Sunday, June 14, 2009

There is No Marketing Magic Bullet

Assuming that my entire readership is more than 8 years old, I'll share this adults-only secret: There is no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy, and definitely no Marketing Magic Bullet.

The Marketing Magic Bullet? I'm talking about that single masterful trick, the brilliant stroke of genius, the one perfect key that unlocks the door to a roomful of success... if only we marketing folks could find it.

Stop looking. You're not going to find it because there's nothing to find.

How can I say that? I can say that on the basis of 25 years in marketing. And believe me, I've been looking. In every company, someone, somewhere is absolutely convinced that a magic bullet does exist.

"But what about Apple? One brilliant Super Bowl ad put the company on the map!"

If all it took to make a successful company was a single memorable Super Bowl ad, we'd all be buying our puppy chow and flea collars at Pets.com. Instead, their cute sock puppet is the poster child for the dot.com bust.

"If we could just get a front-page press story."

Hearing that prescription for instant success, I was tempted to suggest to that person my 100% guaranteed strategy for national press coverage: "Light your hair on fire and jump off the roof... just wait until the photographers are in place." It's probably better that I had the diplomatic good sense to restrain myself.

It's a Thousand Little Things

I once worked with Penske Racing as one of their Indy Car sponsors. (For the non-motorheads among you, Penske Racing is one of the most successful organizations in motor car racing, having just won their 15th Indianapolis 500.)


In interviewing one of the senior members of the team, I once naively asked, "Is the key to winning the car or the driver?"

He patiently explained, "It's not just the car or just the driver. It's actually a thousand little things." It's the driver, the designer, the crew, each part manufacturer, and every other element involved in putting a car on the track that can go 225 miles per hour down the straightaway and turn left at the end... for 200 laps. If all of those elements perform as required, he said, we've got a chance to win.

He didn't say anything about a "magic bullet."

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