What CMOs Can Learn From The NFL Referee Labor Dispute

You all remember this call, Seahawks vs Packers. Ruled brilliantly as incomplete and a touchdown at the same time. Crazy. It was the iconic image of the epic fail of NFL’s replacement referees. While we don’t know why (but can easily imagine) this dispute couldn’t have been resolved prior to the season, we do know that, especially in a recessionary economy and a surplus labor market, there’s always someone waiting in line to do the job.

When the NFLRA locked out the their referees, Roger Goodell wasn’t concerned because there were plenty of guys who weren’t just willing to step in. They were hungry for it. And they were willing to do the same job for a whole lot less. And the result? It was a touchdown, no it was an incomplete pass… I think. What the hell was it really? It was an object lesson for all people who hire strategists and creates for a living: You get what you pay for.

We’re in a business that has proverbially struggled with the price/value of its deliverable. And we’ve reluctantly acknowledged that there is always someone out there that will do the job for less. So when a quality agency bids on a job, and has to walk away because the client wants it cheaper, there are mixed emotions. Maintain integrity but lose the job. The truth is, this is the only way to segment those you work for in an attempt to work for clients who value what we do. Who value the years of experience brought to the table. You see, anyone in the agency business knows great work requires great clients.

Now, in the case of the NFL’s epic fail, it was there for the nation to watch. Not always the case in marketing. Failures are often hidden, or blame is assigned to some convenient circumstance or unworthy person. Time and time again, I’ve seen clients try to get a brand designed or create a positioning or campaign and feel okay about bargain hunting. About saving money. Invariably they end up getting less for less. Yeah, let’s get a replacement agency to establish our brand architecture, save some money and hope for a… touchdown.