frameworks picture resized 600 For those of us who have taken any sort of marketing course, the 4 P’s and the 5 C’s are nothing new. Product, Price, Place, and Promotion give us 4 dimensions over which to analyze the scope of any given marketing campaign . Company, Collaborators, Customers, Competitors, and Climate – these are important tools for evaluating the background of a situation before diving in to solve your marketing problem. But Dan Ariely, famous author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions , has a question. Are these frameworks really all that useful?

A Lesson About Frameworks

Dan shared a video on his blog in which he tells the story of the “most interesting teaching experience” he’s ever had. He was teaching an introductory marketing class to MBA students at MIT, and he opened up the class by explaining that he was not interested in the textbook, and would teach them other things. As the class continued and he seldom referenced the textbook principles, his students began to complain with growing frequency that they wanted to learn marketing frameworks. So Dan decided to teach them a lesson.

The students were thrilled and paid close attention as Dan spent the class explaining that there were two important frameworks, FN and LN. The FN framework consisted of 3 principles: design of the product, adoption of the product, and new product cycles. The LN framework had 6 components: attitude, research, image, education, learning, and yield. He and the students had a lively discussion about each of these elements, why they were important, and how they help us organize our thoughts when thinking critically about marketing .

Then, for the big finale of the lecture, Dan explained that, just like all other great frameworks, FN and LN had acronyms. He revealed that the FN acronym for Design, Adoption, and New product was DAN, and the LN acronym for Attitude, Research, Image, Education, Learning, and Yield was, of course, ARIELY. Naturally, FN stands for First Name and LN stands for Last Name.

Frameworks Stifle Creativity

At this point, maybe you’re laughing -- or maybe you're marveling at Dan’s creative sense of humor -- but that’s not the lesson here. As Dan explains:

“The point is that we often can create frameworks, and even though I made fun of them, the fact is, we create these frameworks, and at the moment when we think about them, they make obvious sense. And the way you think about it is, what else could it be? And if it doesn’t get you to think differently, how useful is it? And those things that look so intuitive are often not very useful. The other point is that we can all often force the world into some framework without it being very useful, and by doing that, we often don’t look at the nuances and don’t evaluate situations close to each other.”

Marketers: Think Outside the Box!

So what’s the takeaway here? Sometimes you need to think outside the box. Broaden your perspective, and look at the big picture. If you just focus on fitting everything perfectly into where it belongs and following exactly the guidelines outlined for you by a textbook or some acronym, you’re probably missing something, and it might be something important. Dan questions how useful a framework could be if it doesn’t get you to think differently. So take the time to reevaluate the frameworks you use, and ask yourself, “How could I look at this information in a new way?”

Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of following a specific framework exactly, expand upon the factors it includes. This way you can build off of a solid foundation and still make sure you cover everything you need to take into consideration in order to fully evaluate the situation.
  • Try to view the situation from the perspectives of others, like your customers or co-workers. Compare what you think their perspectives would be with your own perspective.
  • Collaborate with another person and see if you take different approaches to the same situation. Figure out what reasoning you're each using and try to determine what components of the other person's approach you should incorporate into your own.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you keep an open mind when you face your next marketing challenge. Take a lesson from Dan Ariely, and don’t let the joke be on you.

To hear the story in Dan’s own words, check out his video . Do you think outside the box?


Originally published Jun 16, 2011 8:00:00 PM, updated July 11 2013

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Inbound Marketing