Applying the 70:20:10 innovation rule to your marketing

702010The 70:20:10 rule is frequently cited as a useful formula for delivering an optimally blended mix of marketing content. For those not familiar with it, it suggests:

  • 70% of your content should be low risk; it talks to the fundaments of your proposition and you know it works. It’s the stuff that keeps the lights on and the furnaces burning.
  • 20% should innovate off of your 70%. It’s a little edgier and might go deeper into the core proposition. It might be used to pull targets further down the sales funnel, perhaps leveraging long-form, niche content.
  • 10% is your room for risk. This is where content teams can experiment and explore new ideas . Some of it will fail, but some of it will become the next 70%.

It’s a useful formula and whether you consciously consider it in your planning or not, chances are most good marketing teams will find their content plans map to this ratio anyway. However if you apply this only to your content marketing efforts you’re missing an opportunity to cultivate a more innovative and agile marketing function altogether.

Cultivate marketing innovation

The 70:20:10 model actually dates back to the 1960’s but gained renewed fame when Eric Schmidt applied it as a business resource management model to cultivate innovation within Google:

  • 70% of time should be dedicated to core business tasks.
  • 20% of time should be dedicated to projects related to the core business.
  • 10% of time should be dedicated to projects unrelated to the core business.

Let’s think about how we might apply that logic to the wider marketing function.

70% (NOW):Your core marketing tasks; the effort / resource that is required to ensure the function works to expectations. This applies to your media, analyst and investor relations and it should guide your demand generation initiatives across content and advertising. There is little room for risk; there may be governance codes and stock market regulations so established processes safeguard the integrity of your efforts.

20% (NEXT): Your team will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Invest time and resource innovating around the areas of known success. This is likely to include more exploratory, long-form content or intricate campaigns rooted in your 70% efforts. It might be as simple as experimenting with more adventurous content headlines (try A/B testing to quantitify your ideas) or you might  look to explore how existing sponsorship or advertising properties can be leveraged in a more unique way, perhaps even stretching the brand into a sub-demographic.

However, don’t use this time only to innovate around your “outputs”; this time should also be used to evaluate how existing processes and tools can be optimized or how team structure can be realigned.

10% (HORIZON): This is where you can get [a little bit] crazy. Existing team KPIs should not apply to this work effort. You need the resource to experiment and explore. You may wish to split this effort between:

  • Marketing Technology: Trialing new tools, such as marketing automation and CRM platforms:
  • Brand: Exploring brand extension into new markets or categories, new ideas for brand activations across sponsorships.
  • Content & Campaigns: New content formats, brand voices and design styles.
  • Growth Hacking: Trialing new routes to market, referral marketing activities etc.

In practice

In practice there are no hard and fast rules, but a team that focuses 100% of its efforts on the “now” without a culture for the “tomorrow” will quickly find the rest of the market racing ahead.

Just by embedding the 70:20:10 model into team culture will go a long way in driving change. Consider how it can be woven into team and individual KPIs, planning meetings, resourcing plans and even agency briefs.


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