BC Marketing Maturity

Business Continuity Marketing 2010: BC Market Maturity and Direct Correlations with the Promulgation Of Brobdingnagian Lexicons

If our market is mature or, if like oil exploration, there is always another field deeper, further, higher etc. Perhaps one measure of maturity, missed by many, is the depressingly similar, anodyne marketing material used in Business Continuity and associated disciplines. If it is nigh impossible to distinguish companies from their marketing materials then perhaps there is indeed nothing new and the market is mature?

At the venerable BANG awards 2010 over in Canary Wharf earlier this year, one of the true measure of real excellence in the field, (aside from the rather more serious CIR awards) the author overheard an animated discussion that a group of thrusting Bright Young Things (BYTs) were having on ‘the real definition of BC’. It is was, alcohol fuelled, emotional, with just a hint of, or should I now say drizzle or soupcon of precocious ‘university chap’ semantics, when into view, under full sail and dressed overall for such a regatta, hoved into view a true legend, an early membership number FBCI with at least 120 years of experience in BC. One of the BYTs hooked him and asked his opinion.
The BC Grand Old Man explained that his definition could be extracted for the price of large claret, which was swiftly procured. As the acolytes looked on, he stroked his chin, looked them in the eye and said ‘Lads, Business Continuity…is a tricky old game’, and with that sailed away with his £10 worth of best Bordeaux.

But what is Business Continuity? It is really a ‘Holistic management strategy directing the capability of the organisation to plan for and respond to incidents and business disruptions in order to continue business operations at an acceptable pre-defined level all in a sesame seed bun’? Perhaps it is, but let us learn from what the marketeers portray it as and review the marketing material of the leading providers in the field. Here are some guidelines on the red flags to watch out for, and some suggestions on what to do with marketing material that carries these hallmarks.

Let us briefly summarise the consistent imagery used;

  • a fireman/firefighter, with or without an explosion or major fire
  • a deck of cards, dice or dominoes with a slightly out of focus stock market graph,
  • a set of burnt documents,
  • any timepiece machinery, or padlock, or jigsaw
  • a picture of an implausibly pretty call centre operative who clearly is a model with a PhD from Cambridge in a studio
  • a good looking but faintly troubled businessman that might be entitled ‘Rodin’s Constipator’
  • any mountain or mountaineering analogy, metaphor or simile.

Start to be suspicious. Now, let’s look at a strap lines.

Deciding on the worst and most inappropriate slogan is difficult, there is a lot of competition for what someone once described to Churchill as ‘Round Objects’ (“Who exactly is this Mr Round, and what is the nature of his objection?” was the great man’s response), it is a tricky task but not without reward.

In first place, it is hard to ignore the classic ‘80% of Business fail within 18 months of a….(insert here; pandemic, incident, meteor strike, ebola outbreak in the canteen, disruption/emergency/disaster/nuclear holocaust, as appropriate)’. A stunningly enduring statistic that has had numerous iterations since a famous lock maker first used a version of it forty years ago.

Consider its validity in the context of the following banking warning slogan. 85% of businesses go bust within 18 months of starting. (Could an incident therefore be beneficial Darwinism at work or were these the companies the ones without a continuity plan?). How does any business ever survive? However, fortunately the best research by real scientists who wear white coats in pristine cosmetic/toothpaste/hair dye laboratories shows that approximately 78.495% of statistics are made up. This statistic is made up. Using made up statistics on your marketing material is at best lazy and unoriginal, at worst it is consciously misleading. Throw at least 80% of statistics in the bin; hopefully the right 80%!
In close second place is ‘KISS’ (presumably now meaning; Keep Iterating Same Strapline). The staple witty acronym of burnt-out 1970s management consultants. I was always taught that if wit were to be deployed, not to do it by halves. Anything suggesting that a complex process should be kept simple is ironically too simplistic. Remember Einstein’s injunction that ‘nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood with a little effort.’ Again, keep it simple and with a little effort, throw it in the waste paper basket.

In joint third place is anything by American or Chinese generals. You know the Eisenhower, Lincoln, Washington, Ulysses S Grant, sort of piffle that they never actually said – ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’., ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’, (actually dear reader, first said by Field Marshall Graff von Moltke, a German/Prussian general whose sayings are worth repeating, he actually said, ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy, unscathed’) This is an important distinction. Next the more orientally enigmatic mandarin saying by Sun Tzu, Sam Pi, Dim Sum, ‘A dying dove is mightier than the swimming dragon.’ or ‘do you know that the Ming dynasty pictogram for risk is both a mongoose and an ox cart’….etc.

Pretentious, irrelevant and tipping to bathos, the pseudo military quote perpetuates the barrier myth that all BC experts are ex-forces types, and that business continuity is somehow like frontline operations. It’s not, crisis management might be – business continuity isn’t. Business continuity is about data crunching and intelligent interpretation of strategic objectives. In perspective, do you know what the ‘S’ in Ulysses S Grant stood for? Nothing. It was just an ‘S’. Pretentious, I would have more respect for him if it had stood for Susan. Furthermore, his first name was actually Hiram. Use all pseudo-militarily branded material as fuselage for a paper aeroplane; landing site – dustbin.

Bringing up the rear so to speak is anything using the ‘witty reversal’ – e.g. ‘Risk Management and Business Continuity – the same side of two coins’; ‘Cars have brakes so they can go faster’; ‘It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark’.

No it wasn’t, but the more observant reader will recall that Noah saved gonorrhoea and the wasp but sadly forgot the unicorns. These humorous phrases seem to be on an advertising retainer to be repeated every few years. Do the right thing: Recycle. ‘You know it makes sense…..’

Sweeping up the detritus – anything that carries any or all of the following words : Comprehensive, holistic governance framework, resilient enterprise solutions, solid-state benefits, cloud deployment, mission critical, revolutionary, hand-in-glove, and the pandemically applied ‘solution’.

Incorporate such offerings into a solid-state enterprise wide solution of holistic waste management.

Well, what are you left with? It doesn’t really matter, please buy whatever they are selling whether you need it or not, or whether you understand it or not, if for no other reason than to keep this organisation’s marketing manager in a job. My final word, anyone who defines BC as ‘a holistic management process’ is truly talking out of their…….

Editor’s note: Sadly at this point the article was left unfinished as the authors (Consultants  of Needhams 1834 Ltd), realised that their own web site featured falling dice, dominoes etc and left hurriedly to find a better visual metaphor.