March 20, 2015 Kevin Erb

Marketing Madness

Yesterday was the first day of March Madness, as you may have noticed, and it certainly lived up to its name…buzzer beaters, overtime games, upsets and close calls. If you’re like basketballmany folks – including most of us here – your brackets were a flaming pile of fail before sundown.

The good news: There are lessons we can take from March Madness, especially when it comes to how we fill out our brackets, and what it means for our approach to marketing planning and strategy.

Sure, there are some people who take a bit more, well, unorthodox route to filling out their brackets each March – mascots, team colors, etc. But for most, we follow a pretty tried and true process each year, a process that offers some parallels in how we develop a marketing strategy:

  • Do your homework. Most of us like to put some thought into our picks, of course. We closely read the sports page and scour the Internet, researching teams and reading the experts. We put the time, attention and effort into feeling like our brackets are the best we can do. How we plan out our marketing should be the same.
  • Be predictable. One-seeds are one-seeds for a reason – they’re really good. The same goes for the most common or proven platforms when building a marketing plan. They offer a higher level of success because they’ve shown that’s what they can do in the past. That being said…
  • Pick your spots to be unconventional. While taking a 16 seed to beat a 1 is pure folly, picking a 14 to beat a 3 or a 5 seed to make it to the Final Four can help our bracket work its way up the rankings if those picks come through. Likewise, it’s important to look for opportunities where we can supplement the more predictable aspects of our marketing efforts with something – or some things – more unconventional. This could be platform or content – or a combination of the two.
  • Trust your gut. All the homework, all the research, all the expert opinions…we’ll still run into situations where we’re just not sure which way to go. When this happens, our intution can be the ultimate tiebreaker. We know our organization, our product/service, our customers, etc., better than anyone. That knowledge can translate into a feeling in these situations that can help guide our decision-making.

– Blow it up. Sure, we can hold out hope for some rally in our brackets, even after two 3 seeds lose in the span of an hour and we lose a Final Four team. But deep down, we may as well torch that sheet and reduce it to dust. The same can go with a marketing plan or campaign – we hold out hope for success in the face of evidence to the contrary. It’s more important to be honest in our assessment, recognize when it isn’t working – and make the adjustments necessary to change its course.

Through all of its chaos and joy and heartbreak and hope, it turns out March Madness is a lot like life as a marketer. Hopefully that discovery gives you some small solace as you cast your bracket off into the garbage for another year.

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