July 26, 2007

Playing the Odds in Marketing

Laura Ries, daughter and partner of Al Ries and my favorite blogress, has an interesting post on playing the odds in marketing. She writes that while it’s true there are no absolutes, “the laws of branding work most of the time.” Yet “people only want to look for the exceptions.”

This echoes a quote from her father that I used to have hanging on the door of my office:

“[In advertising] you can always find at least one exception to every rule. You have a choice. You can either live by the rules and accept the possibility that you might miss an opportunity because you didn’t break the rules. Or you can live a life of anarchy.”

In meetings about potential new DRTV products, I’ve taken to articulating this point in basketball terminology. I talk about “lay-ups,” “three pointers” and so on. Want to market a new $19.99 kitchen gadget on DRTV? That’s a lay-up. Convinced we can market a $50 iPod accessory on DRTV? You’re slinging the ball underhand from the half-court line, my friend.

I’ve found this language helps our team focus and prioritize, as opposed to just getting offended that I’m down on their idea. And it accurately explains the challenge we face. Whenever we’ve had dry spells with no hits on the air, it hasn’t been because we were taking shots and missing. It’s been because we were taking half-court shots and missing.

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