Great Marketing is Not Made in Six Days; Give It a Week, at Least

In the Rush to Put Something Out There, We've Lost Our Attention to Craft

By Published on .

A funny thing happened on the way to the future. We replaced the importance of patient craftwork with an overwhelming desire to hit "send." Marketers seize every chance to tweet or post or hang from a lamppost -- anything to get out there fast. They get drunk on their new opportunities with the internet, like "leaking" Super Bowl spots on YouTube, instead of paying attention to the content and ideas in their work.

How did we get here? Let's back up a second.

I remember my dad talking years ago about the promise of the PC, including the three-hour work days to come as processors helped us achieve so much, so efficiently, that our free time would blossom. Well, human nature didn't let that happen. We got things done faster, but used the extra time to do more work.

Some argue that personal computers have even changed our brains. In "The Shallows: What the internet is Doing to Our Brains," author Nicholas Carr cites scientific studies to gauge the organic impact of computers. With our brains reshaped to accommodate addictive internet bytes, Carr writes, we lose the ability for deep concentration on a single topic. Our brains are building around Google results and not libraries of informed expertise. Scary.

But I'm not going to go all Luddite here. I happily argue that life is generally improved because of technology used well. But the churn-and-burn mindset has broken our appreciation of the benefits of intellectual rigor. We don't really need to learn to spell correctly anymore, which is a great relief to many of us, except that we also stopped going to the dictionary as a result. Then we stopped questioning if we were using words correctly, and learning about word origin to help us make the precise choice for any particular sentence. That little red underline in the automatic spell-correct function is working too hard.

We have stopped taking the time to craft our messages for the most powerful meaning and impact, convinced that it is more important just to have put out something -- anything.

Can we start a little revolution to change this? Perhaps. It likely will take a good deal of time to take effect, but here are a few ways we can begin.

Be simple. In our industry, people describe successful messaging as tossing a single ball and having it caught by a willing recipient. One ball. When we start cramming multiple messages into our marketing, it's like aiming multiple tennis-ball machines at our consumers. Keep it simple. Most people will have an easier time catching a single ball, and then are more likely to hang on to it.

Make it worth repeating. A well-crafted message should be something people will proudly share. Our friends at TOMS Shoes and Eyewear are masters. They have a do-good program called "One for One." I buy a pair of shoes for myself and Tom's puts a pair on a kid in the third world. People are proud to share the news about that project.

Be authentic. Marketers get a lot of credit for creating great brands and making consumers fall in love with them. But we don't create great brands, we seek out the truths about the brands that come to us. We find out, for example, why the brand founders left whatever well-paying job they had before to spring their little folly and vision onto the world. Every company has a story. If you try to make a story up, and it's not at the center of your beliefs, you won't just get found out. You'll get slaughtered.

Sound suggestions? Yes. But It is impossible to do all these things well without slowing down.

Technology has created the opportunity to eliminate boredom almost entirely. We grab our phones to fire up a game of Dots, to fire back an e-mail, to do just about anything to eliminate the anxiety created by not accomplishing something every waking moment.

We must reframe this culture. Marketing at its best is not about checking off a list for things like a social-media execution. It must be about taking the time to be thoughtful and relevant.

Cal McAllister is co-founder, CEO and executive creative director at Wexley School for Girls.
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