Have you ever heard the term HIPPO? It’s an acronym for “highest paid person’s opinion.” Derogatory, because rarely is the opinion based on skill or experience, HIPPO first came to my attention at the Internet Marketing Conference in Vancouver last year. Here were a group of frustrated internet marketers who seemed to have a very difficult time getting their expertise passed by their bosses in order to actually improve online sales conversions. Those that were given the opportunity to do what they were hired to do shared examples of remarkable testing successes. Their results were impressive claiming double, even triple digit increases in sales. It doesn’t escape me by that HIPPOS are big, nasty and stubborn creatures that can easily block a doorway. Hmmm.
Although I have lived their hell off and on throughout my corporate career, it was somehow comforting to know that there was a name for it, but at the same time disconcerting that HIPPOS are so prevalent. In fact, some of the most difficult moments in my corporate career have been working with business owners that just can’t take their personal likes and dislikes out of marketing decision-making. It’s not about them (or you if you’re the HIPPO), it’s never about them (or you) – it’s ALWAYS about the customer.
I’ve personally seen the HIPPO personality disorder manifest in several ways. Maybe you can relate. And maybe you recognize yourself as the HIPPO.
- The HIPPO likes a particular radio station, newspaper, TV show, website (insert medium here) and the marketing team is forced to spend some of their limited budget or people resources on a medium or campaign that they know won’t deliver precious results.
- The HIPPO is stuck in 1990’s marketing tactics, doesn’t get new media AND insists that what once worked is still the magic bullet. The team is too embarrassed to tell people what the website address is because it’s so bad and the HIPPO won’t approve a revamp. They are reduced to sneaking online campaign executions in order to have an online presence.
- The HIPPO is successfully wooed by an ad rep – receiving tickets to hockey, football, theatre, concerts, expensive lunches, parties – and the edict comes down that money is being spent with this rep. It’s the rare individual that cannot ultimately be swayed by swag.
- The HIPPO sees something “cool” online and wants it to be implemented right away – even though it may be totally incongruent with your customers’ behaviour or an unproven small time passing fad.
- The HIPPO has his wife/husband/son/daughter or neighbour review the new website/direct mail piece or youtube video. She/he doesn’t like it and has a whole list of suggestions. She’s/he’s not the target profile and the suggestions are stupid and out of touch with the customer. Everything is changed according to their suggestions.
You may think this only happens in large companies that have the resources or maybe only small companies that don’t have the expertise. WRONG – activities like these happen in almost ALL companies. It is the rare HIPPO that can let their marketing team do what they were hired to do or step back from their own personal preferences.
I`d love to hear more HIPPO personality disorder stories – please share yours.
Charlene, 3-Step Marketing Pro