Snakes, Data, and Strategic Decisions

A lot of us Hadens work at Haden Interactive, but not all of us. William Haden works at the National Wildlife Research Center, where he was engaged in doing some stuff with Brown Tree Snakes. These critters live in Guam, where they can pretty well clean out the hapless local bird species, and the NWRC is trying to make sure they don’t get to Hawaii.  I’ve followed the entire saga of the Brown Tree Snakes with fascination, but William was introducing the solution they’d chosen to Rosie the other day.

“This is going to sound insane,” he admitted by way of introduction, “but you have to realize that every tiny piece of the plan is based on intensive research.”

Strategic decision making should always involve intensive research. You need to capture and analyze plenty of data to make sure you have a great strategy, whether it’s for digital marketing or for protecting environments from invasive snakes.

Here’s the plan: they’re going to parachute baby mice stuffed with acetaminophine into trees.

When I first heard about this plan, I had one major question. “I see how it works, but how on earth did the idea first occur to anybody? Was there a whole lot of beer involved and somebody just said, ‘Hey, what if we put wee parachutes on baby mice–‘”

“No, no!” said William. “It wasn’t that way at all.”

Actually, there was intensive research to determine what chemical would stop the snakes without endangering other wildlife or otherwise harming the environment. Other researchers determined that the chemical would have to be in the treetops or the snakes wouldn’t eat it. Intense research and computer simulations determined that helicopters would be the most cost-effective method of getting something into the treetops. Still another group considered all the various possible delivery methods and determined that mice would work best…


As each element of the plan was laboriously identified, tested, and chosen, the various pieces of the puzzle began to come together. Each aspect of the plan affected each of the other parts, so that in the end it all came together. They ran regressions, and there it was: parachuting baby mice!

It’s like this for your digital marketing plans, too. You have to consider keywords, the competitive landscape, the resources available, the path to purchase for your particular customer, the IRL events and issues that might affect your company and your product and your customers, industry issues — both online and more general — and of course the technical aspects of the properties you’re working with. Then you need a strategy, great content, excellent design, and so forth. Execution follows strategic decision making.

Chances are good that it won’t involve parachutes, mice, or acetaminophen, but it might be complex. It might take a while to implement. It might take some time to make sure your snakes, as it were, don’t get to Hawaii.

With strategic decision making rather than wild inspiration, however, you’re more likely to succeed. Trial and error, flashes of inspiration, and gut feelings may play better on TV, but that’s not how you come up with truly memorable — and effective — plans.







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