There’s a great line in the movie “Bull Durham” that came to mind this week. Used once in the film to ground the struggling Bulls in the basics of what they’re on the field to do, star pitcher Nuke LaLoosh extends the image later in the film to demonstrate his profound thinking on the sport of baseball. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the line.   

This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while.

Of course digital marketing isn’t a simple game. I’ve had a blog post building in my head for months loosely titled, “Maybe What We’re Doing Here is Really Rediculously Hard.” We’re processing massive amounts of information in order to connect with thousands of increasingly narrow segments with the hope that we can match the person with the perfect message, placed across the ideal channel, tuned to the precise device, delivered real-time at the moment of maximum impact, with all the tools necessary to enable social sharing. Oh, and ideally it’s all perfectly tagged to allow for measurement and tracking, and the data will flow through an attribution model that will tell us EXACTLY what’s working, in what proportions, and how to spend our money better next month.

I would argue, though,  that there are contests on the marketing playing field that are not being lost in the complexities of multi-channel campaigns, but on the fundamentals. Who is your customer? Where do they hang out online and what do they do there?  When they’re there, do they want to talk to you? Are their engagement preferences dynamic, and how frequently are those preferences changing (e.g. will consumer attention move from Vine to Instagram before the end of your campaign)? What are your campaigns designed to do or achieve? Is your team and management structure aligned that this is the desired outcome? Are your customers really going to act in the way you’re asking (see my post from earlier this year on WWYCD?). Have we defined what success looks like? Will we know it when we see it?

 Marketers are optimists. This is why we’re so darn fun to be around. We like when things work….when they make a splash…when the level of the buzz rises, and the cash registers ring (or site is clicked).  It’s a lot easier to believe that what we do is uniquely hard – or that the platforms we have to work with are uniquely flawed – when our programs don’t deliver.  It’s certainly better than admitting you used the wrong platform…you shared the wrong content…you overextended your budget… or you made the wrong ask. As my colleague Jake Sorofman said in his post, Facebook is Not the Problem, “…blindly throwing pennies at Facebook and expecting it spit out quarters like a slot machine is little more than a fool’s errand.”

 The best digital marketing tool you possess is your mind. Ask the most of that platform, and your programs will improve.  Because, at its’ core, it’s a simple game. Think about that for a while.


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