Chancy, dicey, uncertain, precarious, perilous.
Risk is complex and difficult. And seen mostly as foolhardy.
Nothing earth-shatteringly new there. It can be a pitfall.
But what if you have a wholly new take on things in your company or your industry? A brilliant insight as to the way ahead.
How do you get traction for fresh ideas that have nothing to do with the accepted strategy of the day? The stuff set in stone.
Would you risk going against the acknowledged norm?
How would you have fared as a risk-taker at the now-floundering Kodak, inventors of digital photography?
Would you have chanced everything in 1979 to shout bravely in the boardroom that Kodak needed to change — to go beyond film?
Against Kodak’s vast revenue stream flowing in for generations, could you have argued that the company needed to reverse direction and put everything into developing their fledgling digital process?
Of course, it takes guts, knowledge and more than a little bit of the Nostradamus factor to do that.
Yet Sir Alex Ferguson had it all.
He built a $3 billion global brand, Manchester United, on risk.
Starting in 1986, as team manager, Alex Ferguson, complied a stunning record based on uncertain decisions.
He put aside conventional wisdom and textbook thinking, often axing bright stars and bringing up untried players to win the day. Flexibility reigned.
As you probably know, his team won season after season.
Manchester United achieved an incomparable record amassing League Titles and European Cups.
You’d soon wear out your arms if the job of polishing their trophies fell to you.
What an organization! As a comparison, a team heading to the Superbowl, the Seattle Seahawks, is worth $1 billion.
When it comes to strategy and content, too many marketers are on the slippery slope of risk. The foolhardy position.
They’re in jeopardy because they are approving work you might call formulaic and drab — too often it’s feature-based instead of stressing customer benefits.
It’s reflective of boardroom views, not the customer’s view.
It’s the kind of advertising that’s risky because simply, you can’t bore people into buying your product. I think it was Bill Bernbach who first said that.
An alternative would be to focus on prospects’ problems, worries, needs and deep-seated desires.
Get your agency aligned in that direction.
If they present work that strikes you as something wholly logical but somehow familiar, don’t feel reassured.
Because when your strategies and solutions are no different from everyone else’s that’s the definition of mediocrity.
But if the ideas that cross your desk are shockingly new and unfamiliar you may be on to something that’s cut-through and effective.
Originality is the way to make risk work for you and leave your competition behind.
Sir Alex Ferguson was knighted for it.
You could be forever praised for it.