Three Reasons Our Monday Morning Quarterbacks Should Stay Off the Field


There are undoubtedly hordes of folks spending much of their Monday talking about all the mistakes Jake Delhomme made against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday. Then they’ll move on to break down exactly what Philip Rivers and the Chargers should have done differently Sunday to beat the Steelers. They’re Monday Morning Quarterbacks and they take their “jobs” very seriously.

We often do the same in the PR, marketing, social media business, looking for opportunities to jump on the mistakes brands make and share how we would have done things differently, which, of course would have turned out perfectly. It’s especially rampant in the blog-o-sphere, where post after post piles on to the discussion.

We’re our own breed of Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

I’m all for critical evaluations of marketing campaigns and initiatives, both of those that were wildly successful and those that didn’t fare so well. It’s incredibly beneficial for many reasons. Like our football fanatic counterparts, though, we need to recognize the limits of our assessments.

Assumptions – Sometimes we make major assumptions. “Why didn’t they have focus groups?” “They should have done more research.” And so on. How do we know they didn’t do these things and more? We assume it.

Hindsight is 20/20 – It’s easy to say something should have been done differently after it doesn’t succeed. I’ve seen some bloggers write very condescending posts in reaction to a marketing initiative gone wrong. Obviously smart people on both the client-side and agency-side thought it was a sound strategy or they wouldn’t have pursued the initiative. We have the advantage of watching the slow motion replay and what comes to mind in that scenario can be very different than what seems like the right decision in the middle of the game.

We’ll never know if WE are wrong – Let’s face it. I could share with you my thoughts on why Brand X goofed up and what I would have done differently from the start, but I’m sharing that with you from a pretty safe place. We don’t get to redo the initiative and implement all my recommendations instead. Who knows? The same woeful outcome may be achieved if we could.

We need to be especially careful when critiquing marketing programs in the social media space. Yes, best practices are surfacing, but the truth is that the environment is new enough and quirky enough that there’s a great chance we’ll all continue to get at least a few bumps and bruises. We don’t do ourselves any favors by leaping on brands with vigor and mockery. All we’re doing is scaring other brands away from dipping their toes in the water for fear that the sharks will smell blood if they happen to make a mistake along the way.

I’ll say it again. I’m all for critical evaluations. I’ve seen some really good ones, in fact. My hope is that we look at marketing missteps as opportunities to learn and discuss them in ways that advance the profession forward, not in condescending, ridicule-filled conversations that don’t really offer much beyond entertainment.

Or am I missing the great value that Monday Morning Quarterbacks bring to the actual playing field?

*Image by Justin Russell.

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11 responses to “Three Reasons Our Monday Morning Quarterbacks Should Stay Off the Field

  1. Pingback: Email Marketing Systems » Blog Archive » Three Reasons Our Monday Morning Quarterbacks Should Stay Off the ...

  2. Tut-tutting the efforts of others can be a risky affair, as you’ve aptly pointed out.

    But what about turning the ‘Monday Morning QB’ analytical eye inwards more often? Too often I think PR/Comm agencies get so tied up in a) winning new biz and b) getting results that they stop looking at both what worked and what didn’t.

    We recognize the ‘hits’, but don’t examine the details of the effort that went into getting them. That kind of information sharing – of what’s working and what isn’t – shouldn’t be saved for a ‘post-mortem’ analysis either. I recall one campaign several years back where despite having a great story we couldn’t get traction with the media. We found that we were spinning our wheels because we had to educate the media – and that lead to confusion as to how to make the story work for their audiences. So I suggested we asked the client’s sales team what was opening doors for them. We realized that they were leading with a different, more audience friendly, message. Sure it wasn’t about the thrust of what the client was selling but it framed the messaging in a perspective that the audience understood. We changed our approach with the media and suddenly people ‘got it’ and the coverage rolled in. Had we waited until the end our results would have been dismal and our client disappointed.

    On another front, how often does someone ask the new client ‘So, why did you chose us instead of the competition?’ That question is at the basis of ‘The Buying Conversation’ and it more often than not contains information critical to repeating success (or repeating ‘the sale’ if you will).

    I’d say that there’s something to be gained by paying attention to – and analyzing – the successes and failures of others. Openly criticizing them, however, isn’t likely to be beneficial.

    But paying attention to – and analyzing – our own successes and failures simply demands criticism, which ultimately should lead to improvement and growth.

  3. Great post. I agree with your sentiment that a lot of critical analysis and opinions of other’s work seems to depend on where one sits and their point-of view.

    I have seen former agencies rip apart a new agencies work and I’ve seen clients of others lament that their new campaign/messaging/application/etc. isn’t as exciting/engaging/emotional/effective as the old ones.

    That being said, the only way to grow is by taking a step back and trying to be as objective as possible and look at campaigns with as fresh eyes. Criticism never helps, but feedback does. Are we likely to get answers to the amount of market research and surveying done to gauge the initiatives effectiveness? No. Do we understand as outsiders the nuances and politics on the client side and internal at the agency. Probably not.

    I think we grow in this industry by gauging the effectiveness and strategic implementation of what others are doing. Tearing each other down accomplishes and teaches nothing.

  4. Nice post…one thing. Chargers played the Steelers, NOT the Eagles. Eagles played the Giants.

  5. @PRJack – Great points. It’s second nature to turn a critical eye on others, but we often don’t do the same to ourselves. That’s a key ingredient for growth and future success, though.

    @Colleen – You’re last two sentences sum it up for me. That’s the point I was trying to make. Agree wholeheartedly.

    @Don – Nice catch! (pun intended) I updated the post. I knew I shouldn’t have written this so late last night. I even watched that game… 🙂

  6. Here’s another good example of how to critique a social media initiative constructively, from Jason Falls via his blog – Social Media Explorer.

  7. Great post! It is easy to be a critic, but the true strength comes from having the guts to fail. If you want to avoid failure, avoid trying something new.


  8. Great points David! I had similar thoughts going on in my post about the whole Brogan/Izea/Kmart fiasco and Motrin Moms. One MMQB can create a bandwagon effect and it’s so easy to do so in this digital space.

    But the thing the those people who are ridiculing the brands or ideas is that they don’t make the rules. Heck, there really aren’t that big a set of rules that we hold in this industry as it is. We’re evolving day by day and though, there are norms that we follow, we’ve yet to establish every rule as we’re trying new things everyday and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

    Cut some slack and understand the grand scheme of things before jumping on these QB’s bandwagons.

  9. Two thoughts:

    * In the social media space, we all should be careful when piling on. Remember, you never know who’s watching/listening out there. Clients, friends, colleagues, etc. Always represent yourself as you would in your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues and clients.

    * If you do end up lending your opinion/thoughts to a case study in analytical fashion, keep in mind, the marketing/PR folks making the decisions may have been “influenced” into making decisions they would normally not make. Tell me that hasn’t happened to you. The CEO may want to go an entirely different direction than yous suggested. Legal may have issues with your recommended plan. All could drastically influence your plan–and your outcomes.

    Good post, Dave.

  10. It’s a very nasty thing to shred another. Especially in a new media form… Constructive feedback is one thing, railing on folks is another. We’ve lost civility in this new era.

  11. Pingback: PR FAIL of the Week| Retiring the PR FAIL Post

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