Breathing our own exhaust?

An ex-colleague who read my recent post ‘Are you Inside-out or Outside-in?’, sent me an email about an expression I use that he really liked – “are we breathing our own exhaust?”. This expression relates to being outside-in and the acid test we should always apply when we launch a campaign, write content or promote a specific value proposition – does this really create value for the customer within their context?

It’s all too easy to get carried away with all the internal hype from product management, development, marketing and other internal sources. Add to this management pressure to produce better results, time constraints for marketing to deliver, continual daily interactions between marketing team members, and we easily slip into blindly believing ourselves without outside validation – or to put it more bluntly – breathing our own exhaust.

Problem is, it’s not always apparent that we may have this problem, since we may be too close to the situation to step back and recognize it. However, if we don’t recognize it before the campaign, content or promotion is launched, we’ll inevitably face a mediocre result at best or abject failure at worst.

During the review process for any campaign, promotion, content or other marketing output, always ask questions to qualify whether it really connects with the prospective buyer within their context and current circumstances:

  • What research do you have to support this?
  • How was this tested?
  • What did the test reveal?
  • What outside-in validation do you have?
  • What are competitors doing? How does this compare – what is different or similar?
  • Ask the ‘breathing our own exhaust’ question – it’s a fun question that isn’t easy to answer and usually gets a good discussion going.
This is just a starter list of the type of questions to consider – develop your own to suit your circumstances. Be careful not make it feel like an inquisition; just ask good questions to do some constructive self analysis to ensure that the campaign, promotion, content, etc. is on the right track.

“The question should be, 'Is it worth trying to do?' not 'Can it be done?'” – Allard Lowenstein

An approach I particularly like that helps avoid the typical ‘breathing our own exhaust’ syndrome is to have a geographically distributed marketing team. That way, everyone has different daily exposures, interactions and perspectives and are less prone to breathing each other’s exhaust in the same location day in and day out. Having input from these different daily experiences will also add more value to the creativity and review processes.

Ask the ‘breathing our own exhaust’ question or your variation of it when something is being developed – ask yourself, ask you team members, ask the group.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.