What Are You Fighting For?

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There’s an ugly truth about the business that most of us are in.

A friend of mine works at a fairly large company. It’s a known brand. Over lunch, they were lamenting all of the corporate politics at play and the dynamics of the individuals, and how hard it is to get anything done. In fact, they were arguing that it has crippled the brand and that – more often than not – the final marketing initiatives are more about caving in to individual’s arguments or worrying about missing a deadline. It’s never about great work… it’s about getting it done. It’s a common story. You hear the same stories just by overhearing a conversation on the subway, at a restaurant or even when you have friends over on the weekend. In fact, it’s rare to hear the opposite. We highlight the stories of teams working together well and everyone pulling together at crunch time as if they were fables from another time.

What are we fighting for?

Logically, the answer is simple: we are being paid (and agreed to that payment via our employment agreements) to serve the business. It’s simple. We are fighting for the success of the brand. All too often, what you wind up uncovering is that most people are not fighting for what’s right (or best) for the brand.

They’re fighting for…

  • Themselves. They’re looking to make their own mark. Whether it’s to get a raise or rise higher (and faster) up the corporate ladder or simply because they think that their opinion is the only right one.
  • Their team. There is enough departmental politics in most companies to make the original entrepreneur who started the business either roll over in their grave or fall into one, if they are still alive. This ideology that a department (and not the brand) needs to win battles or control of something has to be one of the most infuriating concepts to think about. I’ve seen departmental battles last for years. Think about what that does to the brand from a personnel, energy and efficacy standpoint.
  • The agency. It’s a story as old as the Bible: agency fights brand. Brand fights agency. In the end, they’re fighting for ideas (and hopefully, what they think is best for the brand), but I’ve seen these types of battles quickly devolve into a battle of egos instead of vested outcomes in the interest of growing the business.
  • The competition. Individuals so hyper-focused on crushing their competition, that the brand’s uniqueness and appeal becomes a "me too" product or just another product like every other product. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry or watch what the competition is doing, but this does mean that if you have something truly unique, spending all of your energy dissecting the competition can, ultimately, make you much more like them than you should be.

Nobody wins.

In all of those instances, you wind up sucking your corporate resources dry. You will eventually see turnover (which is both costly and time-consuming), you will lose focus and momentum and you will, ultimately, wind up loosing your job (maybe not this week or next month… but slowly, over time). Human beings are fascinating, but we often wind up causing ourselves more trouble than we think. Wouldn’t it be an amazing world of Marketing if everyone in the company had one single and universal goal: to make the brand better?

It seems simple. It’s probably simple to do. We just have to have the self-awareness and confidence to push that ideology forward… with everyone on board.


  1. While this happens, we are in control of our own actions. The petty games internally in companies are why I work for myself. My patience for BS is very limited. Listening to the excuses people tell themselves for playing the games makes me even more impatient.
    Sense we acknowledge and know these things, how do you suggest we do something about it. That is the key. I have seen brands hurt because of the ego of a CMO who does not want to hire a company like mine because of his ego. What we do is needed and not in their wheel house , but they will convince brand otherwise to save face for not being able to shift or admit they can’t do everything.

  2. I think the problem is human beings are wired for self-preservation and relationships with people, in that order. First they want to make sure their own needs are met and have security and then they want to defend people they like and trust. We have no innate ability to work for the greater good of “the company”. In fact, I believe that working for large organizations is just not natural and that probably leads to a lot of the stress that people face as they slave away at these companies.

  3. If you ask a roomful of people if they enjoy great customer service, you will get a room of raised hands. If you then ask them if they have received great customer service 100% of the time for their entire lives, you will hear the echo of crickets.
    In the battle of agency verses brand, department against department, business to consumer or business to business, we often fail to remember one crucial element – the customer is everyone involved. We reside on both sides of the counter whether we are the end user” or the internal stakeholder and in our quest to be right we lose sight of giving great customer service to each other.

  4. Thanks for this. It fits with my belief in exceptional customer service. Funny how people get trapped in the bureaucracy and forget that giving service to others (and in this case, the brand) results in a win every time. Oh, the win may not be in recognition or monetary terms immediately, but it comes back to you.

  5. Another great post… What I particularly love is that none of the items in your list has anything to do with money. We all are motivated by our emotional/personal need for something and where leadership (and business relationships) fail is understanding the connection between emotional needs and really awesome, inspired work.

  6. It’s not an easy but it two-fold: One, is education. The more educated, the more empowered people feel. Two, and this one is the hard one… it’s therapy. People spend time in the gym working out their bodies, but they rarely spend time with a coach or therapist to work out their mind. It’s silly that working on how you think is still considered, somewhat, taboo.

  7. It’s a good reminder that most people are trying to make their personal mark instead of thinking how their skill sets – along with their teams – can truly affect change at the brand level.

  8. We would serve our businesses better if we also assumed the posture of the consumer when making our business decisions. All too often, we leave that persona at the door… which makes for critical mistakes.

  9. We are living in a Me Society. The people you are discussing, the inflexible, are no better or worse than the intransigent members of Congress who are representing themselves for their own financial benefit not the American people for their benefit. People who are in the Me Society have no consideration for the brand —- America or the company they work for. I am always surprised the owner of the company does not replace people who impede progress and do not put the brand first. The key is: what does the customer want and how do we serve him or her best? The voters need to replace the people in Congress who do not care what their employers want.

  10. This reminds me of a joke I heard recently (in portuguese, but here comes the translation). Something about an employee being mad about his boss asking him how could he help him turn more profits; his reason to be mad? “Why would he ask me that? It’s not my job to tell him that”. Well here comes a reality check: yes, sir, yes it is.
    … with a very important aspect: your happiness and the happiness of others along the way.

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