Why You Should Treat Your Marketing Budget Like a Poker Bankroll

Just as the richest players in poker can still lose it all, even brands with the biggest marketing budgets can still lose millions on a bad play.

Pepsi discovered that truth firsthand after running a tone-deaf YouTube ad in April featuring people marching down a city street with generic protest signs. Kendall Jenner suddenly joined in, then stepped out of the crowd to make a stone-faced police officer smile by handing him a can of Pepsi. This left some viewers wondering whether the ad might be a belated (and expensive) April Fools’ Day joke. Harsher criticism led Pepsi to pull it the very next day.

The viral outrage hurt the company’s potential revenue and damaged Pepsi’s brand sentiment, especially on social media. Industry experts estimate the cost of production, Jenner’s fee and the media buy might have run into the hundreds of millions. Although such a huge, global brand could afford to take the hit, it should never have taken such a risk in the first place.

When a small ad can become a big story within hours, every bet is a big bet. Poker players avoid losing too much at once by calculating risks and managing their bankroll. That means a player with $2 million in the bank isn’t sitting down at a table with $2 million in chips, and then going all-in on a bad hand.

Your business should play by the same rules. In marketing, as in poker, disciplined bankroll management and calculated risks are the keys to staying on budget while seizing opportunities that provide a high return on investment.

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