More so than a lack of budget or organizational support. More so than changing customer perceptions or unexplainable market shifts. More than any of the dozens of things that can bring down a marketing or communications effort, the one I’ve seen bring down more campaigns than any other is fear.
This business we work in is a human one — groups of people working together to sell things to other people. Things they (usually) want and need. But somewhere in the process, the most basic human emotion — fear — creeps in and slowly pulls a message or a marketing strategy back to the middle. Back to safe. Back to uninteresting. And, consequently, back to less effective than it could have been.
So to that end, I offer this admittedly easy-to-say, harder-to-follow advice for marketers.
Don’t be afraid …
…Of different. Of being the first one into the pool. Don’t be afraid to set the standard and watch your competition follow. Don’t be afraid of research. Don’t be afraid of trusting your gut. Don’t be afraid to ignore what your customer is asking for when you know exactly what they need. Don’t be afraid to break from tradition. Times are a-changin’ … you should be too.
… Of your legal department. Don’t be afraid to use the phrase “sassy pants” in a headline. Or “chuckle cheeks.” Or a metaphor where you compare your product to the musical stylings of John Cougar Mellencamp. The man was an underappreciated genius.
… To stand out. After all, that’s sorta the point, right? Don’t be afraid to go the other way. Don’t be afraid to quit something that isn’t working. Don’t be afraid to measure. Because knowing is always better than not knowing. Don’t be afraid of fun. Of laughter. Of engaging your customers’ emotions. (They love it when you do that.)
… Of being wrong. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Or ignore them. Or make up your own. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Say it, then do whatever it takes to know. Don’t be afraid to challenge your competition. If you can walk the walk, talk the talk.
… To tell your agency, “You completely whiffed. Please try again.” We have our big-boy pants on, we can handle it.
… Of the market leader. They’re as scared of you as you are of them. And if you are the market leader, don’t be afraid to act like it. Chances are, you didn’t get there by being careful. Don’t be afraid of, “No one has ever done anything like this before.” Exactly!