Do Your Customer Communications Pass the Marshmallow Challenge?


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If you are like most organizations, you put a lot of time, energy and pride into the creation of your customer communications. If your organization takes customer engagement seriously, you may even have created a customer journey map to track your customer interactions and are looking to improve your communications at each step of the journey. But have you gone beyond the planning and design stages into testing? Does your customer communications management infrastructure pass the ubiquitous marshmallow test and marshmallow challenge?

The Marshmallow Challenge

Designed as a simple challenge to teach teambuilding and innovation, the Marshmallow Challenge has the following rules:
•Teams of 4 people
•18 minutes
•20 sticks of spaghetti
•One yard of tape
•One yard of string
•One marshmallow

Teams must use their materials to build the tallest freestanding structure. If you haven’t tried the challenge as a company team building event, I highly recommend it.

I find the challenge echoes the customer communications management process in several ways. First, we have imposed restrictions (the spaghetti, string and tape). These include systems requirements, human resources, brand guidelines and regulatory compliance, and others. We also have restrictions on the amount of time (18 minutes) that we can realistically dedicate to planning vs. execution. Finally, we have a big end goal (the marshmallow) that we have to support – best in class customer communications.

What is interesting about the challenge is that most groups approach the project in the same way that companies plan out customer communications. Team members work together to come up with a project plan, based on their past experiences in building contraptions. They then start working from the ground up – quickly running through the allotted time. In the last 30 seconds, most groups are scrambling to place their marshmallow at the top – with the expected result of a complete collapse of their tower.

What is missing for these groups is extremely important in tower building and in customer communications management – testing.

Testing your project as you build out is vital to ensuring that your assumptions will lead to the expected outcomes. While we are building out our communications plan, we need to ensure that the customer communications we craft are impactful, clear, precise and understandable. Just because they meet your compliance and brand restrictions, it does not mean that your communications will delight your customers – and isn’t that the whole point of the exercise?

By the way – only two groups regularly test their projects as they build out the marshmallow challenge: engineers / architects and – wait for it – kindergartners!

What can we learn? Stop using your assumptions to guide your designs, and start A/B testing your communications to determine what works best for your audiences. Use digital and mobile communications to track customer interactions and clicks, and use this feedback to make your communications more impactful and engaging.

Next up – Do Your Customer Communications Pass the Marshmallow Test?

Rob Daleman
Rob Daleman is VP of Corporate Marketing for Quadient. He brings 18+ years of industry experience in technology marketing, both direct and channel, to his position. Previously, Rob led marketing at Avaya Canada, go-to-market for medium businesses at Dell Canada and brings marketing, finance, manufacturing and logistics experience from his time at Maple Leaf Foods. With a strong focus on the customer experience, Rob continues to combine digital and social media to drive awareness and consideration in the B2B marketplace. Rob holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business.


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