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Bad Marketing Advice

I was cleaning out my garage and came across this plastic frog and it lead me to write this article regarding the single worst piece of marketing advice I’ve ever received.

I was once asked to give a marketing seminar to large group of attorneys in NYC. The gentleman speaking prior to my slot was also set to give his advice on marketing to the same audience. To my surprise, instead of a typical introduction by the moderator, the speaker chose to stand at the back of the room. He asked the moderator to instead play a theme song which built to a crescendo as he charged down the aisle, throwing plastic frogs all over the unsuspecting audience.

If you haven’t already come to this conclusion, the entire premise of his presentation was about how important it is to get people to take notice of your brand when marketing your business. He went on to drive his point home by announcing that obviously none of us in the room we’re going to forget this particular presentation. In a way, he was technically correct, however, in a much more important way, his presentation was a disaster.

This  idea of “standing out at all costs” is extremely common in marketing. I’ve heard it over and over again, often, sadly, from other marketing professionals.

Another incident I recall was very similar, though on a smaller scale. I was at a local networking event. When we went around the room giving our 60 second elevator pitches detailing who we were, and what we had to offer the group,  one woman, a fellow marketer, decided to stand on her chair and deliver her 60 second pitch. She closed with “everyone will remember the crazy lady who stood up on her chair… and that’s what marketing is, being memorable.”

This is WRONG!

While, yes, it is important for marketing to be memorable to be effective, it is just as important for effective marketers to take into consideration the feeling their campaign conveys, the message they are sending,  and what they are striving to be remembered for. Consider McDonald’s incredibly successful “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. You can bet each individual character within this short tagline underwent lengthy testing, with a number of focus groups.  A misplaced apostrophe, or an errant exclamation point could drastically change the feel of the campaign. The different between “McDonald’s, I’m loving it.” and “McDonald’s, I’m Lovin’ it!”” is a 7 figure price tag on a successful campaign.

Good marketers know that even the fonts they use to create a tagline can instill a feeling which can ever so slightly alter the meaning of the words that make up a tagline. Fonts can feel formal, casual, trendy or fun. The job of a great marketing team is to note every aspect of a message, and to control it, delivering the feeling they want you to feel, with nothing left to chance.

While McDonald’s wants to be memorable, they also want to be memorable for the right reason. Would you want to be remembered for being associated with a cringe-worthy (I call them douche chills) circus style performance? No. And while I’d certainly remember a lawyer who gave cross examination while standing on his head in a TV commercial, the chances are slim and none that I’d actually hire him.

So, if someone recommends you run a print ad upside down because it will “make people stop and take notice,” unless you’re selling gravity boots,  hang up on them quickly, and get Generations Beyond on the phone!


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