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Who Is Driving The Story?

For whatever reason, I seem to have been spending a lot of time lately reading and commenting on creative marketing strategies.  From strategic positioning, to tag lines, to business plans.   I’m struck not by the uninspired creative (although a few clearly are) but rather how “safe” they all want to be.

It all reminds me of this George Bernard Shaw quote:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. All progress, therefore, depends upon the unreasonable man.”

I combine this with this true fatigue I have over the phrase “data-driven marketer”.  Interestingly, if you Google this phrase, you’ll get about 25 million results and most of them are links to how to become one.

There was an interesting article over on HBR that talks about how much we, as marketers, really suck at using data.  And there’s a wonderful quote (that I’ve heard attributed to Scott Stratten and I’ll paraphrase here) that says – “why would we look to the nifty new things of tomorrow, when we suck at what we have today?”

Now that the news cycle is back to normal, and we head into the planning season for 2013, I’d like to humbly suggest that Marketers just need to lose the vision of the  “data driven marketer” holding a spreadsheet triumphantly over their head, ROI emblazoned on their super-hero cape as they stand at the summit of their mountain of Google Analytics.

Now – of course this isn’t to say that data is useless. Quite the contrary – it’s an essential piece of what we do.  Insight derived from data can be powerful and spur new creativity.  But, if we are a slave to it. If we are driven by it.  We will end up with a story that is, well, just incrementally better than it was yesterday.  And, I don’t know about you – but I’m hoping for more than that.

Thankful for Mediocrity

Do you ever wonder what our world as marketers would look like if everything were creatively amazing and compelling?  Basically what would the world look like if every product were marketed as well as Apple Products?  What if it was easy to create amazing, compelling, persuasive stories?  What would we do?

Well, I think Paul Arden had about as good an answer as I’ve seen.  In his book,  It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be – he asks:

Why do we strive for excellence when mediocrity is required?

There is little demand in the commercial world for excellence.  There is much, much bigger demand for mediocrity.

Arden wonders what we would do – and suggests that we would “react against it, saying, “Isn’t this boring.  How can we be dull?  Let’s do it badly, let’s make it ugly, and let’s make it really cheaply.”

In fact, you can even see some of this happening today.  I actually wrote an article for iMedia connection back in June of last year called How ‘Ugly’ Can Boost Your Campaign.

But the key difference in all of those campaigns was that “ugly” was “remarkable”.  They weren’t trying to be safe – they were actually trying to be different.  That’s the key.  They actually said something.  As Realtor Mark Seiden relayed to me when I interviewed him for that piece:

“We took the challenge of ‘ugly’ very seriously. The designer’s first iterations really missed the mark. They were too pretty. The key was for the designer to really feel the emotion and the feeling of the frustrated seller.”

So, thank goodness the world is demanding mediocrity.  In today’s noisy, information overloaded world, it gives us a fighting chance to do something weird, out of the box, different.

No Remarkable Marketing Is Ever Data Driven

Name any remarkable creative marketing campaign you can remember,  and I’ll guarantee you that it did not come out of a spreadsheet.    Our most compelling story, our most persuasive campaign our most viral content didn’t come as the result of an A/B test.  It did not come from our Google Analytics report – and it did not come from our landing page conversion metrics.

It came because we took the time to figure our what our business REALLY does and what problem we are REALLY solving for our customers. And we creatively figured out a way to tell a story that was different from our competition.

Differentiating means “being different” not being incrementally better than our competition.  If you haven’t read “Different” by Youngme Moon – give yourself a treat.  It’s wonderful.

Data is important.  Data is helpful.  Data helps you wring efficiency out of your visitors, and target your message more capably and generally make your campaigns better.  Data helps you be incrementally better today than you were yesterday.

Data gives you the opportunity for insight.  But YOU are the one that has the insight.

You are the one that makes the exponential leap. You are the one that thinks up the B version that outperforms the A version by 2000%.   You are the one that dreams up the story of your business that you’ll tell through content marketing.

Our Content Our Unique Story

If I can butcher the Shaw quote for a moment I’d say that the reasonable marketer adapts their story to the world.  The unreasonable marketer persists in trying to adapt the world to their story.   All of our success therefore, will depend upon us – at some time  or another – being unreasonable.

Whether it’s our creative brief, our positioning statement, our content marketing story or our newest creative ad campaign.  Let’s occasionally try to be unreasonable.   As Arden says – there’s little demand for it.   And, we’ll certainly fail more than we succeed at it.   But it’s our best bet to create something remarkable.

Originally posted here:

Who Is Driving The Story? You Or Your Data?