Starting Audacity was, in part, the result of my experiences as a solo marketer at several companies. Like many solo marketers, I’m good at what I do, and my experience and education has refined my craft, but I’m still one guy with a set of ideas formed by my personal and professional experiences.

That sucks for the companies that hire solo marketers.

There are many talented solo marketers out there. But no matter how capable that solo marketer may be, you’re stuck with their one set of ideas. Even if they continually update their skills and look outside their experience for new ideas, you’re still stuck, because they interpret those ideas through the lens of their own experiences.

Let me put it to you a different way – your solo marketer is limiting your company’s growth potential, particularly if they’re accountable for all strategy and execution.

Consider the multitudinous ways in which that soloist might be killing your overall marketing vibe.

Normally I’d start with strategy, but there’s a combination of factors that go into strategy which I’d like to explore, the first of which is creativity.

Great creative drives great marketing. Consider the campaigns you remember the most, the blog posts you read and refer to repeatedly, the infographics you share, the videos that get your attention, even down to the email subject lines that drive you to open a message. It’s all creative. But how does it happen?

Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.”

Linda Naiman, Creativity at Work

Creativity happens when multiple unique insights coalesce to create something novel. While an individual can be creative, their creativity flows in patterns of commonality that tend toward sameness. By varying the inputs that form your creative, you get better creative, particularly when you need creative assets repeatedly over a long period of time in many forms.

Diverse perspectives drive better decisions. Which type of campaigns should you run? What marketing channels should you use? Do we need to modify our brand voice for our new audience? Is this the right creative? Should I switch to decaf?

Marketers make dozens of decisions large and small every day, and a solo marketer only has one set of inputs – their own experience. That’s how you end up with campaigns like KFC’s “finger-lickin’” good” being translated to “will make you eat your fingers off” in China or marketing the Chevy Nova in Latin America, where “Nova” translates roughly into “not going,” or more recently Electric Brands eBussy, the name of which was introduced to much hilarity amongst gay men who use the term “bussy” to describe their own anatomy.

Beyond the obvious cultural and societal issues brought on by a single perspective, there’s also the data. A recent study shows that diverse teams make better business decisions 87% of the time with 60% better results. They also tend to make those decisions twice as fast with half as many meetings.

Bold risk requires a different perspective. Every individual has a certain risk tolerance inherent to their being, and it’s very difficult to go outside of that comfort zone. What if the campaign or strategy your business needs is a higher-risk proposition than your solo marketer can handle? Alternately, what if your solo marketer has a very high-risk tolerance, but your business could be at operational or regulatory risk from their decisions?

Homogeneous groups also tend towards groupthink – the tendency to put conformance with the group ahead of good decision making. Groupthink originated with the Bay of Pigs foreign policy fiasco and has been identified as a factor in many other failures:

  • Military commanders ignoring the warning signs of the Pearl Harbor invasion.
  • Truman’s decision to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea.
  • Lyndon Johnson’s decision to escalate US involvement in Vietnam.
  • The Watergate scandal.
  • The Iran-Contra affair.
  • The Challenger and Columbia space shuttle explosions.
  • Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.
  • Corporate collapses at Lehman Brothers, Enron, and Worldcom.
  • The mortgage bubble that led to the global recession.
  • Algorithmic bias in facial recognition systems.

Diverse groups tend to avoid groupthink, as people with different ways of thinking don’t tend towards the need to conform, because they subconsciously know it’s not possible to do so fully. This tension creates a number of other benefits as well. One of them is creative friction, when the ideas of others don’t feel right, prompting you to consider additional ideas or modifications. This multiplies the sheer number of ideas produced.

A similar friction changes the behavior of decision-making groups. A combination of skepticism and a motivation to avoid prejudice prompts diverse groups to process information more carefully, make fewer errors, and discuss a wider range of personal perspectives, ultimately arriving at better decisions. Again, 60% better decisions occurring 87% of the time with half the meetings in half the time.

Better creative + better decisions + broader risk = better strategy. Strategy is a creative pursuit combining facts and decisions to determine the right risks. Your solo marketer is hampered at every turn, not by their skillset, but the simple fact that they’re one person with one perspective, and one source.

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