Chasing the HiPPO From the Room – How to Silence Office Politics with A/B Testing

HiPPO's are big and powerful, and hard to argue with.
HiPPO's are big and powerful, and hard to argue with. Use the diplomacy of an A/B test to solve the corporate version of a family argument

The HiPPO I’m referring to is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Typically the voice of an uncreative senior management type that likes to ask if you can “make the logo bigger”.

We’ve all been there.

Sitting around a boardroom table with a giant projection of your latest design or web page splashed across the wall. Conjecture and opinion fly – generally in the face of conventional wisdom or plain old common sense.

You argue back and forth using your most experienced and educated insights to nullify the stupidity – hopefully mixed in with some examples of previous campaigns where a certain idea didn’t work.

But more often than not, all of your gut instinct and decades of experience aren’t enough to get your own way. Why? Because the HiPPO rears his (or her) ugly head from the muddy brown water of corporate posturing to insist that you do what they tell you.

How to Deal With the HiPPO

At this point there are 4 ways to deal with the big-toothed, fat-headed suit:

  1. The Kowtow. This is the obvious solution. Tuck your tail between your legs and say “Yes sir!”
  2. The Standoff. Risk your job by stating your indignant refusal to follow such flawed logic. Note: you need balls of steel for this one, but if it turns in your favor you can earn a lot of respect (depending on the mood and style of management persona in your showdown).
  3. The Compromise. Here’s where I play marriage counselor and recommend that you argue for a while, then offer a solution that incorporates a little of your own idea with a little more of the HiPPO’s idea.
  4. The Experiment! This the best of all. Diplomacy and science at it’s best. You scream and shout “inside” your own head about how dumb the HiPPO is. Then you calmly and publicly suggest that instead of spending $1,200/hr on meetings where people just hang around and argue, that you set up an A/B split test to see which idea performs the best – to find out the truth and end the speculation once and for all.

Why Option D is Best

There are a couple of reasons why this approach is the most beneficial:

  1. Fairness. Everyone gets to try their idea, and by testing multiple points of view you are sure to learn something in the process.
  2. The HiPPO might be right. They’re probably paid a lot because they’re either talented, experienced, smart or a suck-up. Plus when it comes to conversion rate optimization it’s not really about you or the HiPPO. It’s about the customers. And very few people really actually understand their customers unless they experiment with how to market to them.
  3. Creative Freedom. If it turns out that you are in fact correct and your version of the page outperforms the HiPPO’s then there is a very good chance that you will be afforded more freedom in the future.
Do You Have Any Good HiPPO Stories?

What is your experience?

Have you used one of the approaches above to deal with a HiPPO? Maybe you have your own way of dealing with it. We’d love to hear you stories and ideas about dealing with the latest version of a corporate bully.

Tell us your stories below in the comment section.

Oli Gardner

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About Oli Gardner
Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He’s obsessed with identifying and reversing bad marketing practices, and his disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary, resulting in landing page rants that can peel paint off an unpainted wall. A prolific international keynote speaker, Oli is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike. He was recently named the "The 2018 Marketer to Watch," in the under 46 category, by his mother.
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