5 rudiments to rebuild your marketing instincts

Sometimes, you just have to clean house.

Sometimes, you just have to clean house.

I have a sizable heap of marketing gunk taking up far too much real estate in my subconscious. It’s my own fault. Like many of us, I nosh on a steady diet of articles, SlideShares, and blogs on the latest happenings, I cull some insights or conclusions from them, and toss them on the pile.

Before you know it, you have a great pyramid of data looming in your mind—built from millions of single, tiny bricks. I’ll need to hire the cast of The 10 Commandments to take the damn thing apart now.

The moral of all this is that, sometimes, you have to get back to basics. I’m a musician, and every great player or teacher I know has taught me this lesson: If you want to truly advance in something, always return to the basics—your rudiments—and work on them, hard.

When your foundation is strong, everything on top of it is better off, too.

Here are five marketing rudiments that our team keeps coming back to. We remind ourselves, and our clients, about them all the time.

1. Be empathic.

On the massive data pyramid in my mind, there are several hundred thousand bricks with the word engagement written on them. Marketing pundits and gurus perpetually nag us about it. You have to engage, connect, with your audience. Of course, but how?!?

Some say to create valuable content, or an entertaining video, or for your brand to be at the center of a cause. All excellent tactics. But at the core is truly being considerate of your audience, their time, and space.

That audience POV only comes from knowing them, understanding them, asking them and helping them.

As an industry, we have a history of being tone deaf. We cram in too many commercial breaks, and then get annoyed when people zap through our messages on their DVRs. And this upcoming generation—the millennials—are more nimble than anyone at sidestepping us. Empathy and audience understanding will become marketing survival skills.

2. Emotions rule.

We love to think of ourselves as rational creatures—people who make informed decisions, based on facts and reasoned thinking. Hooey!

Studies show—hell, human nature proves—people make emotional decisions first, then rationalize them. You backfill with thinking, after your feelings have made the call.

This ties back to empathy, big time.

You have to know the emotions your audience has—about your product, your industry, and doing business with people like you. Is it about being cool for them? Feeling secure and trusting? Looking important to others? Get down to those base emotions, and let them guide you in your decisions and the things you produce.

But do be careful.

The great copywriting genius Gene Schwartz once said that if you’re too obvious with emotion, you’ll come across as corny or contrived, and you’ll lose them. Wise words.

3. Break out.

Here’s another common theme in the marketing symphony: “We’re all exposed to X-gazillion messages a day.” The notion is that we’re all so inundated, we’ve become immune.

Social media sage Gary Vaynerchuk puts it well: We all struggle for the commodity of people’s attention.

And yet, so many of us play it safe with middle-of-the-road messages. How many car commercials have you seen with a sedan speeding through the desert? Or deliriously happy people on the beach or in a field as an announcer reads the anxiety-invoking side effects of some drug?

Industries are full of copycats. And in this fragmented age, that renders them invisible. Creativity matters.

4. Great ideas are at home just about anywhere.

There are so many platforms to get your messages out there. A Google search on how to do an effective Pinterest page will quickly drown you in a tidal wave of tips. Knowing the nuances of so many platforms is a hefty job. The trouble is, many of us are too tangled in those weeds, and we forget the big idea or message.

A rock-solid message, idea or concept is translatable. It can adapt across multiple mediums—as an ad, a YouTube video, blog post, or at a tradeshow—and still be the same core idea.

It’s an awe-inspiring thing when concepts like that happen. And I’ll be the first to tell you… it’s really hard to do, and it takes time. But boy, is it worth it.

5. Practice media neutrality.

This rudiment is a cousin of Break out. With scroll-like to-do lists, job pressures, and constantly chasing the clock, it’s easy to pop your mind into autopilot when it comes to media. Most tend to fall back on the same channels, because there’s a history, it works (good reason!), and it’s what you know.

But there are new ways to get your message out all the time. And I’m sure there are media ideas and techniques you haven’t tried yet. All I ask is to be open to them and to explore. Sometimes, the best way to break out is putting your message in a different place or time.

In writing and re-reading these five rudiments, I’ve done some much-needed de-gunking of my subconscious. I’m sure I’ll start piling again, probably this afternoon. But for now, I’m enjoying the open landscape.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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