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Make Failure a Friend

It Starts Well…

There you are.  With oustanding plan in hand you approach your boss with the plan to take your organization to the next level.  You amass your team and the research begins.  As you had hoped the research confirms your suspicions.  You elaborate your plan, ensuring all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.  Pricing confirms its doable.  Clearance is given, you present to your Executive Team and you’re given the go ahead.  Production moves forward.  Execution is flawless.  And when the results come in… you’re dead in the water with no needle movement at all on the Market-O-Meter.

How Do You React?

Assuming this has happened to us all, what is it that makes the best laid plans go sour?  Sports related, business related, or in our personal lives, it comes out of nowhere.  Failure.  It’s unfortunate part of life, but can anything be done to prevent it?  Should you attempt to prevent it?  I submit no.  To avoid failure is to avoid success.  We simply can’t succeed in life without failing a few times.  Failure pushes us to succeed:  miscalculated projections caught by your CFO will get your attention in a hurry – and you won’t make that mistake again, right?  But to get back to the first question – can we always anticipate failure?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Sucks, huh?

So Now What?

Everyone hates to fail.  For me, it’s like a rollercoaster.  Your preparation is the metaphor for boarding the ride.  The push-off of the campaign is the metaphor for creeping up the first big hill.  It’s exciting, exhilirating and scary, all rolled into one.  The plan launches; your car reaches the top.  And then just as your car rolls down the hill, the report comes across your desk.  With the giddy anticipation of that free fall that you’ve planned for, the ride suddenly ends.  No sales gain.  No climax.  Now what?

Failure has much to teach us.  It taught JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, a few things.  Look at how she has turned out.  She’ll be remembered for her success in literature and far from being considered a failure.  Failure has many facets to it, but I would submit one question about failure.  Do you own your failure?  How much ownership do you take in your projects?  The ultimate determination of what occurs next falls in your hands – and it always has.  Your team might help pick up some of the pieces in a failed campaign, but that’s an assumption you can’t afford to make.  Take acountability of any project – good or bad.  Investigate and investigate and investigate some more.  Guide your team to start looking under rocks.  The answer might be elusive, but it’s out there.  Find it.  Was your research flawed?  Did the pricing need adjusting?  Did you involve the wrong people or not involve the right people?  Consider the possibilities.  Use the creativity you’ve been blessed with as a marketer or business leader to resolve the issues.


We only get a few shots in this life.  And as difficult a time as I have with this next statement, I admit some truth in it.  Failure IS closer than you think.  It’s a hair’s width away.  But on the other side of that hair is where Success lives.  Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Read that statement again.  “…One failure to another….”  It’s unrealistic to expect failure is a distant relative.  So embrace failure but don’t let it beat you.  Hug it like an ex-wife or ex-husband (there’s a realistic picture for failure, huh?)   But go on to better things because you ARE capable of it.  You will find success.

Look at your last failure.  Analyze how you took in the bad news.  How did you respond?  Did you throw your arms up in the air, hide or simply quit?  This post is fitting, considering the failure of many NCAA teams this weekend.  Many top ranked teams lost including #1 Ohio State, #3 Georgia, #4 Florida and a few others lost; many on their home turf.  Learn from their coaches who will undoubtedly admit that they played a better team, that they’ll watch the game films to see what’s wrong and that they’ll come back with improved game plans come next Saturday.

Plan to succeed.  When failure occurs, embrace it.  Own your failure.  Adjust.  Then…Succeed!


The Truth in Advertising


Well, the SHSMD conference is over at last and now I’m home.  The sessions I attended were informative, but my main takeaway was of a different sort to me.  I listened to many speakers talk about how they overcame obstacles to communicate to their patients or clients.  I listened to how we should excite women and get their attention; how to involve physicians in future marketing efforts and how the Davids can beat the Goliaths.  But most of all, I observed the need for humans to share their stories.


We marketers spend countless dollars and efforts fighting the jungle of each other’s fruitions.  With machete aimed high, we attempt to swat down newspaper print ads, television commercials and the long vines of direct mail.  We do it in the name of our company, and in the name of profit.  But at the end of the day, word

Word of Mouth continues its reign

Word of Mouth continues its reign

of mouth is the mighty champion again and again.


