Is it really easier to ask for forgiveness?

Posted: May 16, 2013

Topics: Digital Marketing

I don’t know how many meetings I’ve sat in where someone’s announced “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission,” chuckled and then sometime later proceeded to kill a great idea because it was too bold or too risky.

If forgiveness really is easier, what’s holding everyone back?

Marketing organizations are risk averse by nature. Budgets, layers of approval, relative ROI and upper management approvals all conspire to keep the established plan in place and new ways of doing things out.

In the days when an error in marketing judgment might mean hundreds of boxes of 4-color, high-gloss embossed piles of perfect bound scrap paper, forgiveness could be a financially expensive proposition.

In an age where the web is king, printing things is passé, typos can be fixed and republished in seconds and messages can be updated in minutes, asking for forgiveness should really be easier.

But it isn’t. And you can blame Google, Facebook and the countless other “free” marketing vehicles that now make up the digital landscape.

In the past, your marketing mistakes were mostly limited to the number of pieces you handed out, the copies the pub distributed or the number of times your message was broadcast. Mistakes happened suddenly, you got punished and then the mistake disappeared from view just as quickly.

Today, thanks to caching and social networks, mistakes happen suddenly, spread like wildfire and live on forever on distributed servers where they can be recalled instantly by anyone with the right combination of related keywords.

You make a mistake. It lives on forever.

Just ask Chrysler’s previous social media agency. One unfortunate mis-tweet more than 2 years ago still returns more than half a million articles about the mistake. The same mistake in a printed piece would have been tossed or recycled into oblivion by now but not so.


Chrysler Tweet Fail

Chrysler fired their agency. And we all re-learned a valuable lesson: in a 24/7, connected world with instant recall for everything you do and say, it ain’t easy to forgive and it’s damn near impossible to ever really forget.

Rob Wilkie is the creative director at PUSH 22, an integrated marketing and communications agency supporting leading and emerging companies.