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How to React to Marketing Crazes: The 10th Man Rule

In a world where the newest craze seems pointless until it’s too late to join in, how do you choose the marketing risks you’re willing to take?

Take TikTok – few people predicted at the beginning that the Chinese social network would attract the energy and attention of huge brand names. Then in what seemed overnight, this niche social media had several million active users. By all accounts, anyone that joined after the very early adapters was late to the game and missed out on an opportunity to connect with their audience in a new and meaningful way.

Not all marketing teams have the resources to chase after every single long-shot marketing idea. And even if you can, you shouldn’t. It’s a great way to work hard to get nothing done. Smaller and larger companies alike need to learn how to take calculated risks and test out being early adapters to minimize wasted opportunities.

Enter World War Z methodology. How can a movie about zombies help you with your marketing strategy? I’ll tell you.

The 10th Man Rule

There is a scene in World War Z (The 2013 zombie-novel-turned-movie) that explains a great strategy for addressing marketing trends. Bear with me here. The Israeli government was the only government in the world that took the zombie epidemic seriously – and as a result, protected their country from the apocalypse that plagued the rest of the world.

They did this through the ’10th man rule’ – a special form of communication when discussing whether or not to react to a potential threat. Every time a potential threat arose, one out of the ten advisors had the responsibility of arguing to pay attention to the rumor in discussion – no matter how crazy the rumor was.

 “If nine of us look at the same information and arrive at the exact same conclusion, it is the duty of the 10th man to disagree. No matter how improbable it may seem, the 10th man has to start digging with the assumption that the other nine are wrong.” 

How can we connect this to our marketing strategy?

From daily email updates to blog articles to peer communication, we hear new marketing ideas multiple times a day. Some ideas we know right away they have serious potential, but we barely have time to finish our current projects – let alone implement an entirely new one. Not even the most well-equipped marketing team can react to all of the potential new trends right away. By adopting the 10th man rule into your regular marketing practices, you can consider the most intriguing ideas you hear without sacrificing too much time, resources, or brainpower. 

How to implement the 10th man rule in your marketing processes:

  • For every crazy marketing idea that arises, assign one team member to argue for it – whether they believe in it or not.
  • Assign the devil’s advocate in advance so they have proper time to research a strategy, create a quick pitch, and come up with a short argument for why the company should implement the new trend.
  • Save a portion of your regular team meeting to hear the pitch and discuss the findings with the rest of the team.
  • If after the initial pitch the idea doesn’t sound so crazy anymore, assign a small team or more time to map out the execution of a more-detailed strategy.

This is a low-risk process to implement with your team. If a pitch idea falls flat you can say with confidence that strategy wasn’t a good fit for your company. If a pitch exceeds your original expectations, you now have a process to run with an idea in a way that doesn’t leech time from existing projects.

Pros to the 10th Man Rule:

It can uncover how to realistically react to new trends promptly

Sort through all the ideas you’ve had in your idea folder quickly and streamline the process for new ideas. Chances are, you won’t pursue most of the pitches you hear. But for the few that do make sense, you are ready to jump on them.

It can keep your strategies fresh, keep your marketing team on their toes, and fight job complacency

Job satisfaction is found in collaboration, knowing your voice is being heard. With this practice, your team can step outside of their day-to-day box and turn on their creativity. They get to take a break from what they know and research new ideas. This opens the door for personal growth, a refreshed mindset of their purpose on your team, and a chance to be the main expert at the table for a discussion.

It is an opportunity to improve your team’s pitching and public communication skills

One of the most important skills you can learn as a professional is how to speak to groups off the cuff and under pressure. This regular practice gives your team the chance to practice this skill in a controlled setting. Everyone learns how to debate, question, and respond without any consequences. The person giving the pitch practices backing up their idea, answering questions, and taking constructive criticism from peers. Everyone learns how to use their voice with confidence and diplomacy. These skills will carry on into client pitches, company presentations, and general communication.


Are you interested in addressing the newest marketing crazes? Reach out to our team to discuss the opportunities at your fingertips! 

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