Don’t believe everything you think.

It’s a good life philosophy. But it also rings very true in the wonderful world of advertising and marketing communications.

It’s all too easy for marketers to drink their own Kool-Aid and serve up pablum. Some are so steeped in their own corporate culture that they fail to look at things from the market’s perspective. As agency folks charged with delivering campaigns and messaging that moves the needle for our clients, it’s our job to ask tough questions. Many times, it can be very difficult to get clients to take an honest look in the mirror.

This may come as a surprise to some, but advertising (and communications, in general) can’t fix everything. Sometimes, there are underlying operational, product development, or customer service challenges that must be addressed first — with as much gusto, passion, and urgency as directing an agency to come up with a killer campaign. Always, it’s critical to get honest about what value you’re delivering to your customers and prospects, how you’re delivering it, and whether it is truly meeting the market’s needs. There are just too many alternatives to whatever it is you are selling.

Keep the following question in mind when you start touting the merits of your brand: SO WHAT? Most times, that’s the first thing that pops into my mind when I see or hear any type of sales pitch. And it’s how the company answers that question that determines whether I will do business with them or not.

It’s just not enough these days to rest on the laurels of a storied brand. You have to be in touch with your audience’s needs and address what’s important to them. You have to fix what’s broken before you can effectively communicate how terrific you are. Or, if you can’t fix everything, be honest about who you are and what you can deliver, letting people know you’re working on the known issues. People appreciate honesty, not false promises or arrogance.

So go forth and ask yourself why you think what you think about your brand. Is it because you’ve been told to, you’ve always done it, or it’s in the company handbook? Or is it really true? Then get honest about your strengths and shortcomings with your agency partner. I promise, the work will be better. And your customers and prospects will respect your authenticity.



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2 responses to “Don’t believe everything you think.

  1. BrandManager

    Great article. Thinking outside the box and open to ideas are how we can break the norm of “what has always been done.”

    Can you give any suggestions on how to get your Client to stop drinking the Kool-aid?

    • kilgannonsays

      First, if you don’t have current “voice of the customer” research, you need to invest in that effort. Be sure you know what it is that’s really important to your audience. What they need and want, and what motivates them. Not what you think they need and want.

      Second, run screaming from anyone who says “because we’ve always done it that way.” Ask yourself (or them, if you can stand it) why? And then ask why some more? Stop doing anything that’s worthless immediately.

      Third, do an honest assessment of what’s really working for you, and what’s not. Map out all the current touch-points with your brand. Then brainstorm a list of new ones with your best thinkers. Don’t edit yourselves at all. You can come back and do that later.

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