What Happens When the Right Side is the Wrong Side?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the Chief Technology Officer of a company called Mocana. This is one of those organizations that sits at the proverbial tip of the spear – ahead of its time protecting the “things” that literally make the connected world work. We are talking the big things…industrial control systems, medical devices, power grids, airplanes, big giant tanks…the BIG, BIG, BIG stuff. The company is quite literally dedicated to saving lives…saving the earth…one protected endpoint at a time.

So, when their CTO says that what keeps him up at night is how to make sure a tiny bit of silicon can save the lives of soldiers on a helicopter, I believe him. But what really stuck with me about my conversation was a simple phrase that rolled off this CTO’s tongue. He said that while the security world is looking to the right of “bang” to ensure that the response to any incident is lightning fast, accurate, efficient and hyper-effective, he was laser focused on the left of “bang,” or just ahead of an incident to make sure that the “bang” never happens.

For some, this boils down to situational awareness. In the world of IT and digital security, it is the difference between proactively and intentionally protecting the very core of a device versus building a firewall and massive detection systems around a device in order to predict possibilities and remain at the ready should anything attack.

But what could this phrase mean for marketers? Could we start to think “left of bang”? Could we adopt a posture that was so intentional, aware and proactive that whatever growth curve or disaster prediction could exist in the world of possible, we as marketing leaders could perch just to the left of that “bang” moment?

As I started to think through these “bang” situations, I landed quickly on a couple that I’ll share here as a way to kickstart discussion:

The “bang” of customer defection

Consider the moment a customer decides they’ve had enough, and they defect to a competitor…BANG. As marketers, we have already proven we are skilled and adept at right of bang thinking when it comes to customer defection. Who among us hasn’t developed the “I’m sorry” campaign for customers who have bolted? We have mastered the art of adding value, incentivizing newly defected customers and leveraging influencers and loyalists to woo back those who can be wooed.

We have also implemented early detection systems that work to predict defection, from AI-enabled friction detection to social listening and conversation sentiment. We have essentially done what any CISO would do to implement basic protections around a company’s infrastructure and assets… we have built walls, crafted mitigation and recovery protocols and deployed detection systems to provide as early of an alert as is possible or probable. But all of this still tends to lead to a single point… a customer has defected… bang.

So, can we start to think left of bang… well ahead of the defection to better understand the customer’s ongoing expectation and how that may shift over time. The question is not just can we detect, but can we actually start to perfect the relationship so that defection is not a sudden bang?

If instead of delivering campaigns that return the defected, can we instead deploy ongoing relationship experiences and engagements that do more to actually develop that bi-directional communication that can shape a journey? The answer that comes into view for me is developing strategies that allow us to be SO incredibly secure in what the relationship is based on, from the ground up, that we know that defection is not just improbable but impossible.

The “bang” of campaign failure

All the research in the world can’t guarantee campaign success. It can certainly get us closer, but who among us hasn’t been absolutely certain a campaign would land only to watch it implode the moment it was deployed? The impact could be blessedly minimal… just a tiny ripple on otherwise smooth and glassy waters being navigated by our customers. Or, the impact could be catastrophic in the “now the blunder has gone viral, everyone is talking about it and we are pretty sure it will be the lead punchline on the Tonight Show” realm of failure…BANG.

When Carl von Clausewitz outlines the role of intelligence in his On War, he writes that “war is an area of uncertainty, three quarters of which are lying in a fog of uncertainty. The first thing (needed) here is a fine, piercing mind, to feel out the truth with the measure of its judgment.” This is where the wonderful term, “Fog of War,” comes from. Thanks Carl!

This idea that situational and behavioral intelligence is needed to feel out the truth and help guide decisions is absolutely relevant for the marketer looking to stay left of bang. Intelligence  will really get us there…and by intelligence I don’t just mean stuff that is easy to collect, access and analyze on our own. To meet Carl’s threshold of a piercing mind, we must be ready, willing and able to act in real-time with data that is real-time-relevant (versus 3-week old data about a subset of generic personas.) Further, we must admit that data and intelligence are not synonyms. They are reliant upon one another, but they are not the same.

Intelligence can not only help shape and mold a campaign from the moment of inception, but intelligence inflight can help guide a campaign from crash-landing to successful deployment, delivery and outcomes. It is the difference between making a decision to act on a crisis today or not having a crisis at all. Intelligence closes that gap.

More Bang…Go.

These are just a couple places my mind wandered after hearing the phrase… and I hope that this concept of left of bang got you thinking too.  If you have any moments of bang to share, please do! What was your bang? Can you see, albeit in hindsight, how you could have stayed on the left of bang versus relying on the clean-up skills of your entire team in a right of bang scenario? As the peer-powered network, the CMO Council is always trying to keep CMOs to the left of bang… so let’s see if this month’s discussion can elevate some more scenarios and solutions that take our posture from react and recover to protect and elevate.


Until next month!



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