Whether you are in healthcare or manufacturing, it matters not.  Whether you have a large budget or a small one matters not.  Whether you are an expert or an amateur matters not (take note Andrew Keen!).  What does matter is your ability to communicate – and in that communication tell a story.  Not your story, mind you.  Tell the story of the consumer.  And let them help.


WEb 2.0 users know this to be true already.  Bloggers and content generaters tell their stories everyday.  Who are bloggers?  Well…they’re you and me – consumers; and there are a lot of us.  And sometimes we may not like to hear what consumers always have to say.  But if we have a shred of marketing decency, then we must realize they are our focus group AND our audience.  They no longer need an invitation or free meal.  They meet when they want and where they want.  And say what they want to say.  They force us all to be better producers.  And what’s so wrong with that?

We have much to learn from each other.  Let the story telling begin.

Creativity Examples

There is nothing I love better than some great examples of creativity no matter the medium.  Here’s a site I came across that has this and more.

Healthcare Marketing Goes 2.0

This week I’m at a SHSMD conference in San Francisco.  (That’s Society for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing Development for those playing at home.)  The big buzzword so far has been “2.0.”   One gentleman I spoke with yesterday from a healthcare group is having a hard time getting the corporate boys to realize the playground equipment has changed over the years.  They’re not quite ready to let go of the past.  Predictably, the age range of these folks is on the higher end of the spectrum which tells me fear still causes ignorance in this new age.

Although it’s been a day since I heard this information that people are actually dragging their feet at engaging the internet, consumers and the future, I just can not shake it.  How do these businesses stay alive?  Maybe they should check their days on hand cash – the days might be quickly coming to a close.

How NOT to Market – Incredible Story

Last week I was watching CNN Headline News.  The story was about a gas station in the southeastern region of the U.S.  They were selling gas for about 30 cents a gallon.  There were stories of happy customers, people calling other people, and of course long lines.  To say the event was viral would be an easy statement, especially when the gas prices weren’t even advertised.  The cell phones did all the advertising.

Later we find out why the gas prices were never advertised…  Apparently an employee put the wrong prices into the system and instead of 30 cents, the price per gallon should have been closer to $3.30.  The approximate exposure to the station rang up to $1500 dollars before the glitch was fixed.  

Now, if it were me as the owner, I might have been a bit upset at the employee and reprimanded them severely…but then again, look at the attention generated.  Multiple calls were made, new customers were made and you end up being FEATURED on Headline News.  National advertising for 2-3 minutes that only cost you $1500!!!  It’s more than a dream come true – it’s virtually impossible.

So, what did the owner plan to do?  Again, this is true – they stated on air they would investigate those customers who had used credit cards and then add on to their card what the actual amount should have been…  WHAT????!!!  Are you kidding??  Not only is this potentially illegal to do, but now you have additionally pissed off all the people who for that day became your advocates.

Sometimes human nature and their lack of vision blows me away.  Am I alone in this way of thinking?

An example of great Marketing, creativity, ad design and text copy

pantene_prov_ad-thumb.jpgComing to us via MarketingBlurb, Pantene has a very clever ad campaign featuring ads like the own shown above.  The ad, to me, represents great marketing, great ad design, and minimal copy.  Has anyone seen a campaign lately that can top this one?

How to get FREE coffee – online


Lately there has been a bit of talk on the podcasts and blogs about the power of FREE.  Some see the word as a gimmick, but let’s face it – it’s one of the most attention getting words of all time.  Especially when FREE comes just before something you really enjoy a lot.  Like coffee. 

John Wall of Marketing over Coffee and Ronin Marketeer made me and others aware of a unique test called the Java Beta Test offered by Joffrey’s.  This creative stroke of genius has Joffrey’s, a coffee company out of Florida, engaging bloggers everywhere to write about their coffee.  All bloggers need do is check out Joffrey’s beta site, submit your blog and try to be one of the lucky ones to be sent a sample of their beans.  So far, a little over 1,100 bloggers have signed up to try the coffee.

With so much ingenuity and competition out there, my hat goes off to Joffrey’s.  I haven’t even tasted the coffee yet, but when I received my packet this morning along with a letter that cleverly explains their playful brand, I was hooked.  So was my wife who loved the name “Jamaican Me Crazy.”  To engage bloggers in the hopes of them writing about their product was a smart strategy, great marketing – and it is working.  Do a blog search on them and you’ll see many posts surfacing already.  Nice approach and I assume great coffee.  I’ll find out tomorrow morning.