The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


How to avoid shiny object syndrome in marketing

By Andrew Grinaker, Associate Director of Content Strategy

September 9, 2016 | 5 min read

“We need a strategy for how we are going to use Pokémon Go for our client.”

disco ball

What I had feared, happened. The insane growth of this alternate reality mobile application had made its way into the forefront of our client’s digital strategy.

Step aside, Snapchat. Step aside, VR. A new shiny object has entered the arena.

Working for a digital agency, shiny new objects are a daily occurrence. Pokémon Go localization, Facebook Messenger bots, Snapchat filter lenses—the list continues and new objects are presented on a regular basis. The key is to focus on what will actually make an impact and what fits within your existing strategy.

Don’t be fooled. Shiny Object Syndrome is real.

Shiny Object Syndrome (Objectivius Shinium Syndromus) is defined as objects that exhibit a glassy, polished, gleaming, or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find that your attention to said object is directly correlated to its shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off.

If you feel like you may suffering from objectivius shinium syndromus, ask yourself these questions to better understand the opportunity.

1) Does the opportunity fit our all-up strategy?

2) Is my target audience consuming or active on this channel?

3) Can this opportunity impact our business goals?

4) Are there any barriers for you to be successful with this new opportunity?

5) Does the time and budget needed align with the market opportunity?

Without a clear approach, you will lose focus on what is important. If you are always chasing the next shiny marketing tactic, you won’t finish what you started. If you don’t have a clear strategy, you will constantly move on to the next shiny object.

To avoid slowing down or diluting your efforts, here are four ways to avoid shiny object syndrome:

1) Apply a 70/20/10 rule. One approach to ensure you are spending the proper time on proven tactics and not losing focus on new, exploratory projects is applying a 70/20/10 approach to your marketing efforts: 70% of your budget/time should be spent on marketing tactics you are sure are going to work; 20% should be spent on marketing tactics you are almost certain will work; and 10% should be spent on marketing tactics focused on innovation or exploration—i.e. the “shiny new object.”

2) Determine what you are going to spend less time/budget on. If you have asked yourself the right questions and still determine that this shiny new object is an opportunity, then you must determine what items will receive less time and budget. The downside of chasing a shiny new object is that it will distract you from tactics that have proved to be successful.

3) Carve out budgets and resources. If you follow the 70/20/10 rule above, you might have an idea of what you can spend on this new tactic. If you don’t have a clear breakdown of your marketing budget, you will need to determine how much budget you need to be successful at testing this new tactic out. You will also need to determine which teams and resources will be impacted by this. Common teams impacted by new marketing tactics are strategy, creative, media, and project management.

4) Set a specific amount of time to test this idea. You will need to set a realistic time frame to strategize, build, and test against this new idea. If you are already taking time away from proven tactics, be strict about how much time you will work on this idea before removing it from your innovation/exploration list. One approach is giving the idea 90 days to prove it is worthy of adding to your marketing mix. This amount of time should give you enough runway to develop the ideas and test against your existing KPIs and goals.

Shiny new objects can turn into realistic and successful marketing tools. But they must be vetted, reviewed, and applied against your current strategy. Set an exploratory budget and time aside before losing focus and attention on the marketing tactics that are actually working.

If you don’t set up safeguards, you could be chasing squirrels all day long.


Andrew Grinaker is associate director of content strategy at Possible Seattle. He tweets @206andrew


More from Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +