Bigger, Better, Faster, More

​Recently, on a training run along Alki, it occurred to me—while taking in the Seattle skyline—that so much of the city's infrastructure is designed to maintain people going to work. The mom-and-pop sandwich shops, our transit system (if you can call it that), parking garages, child care centers—the primary reason these places exist is to offer support to those making the trek into the city (or across the bridge to the Eastside). That's it. Without folks making their daily pilgrimage, the need for these businesses would be reduced drastically. Traffic, our dependence on fast food and the need for others to raise our children would go away, right?

How hard are you trying?


Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) created a remarkable brand position for Avis in 1963 with their We try harder® advertising campaign. For Avis, advertising that employees spend a great deal of effort serving the customer — and actually delivering on that brand promise — helped increase sales immediately after the campaign ran. The result, Avis was profitable for the first time in thirteen years. Today, the We try harder® branding effort is considered one of the most successful in modern-day advertising history.

I wonder, though, is there such a thing as trying too hard? Is there a point when effort becomes an unnecessary attribute? For those who set out to accomplish great things in life — whether it's leading a profitable business, finishing Ironman Canada, raising a child as a single dad (or mom) — a good amount of effort is necessary to be successful. But, are there times when putting forth too much effort hinders success?

This is one of the many explorations I'm taking in my life. I consider persistence a positive attribute of mine, however I can't always say I see the direct benefit of it. In some cases, the more effort I put forth, the less I seem to be closer to my end goal.

Interestingly, there are a couple of different takes on the word trying — one, the more common attemptingorstriving — but another, of which is extremelyannoying. Does this imply that their is a tipping point when it comes to effort? Is it like Jimmy Cliff sang, the harder they come, the harder they fall?

A recent post by Seth Godin just spoke to the alternative to failure. Maybe, just maybe, this notion of trying has more to do with the process, rather than the end result. However, for a society that seems to center around achieving things, how do we create a sustainable model for failure? It's hard to imagine a business environment that supports failure since revenue is almost always the primary goal. In the personal world — which I only distinguish here due to the more commonly held view that it's separate from business — failures look like breakups, divorce, custody battles, housing foreclosures and so on.

Circling back to the Avis example, I think the thing that made this campaign — and ultimately Avis — successful is that trying harder was actually a clever way to communicate what was natural to them — that they care about the customer. This is part of their brand essence.

So, perhaps being persistent is simply part of my brand makeup and it would run contrary to my character if I simply achieved things without much effort.

How about you, what is your take on trying? Do you have examples of success where you didn't put forth much effort?

Creating Your Legacy

The first leg of three-part The Edward R. Murrow Symposium - 2011 wrapped a few weeks ago and I wonder, what legacy are students creating today? Was there a lasting impression made during the yearly event or was it similar to a drunken night out—lots of great experiences, but hard to remember anything that happened? I know I certainly had my fair share of these moments as a student at WSU.

Although I did not make the trip over to Pullman, WA this time around, I was interested to read the various comments streaming in via the Twitter and Facebook feeds. The common thread I observed centered around the importance of students creating a solid foundation for which to launch their careers. With the great uncertainty still surrounding the economy, it's understandable that this is a prime concern for students and one that certainly existed when I presented at last year's event, focused on Transformational Media.

The marketing world certainly is in a state of transformation. Most of the time, I love being a part of it, challenging conventional thought and setting new trends. Like anything, though, there are also downsides—it can be extremely taxing to keep up with the changes that seem to occur daily. Also, change is a big deal for people and organizations (which are simply a collection of people). We're creatures of habit. Even if something isn't working, it's difficult for us to shift our habits. After all, it keeps us safe. It's a dilemma I routinely face. Are there habits that you want to break? What habits do you have that work for you?

One habit I'm working on building is to share my voice more frequently. I'll admit, it's scary for me. I want you to like me. It's an ego thing, but when I get back in line with what I really want, it helps me deal with my fear of being judged. A legacy I am creating is one where businesses truly see the value of marketing, versus relating to marketing simply as a line item on their balance sheet. Just as Murrow did, sometimes you have to go against the grain. What legacy are you creating?

Take Your Marketing Strategy and Shove It!

I'm a strategic thinker. Big surprise, right? Some of you have even heard me use the phrase, strategery. It's my lighthearted way to refer to the work that I take incredibly seriously. Too often, we focus our attention on yesterday, analyzing and studying what tactics worked and identifying those that did not. This is with anything, not just marketing. We try to predict our outcomes for the future, thinking this somehow shows the world just how smart we are—or at least protects us from disappointment—even if the outcome is not what we wanted. The problem is, when we are so certain that our homework has prepared us for a successful future, and the outcome is anything but that, we're pissed—or, at the very minimum, we're disappointed. I run this risk all the time, whether it's working with clients or in my everyday dealings with my wife and son. I've even heard some say, "Expectation is the root of all heartache."

As any scientist will confirm, there are many times that anomalies (or variances) are present in research. One of their tasks is to confidently reproduce results within a certain range. I'm reminded of a communication course I had at Washington State University where we were distinguishing language. One of the attributes we identified is that communication is dynamic—ever changing. We don't need to look too far back to realize that there is some accuracy here. Today's version of sick has a drastically different meaning than its predecessor.

So, what's the point in all of this? While measuring your marketing efforts is extremely important, yesterday's success does not always dictate tomorrow's results. I work with clients to develop and test new ideas. We explore new mediums and we are constantly in action.

What do you make of it? Are there areas of your life, your business that are clinging on to yesterday? I've started the conversation. It's your turn to take it from here.

Is your marketing misbehaving?

Is your marketing misbehaving?
Do you find yourself caught up in arguments around your marketing efforts? Are you holding on to a particular point of view? In today's world, it's as important as ever to take an honest look at whether your marketing behavior is consistent with the results you are committed to producing. When you discover behavior that you don't like or are simply putting up with, either change the behavior or remove yourself from that space.