September 16, 2013
“If you grow up in a family where you have lots of privileges and there’s money around, you’re screwed. You’re never going to get good at anything.” – Jerry Seinfeld
It’s a misconception that you need to have a big marketing budget to be successful. Now, that’s not to say that you can expect to get high-quality work by paying insultingly low rates. Nor does it mean that you can expect to advertise to an extremely wide audience, multiple times without a solid media plan.
When marketers don’t have a lot of budget, many of them are afraid of taking a chance with what little they have, so they play it safe with half-hearted efforts. One print ad per month. A week of TV spots. At least that guarantees people will see it, right? No. I’m sorry, but if you can’t get the critical mass to break through the clutter, none of it matters.
Not having resources forces you to be creative. It forces you to think outside of the box because you simply don’t have any other choice. When you have lots of resources, you can do whatever you want. Ok, not anything you want. You still can’t make fun of the Titanic in an ad. But you can afford to be safe, non-controversial and avoid saying anything meaningful. And you can just throw a bunch of advertising money at the problem to get people to remember you.
But problems create the capacity to handle them. And if you focus on optimizing every dollar you have to develop the most meaningful, compelling, and intriguing marketing you can, when you do have more budget, you’ll be able to spread it that much farther.
Focus more on creating marketing that means something. Take risks. Seek to do things your competitors wouldn’t ever think of doing. Figure out what works, eliminate what doesn’t. Keep going. Like Jerry says, “If life boils down to one thing, it’s movement. To live is to keep moving.”
September 10, 2013
In his now famous Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been, ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
When most people run an ad, they want to be as safe as possible because it costs a lot of money to advertise. So they try to cram as much as they can in there. They want to make their logo as big as they can. They avoid saying anything controversial or show anything that may not be utterly obvious.
But what if you took the opposite opposite point of view? What if you woke up each day, asking yourself: How can I find more ways to share my value with the world? How can I communicate my message in new and interesting way? The way I see it, if you’re going to spend the money to advertise, then you need to make a bold statement. Be different. Do something people won’t expect. There is no greater waste, no greater evil, in advertising than apathy. To have someone glance at your ad and not even notice.
If you’re going to advertise, say something that matters. Whether people love it or hate it, at least make them feel something. Get them to think: “that’s for me” or “that’s not for me.” Because if your advertising can’t do that, then why even bother?
Understand that every great brand in this world, you know only because they had the courage to stand for something and the perseverance to communicate it consistently and in different ways. There is no true safety in anything really. “Playing it safe” can be the worst strategy of all because it makes you unmemorable and stale.
Be bold. Matter.
August 30, 2013
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, once said, “If I went to a group of consumers and asked them if I should sell a $4 cup of coffee, what would they have told me?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Market research and sales analysis can only do so much. They can’t truly predict the future in a lot of situations.
If you look at all the truly great marketing successes, they weren’t inspired by numbers or tracking. They were born out of courage, a belief that people would truly appreciate the offering, whether it was the product itself (e.g. iPhone) or a clever campaign (e.g. Old Spice).
There are no magic formulas in marketing and advertising. You can’t say:
(Frogs + Lizards) * Beer = SALES!
There are best practices. There are estimations. There are opinion polls. There is experience. But there are no guarantees.
In the end, there’s only one real formula for success:
(demonstrate value) + (keep striving to provide more value) * (never stop)
August 27, 2013
A guy walks into a party. He’s immensely popular and instantly gains everyone’s attention. He begins to talk about himself incessantly, all the cool things he’s done, all the people he knows. He has a ton of friends. But doesn’t really know any of them very well. And honestly, they don’t know the true him very well either, beyond the surface level stories.
Someone else walks in and at first she’s talking to everyone. Not very long conversations. But she tries to meet everyone in the room. From these short meetings, everyone pretty much likes her. But she’s also trying to put up a really good show, acting the best she can to everyone. About half way through, she’s exhausted. She just can’t keep it up. So she leaves. And then everyone wonders where she went.
The next person walks in. A lot of people know him. But he’s afraid to really talk to anyone. You see, a couple weeks ago, he heard some of them saying kind of nasty things about him. They were all untrue. But since he didn’t back himself up, everyone just figured the stories were real. It’s too bad because if he would just explain the situation, pretty much everyone would understand. Instead he sticks around for five minutes and leaves.
Another guy walks in to the party. Not everyone knows him. So he starts talking to the people he does know. They catch up. He listens to their stories, they listen to his. They have really meaningful conversations. As the night goes on, he gets comfortable and starts talking to some new people. He tries to really get to know them. And by the end of the night, he hasn’t met everyone. But he’s picked up a few new friends, who just happen to be having another party next week.
Social media is the never-ending party. It can be really fun, a dread, or something worthwhile. What will you make it?
August 16, 2013
Using an iterative process when developing a startup has been a common element of that community for a few years now. Popularized by Eric Ries’ Lean Startup, as well as Steve Blank and others, this concept treats business more like an experiment, rather than a set of existing best practices and efficiency norms.
The basic premise of iteration is that it’s simply impossible to know what will work and what won’t before it’s actually out in the world. While market research, business analysis, and industry case studies may exist, they can’t guarantee success for any new business or product. Those models can only provide reasonable guesses based on historic data. They do very little in helping us understand the impact of things that do not yet exist.
Similarly, we can’t really know if an ad will truly increase sales, until people see it in the environment that it actually runs. Ad testing in focus groups is a very artificial setting and doesn’t realistically simulate how people will interact with an ad.
The iterative model can generally be summed up as:
- Developing a hypothesis about a feature or element of a product
- Putting out a Minimum Viable Product to test the hypothesis in the real world
- Determining if the hypothesis is correct or not
- Using the findings to optimize the product and trying again
So what if we adapted that discipline to advertising?
Let’s take a TV campaign for example. Usually an advertising agency will develop a few different concepts; present it to the client; get their feedback on it; go back and do revisions; continue this back and forth process until one concept is selected; then produce the scripts. What if instead, you tried to use an iterative approach, like:
- Develop a concept that communicates the client’s message
- Create a low-budget “minimum viable creative execution” on YouTube
- Get the client to approve posting in on their social media networks as a user generated video
- Read what people comment and see how much they like it and share it
- Come up with another concept with the intelligence gained
- Do the same process
- Keep going until you have a concept that really seems to resonate with people
- Produce a professional TV spot that’s similar to the “minimum viable creative execution” and see how well it does
Ok, let’s be honest. There are very few clients that would want to take this chance. And there are very few agencies that would want to produce low-production creative to see if it works. However, if we are to innovate as an industry, we need to not only look at new mediums to communicate our message, but also new methods on how to develop those messages.