I totally didn't expect the phone call. I'd begun blogging to prove I knew what it took to work in the world of brand marketing and had spammed my resume to a handful of respectable agencies, but I'd never any of them to call back. I never expected they'd reference my blog as the reason for a job offer, either.

Still, I accepted the position and made a hasty move. It wasn't until day 2 that I realized - I was the only male in the office.

I wasn't the token guy in the office, but the only other male we had on staff was gone the majority of the time I worked there. As such, I was expected to bring the "male perspective" into our strategy meetings - I was a different voice being used to diversify the opinions represented by our team.

The Mistake

Unfortunately, even with a guy in the office, our team was not nearly as diverse as we needed it to be.

We'd been working for months on the new advertising campaign for a local university. Their objective was to reclaim the label "generation next" that had been so abused by consumer brands and try to spin it as a collective identity for incoming freshmen.

Our campaign was pretty extensive.

We had billboard advertisements, newspaper inserts, a radio ad, a television broadcast, t-shirts for the students, and even helped develop an academic program for the university in partnership with their faculty. The project was incredibly substantial, and we were completely sold on the idea.

We pulled everything together a few hours before our final presentation, and one of our team members brought a friend into the office to wait while they got ready to head out for lunch. Since our official messaging embargo would be over in a few hours anyway, our boss took the opportunity to present our platform to a fresh set of eyes.

A fresh set of eyes that immediately saw something major we'd missed.

Following the "generation next" concept, we decided to term the freshmen's student advocates (the team of upper-classmen who'd be receiving t-shirts) "Nexters." We'd taken the time to flesh out the user persona of a Nexter, complete with biography, dreams, potential majors, and a full-size wall advertisement featuring one of the Nexters in his t-shirt.

The full-size wall advertisement had a young black man standing there with a large green N on his chest.

Our all-white staff failed to notice the problem with this image until a fresh perspective pointed it out.

We scrapped the majority of the campaign right there.


Because I don’t know everything, I like to surround myself with a team that represents varied strengths and skills.[ref]You Only Have Two Eyes[/ref]

I'll never be omniscient. There will always be a piece of information, a past experience, or a view on an issue that I lack. If you're human (and I'm pretty sure if you're reading this, you are), then you're no different than me. You have the same strengths - your education, your career, the people with whom you've surrounded yourself over the years. You have the same weaknesses - your limited ability to view all facets of the world around you.

There are always perspectives missing from the plans we make, be they marketing, programming, or life direction. It's up to you to seek out as many contrary and alternative perspectives as you can to ensure you make the best decisions, even when based on limited information.