What’s The Big Idea?

“I Know a Little ‘Bout It… And Baby, I Can Guess the Rest”.

-Lynyrd Skynard


Skynard’s epigram seems to have progressed beyond its original amorous intention, and has found its way into the business world of marketing and promotions. Let me explain.

My dermatologist is one of the best in the market. (This might be a strange comparison, but stay with me here). He knows a LOT about the science of dermatology. He can spot melanoma at 10 paces. He has years of experience and a degree from a renowned medical school, and I trust him. He is a passionate student of his chosen field. He reads articles, attends conferences, stays on top of the latest techniques and technology.

Now I know a little about skin care. I know to put on a hat or sunscreen if I’m going to spend time in the sun. I know how to treat a bug bite or a minor sunburn. And like him, I read articles about my chosen field. I try to stay on top of the latest trends, techniques and technology.

But he will never even THINK about asking me for medical advice.

And I wouldn’t ask him for concepts for a logo design or brand awareness campaign.

That’s how it SHOULD be. But often, its not.

Advertising is 90 Percent Art; The Other Half Is Science.

To bastardize a celebrated quote from Yogi Berra, it’s difficult to say how much of advertising is made up of science these days. The more the scale tips toward science and numbers, the less it’s going to sell. Finding the right combination of the two is the trick.

Bill Bernbach was one of the most influential figures in the history of modern advertising. Just look at the ads that he wrote and produced so many years ago. They’re timeless. Still relevant. 100% science-free. No scientists were harmed (or consulted) in their production. I love this excerpt from his resignation letter, written in 1947. He was already seeing science’s unwelcome intrusion into the art of advertising.

“Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”
-Bill Bernbach

ART is required to craft the look and feel, and the message. AI has made unbelievable strides in building imagery and even content. BUT it only goes so far.

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, “Outliers”, it takes 10000 hours (or approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice to become an expert in a given field. Give or take a few thousand, depending on the field of expertise.

It doesn’t mean there’s no place for science in marketing. Nor that you don’t have to do your homework, like researching the product. Interviewing people. Studying market conditions. Looking at the competition.

With all the DIY tools out there nowadays, you could, if you choose, take on the task yourself. You do know about your own product, right? So, go ahead. Take a wild guess. Write some headlines. Make an ad. Shoot a commercial. Your local TV crew will probably film it for you for free if you buy 3 months of ad time. Maybe put your kids or your dog in it. Show it around, maybe to your spouse or a friend, ask them for their opinion. Run it. Put it out there.

Then, congratulations. You’ve just become part of the noise. Your one tiny message that gets lost in the thousands of ad messages that assault us every hour. A drop in the ocean. A grain of sand on the beach. You’ll be the mouse that squeaked, not the one that roared.

Hire a Professional. Then Trust Them.

We know how to navigate this territory. We can develop a persuasive message and deliver it in your brand’s voice. And if your brand doesn’t have a voice, we can give it one.

We’re going to look deep inside your brand and find something you missed because you’re too close to it. We can help you emerge; to become remarkable.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, wrote a book called “Purple Cow”. The idea was based on this thought: A cow doesn’t stand out from the herd by looking like all the other cows. But if it were painted purple…

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.”
-Seth Godin, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”

The purple cow is the one that’s going to get noticed. It’ll be the one people remember; the one people talk about. The one that’s remarkable. If you’re not standing out from the crowd, you’re invisible.

Put away the misconception that hiring an advertising professional costs a lot of money. Or even that they’ll force you to run something you won’t like. Hire good people and give them the freedom to do their job. And give them the freedom of a well-defined creative strategy.


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