You know who’s great at adaptation? The octopus, that’s who. Which you know from reading the title of the blog post.
I read a thought-provoking excerpt (from Learning from the Octopus) by Rafe Sagarin in The Week last month entitled “What We Can Learn from the Octopus.” He talks about the ability of the octopus to adapt to threats and other situations that pose a risk, and he draws parallels to global human challenges such as disease and terrorism.
I’ve since been contemplating how imperative to have this skill in marketing, too. Business–and survival in it–is largely defined by risk and threat (let’s throw opportunity in there, too). Companies are constantly faced with new, unexpected situations to which they must adapt.
Trends. The octopus uses camouflage (or pretending to be a different kind of sea creature) and ink in response to environmental changes. Businesses gauge the environment, too–of the industry, competition, and consumer tastes. Being considered too slow or “behind the times” is never a compliment in marketing.
Technology. The octopus will make a home out of whatever is at hand (even beer bottles make handy hiding places). Marketing agencies use copywriting, design, social media platforms, and apps to convey messages. Many small businesses or start-ups face a chicken-egg scenario in which they can’t afford to spend a lot on a marketing campaign. My advice is always this: Do the best that you can with what you have in your budget. Like an octopus. (Well, I don’t usually include that last sentence.)
Team. The octopus is a one-man (one-octopus?) show, but did you know that he has bacteria in his employ? They play defense, sure, but the important thing is that they have a role in helping the octopus respond to a situation. A marketing team is made up of creative individuals–some hands-on, some in strategic or supervisory roles. No matter how large or small the team is as a collective, each individual’s personality, biases, and role influences the composition of the team and how it works to create a marketing campaign. Make a change and it’s not just a matter of waiting for ripples in the pond to dissipate; it’s a matter of dynamics…and of course, adaptation.
Branding. The octopus is branded, so to speak, or it wouldn’t be a metaphor for this post. He epitomizes “adaptation” in the animal kingdom. Every good, long-lasting brand out there is the product of adaptation over time–or as I often say, brand evolution. Unless you’re in a very static industry, the natural result of your brand is that it will change over the years (and with it, your marketing) as needed and as appropriate.
Life. You know what they say about “best laid plans” and the like. Successes, failures, opportunities, unwelcome surprises…we do our best to anticipate, but expecting the unexpected, rolling with the punches, trying not to fear change, and all the other cliches apply. For the octopus, it’s survival. And it’s the same for your business, whether the challenges are personal, professional, or a combination of the two.
Takeaway: Uncertainty is a little less scary if you have the right mindset about adaptation. It may bring you out of your comfort zone at times, but the best thing about adaptation? It means you are choosing to define your response to challenges instead of letting them dictate it for you.
P.S. Anyone remember Paul the Octopus, with his perfect prediction record during the World Cup in 2010? I wrote about him in my sports humor blog days, and I can’t NOT give him a shoutout (but he’s since passed, so may he R.I.P).