Lessons Learned on the Pinewood

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” — Henry Ford

I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes after attending my second grade son’s Cub Scout Pinewood Derby last weekend. Kevin, my son, finished seventh out of 18 cars in his division. Not bad!

I always thought the Pinewood Derby was set up to promote father/son time and have fun learning craftsmanship while following rules to compete in a race. It has always been my philosophy to let Kevin do most of the work. He handles the Dremel tool better than I do, anyway!

Looking at some of the car entries, either Kevin has a bunch of Bob Vilas and Ty Penningtons as classmates or there is a heavy, heavy dose of father involvement going on. Perhaps some can say it’s a case of sour grapes (my son is more handy than I am, plus I’m just a simple measurable marketer!) but some of these cars should have been sponsored by the engineering companies or auto body shops that the kids’ fathers are employed at and where the cars were probably built!

The bottom line is that the Pinewood Derby should be about father and son working together, teaching the son about craftmanship and having him do his best to put together a competitive car. It shouldn’t be about winning at all cost or having your son needing to deal with not placing. The tendency in raising kids today is that we have become “helicopter parents,” hovering over our children to make sure they don’t fail.

Where am I going with all this? We are not doing a good job of raising the next generation of measurable marketers!

Like most things in life, failure is not a bad thing as long as you learn from it and don’t repeat it. If you are not failing once in a while, you are not growing individually or professionally, you are not pushing the envelope, and you are likely settling for something other than your best effort.

Most traditional advertising firms that push image and branding don’t like measurement because it takes work … and many of the fragile egos in the industry don’t and can’t deal with failure very well.

Marketing today is very competitive, accountable and measurable. The CMO knows the CFO is looking very closely at the profit and loss charts. Upper management knows they need to understand what’s working and what is not in the ever increasingly segmented world we live in!

So let your kid make his own Pinewood Derby car. Let him make mistakes and show him how to learn from them. He might not win the trophy today, but he might just wind up with that trophy office 20 years from now!

Rob Trecek

Johnson Direct LLC