How to Set Marketing Goals – Lessons from the Chicago Cubs

Author: Leslie Denner
Posted: Mar 13, 2017

Spring Training 2016 came around and Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon stood up in the locker room and announced, “This year, we’re going to try not to suck.” The simple phrase ended up in hashtags, on t-shirts and was coined as the team’s motivational slogan that carried them and loyal fans through their historic year.


Well, a slogan that may have given some luck to the glorious Cubbie Bears isn’t a term you want coined in your marketing plan. A few dollars here, a few impressions there and our brand will just… “try not to suck,” right? Eh, just a bit outside.


Winging it with your brand’s marketing plan just won’t cut it, and here’s why:

For the Cubs, the goal is always the same – win the big game. Every year, they know they either won it all, or they didn’t (thanks, Steve Bartman). However, the Cubs played 162 regular season games in 2016 and they didn’t just go from losers to winners in one day. Each game acted as a set of objectives, complete with its own key performance indicators that, in the end (with a sprinkle of Chicago magic), got them to their goal – The ‘Ship.

Throughout the season, if players weren’t performing, if lineups were off or if the team wasn’t vibing, they reassessed and optimized for the next game. Yes, they “tried not to suck” but it was more than that. Take talent, money, wind direction (and stuff) and ultimately, baseball is a game of strategy.

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  1. The Process: The process of strategic planning is just as important as the plan itself. Evaluating the brand’s purpose, strengths and weaknesses offers key findings that assure your plan will coincide with the organization’s overall business goals. Often, critical insights become apparent during planning that influence a brand’s annual objectives and offer messaging direction for campaigns.

  2. The Numbers: Setting clearly defined measurable objectives in a brand strategy is the only way to determine its success and therefore, the organization’s ROI. Knowing dollar for dollar which tactics are positively driving towards the overall objectives and which are falling short can not only save money in the long run, but more importantly, give fluidity to a budget in order to optimize for the best results.

  3. The Results: Once you’ve successfully implemented an annual plan, evaluating the results is vital for determining long-term success. Results should be the strategic foundation for future plans. While overall goals and core strategies should remain unchanged from year to year (unless no longer relevant), measurable objectives should be redefined and tactics optimized.

The same goes for every brand whether it's selling a product or marketing a behavioral change. If you’re just “trying not to suck” how will you ever know if you’re getting closer to winning? Although time-consuming and sometimes challenging, strategic planning is important for every. single. brand. It acts as a roadmap through the fiscal year and beyond that can give you key insights on whether the valuable resources you’re spending on your marketing mix are moving the needle towards the successes of the organization.

In short: Brand + A Good Plan = Picture1-2.png

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