We have written about it before. Marketing is a performance. That has served me well. Most of my life I’ve spent time performing on a stage. And I’ve taken those skills with me into my marketing career.

I remember being in my early twenties and working with a sound technician in advance of a concert that I’d be singing. I was doing my sound check – requesting lights be in certain places, music at certain volumes and was helping them know where I’d be at certain points in the song.

I’ve never forgotten what that sound tech said to me: “It’s all about aesthetics with you.”

I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but as I mentioned, I was in my twenties.

Although my approach has hopefully changed, I’ve certainly felt that at least some part of my persona is that of a showman. Coming through the ranks in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, marketers like me (and maybe you) were told that our job was to not let the leaders “know how the sausage was made.” They didn’t want the details and the steps, they wanted an elegant experience and valued just seeing the final product.

What things look like… and how they make someone feel is still important, but two decades later, it’s clear that business has taken a significant turn and definitely wants to be part of the sausage making.

Well kind of…  At least that’s what they say.

Two Examples to Make You Say Hmmm…

Struggling to decipher how one should let a leadership team in on the sausage-making process, while also delivering a professional and polished expert-driven experience, I sought out examples that might hold some clues on just how that could work. I discovered that appearances do, in fact, matter. But here’s the key… it may just be an appearance.

Let me explain with two examples: one from Japan and the other from a still-running railroad passenger car.

Japanese School Buildings
Dover Harbor Railroad Car

Japanese School Buildings

If you’ve ever been to Japan you probably noticed two things:

  1. There are a lot of people.
  2. Somehow they manage to keep the streets/environment exceptionally clean.

After seeing a recent article pass through my news stream, I think I figured out why.

It seems that in most Japanese schools there is no full-time, paid custodial staff. The students, yes, the students, clean their classrooms and bathrooms. It’s actually a component of their education.

Incredible right? But just think how that foundation influences how they treat their environments as they grow up using them… and how that carries into their overall world as adults. It’s no wonder the streets are so clean.

Dover Harbour Railroad Car

I was also recently introduced to the Dover Harbor Pullman Company. Here the application was even more blatant. According to Wikipedia, the Dover Harbor is the oldest operating Pullman passenger cars in the US. It is a throw-back to years gone by with  its sleeper-buffet-lounge amenities.

Stewards on the rail line are responsible for keeping the space tidy as you might expect… What you might not expect is the idea that one of the training managers shared.

It was an idea of the “appearance of clean.”

What exactly is that, you might be wondering? “It’s the idea that you want to do most of the cleaning behind the scenes, but you should do some cleaning in front of passengers.” As a company that prides itself on impeccable service, they want to be sure that passengers see staff working to make things look nice.

An Aha Moment!

How do you help leadership understand the value marketing efforts bring and why things take longer or have more components than they realize?

They either need to be trained/exposed to the work personally (like the Japan example) … and/or they need to see some of the “sweat” you are putting into the task (Dover Harbor).  When someone says they want to see how the sausage is made, it might not be that they REALLY want to see everything about how the sausage was made… just that they want to be involved in some of the steps along the way. Exposure to the steps and process instills value in the outcome.

So How Do You Do That?

While this may be easy(ier) to comprehend… it’s hard to do. There’s a lot that undergirds the appearance of clean in both those examples.

And what is true in the classrooms of Japan or an East Coast railroad track has application in your marketing efforts. The Rogue team is working to find the right balance itself. We’ve tried a few things that have helped us show the effort and sweat equity we’re putting forth that we share here:

  • Identifying process steps – outcomes matter around here and achieving that outcome and sharing deliverables is important to us. We have found ourselves trying to simplify and just share the end result or final deliverable. But we are now literally taking those final deliverables and calling out the multiple steps in the process it takes to get to that deliverable. Yes, you’re buying the end result… but that end result has a whole lot of small steps you’re also signing up for and can be a part of.
  • Sharing early drafts – as presenters we like to show polished pieces. BUT SOMETIMES the more polished it is the less influence a team thinks it can have… and the more set in our ways we might become. So this has become an area where we share more earlier and like those railway car stewards we tidy things up and clean up slides live and in front of a client.
  • “Effort” Appendices – A lot of work goes into the strategies and recommendations we make. Our team has started to pare down our research-rich decks to the handful that have the plan and approach… while broadcasting all the slides that show the work product it took to get there. We get to the meat of the matter with them, but we demonstrate that a lot more work supports those recommendations and we take every opportunity to show that data and demonstrate the thought process we took when questions arise about why the team chose one direction over another.

In the end, aesthetics do matter. But buy-in matters more. What have you seen work in your efforts?