An Unfair Advantage

Everyone is challenged with problems that need creative solutions, and most frequently the problems aren’t solved. People simply patch them, applying variations of the same thinking that got them where they are today.

Whether marketing is your world or not, chances are your office is worlds away from a fertile marketing environment. It’s hard to be creative or imaginative when everyone else is internally focused; fixated on the competition instead of the market; subject to the whims of management and the board; and trapped in a tradition of look-alike communications.

If you need to get out of a marketing rut, here are some exercises that can help you gain an unfair advantage.

1) Get Fired. Actually, this exercise is designed to liberate you. Let’s say you have a very competitive product or service, but nothing seems to boost sales. When you’re looking for new approaches, try this:

  • First, develop a sensible approach, and get it down on paper. This is a responsible, smart, sellable approach that might just work.
  • Next, cook up an outrageous approach. Pretend money or talent isn’t an issue. You could land James Franco as a spokesperson, or bring in Donald Trump for a seminar. Or call in Scott Pioli to address your staff.
  • Then try an approach that will get you fired. This is the idea that, after hatching it, somebody always says, “They’ll never let us do that.” It’s what they said about the AFLAC duck, and probably E*TRADE’s talking baby, but people remember them. Both are examples of what can result when you allow yourself to “get fired.”

2) Leave Your Industry. Your customers may be other businesses, but your marketing still needs to reach real people with everyday lives and distractions. That’s why it makes sense to look at the latest and greatest ideas from the “real world” of consumer marketing, not just what folks in your industry are doing.

We can probably learn from the Southwest Airlines baggage workers. Southwest could’ve just thrown 30 seconds of “Bags are FREE” at us. Instead, they injected some fun and whimsical creative. You enjoy a chuckle, and you relate – both very relevant responses to marketers.

3) Stop Thinking. Yes, stop thinking. Chances are you’re dealing with issues that you know intimately, that you’ve discussed at length, shared with others and pondered for some time. You likely already have the answer.

We are all victims of a rising tide of information, and our tendency to think too much is a logical result of it. So don’t think so much, trust your instincts, make a decision and move forward.

I’ll never forget something one of my best business school professors told us. He said the way to solve a problem is to simplify the issue to a single sentence. Digest all relevant material. Think real hard on it. Then go home, get a good night’s sleep, come in the next morning and write down the first thing that comes to you. I find that it usually works.

Just remember, any mistake you make trying something new is a valuable learning experience. The real mistake is wasting an opportunity to learn or preserving the status quo. Your organization probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Let’s stay fresh, and market smart.

— Angelo Trozzolo, President

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