Uncommon Sense

There was a time when I believed in common sense. I thought that people grew up, became educated and while making a mistake here and there along the way, generally got things right. But I was wrong.

Sense (as in “that makes sense, so yes”) isn’t “common” at all in our world today. We don’t all share a common viewpoint that says when X happens, Y is the correct course. There are exceptions of course — things like traffic laws, paying taxes and watching videos of cool-looking dogs.  But I’ve learned that things that make sense to me might ONLY make sense to me and that you cannot assume the power of common sense will take over and guide people. It won’t and baby, I can prove it. How much time do you have?

For example, in marketing here are three things that don’t make sense, but really should (to me at least):

  1. Brand Messaging — Should always be 100 percent about the audience, their needs, wants, desires. But thousands of companies fail at this and thus their marketing efforts will be somewhat less effective and wasted. We work hard to fix this problem with every new client we take on, but that’s a pretty limited reach.
  2. Privacy — Should be defended vigorously by the marketing dept. since we are supposed to be in the “let’s build a relationship” business—and yet marketing fights back on privacy looking for new and inventive ways to be creepy and invasive. So much so, that governments have now gotten involved in creating new privacy laws that draw the edges of the sandbox for marketing. (Yay?) And yet…even under the threat of fines and non-compliance, marketing will foolishly communicate WITHOUT consent, destroying any chance of a relationship which is both short-sighted and dumb.
  3. Ongoing Stupidity — From Henry J. at Gibson blaming his customers for not wanting new “technologically advanced” guitars to United Airlines’ massive mishandling of crisis after crisis you just have to wonder — who is running these programs? All of the things I cover on the Winning and Losing segment of my weekly radio show are EASILY avoidable with just like a little bit of thinking being applied PRIOR to the execution. And yet, it’s like a big corporate game of Who Can Sink Lower, Faster with the next company up saying, “Ha, that was good.  …Hold my beer!”  

So if sense isn’t as “common” as we thought, then how do we manage communications?  Here’s everything you will ever need to know from a 25-year MarCom veteran. First, begin with empathy for your audience. Second, trust your audience to behave (they will when the message is right for them). Third, don’t step in it. (and if you do, then really apologize for it and move on). Instead of a laundry list of tactics, timelines, marketing automation, A.I. and whatever else you’ve got, this is what your marketing plan should look like. Are we considering them?  Do we really trust them?  And when presented with the opportunity to do something really dumb that will create work for the PR dept, let’s just not.

Marketing and communications should be pretty simple. We listen, we respond and we do our best to earn our very small place in someone’s very busy life. If nothing else, maybe we could at least have this in common?