to have which ultimately leads to a mismatch in the effects of marketing and what is perceived as the effects of marketing.

#5 How not to deal with ‘alienation’: don’t overstate effects

While it sounds like a logical thing to worry thing, due to its obviously negative effect on business performance, alienation is not at all as worrisome for marketeers as appears at first glance. Rather it’s yet another example of the influence of language on the perception of the effects of marketing. While it’s obviously key not to offend large groups of consumers through your advertising you’d be hard pressed to find examples of consumers being alienated from a brand due to its communication (outside of the previously mentioned exclusion of offending large groups of consumers). By and large consumers do not have the strong feelings about brands we would like them to have and in addition analysis of empirical data has shown that non-users are more similar, not different, to existing users. Alienation is therefore an effect that is not likely to happen. It is key, however, to note that any research carried out on the alienation effects of a new ad are likely to conclude that consumers feel alienated, which can be attributed to the fact that we do not like change and tend to be vocal about this at first. In the longer term this aversion to change is mostly dwarfed by the benefits brought about by the changes, and in advertising by the herd effects caused by good advertising.

If your interest has been peaked by the insights from “How not to plan: 66 ways to screw it up” shared so far I highly recommend buying the book ( and staying tuned for Part Two in our upcoming newsletters, in which we’ll be sharing some of our key take-outs.


By Frank Jansen

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