What’s The Big Idea?

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

With apologies to Lynyrd Skynard, this mindset seems to have taken over in the business world of marketing and promotions.

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 science. He can spot a melanoma at 10 paces. He has years of experience and a degree from a renowned medical school, and I trust him. But he never once asked me for medical advice. And likewise, I didn’t ask him for advice on marketing, branding, or advertising.

He’s a student of the former. We’re students of the latter. He does what he does, we do what we do. He studies dermatology, we study marketing and promotion. We’re both learning new things, and try to stay on top of the technology. We wouldn’t trust him to design a logo for us, and he shouldn’t trust us to treat a precancerous lesion. That’s the way it SHOULD be, though often it’s not.

Bill Bernbach was one of the most influential figures in the history of modern advertising. I have this excerpt from his resignation letter, written in 1947 on my wall. It still reveals a universal truth about advertising:

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

And just like any art form, it takes thousands of hours to become an expert.

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.

There is a better way. Hire a professional.

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 agency costs a lot of money. It doesn’t. Or even that they’ll make you run something you won’t like. Not gonna happen.

And even if you don’t give us your trust at first, to borrow a phrase from Smith Barney’s breakthrough campaign from the 1980’s; “we’ll do it the old-fashioned way. We’ll earn it.”