Secret Marketer: Without history, the present team are doomed to make their own mistakes

There’s nothing wrong with looking back and learning from past campaigns, as well as looking forward.

We have just had one of those company anniversaries that seem terribly important internally but that customers feel just date you and mark you out as irrelevant in the modern era.

While such events unite an organisation’s employees, with many older hands emerging out of the woodwork (and store cupboard) exclaiming “…remember when…?”, it’s not really that newsworthy for customers.

That said, having spent time with some of those people, it is apparent that things were indeed very different in the old days. There was much more time to think about things and to learn from mistakes back then – everything was far less frantic. There was more collaboration and people knew their place in the hierarchy, there were no silos and people didn’t go off doing their own thing without telling anyone.

Clearly, the counter to this is that innovation was probably stifled, as only ideas from the ‘R&D’ department (or the CEO, or his wife) ever saw the light of day.

As I reflect on this, my team has been moaning about the lack of physical storage space in our office – an odd complaint in the digital age. I certainly remember that when I started out at work we had rows upon rows of filing cabinets – furniture that has long been consigned to eBay.

Anyway, the only solution was to throw the old stuff out, and before long there were black plastic sacks everywhere, with the younger members of the team rejoicing in the aged marketing plans and dated creative as it was skipped, and some of the more mature team members reminiscing over the great campaigns of yesteryear.

To me, it is sad that all this history and experience is being lost. My brand has been a market leader for many years, but some of the things that were tried – both the successes and the failures – are now filling landfill sites rather than educating the present team, whose members are thus doomed to spend valuable budget making their own mistakes.

Why is it wrong to learn from the past? Why is the new marketing director always better than the old? What is it wrong to look back? Parents pass on knowledge to their offspring so why, in the business world, do we in this generation insist on starting everything anew?

Hide Comments3 Show Comments
  • Samuel Joy 30 Oct 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Really important points SM

  • Jo Watts 31 Oct 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I think Mark Twain said it best – “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

  • David 4 Nov 2014 at 10:44 am

    More wise words Mr Secret. Although wisdom was assigned to the past in the last restructure.

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