Why the story of a headless chicken shouldn’t be advice on how to structure a marketing budget.

In 1945 a farmer in Colorado was killing around 50 of his chickens with the axe. After beheading them, one continued to walk around.

Not such a novelty, as quite often a chicken will twitch and run around after meeting it’s fate.

Miracle Mike though was different.
Due to the way the axe had fallen, the majority of its brain stem had avoided being severed.
Mike went on to live for a further 18 months.
Fed on a liquid diet through a pipet and its gullet being drained by a syringe, Mike became quite a sensation as a sideshow act and was even the subject of a Life Magazine article.

Many, many chickens were slaughtered in the wake of her fame as people looked at the success and attempted to reproduce the results.

Quite a story and one that is replicated across our industry time and time again.

We take years building up brands. Spend vast amounts of money getting into the psyche of the audience. Achieve cut through and recognition and start to stand for something in peoples minds.
Then for one reason or another the axe falls on the marketing budget.
It may be tough trading conditions, price rises in raw materials, margins being destroyed or even “that campaign was such a success, we don’t need to do anything else for a while”.

At first, theres no discernible impact. The brand continues as if nothing has happened. Boardrooms and shareholders question the need for such expenditure and wonder whether any of it was worth it.
As long as we keep spending on PPC, it’ll all be okay.

The chicken is still walking around as if nothing had happened.

But then reality kicks in. Brands aren’t like Miracle Mike.
Make the cuts and things start to go downhill very quickly.
Suddenly all that hard work to be front of mind, to stand for something is forgotten.
Because very few people care about very few brands – unless they’re constantly reminded to do so.

Yes, occasionally you’ll survive axing certain budget lines and marketing always appears to be the easy option.
Eventually though it catches up and you can’t outrun the inevitable loss of voice but more importantly loss of recognition and consideration.

If you’re in the marketing team and you see the farmer coming towards you with his shiny hatchet, remind them that only a miracle will keep you moving forward once the head rolls.