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  • Sam Decker

Making a Marketing Discovery

One of my marketing team members made a “marketing discovery” on an email test. She made a mistake on one of her test email subject lines and it turned out to have the best response.

Another team member referred to this as a “Happy Accident”, which he explained is a term used by that always-cheery art teacher on the public access channel: “When you’re learning to paint, there are no mistakes… just happy accidents.” This may only work for art and marketing…you can’t replace the word ‘paint’ with ‘drive’ or ‘cut wood’!

It reminded me of a very important idea…

Sometimes what surprises our customers are the things that would surprise us as marketers. And therefore it is difficult to make a marketing discovery that will surprise our customers.

I’m not surprised that just about every B2B web site looks and reads the same. Despite all our efforts as marketers to be ‘creative’ and ‘differentiated’, we read too much of our own stuff. We don’t nearly take the creative leaps we think we do. Our brains need more time ‘out of the box’.

Sometimes finding these discoveries requires time. Yet, sometimes it is found by accident or under pressure, like this email test. Agencies will often argue the first. I agree that good creative usually requires thinking time. But inadequate timelines are life, from clients who are procrastinators, poor planners, and barely hanging onto a speeding bullet of a business. So we need the best agencies who attract the best people trained to think outside the box within a time box.

Roy Williams, author of Wizard of Ads, pleads with his Wizard Academy students to read poetry (like Robert Frost) and study art (like Picasso). He teaches about the ‘third gravitational object’ that can make the ordinary extraordinary by just throwing something slightly off balance. He speaks of ‘surprising broca’, or what my father calls the “First Brain”…the primitive part of the brain that needs to be stimulated with something unusual or authentic before customers really start listening. These are important practices and concepts to find a marketing discovery.

So, this was an important reminder to me and my team…once we think we’ve landed on ‘good creative’, stop. Turn it 33 degrees to the left or upside down. Make a marketing discovery…and customers are more likely to discover you.


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