Case Stories

When You Can’t Take “No” for an Answer

20. When you can’t take “no” for an answer

This story is true, but names and details have been changed to protect anonymity.


That’s not something we usually like to tell companies we serve, but in this case it was the only honest answer. The CEO of a struggling family of companies came to us and asked if advertising could help him turn things around. Knowing something about the industry, once he explained his unique challenges it was clear that advertising wasn’t the solution. Because advertising wasn’t the problem.

“What is the solution, then?” he asked, putting us on the spot.

“We don’t know,” we replied. “Your industry is in decline because it’s not meeting the evolving needs of the marketplace. How to fix that, nobody knows.”

“So how do we find out?” He was not relenting, knowing that he had to find some way forward. We shared with him that the best way we knew of to understand a changing marketplace is to dive deeply into it and find out what doesn’t work, and why. But that’s only half of it; once you understand the true problem, you need to figure out a way to address it. And that might mean turning your operation upside down.

“I’m game,” he said, and off we went.

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