In 1959, an industrialist named Henry Kremer established a prize of £50,000 for the first human-powered flight of a figure eight course around two markers one half mile apart, starting and ending the course at least 10 feet above the ground. For more than 15 years, the prize went unclaimed, as teams struggled to create a human-powered airplane that could fly far enough and that could maneuver around the figure eight course. In the early 70’s, an American aeronautical engineer named Paul MacCready took up the challenge.
MacCready noticed that the early designs were all made of wood, and they were both heavy and fragile. Teams would build a design, fly it, and almost inevitably crash. It might take them 6-12 months to rebuild the crashed plane. With only 1, possibly 2, iterations per year, they were making slow progress. MacCready took a different approach. He built his plane out of plastic tubing, wires and a few aluminum tubes. If, or rather when, it crashed, it could quickly be re-assembled and he could iterate in days, rather than months. This iterative approach, along with a much larger wing area inspired by hang-glider designs, resulted in MacCready’s team winning the Kremer prize in 1977.
The same principle holds true for marketing. If you’re running big campaigns, iterating just once or twice a year, responding slowly to feedback from the marketplace, it’s going to take you a long time to get it right. What are you doing today to speed up your cycle time? The faster you can turn the crank, getting through an entire cycle of the build-measure-learn feedback loop (see Eric Ries), the more responsive you’ll be to the marketplace, and ultimately, the more successful will be your marketing.