Modern Marketing Agency

Marketing leaders need to start using ‘red teams’ to avoid disaster

By Arran Neathey | Marketing consultant



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May 18, 2022 | 6 min read

Are you certain all threats to your strategy have been considered? Is it possible your team is agreeing just because you’re the boss? Are you sure your plans will stand up against the competition? Frog marketing consultant Arran Neathey offers a way to answer these existential questions.

When it comes to developing a successful marketing plan, there is a bewilderingly long list of things to consider. Lots of data is required and these days it’s readily available. Often there’s even too much data, which can leave marketers overwhelmed and unsure about what to do next.

frog on the benefits and challenges of coordinating a red team.

Frog on the benefits of coordinating a red team

In the worst-case scenario, when there is no clear direction, a leader’s instincts and biases begin to subtly influence the direction of travel, and the search for data points that fit their preconceived narrative becomes the marketing team’s method out of paralysis.

While nobody is trying to sabotage or fabricate the process – least of all the leaders – it’s only right when things have got stuck for them to fill in gaps and draw conclusions. The problem with this solution is it relies on their narrative being 100% correct. Red teams are a powerful way to test thinking and ensure it has not accidentally become flawed.

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The value of adversaries

The concept of competition is a fundamental principle of a market economy. Competing is meant to bring out better performances from all players. Without referencing other more serious matters, it is obvious adversaries can sometimes offer motivation and inspiration to push forward with a plan that works, rather than one that is straightforwardly popular.

All of this is true, I hear you say, but our opponents are out there and we are in here. There must be a method to determine whether our plan will work in the market before spending millions, mustn’t there?

Enter the red team

Red teaming is a critical thinking method that should be included in everyone’s strategic planning process. It includes a wide range of approaches to challenge beliefs, expose hidden hazards, identify missed opportunities and stress-test plans and strategies.

At its most basic level, a red team is a group of individuals who have not previously worked on developing the plan. They’re given the same information as you were in terms of basic facts and data, and they have your preliminary strategies and plans to review. Red teams have been used in a variety of other fields for a long time, such as cybersecurity, airport security, military and intelligence agencies. There’s a whole handbook dedicated to them at the Ministry of Defence.

‘Do your worst’ is the phrase that summarizes their goal. They’re in charge of figuring out why your marketing plans would fail before they’ve been tested in the real world. The result should allow you to decide whether or not you think the threats are serious enough to warrant a response, and what type of response you’ll need.

Why use red teaming?

It’s far more likely that someone other than you will find fault with your logic, especially when they’re assigned the job of devil’s advocate.

Too many marketers fail to consider all planning variables, leaving assumptions unchecked. When it comes to putting plans into action, marketers want to ensure their assumptions about the context are correct. A red team can map out diverse possibilities, including those a marketing team may have (subconsciously) excluded for being too difficult to deal with.

Speaking of unconscious bias, red teams are also an excellent method to discover hidden prejudices that may have crept into the work without anyone realizing, acting as a crucial means of preserving brand reputation.

What red teaming is not

The role of the red team is not to obstruct a leader from leading, but rather assist leaders in making better decisions. Red teams provide an impartial analysis and a broader perspective of the context, and ensure leaders hear what’s necessary rather than what they want to hear.

Red teams don’t have to be correct to be effective. They test and probe, but it’s good for everyone if their predicted doomsday scenarios don’t appear. Doomsdays are also less likely to come to pass if the red team’s thoughts have been acknowledged during planning.

Red teams don’t replace testing and learning, but you should be able to subject your ideas to a thorough critical analysis before putting them into action.

Embrace the red team without fear

In a world of data paralysis, real-time brand evaluation and tough real-world competition, organizations cannot afford to be held back by underexamined thinking. Red teams offer the challenge and performance-boosting advantages of an adversary, while your marketing strategies are still in the sandbox. They help prevent unforced errors and ensure decision-making isn’t tainted by groupthink, leadership pandering or vagueness. Marketing leaders should embrace the red team without fear – as it’s the only type of adversary that is on their side.

To learn more about Frog, part of Capgemini Invent, visit our site and get in touch.

Modern Marketing Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

frog is a leading global creative consultancy, part of Capgemini Invent. We challenge the status quo to craft and build transformative human experiences that win hearts and move markets.

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