Chicken Soup for the Marketing Director’s Soul

Chicken SoupWhen I first started out in this crazy world of advertising and marketing, I had a co-worker who had been in the business for a while (think of the show “Mad Men”) who would pass on “things to know” in endless supply. One of those things that I’ve remembered over the years has to do with the difference between knowledge and wisdom. It goes like this: knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing that you shouldn’t put it in a fruit salad. I’ve said this so many times to friends, co-workers, my kids, etc., that I’m surprised I’m still not tired of saying it.  But there’s so much truth in it and it applies especially to the discipline of marketing.

As marketing folks, regardless of the industry or size of the firm or marketing department, we’re busy trying to learn as much as we can so as to stay up with the times.  And there’s so much to learn. Whether it’s new research telling us about how certain demo groups are behaving towards specific marketing channels, to new online tools, to the best lead-generation software, it’s all coming at us at lightning speed.  But we have to remember the need to use good judgment given all of this knowledge.  You see knowledge – having specific familiarity or understanding about something – is a bit different than having wisdom – being able to discern or judge what is true, right or lasting. In short, to be wise.  

So, while all of this knowledge is important — and it is — we need to know what we can depend on and what is just a fad. What will apply tomorrow after “the next best thing” in marketing has burned out and we’re on to the next “next big thing.” So indulge me in the passing on of some marketing wisdom. Think of it as Marketing “Chicken Soup for Soul,” if you catch my drift.

Marketing wisdom is knowing…

  1. …that “do-it-yourself” marketing is pervasive….but hardly ever persuasive.
  2. …that when you know what you’re doing is right, perseverance will pay off.
  3. …that our primal desires, urges and wants (what motivates us) mostly remain the same even in this world of new apps, websites, social networks, etc.
  4. …that it’s OK to have some people not like your brand because if you’re not eliciting a negative response from someone somewhere, then you’re probably not that fascinating to anyone. No one remembers lukewarm!
  5. …that you shouldn’t be over-thinking your content. People want information but most prefer authentic and credible, real-life stories. That’s when relationships start developing.
  6. … the difference between strategy and tactics.
  7. … how to talk to current and prospective customers in a way that they understand and with messages that they’ll listen to. It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
  8. … that copy length is meaningless, provided that your sales story is compelling and hits an emotional sweet spot with the customer.
  9. … today the best idea does not win; the best idea does not get credit; and, the best product does not win if nobody pays attention in the first place.
  10. … when those so-called “experts” are furthering their own agenda by “smoke and mirrors.”
  11. … not to retreat into marketing nothingness or “into the middle of the herd” by doing what everybody else does or doing it the way they do it.
  12. … that the outcome of an effective social media strategy isn’t about what you post or how many times you tweet, etc., but rather it’s all about what others say or tweet about you!
  13. … that while “best kept secrets” might be seen as good for restaurants, traffic shortcuts and travel destinations, but they’re NOT great for business.  Don’t get lost in the noise.
  14. … that people will pay more attention to what you want to tell us by not dishing out plain vanilla marketing but rather by scooping out interesting flavors (think “Cherry Garcia,” “Chubby Hubby,” or “Chunky Monkey”, etc.)
  15. … when to cut rope on holdover marketing programs that the company has “invested” in over the years.
  16. … that if marketing is about building relationships with customers, over-marketing is the best way to kill the relationship and send the customer or prospect heading for the door.
  17. … that while hearing from the customer is great, spending quality time listening to what they’re really saying is what separates good companies from great ones.
  18. …the difference between what people in the company want and doing what the company actually needs.
  19. … that within the world of social media, brands are not built by influential people, but by influential ideas.
  20. … that while it’s fine to try things to attract new customers to your business, be sure to spread a little love around to those who are already in your camp and are supporting your business.

So, when you open up your next Google Alert about a specific marketing subject or if someone from upstairs decides to drop off an industry trade journal with a Post-It note saying “maybe we should try this,” it might be worth remembering “Marketing wisdom is knowing what to put in your fruit salad or keep out of it.”


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.


This entry was posted in Advertising, Branding, Creativity, Direct Response, Marketing, Media, New Business, Online Marketing, Research, Sales & Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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