Last week, we hosted our sixth Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp in Toronto. It was another sold-out session (thank you!) attended by a fantastic group of marketers. For a sunny Friday afternoon, the participants brought an impressive amount of energy to the class and we had a lot of fun (post-session participant surveys are posted online and unfiltered here).
One of the most challenging parts of designing the Bootcamp is ensuring that it is relevant for all participants. We typically have folks attending from a variety of industries, company sizes, departments, and backgrounds. How can one class be relevant for everyone? I try to address this challenge by focusing on strategic principles and frameworks that do not change even when the digital landscape inevitably does. The principles and frameworks are applied through a set of group activities that are based on ‘analogous’ problems that all marketers face – even if that is not obvious at first.
Analogous thinking refers to using information from one domain to help solve a problem in another domain. I use this approach in my own strategic consulting work, and try to infuse it into the Bootcamp exercises as well. The exercises incorporate different brands, personas, and goals that are not seemingly connected to where any participants work – but are focused on problems that all participants face.
I have found that having students work on problems that are outside of their day-to-day professional settings can be surprisingly valuable. It allows them to step outside of the constraints imposed by their own knowledge of existing solutions to explore new ideas. During the Bootcamp, we had B2B marketers working on B2C brand briefs and Non-Profit marketers figuring out how to market a new mobile app. When participants shared their ideas with the class, we connecting the dots between the core problem that they were solving in the exercise with challenges that they were facing in their own organizations. Within a professional development setting, this approach can also reenergize creative thinking and – as one participant shared – “cleanse my marketing palate.”
The other benefit of having a group of smart marketers work on problems outside of their own fields is inviting a guest client to provide ‘real-world briefs’ to solve. This time, we were extremely fortunate to have the awesome Michael Oliver from BMW as our guest. Michael brought in a range of different briefs that, while relating to BMW, focused on core problems that all marketers must address. When groups shared their thinking with Michael, it was amazing to hear the novelty of ideas coming back. Participants drew on their own experiences outside of the automotive category to solve briefs for BMW in new ways. It was a great exercise – a true win-win.
Outside of the Bootcamp, I think all marketers can benefit from embracing more analogous thinking. Reframe some of the problems that you are facing by stripping out the domain-specific details. Write up a problem statement that can more easily relate to other industries or companies. Explore how others outside of your conventional field of view are approaching this problem. Collaborate with others outside of your industry for fresh thinking that you can bring back and apply. Take time to cleanse your marketing palate.
Thanks again to everyone who attended the Bootcamp and to Michael for his involvement. I feel reenergized after spending time with all of you!