Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road, A Marketing Mystery

It is perhaps a universally known children’s riddle: Why did the chicken cross the road? The standard response is, of course, (SPOILER ALERT) to get to the other side.

Every marketer should think like the chicken.

  1. The chicken had a clear goal: get to the other side,
  2. She identified a strategy to achieve that goal: cross the road
  3. And she achieved her goal.

What is not revealed in the riddle is how the chicken crossed the road. As children, we assume that she walked across the road, but nowhere in the riddle does it say that. In fact, it is the least important detail.

Too often, we get caught up in the how, the tactics, before we’ve clearly defined the why.


What was in the chicken's head?


Walk                       Advertising
Run   PR
Skip   Social Media
Fly   Events
Roll   Research
Dance   Direct Marketing
Drive   Point of Sale

I have been both victim and perpetrator of starting with “How.” Have you ever said or been told, “We need to get on Facebook!” or “We need a brochure!”?

Next time this happens, repeat this simple response: Why?

“Why” is the only appropriate response until you define what you want to achieve – independent of the favored tactic. Forget about the how for a minute and think about:

  • What is your objective? Sales? Brand exposure? Reseller development? Stifle competition?
  • Who are you trying to reach? Describe them in as much detail as possible.
  • What will success look like?
  • How much time do you have to achieve success, or progress toward success?
  • How much can you afford to spend on the pursuit of your objective?
  • Is it important that the “how” directly and measurably contribute to success?

Once you have a clear understanding of the “why,” only then can you begin to consider the “how.”

You can start using it during your annual program review. For each of your marketing activities, ask, “Why are we doing this?” Compare the answer to the result you’re achieving and rethink any tactic that doesn’t align with the stated objectives.



One thought on “Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road, A Marketing Mystery

  1. Great article, especially since many of us are analyzing the programs/campaigns that we’ve done in the past year and determining whether they are truly working. Definitely some good pointers to keep in mind for the New Year!

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