Thursday, January 31, 2008

12 Things About Marketing I Learned By 52 That I Wish I Knew At 30

I ran across an interesting article titled 12 Things I Learned By 42 That I Wish I Knew At 22 and it got me to thinking about marketing and what I know now that could have been so useful much earlier in my career. Here are a few things that come to mind:
  1. There is no such thing as a marketing emergency. Marketing project deadlines are almost always created internally -- some date or time is pulled out of the air by someone trying to over-perform or exceed a perceived expectation. While this rule has exceptions there have been so many times I stressed out to deliver against imagined urgency.
  2. Emotion trumps logic. While people state logic to justify a decision the real choice is always made in the gut. I spent so many years creating communications material that highlighted features and benefits -- later I learned that what people really want is a good story that tugs at what they love, fear, or are passionate about.
  3. I cannot make anyone change. I would love that what I create in branding, marketing or communication programs enables an epiphany for everyone I target -- but that's not going to happen. What I know now is that I must plan into any strategy I develop the time it takes for people come around to the ideas I am promoting. People DO change but is a choice they have to arrive at in their own good time.
  4. People do change. Great marketing does enable people to arrive at a point of change. While I cannot control how long it takes for them to arrive there, if I offer them truth they will arrive none-the-less.
  5. White-space is my friend. Five good words in 12 point font in the middle of a blank sheet of paper have far greater impact than 1000 great words on the same page. People love to be teased, to be intrigued and to imagine for themselves what my words mean for them. White space = dream space.
  6. Red means strong. There are so many colors, each evoking different emotions to different people. But red, the color so vibrant and energetic, is the exclusive color of passion and strength. It is like the rail gun of colors. Use it wisely and people cannot help but to pay attention.
  7. Good people and vendors never cost too much. The last marketing coordinator I hired I would have tripled her salary if it was in my power. Her ROI was far beyond the any industry average for salary scales. The difference that great people and vendors make is so huge it should never be negotiable.
  8. My ideas are not always the answer. It was so easy when I was younger to dig in my heels against any marketing idea that did not match my thinking. It turns out there are so many ways for one thing to work and I benefit by being open to exploring every idea, even if it is not my own.
  9. Nothing is outside the box. People state they want "outside the box" but what they are really saying is "offer me something that is different but not too different". The "box" is an imaginary place of social norms that define what we can or cannot expect. Great marketing is about staying in the box, but being in a part of the box less populated by anyone else.
  10. Untruths in marketing are stupid. I once had an executive tell me that it's not important for people to know us, it's important for them to believe us. Over the years I learned that communicating the truth about a person or a firm is the best way to land truly loyal, happy and profitable clients.
  11. Never be your own proof-reader. Ever. One letter out of place, two letters transposed, a period where it does not belong and suddenly my masterpiece becomes a great debacle. And reading it backwards or upside down is not a great trick for catching mistakes. Just give it up and ask someone else to read it -- maybe even two or three people.
  12. There are no new ideas in marketing, just new perspectives. Just older and less used ideas that could be reborn (remember the box in #9). I have a copy of a sales training manual from the year 1917 that teaches the very same principles taught by IBM, Saturn and Merrill Lynch today. These days retro graphic design is the new cool and the marketing things we did in the '70's and '80's is just waiting to come around again. I no longer frustrate to reinvent the wheel (or communications piece) -- I just look for ideas in the part of the box that people have not visited for a while.