6 Truths I Hold To Be Self-Evident

  |  January 16, 2014   |  Comments

In conversations about Big Data, programmatic advertising or how creepy it is that companies follow you around the Internet, columnist Jim Sterne does his best not to roll his eyes and sigh, instead explaining how it all works.

shutterstock-158155442In conversations about Big Data, programmatic advertising or how creepy it is that companies follow you around the Internet, I do my best to not roll my eyes and sigh, and instead try to explain how it all works.

My goal is to talk people down, ease their fears, and assure them that the Internet is not on the verge of becoming self-aware and deciding that humans should be eradicated.

But I often forget to preface all of the above with 35 years of marketing and advertising assumptions I carry around and simply assume everybody knows.

So here are six things to consider before engaging me in conversation. These are my premises. They are my foundations. They are what I believe and I get confused when people go off on a rant without taking these things into account.

1. Gravity is a Downer

Everything takes work. Nothing is easy. If it were, they wouldn't need you to do it. Easy things are also mind-numbingly boring.

Things require effort to make and to continue to exist. The natural process is decay. It's called entropy. If you don't tend to it (your website, your Twitter account, your customer base) it will dwindle and fade.

2. If It's Going to Happen, You Have to Do It

shutterstock-157132442I was delighted when I realized I could be an idea person.

"Gosh, I don't know how that works... I'm an ideas person!"

"No, I don't have the tools or the skills to make it happen... I'm an ideas person!"

"No, I shouldn't be evaluated on production... I'm an ideas person!"

Then I found out that ideas are worth less than a dime a dozen. Unless it gets planned, organized, funded and done, an idea is worth less than nothing because somebody's time was wasted listening to it. If you're not willing to do the work, why are you here?

Walls get built by putting one brick on top of another for hours and hours and hours.

3. Customers Are Not Inevitable

Customers do not flock. Things do not go viral. Stuff does not jump off the shelves of stores. When that happens, it is not success, it is a MIRACLE!

The process of making prospective customers aware of your product, interested in your product, eager for your product and actually buy your product is a marathon. It takes training, endurance and grit. And you must never, never, never give up.

4. Branding Paves the Way for Sales

shutterstock-128798782I worked for a number of companies run by engineers who knew that if people could just see their product, wallets would open. They saw marketing as an unnecessary expense. They got mad at me for creating marketing materials and couldn't understand why the other salespeople were always asking to copy my slides, letters or product notes. "You're supposed to be out there selling! Why are you still in the office?"

Marketing requires branding. Branding requires a company/product to stand for something and then communicate it well. Yes, people spend major amounts of money just to get people to remember their name and that they represent safety or luxury or quality or frugality or reliability, etc. It is money well spent.

Getting people to remember your name and what you represent is massively hard. It takes psychology, sociology, ethnography, empathy, wisdom, insight, creativity and genius. It's not something that is going to be found in the Tableau visualization of a Hadoop Cluster in the Cloud.

5. Data is Not Magic

Data will never create great, resonant marketing campaigns. Only humans can do that and it's really, really hard to do!

Talk to anybody in the ad biz about the greatest ads of all time and inevitably you'll hear about Apple's "1984" spot. It was awesome. It was shown only once... in 1984... and it is still held up as an icon. Real creativity takes real heart.

Big Data is not magic either. It's cool and exciting, but humans are still required to figure out what data to collect and what to ask the machine. Real data creativity takes real heart.

6. Data is Not Evil

Money is not evil. It's the love of money you have to watch out for, just like data.

shutterstock-134600699Data does not dehumanize marketing. Just as Photoshop does not dehumanize painting, advertising and marketing are enhanced by data as long as it is not used to the exclusion of creativity and soul.

The reason were are so focused on measuring what people do (click, click, tweet, post, click) is because that's the information we have. It's so much better than what we had before.

Previously, we could measure if they bought something - now, we can measure if they are considering buying something.

If only everybody simply assumed all of the above, these conversations could be more about how to move forward - how to make the world more customer centric.

Maybe it's time for a t-shirt with this list so I can just point, instead of rolling my eyes and sighing when these conversations get tedious.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.

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