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Marketing Speaker Jim Ackerman Warns of the Danger of the Big Idea… | Marketing Wizard's Alliance

Marketing Speaker Jim Ackerman Warns of the Danger of the Big Idea…

By Jim Ackerman · Monday, January 30th, 2012

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I know everyone is looking for the “Big Idea.” But big ideas can be dangerous, especially in the world of marketing and advertising.

If that sounds like the opposite of what you’d expect, here’s the problem…

Marketing and advertising are the glamor sides of every business. It’s the fun stuff, and it’s the most important stuff.

The great industrialist, Peter Drucker said – and I’m paraphrasing here, “There are only two legitimate functions of business… Marketing and innovation. The rest is expense.”

Well, if you believe Drucker — and who doesn’t — then if you’re an accountant, an attorney, an executive assistant, a middle manager, a production line person, the janitor, and all too often the President or CEO, you’re part of the expense structure. And what fun is that?

It’s the marketers that make the world go ’round. Sales, marketing and advertising. That’s where the action is. And everybody wants in on the action, right?

Now, in order to get the marketing stuff done and done well, the boss hires ad agencies, or in-house marketing people or freelancers from top designers to foreigners on e-lance at two bucks an hour.

A good start. These people are hired because of their expertise in this tricky field of marketing. They’re hired because they’ve made a study of it. It’s their life’s work. They have education and they have experience. And that is specifically why they’re hired.

They’re expected to come up with brilliance and they feel the pressure to do so. And sometimes they actually deliver.

But then what happens?

Incredulously, the very people who hired them in the first place, specifically because the hiree is supposedly smarter about these things than the hirer, feel compelled to seek all kinds of opinions about the work of the expert.

So they “show the work around,” to virtually everybody in the building. The accountants and lawyers, the clericals and managers, even the line workers and the janitors in many cases.

Don’t you find it unnerving that the boss wouldn’t trust these people to do this work, but he turns to them to critique it?

When you go to the doctor and he gives you a treatment plan, do you say, “Gee Doc, sounds p-e-r-r-e-t-t-y good. Tell you what. Let me run it by my secretary and some of my line people and see what they have to say.”

Yet this is precisely what happens in the world of advertising.

And what do you get when you do this? A plethora of “big ideas”… and an array of small ones as well.

The little ones look like this…

“I think you should change the word STAT in the headline. I don’t think our market will relate to that.”

“The picture doesn’t do anything for me. How ’bout we use an older couple looking like they’re enjoying life.”

“I would never respond to an offer like that.”

“It’s too edgy. We’re likely to turn our audience off.”

“It would be funnier if we…”

You know you’ve got a “big idea”, though, when they start out with the words, “Y’know what we oughta do is…”

Here’s the truth when it comes to the people who create advertising and marketing programs for a living… at least the good ones…

Every single word that has gone into your ad – every graphic, visual, or auditory element – has been thought through and calculated to bring the greatest possible response.

They’ve almost always considered just about every one of the ideas you and your non-marketing wannabes are spouting off like the creative geniuses they’re not. Those ideas were tossed for a reason.

People who tell you they wouldn’t respond to “something like that” almost always have and almost always will. The only market research that really means anything is the “wallet test.” Which marketing will actually get somebody to pull out their wallet and buy? And the only way to discover that is to take it to market and sell it.

The reason your creative people even allow these kind of pass-it-around shenanigans is that they’re not arrogant enough — translated, secure enough in their own skin — to believe they’ve got the only answers of even the best ones. But odds are frankly through the roof, that they actually do.

These exercises are maddenly frustrating to the creatives. Maybe that’s why they’re seen as hyper-sensitive eccentrics most of the time. It certainly is professionally discouraging to them. Bad for their attitude. Bad for their work. Bad for what you get out of them.

Still, occasionally, somebody comes up with an idea that really is an improvement, so we all keep doing the dance. That is the nature of ideas.

Just remember that, these true improvements are very rare indeed. And in fact, most of the “improvements” that get deployed actually make the effort less effective, not more.

There can be an exception to the rule. When you go to get your “second opinions,” why not pay another professional to critique the work. Keep an agency, a copywriter, a marketing consultant on retainer, whose sole job is to look at the lead agency’s work. A second pair of genuinely expert eyes could be just the ticket to make real improvements that could send response rates through the roof.

“Too expensive, Jim”

Really? If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you know that a 2-word change in a headline could account for as much as a 1,000% increase in results. Given that understanding, doesn’t a little extra investment in the message make a lot of sense? It could make a lot of dollars.

Whether you take that step or not, here’s one thing I recommend in all cases: You hire these people for their expertise. When it comes to changing their work in favor of any less-expert opinion, it’s dangerous not to give your creatives the benefit of the doubt.

If you can’t do that, then at least test their version against the amateur-revised versions, head-to-head in the marketplace.

If you still don’t trust their instincts and training, fire them, and get people who you can trust.

THE END

EDITOR’S NOTE: Salt Lake City-based Jim Ackerman is one of the nation’s top Marketing Speakers. He’s a Marketing Coach, author and ad writer. For Jim’s speaking services go to www.marketingspeakerjimackerman.com Subscribe to his VLOGS at www.YouTube.com/MarketingSpeakerJimA, where you get a video marketing tip o’the day, and at www.YouTube.com/GoodBadnUglyAds, where Jim does a weekly ad critique and let’s you do the same.

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