Baseball season is here, and as a big Cubs fan, I’m often vegging on my couch watching games (my daughters much prefer The Bachelor or Big Brother. It’s a constant battle, which I usually lose). When watching, I can’t help but think about how the creative team at Pepper Group is sort of like a winning baseball team, without the TV coverage.
1. It’s a Team Game
In basketball, one star player can make all the difference. Same thing with football (at least with the quarterback). But not baseball. One great pitcher can win a game, but you need a great pitching staff to win a series. A great position player can win a game, but not a season. With a creative staff, like here at Pepper Group, you want your stars, but it takes a team—the designer, the writer, the programmer, the production artist, the creative director—to win. Most of our clients have no idea how many hands are involved in every project we handle. We have some all-star talent, but marketing is a team game.
2. Club House Attendants are the Rock Stars
It’s probably the parent in me, but whenever I see players covered in dirt and sliding in the grass, I think: I’m glad I’m not doing their laundry. And baseball clubs have lots of employees with responsibilities beyond laundry duty, such as the grounds keepers or the travel secretary (imagine 81 road games and making arrangements for 30-40 people every time. Ugh). These behind-the-scene players don’t get playing time, but without them the team would be playing sandlot. At Pepper Group, our creative efforts would fail without the rest of our team. In fact, many of our creative rock stars aren’t even considered “creatives.” Without account planning and strategy, digital analysis, technology expertise and more, the creative team would be wearing the equivalent of dirty laundry.
3. If You’re Not Failing, You’re Not Trying
In baseball, a .300 batting average is excellent, although it means you fail .700 of the time (actually, with OBP that percentage of failure is lower, but let’s not get technical here). In marketing, for every idea we present to our clients, and get produced, way more than .700 fail, most before they leave our door. We create lots of ideas, dissect and discuss, reject and reshape, and then when we present our favorites, they might still morph and transform. Hopefully we bat closer to a thousand on our produced ideas, but we abandon many, many ideas along the way.
4. It’s the Culture, Stupid
I used to have a boss that loved the acronym KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid), so I’m borrowing the “stupid” part for my ITCS acronym (not nearly as catchy as KISS). Why do great teams win every year? Why do the same managers seem to excel? It’s not just the game time decisions, it’s the environment that propels those decisions: are players having fun, are they scared to make mistakes (which usually just creates more mistakes,) are free agents flocking to the team because the players talk about what a great organization it is? It’s not an accident that those teams that embrace culture, and make the workplace a great place to work, succeed. We work with a lot of companies honing their Talent Marketing—stressing and encouraging a culture to keep and attract talent. We practice what we preach, and it’s the freedom to grow or make mistakes, and the support we receive, that helps our creative work thrive.
There’s a lot more that helps the Pepper Group creative team win the marketing game, but I think those four points play a big role.