It’s the end of summer and for me that means time for my annual pilgrimage to Minnesota’s north woods. Labor Day brings a special week long trip to the beautiful wilderness that surrounds Ely, Minnesota. This year we finally visited the International Wolf Center. As a lifelong lover of wildlife and wilderness it was nice to be up close and personal with these incredible and often misunderstood creatures that were able to hang on through generations of brutal slaughter. (Minnesota was the only state to maintain a wolf population in the lower 48 after the government’s hunting and poising campaigns). Personal opinions about their place in the ecosystem aside, the trip to the wolf center revealed three similarities between these pack animals of the wilderness and the pack mentality of a good marketing strategy.
Dominate pair: The best because of what they bear, not through force
The term alpha male is actually a bit of a misnomer. The concept of wolves struggling to become the leader of a pack isn’t accurate. Packs are a family unit and the leaders of the pack are the parental pair, the oldest, wisest, strongest dominant pair. They get there not by might, but because they survive the test of time and bear the family unit. Similarly, the best campaigns and tactics rise to the top not through brute force, but because they bear results, and generate other ideas. Campaigns are often hierarchical and have shelf lives, just like the dominate pair of the pack. At some point, nature runs it’s course and the dominant pair shifts down a generation. Likewise, at some point your top campaign will dry up, but not before bearing it’s results and education which feeds “generations” of other campaigns and activities being optimized and groomed in the wings, ready to take the place as leader of the pack.
Misunderstood: Be patient, look at the results and let the results be a voice.
Wolves are extremely misunderstood. By comparison, marketing is often misunderstood. Marketers are partially to blame for this as we all take on different definitions of what marketing is and does for an organization. But even more similarly to a wolf in the category of misunderstanding, is that marketing takes time to see impact. Marketing doesn’t always produce an immediate result. Similarly, the importance of wolves is not immediately noticeable.
After wolves disappeared from Yellowstone, their absence wasn’t felt immediately. However, environmentalists noticed over time that Aspens began to disappear from the park and the quality of rivers and streams degraded. After the successful reintroduction of Wolves in the 1990’s Aspens reappeared and rivers and streams returned to their natural state. What science discovered and was able to measure, was the impact of the wolf on the ecosystem. The wolf was the only natural predator to animals like deer and beavers. When left to proliferate, the deer and beavers demolished the trees and rivers.
Marketing campaigns also need to measured and need their time to yield results. Take ownership in not letting your function and role in your organization go misunderstood. Prove your value, just like the wolves had to in Yellowstone over time, with results.
The Pack works together: No one element can operate effectively without the others.
The pack lives together, hunts together and ultimately thrives together. All of this is because every wolf works together. In today’s multichannel world, no one media can be your sole marketing strategy. Your marketing “pack” needs to be diverse and all pieces of the marketing pack need to work together for a successful marketing “kill.” From social and email to direct mail and events, every tactic has a role to play.
As an outdoor enthusiast who wasn’t planning on thinking much about work, I was surprised that these noble creatures were able to give me something to “chew” on during my vacation. Okay, that’s my last wolf pun. . . I promise!