Quality, Quantity, and Infinite Monkeys

The theory runs something like this: If you have an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare.

People forget about the flip-side, however. If you use the Infinite Monkey Strategy (IMS) you need an infinite amount of account managers sifting through an infinite amount of paper just to find the three or four words which will talk about your brand. And of course, you will be paying infinite over-time for it.

And what’s a typewriter?

This theorem is all about probability – given enough time and effort, the outcome you want will appear. When your branding agency tells you how much they play the numbers, it is supposed to give you confidence. It is meant to tell the client, “Hey, we will take the time that it takes to get it right.”

A colleague of mine tells his clients that the creative team always throws out the first 500 solutions they come up with. True story. And the client rightly asks: “Am I paying for this?”

There are a number of things (maybe an infinite number of things) wrong with this picture. When you entrust your brand to people who say they can improve it, you never have infinite time or infinite resources. With respect to your finite reading time, let’s take a look at the top three IMS drawbacks.


1. No One Knowingly Hires a Monkey

And hiring infinite monkeys is also off the table. While this might seem like an Obviousism on the face of it, remember that many monkeys are in disguise. The monkeys are dressed up and paraded about as brand managers and brand executives and brand assistants. The agency in this instance is throwing bodies at you and assuring you that the outcome will be sheer brilliance.monkey_type_thumb[2]

With an army of branding people at your disposal, the assumption is that you will get something worthwhile out of it. Does this sound familiar? IMS?

To avoid the monkeys, test your branding agency. See if they are listening. See if they are asking intelligent questions. The mere fact of attentive listening to your needs sends the monkeys packing. You are more likely to get what you want and much faster.

And by the way, monkeys don’t ask questions. (Skip ahead to 6.05 and see for yourself.)


2. Infinite Typewriters, Infinite Paper

Another colleague once told me about the Thump Factor.

As a consultant, part of his song and dance was that he would show up for a meeting and a thump down a big stack of papers, bound reports, and dossiers on the table before sitting down. The theory? That the client would see it and be dazzled at the amount of work his consultant was doing.


stacks_20of_20paper_1__61ywWhile this guy is, in fact, a competent and hard-working management consultant, he knew that clients will often confuse quantity with quality. The more the better. Because he was good, he knew how to direct the client’s attention away from the thump to the single piece of A4 on which his conclusions were neatly outlined.

In many cases, however, the thump is followed by a fizzle. When the client reads through the infinite paper and finds, higgledy-pigglededly, the complete works of Shakespeare in Spanish, his reaction will not be bliss and happiness. He will start thinking about shredding the branding consultant’s timesheets.

The Thump Factor, as everyone knows, is a bit of smoke and mirrors. Establish early with your brand consultant the results that you want and timeframe in which you want it. When he comes into the meeting with a single sheet of paper, you can bet it will contain more sense than a stack of typing.


3. Shakespeare is NOT for Everyone

Creating your brand and writing its copy is an act of synthesis.

By this I mean that all of the information you feed into your branding consultant must be processed, digested, and condensed into the images (1)essential few words that encapsulate the complexities of your brand in an understandable and straightforward way.

Under IMS, the bad brander will proudly show you that his infinite monkeys have come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Unabridged. Chances are, however, that you never wanted it. This is a classic case where the client is expected to be awestruck by the genius of his brand consultant and accept his word as gospel.

When you engage a brand consultant, his job is to extract the kernel which can instantly evoke emotional and rational connection between your product and your consumers. It is not about his clever words or his busy monkeys.

IMS is prevalent where good ideas are in short supply. The thinking often employed by huge agencies with a staff of infinite monkeys is that more is infinitely better. And for many it is a persuasive argument. But since it is your brand, wouldn’t you rather get it just right?

Or would you rather monkey around?



1 thought on “Quality, Quantity, and Infinite Monkeys

  1. joe black

    Great point! Although I can tell that during my career I’ve been surrounded by infinite amount of monkeys and they hadn’t come close to Shakespeare 😀


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