Sliding Doors Moments

by Mark Sales | Mar 7, 2019

As I sit in a plane circling Paris, I'm reminded of the time I was about to land at the same airport. The pilot announced that he couldn’t get the landing gear down and he'd need to go through some maneuvers to try and get it down. After 30 minutes, he informed us that whatever he’d done seemed to have worked (through quick research I found that in air "wiggling" of the plane can free stuck gear) and that we should not be alarmed by the fire trucks that would soon flank us on the runway!

This got me thinking about the 1998 movie Sliding Doors, in which Gwyneth Paltrow's character misses a tube train in London....but in another life she gets it. The movie focuses on how this tiny decision has such a butterfly effect. I've lived this cinematic moment in my own life, both professionally and personally, where I've seen the effects of Sliding Doors moments play out elsewhere.

I think my biggest personal Sliding Doors moment was when I was working at a large pharmaceutical company in Basel, Switzerland. I’d done my three years on a brand and it was now time to do the sales rep thing - two years of my life I will never get back, however, I now realize that experience can never be taken away from me. You join a very special club when you become more senior. People like that get it. You get up at 7 am and drive around Liverpool only to be rejected by receptionist after receptionist. But more importantly, you see hundreds of real customers and get a clear picture of what really happens with the resources we still spend most of our budget with today .... but those stories are for another day. 

Back to the moment -

I had two contracts on my desk - opportunities back home to the UK, or Sydney, Australia. I needed advice and went to the two people I consider my career mentors and friends, one of which was the HR lead who had sorted out the Australia opportunity. I will never forget the advice I got. The UK is the hardest place to rep in the world, and once you’ve done that no one can take it away from you, and that I should remember how far away I'd be from my family if something happened while I was in Australia. I decided to move to Liverpool instead of Sydney, and for months I was sent updates on how great the Sydney weather was by the local HR lead. However, I was content, as I realized I never would have met my wife, who is my best friend and the mother to my two amazing kids, or had the most amazing 10 years since, including actually leaving that company and joining Kantar Health, where I now work.

We all have these moments. My wife actually works for the prison service in the UK, who’s clientele consists mainly of people who at a certain points in their lives, or even many points, have made momentary decisions, incorrect momentary decisions, with life-long consequences.


This idea of moments fascinates me, and as always it's something I try to bring into my professional life. What if a brand has these moments throughout its life, decision points, or forks in the road, where the right decision is an incremental change in the brand's trajectory? And, if you continually make the right decisions at these junctures, can you create momentum…and what does this translate to? 

My theory is that you can create momentum, and that momentum is seen as two things, short term sales and a compounded change in your trajectory. It's also something less tangible - brand equity. You are creating protection for your brand in the longer term.


But how do we currently make these decisions? Well, I know many companies have the playbook….it's always worked for us this way so why not carry on..how much is it possible to disagree? We have evidence based ways to make these decisions now…why not do that? This is something my colleagues and Daniel Jackson from UCB explore in our latest Edge of Insight Report, "Applying the Science of Marketing to the Art of Brand Building". (click on the image to go directly to it)

Anyway, my plane is down and I'm going to brave the Moto taxi (click here), where hopefully my driver will make the right decisions at 60 mph while weaving between trucks!



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