5 Reasons Digital Marketers Need to Embrace "Lovable Imperfection"

By Jenifer Kern, Vice President, Marketing View Comments


Let's face it. If you're a professional marketer, you're probably driven by perfectionism.

But we need to be perfectionists, right? Our lives are dominated by mountains of projects—from content creation, web and mobile sites, social media, brand refreshes, and digital campaigns—to reporting, analytics and real-time data capture. If we can't bring order to this craziness and perfectly manage our teams, schedules, deadlines, and budgets, we'll be sunk. Buried alive. Fall behind the market and our competitors. Right?


What's Changed?
Everything has changed and continues to rapidly evolve with a substantial portion [if not all] of marketing now being executed through digital channels. And we marketers have lost all control; the digital marketing landscape is run by the connected consumer, who has taken control of the buyer’s journey through social media, multiple devices, explosive technology, and a demand for real-time content and data. This world of constant change cannot be perfectly managed...requiring us to shift our perspectives and embrace a new way of thinking, working, and behaving.

It's time to let go of perfectionism and move to a more agile methodology based, adaptive, and imperfect approach.

Here are 5 reasons why I was encouraged to embrace "Loveable Imperfection":

1. It's a real (published, proven, and profitable) trend.

I heard the term for the first time from its founding father, Rohit Bhargava, at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit. Highlighting seven hot marketing trends for 2014 (drawn from his book Likeonomics) my ears instantly perked up when I heard "Loveable Imperfection." He went on to provide real life examples of how celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence) and food product companies (Oscar Mayer) have won fans and market share by being lovably imperfect. From tripping on the red carpet to unevenly sliced turkey... people are more drawn to the authentic side of life. Not photoshopped. Not perfectly cut and stacked. A bit disorderly. Okay - I'm in!
(Recommended reading: In Praise of Messy Lives, Katie Rophie)

2. Done is better than perfect.

When a few of my colleagues recently suggested I embrace the concept "done is better than perfect," I nearly choked. They were referring to my team's habit of analyzing and perfecting every aspect of an email campaign before launching it—resulting in very few campaigns going out to very small segments of our database. Once we let go of assessing and analyzing every inch of the campaign, we were able to scale faster and reach more prospects. “Progress, not perfection,” our 12-step friends will remind us!
(Recommended reading: The Done Manifesto, Lifehacker)

3. Agile & the Freedom to Fail

As work cultures become more Agile and collaborative--not just for software developers, but also for marketing, sales, and operations departments—lovable imperfection suddenly makes a lot of sense. The command and control approach of the 80s is long dead and the smartest rising professionals are expecting open, transparent workplaces where perfectionism is of little value. Key tenets of Agile, like "Fail Forward Fast" and "One Fails, We all Fail" fit right in with America's new-found and outward acknowledgement of failure as a critical path to eventual success.

I Can't Keep Calm I'm in MarketingIn the IT industry, Agile development has reached a critical mass of adoption. It’s super-hot. I believe the next wave of adoption will be with marketers. It makes perfect sense for marketers to go agile. Just ask Scott Brinker, Chief Marketing Technologist and agile marketing evangelist. “Agile methodologies are ideally suited for complex environments…and that gets to the crux of what’s different in marketing today. Marketing used to be complicated. Now it is complex. So what do you do in a complex environment? You continuously probe, sense, and respond. You experiment to find and exploit patterns. You remain alert to detect when those patterns change. You adapt.” Sounds like a healthy dose of lovable imperfection to me.
(Recommended reading: Managing Marketing in a World of Constant Change, Scott Brinker)

4. Millennials are all about transparency and authenticity.

80 million millennials (born between 1976-2001) will soon be, or already are in, the workforce. Researchers and writers have been busy studying, publishing, and predicting trends on this new and unique set of workers. Statistics say that millennials will make up 36% of the workforce by 2014 and 46% by 2020. (Compare that to Gen Xers, who represent a measly 16% of the workplace today).

Often known as the "me me me” generation, one key characteristic of this group is that they value transparency and authenticity. They look for workplaces that offer collaboration, openness and “meaningful work”—and if that workplace is in marketing that means lovable imperfection will not be a foreign concept. In fact, as tech-savvy multi-taskers and social media natives, millennials are a perfect fit for a career in marketing.
Marc Jacobs Quote
As consumers, traditional marketing and sales styles do not appeal to millennials. They don’t want to be “sold” to, but rather wish to participate and engage with your products and services on a real level. Lovable imperfection is their sandbox.
(Recommended reading: Why you should be hiring millennials, Forbes)

5. We have no other [better] option.

I’ve been in marketing for 20+ years and I’ve never seen such a drastic and rapid pace of change. This change requires new approaches. “The scale of change happening in marketing today dwarfs almost all other changes we’ve seen in the past 40 years in our profession,” notes Brinker. “This is the new normal for marketing.”

Up until recently, I prided myself on being highly organized, efficient, and yes… a bit of a perfectionist. But that’s now a thing of the past and marketers need to embrace more agile, loveably imperfect ways of working.

Perfectionism used to be a marketer’s most sought after, prized quality. But now it's our arch-enemy. We simply can't afford the luxury of time to dot every "i" and cross every "t"—technology and consumers are moving way too fast. To launch just about any new digital marketing program, perfectionism will only get you so far before you find yourself wringing your hands and wishing you had taken a more iterative, collaborative, and agile approach. An approach that will give you room to improve, adapt, and slowly perfect over time.


Posted in: Digital Marketing