Does this pep talk from the boss sound familiar? “We need to break through. Where is the excitement in our marketing? Go innovate. Market share is on the line. Budgets are tight. We need a big idea!” Or, the opposite side of the pressure to perform equation…"Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. What we’re doing has worked in the past but research shows it’s starting to fade. Where do we even start with trying to find new campaigns and ideas?”

FBM to the rescue – FIRST. BEST. MOST. Years ago I was part of a completely new marketing department at a major company tasked with reinventing an antiquated brand in a highly competitive industry. When it came time to develop our annual plan, the direction from the c-suite was crystal clear: cut ~50% of existing run-the-business (RTB) activities and allocate the resources to programs that are First, Best or Most.

More recently I found myself a part of a marketing organization that prided itself on being “world-class.” First week on the job in an annual planning meeting with the CMO and after hearing “world-class” about 60 times in 4 days, I asked him to define what the phrase meant to him. His response was an unequivocal, “You’re to create programs and bring ideas to life that are first of their kind, best in our industry or will garner the most sales, engagement or media attention. Anything that doesn’t fit into one of these categories should be discontinued or not considered.”

The unfortunate reality is many, if not most, marketing departments don’t operate by the FBM philosophy or weave it into their portfolio to some degree, perhaps most obviously with RTB activities or for major product launches. There’s an aisle in the library packed with volumes on why organizations choose not to operate this way – too risky, stressful, corporate culture, weak leadership – so let’s focus briefly on why it works.

First, having clear objectives aligns teams on goals/KPIs and creates a solidarity leading to greater efficiencies that tend to outperform 5 teams doing 5 different things. Second, FBM programs are likely to receive considerable scrutiny from across the org and external partners. So although perceived as high risk on Day 1, by the time an idea is agreed upon and vetted, it has a better than average chance at succeeding – otherwise it wouldn’t go to market right?! (bulls eye - sarcasm) Anything that strays from the beaten path always encounters skepticism and when the product launch is on the line, it’s amazing the ends to which people will CYA and try to make the campaign a winner.

Last, FBMs can replace some RTB efforts and should theoretically beat their performance. At inception FBMs are often incremental initiatives, not everyone has the luxury of scrapping 50% of their daily duties. But if executed successfully, FBM programs make it considerably easier to let go of the sometimes years-old ways of doing things and transition to the new school. No small feat indeed.

So where do stand with FBM? Is your upcoming campaign the FIRST of its kind? Do you have a program that is BEST in the biz? Did your last launch reach the MOST people and drive the most sales? Does the first line your agency brief read First-Best-Most? Look forward to your comments below. Don’t be afraid to boast with your FBMs!


Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to