Irrelevance Isn't Very Fascinating

Have Marketers Become Bored With Ad Agencies?

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
Sally Hogshead's new book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, dips into marketing philosophy that seems all too familiar, then refreshingly pans out pure nuggets of wisdom. Like a great ad campaign showing the familiar from a new perspective, "Fascinate" shows consumer fascination for a brand is emotional alchemy.

"Fascinate" reminds marketers to not worry about tracking their messages as much as the way their messages inspire consumers to create messages of their own about the brand. In today's world, this isn't a gentle suggestion, but the law from which all other laws of successful marketing dangle. I've written before that the consumer is in control. "Fascinate" underscores this with evidence that an advertiser who chooses not to be fascinating will be overtaken by a competitor who is.

I couldn't help but feel frustrated while reading "Fascinate." The principles within are what my agency promotes to our clients. Yet, I pondered: Are we drinking the Kool-Aid, or simply mixing it? Just how fascinating is my company? Fortunately, I didn't have to wallow in pity caused by my answer. I was given several good swift kicks in the brain on concurrent pages. Perhaps the most relevant was what Sally calls the "Brand Chemistry Set."

I firmly believe that my company has the "chemicals" to be a fascinating company. It's simply a process of properly mixing our fascination formula. Every agency's goal is to work with advertisers who allow them to do what they do best. "Fascinate" made this clearer to me than ever before. I'm excited at the prospect of soaring, thanks to Sally's firm push over the cliff.

If you're an agency owner you probably feel, as I do, that most of us need to be more fascinating to our clients. We must raise the bar if our industry is to evolve and, dare I say, survive? We were once one of the most fascinating industries in the world. I worry we've been basking in that afterglow too long. There are many threats to our indispensability. We are in a crisis of purpose. I wrote a couple of months ago that our abilities in execution are easy to replicate, but the "big idea" is what sustains us. "Fascinate" reinforces my belief in our core competency. The increased demands on our industry are opportunities to refine by fire. Let's stoke the heat and get the job done.

On page 196 of "Fascinate," there's a question we in advertising must answer, both as individuals and an industry: "What core values is your brand so committed to that it would be willing to go out of business before sacrificing?"

Replace "is your brand" with "are you" and fill in your answer. Personally, I would rather go down because of principles than from being irrelevant or, better stated, un-fascinating. In the future, those in our industry who disappear will do so by making a choice between one of these two causes. I plan on doing what's necessary to stay in plain sight.

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