The One Rule Nearly Every Marketer Breaks

I was tempted to build on my 2019 resolutions post, "My 2019 Resolution For Marketers Concerning Ad Blockers," and title this piece something along the lines of “A Resolution No Marketer Ever Follows” — but I figured the whole resolutions angle had been done enough. 

Regardless of the title, what I am about to share with you is unequivocally the single rule nearly every marketer the world over breaks, time and again. But it’s not always their fault. 

I will explain.

Get Back in There and Sell! 

I am going to make a reference to a movie in a second (Please note: I am a monstrous fan of pop culture, and think infusing it into my articles helps tell a story and connect dots.) 

This particular reference is from the 1983 classic comedy film “Trading Places,” starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. If you’ve never seen it, stop reading this right now, go watch it, then come back. I’ll wait. 



OK, you can watch it after you read this. 

The following scene is near the end of the film and illustrates perfectly the one rule nearly every marketer makes.

Did you catch it? Did you catch the rule in question? 

If not, go back and watch it again and listen to what the white-haired gentleman is telling the man who appears lifeless — flung over another man’s shoulder — to do. 

Get back in there and sell!

Where is it Written? 

Someone, anyone please show me in a marketing textbook or white paper or whatever where it is written that every single, solitary communication a consumer gets from Brand X MUST include at least one reference to the buying or renting of a given ware, product or service? 

Put another way: Brands don’t need to try and sell something every… single… solitary… time they communicate with a consumer! 

This is the rule that every marketer breaks. 

They feel the need to include something “salesy” in every communication they can. For example, you’ll get an email from Brand X that tells the story of a consumer using the brand  as they volunteer their time at a local shelter. 

When you get the email, you think: “What a great story!” That is, until you see the sidebar of the email, which includes a 20%-off coupon for your next purchase of (insert irrelevant and unrelated item here.) 

As my friend Ted Rubin, a social marketing strategist, put it way back in 2013: "People want to get information when they want it — not have it thrown at them — and they want to have conversations about and with brands."

If you notice, nowhere in there does Ted say "People want sales, sales and more sales!"

The Bottom Line

Naturally the bottom line is always the bottom line. Brands are in business to make money, and to make money you need to sell something. I know, what brilliant insight, right? 

But to any marketer out there reading this who doesn’t grasp the concept that consumers do not want to be sold to at every turn: Let’s just say, you may want to consider a career change.

3 comments about "The One Rule Nearly Every Marketer Breaks".
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  1. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, January 12, 2019 at 8:12 a.m.

    Steve, do you think the real change has to come at the Board and C-suite level?  In my experience the dominant players sitting in those chairs, CMOs aside, largely come from financial backgrounds.  If you agree, then how can that be changed?

  2. Annette Hagood from KBS, January 12, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

    Some brands are powerful enough so they can rely solely on their brand value. In this case, a strong value proposition, with enough compelling differentiation in the offer maybe enough to inform your audience. However, marketing is not absolute, BtoB, BtoC, DtoC, XtoX, all require different strategies. It takes a savvy CMO who understands the psychology of the ecosystem of buyers, to lead the charge and define the way forward, based on the set objectives of that communication. 
    I agree with you that there is a common thought that every communication must have a sales component, that there must be a call to action to generate sales - a way to measure the effectiveness of the communication - this is where you measure how many coupons were redeemed etc. This is the historical cycle time for showing results, and the shortsightedness of organizations. But, having said that, if I could successfully execute geo-fencing,  I would definitely "go in for the kill" - don't think of it as selling in this case, but as giving the customer the option to satisfy the real need. 

  3. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing, January 14, 2019 at 3:11 p.m.

    As my friend Ted Rubin, a social marketing strategist, put it way back in 2013: "People have conversations about and with brands."

    Have never ever ever ever understood what this means in plain English, nor more importantly any quantitative proof of it ...

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