A Resolution Against Marketing Resolutions (Especially the New-Year Variety)

Yes, this title is an oxymoron. I know, that might make me look foolish. But bear with me, I’m going to make sense eventually. Plus, I trust you faithful readers are going to read beyond my headline and actually grant me that chance. (And I gave up trying to fight my natural foolishness long ago.)


In January, surely as gym memberships spike, we marketers find an onslaught of lists, articles and publications telling us what the biggest trends are to watch in [insert year here]. Incidentally, video is the hot prediction this year.

Along with notice of these trends, we’ll typically see some reference to annual budgets, how the future will be different from the past, and what various marketers resolve to do in the year ahead. In fact, in the process of writing this I just received an unsolicited email touting a conference with the opening:

“What’s the number one priority to succeed in digital publishing this year?”

Sound familiar?

Stop making resolutions, please

I think the world would be a better place if we stopped making breathless resolutions and proclamations … or empty ones that we’re going to break in 6 weeks, personally or professionally. Resolutions themselves are not intrinsically bad, of course. Everyone has the right to grow and change their mind (a necessary element of maturity, indeed), but what I’m railing against is willful ignorance and the constant jumping back-and-forth in marketing between assorted flavors of the moment. For example, don’t tell us how you’re super-excited about user experience in one breath and then talk about how websites should be designed primarily for search engines in the next. Not only is that flighty, it’s simply flat-out wrong.

Another example of nonsense would be saying something to the effect of Email is going to be a more dominant channel than SEO—when SEO isn’t even a channel. Search engines are channels, yes; SEO is not. This kind of talk is misleading. Even more, it’s dangerous. It destroys your credibility. Let’s think before we speak. And write.

Alternatively, we might talk about SEO as a more effective practice for business than email (if you’re weighing relative benefits), or vice-versa. In addition, SEO can be something you’re looking to improve in a given year, quarter, month, etc. Always keep in mind, though, chances are any given approach’s effectiveness generally stems more from how well you’re doing it or how much your audience is into a particular medium, not an inherent flaw in the channel itself. LinkedIn and Snapchat may be perfect for reaching certain audiences, just not yours. On the other hand, one of them might be the perfect channel for your business, but your weak presence on it has failed to produce benefits thus far.

If you must resolve to do something with determined focus, instead of hyperventilating about the shiniest new marketing technology, how about recognizing that many of the old laws of marketing still apply?

Timeless marketing truths

Which old laws are not obsolete?

  • People still appreciate human contact.
  • Nobody likes strong-arming. Pressure typically doesn’t work in life and business. When buyers are ready to buy, they’ll let you know (after they’re 50-90% through the process; see sub-heading #2 in preceding link).
  • People love free stuff, even though The 48 Laws of Power warns us against the dangers. (Exhibit A: T-shirt giveaways at arena sporting events.)
  • People love premium offerings, and will pay accordingly for the best. Your job is to make buying easy for them.
  • Creative is not a dirty word.
  • Data will never tell the whole story of your brand. Nor will it motivate like a narrative. Use it with care and let your information help you inspire.

Make these marketing truths a part of your everyday philosophy, and I think you’ll see a longer and greater impact than you would with any single ‘sexy’ resolution. Thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you the very best for 2016!


Photo courtesy of Carol VanHook via Flickr.

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