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You’re afraid. It’s OK. I get it. You have a reputation to keep, a standard or legacy to uphold. There’s a way it’s always been done and you probably have to answer to someone who would prefer to maintain the status quo rather than taking on the risk of doing something risky.
So, you bend.
You meet in the middle.
The comfortable spot that feels as if you’re doing something unavoidably unique, even though it’s been watered down so much it’s nothing more than another version of the same old, same old.
It is the reason every catalog looks the same. Change the name or logo and no one would know the difference between you and your competitors.
It is why trade show booths mirror one another with minor exceptions that only those in the know would ever recognize.
I’d rather be eating a sandwich.
This was the title I gave a podcast that never got off the ground. Good intentions ran into a 24-hour day. Something had to go and the podcast was never born. In the future, if I have the luxury of free time on my side, I may revisit this, but for now it happens to be serving as a story to weave an article around.
What’s with the name?
“I’d rather be eating a sandwich” was my way of being funny. I have a unique ability to crack myself up and this was no exception.
If asked my opinion on any marketing initiative that screamed of playing it safe, I’d simply say, “I’d rather be eating a sandwich.” For 99.9 percent of the stuff put out there to market and promote products and services, I have to say I’d rather be eating a sandwich than notice any of it. It’s just not worthy of the attention. Facts.
Childish, I know. Guilty as charged.
The Power of Words
Unavoidable marketing can completely transform your business.
It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that one sales letter, ad campaign or product name change can completely change the trajectory of your business and life.
Words are powerful things — if you face your fear and take some risks.
But it’s rare.
Just ask the guys over at Big Ass Fans. It seems like a smart move after the fact, but imagine being in that initial meeting when a brave soul proposed they change the name of the entire company, and brand, to Big Ass Fans. I think it’s safe to say 10 out of 10 people reading this right now would have thought whoever proposed the idea was kidding, or they had better be.
Ditto for the team at Dollar Shave Club. Thanks to their viral fame and subsequent billion-dollar exit, it seems like a brilliant move. But very, very few leaders at reputable razor companies would have ever given something that audacious the green light.
It’s too risky.
Following or Leading
For every success making the news, there are countless failures. And no one wants to be a failure. No one wants to be a part of a team that has to raise their hand and admit to being the brains behind something that falls flat, or even worse, pisses someone off.
It’s easier and more comfortable to simply follow.
It’s easier to let a company such as Dollar Shave Club go first and after they hit pay dirt, then jump in with your copy-cat version. Once someone breaks through and a concept is received with applause, leaders who desperately want that adoration follow suit, convincing themselves that they too are brave, creative thinkers.
But you’re kidding yourself.
You’re just a follower at that point. Even if your copy-cat effort works, the market will realize you’re piggy-backing off another idea. Your campaign will always be described along the lines of being “like the Dollar Shave Club video, only for toilets.”
Life is short. I think you have to make an impact, to inspire, to lead. Otherwise, you’re just another (fill in the blank).
You can make a living, or you can make an impact that causes a ripple effect and inspires those coming after you.
And if you’re fortunate, you can do both.
Inspiration and Risk
A few brave souls create art within their work. They inspire us all. They are risking the comfort and seemingly predictable living everyone else is clutching on to for dear life.
But make no mistake about it, to be someone who inspires, who ventures into the unknown, means you may risk making a living. You risk being comfortable.
It’s safer to make a living, put in your time and avoid rocking the boat until it’s your time to move on.
It’s risky to do remarkable things, to do the things worth remarking about.
It’s safer to check the boxes, stay safe and just maintain.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s probably the more responsible thing to do. Those counting on you to maintain the comfort would cringe at the thought of anything that could put it at risk.
I applaud, and admire, this type of leadership quite frankly. It seems responsible if nothing else.
But make no mistake about it, we’re living during a time when the riskiest thing you can do is take no risks at all. And I’m not talking about the copy-cat, follow-the-leader activities that feel like risk.
I’m talking about the showing up to the next trade show with no booth at all or turning your catalog into a comic strip kind of risk.
I’m talking about doing work that is worth following and gets people talking; the kind that could go wrong and put you on the receiving end of snickering competitors and critics who call you anything but a genius.
You have it inside of you. I know you do. You’ve just buried it because it seems like the right thing to do. And if I had to make a bet, I’d bet you regret hiding it. But you won’t admit it.
The next time you and your team craft a marketing campaign or communication strategy of any kind, take a step back and ask yourself how you’d respond if you were on the receiving end of it.
Would it grab your attention and make you appreciate the innovative thinking? Would it make you see the company as uniquely different, even in a commodity market?
Would you be inspired?
Or would you rather be eating a sandwich?