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Texas Hold’em marketing

Marketing is a competitive sport.

How do you compete and win in the world of high stakes marketing?

Anyone can play poker and a lot of us do, over 70 million Americans are estimated to have played. It’s a simple game to learn and seems to involve none of the deep thought required to play a good game of chess or bridge. Chess and Bridge are the rocket science or brain surgery of competitive games, if someone tells you they are a bridge master or a chess master you may give a few sage nods and impressive looks (arched eyebrows work well here) and change the conversation before your brain begins to hurt, the same response you would give on hearing someone is a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist.

There is a different response that normally occurs when someone hears you are in advertising or marketing. The response is along the lines of: “hey have you seen that ad with the guy and the thing? ... amazing/great/terrible/killer ad what’s it for again? Hey I thought of a cool ad the other day you’ve got this girl, right and …..” I’m not sure how the rest of the conversation goes I’m normally numbing my brain by beating it against the table or feeding it Jack Daniels by this point. The problem with marketing, to borrow a punch line from Rodney Dangerfield, is you “don’t get no respect.”

The reason for this is that your end product is aimed at, and needs to be understood by, the public at large and therefore, from the outside in, it seems all very simple. We aren’t the chess masters of the world we are the poker players, the game is easy to understand and from the outside its difficult to see where its more than just a game of chance. You don’t find many people standing behind a chess master and giving him tips but anybody can and will tell you what you should have done differently in the last hand at the poker table. Anyone who has ever worked in the marketing department knows that this applies to marketing. No on ever questions the legal team on their complete obfuscation of the point or the accountants on their categorization of expenses, but everyone from the tea lady to the MD will have an opinion on the color used in your latest promotion or the body copy of your latest ad.

Memorizing the hand rankings does not make you an expert on poker any more than watching ads and buying stuff makes you an expert on marketing. True marketers relish the prospect of competing against companies where the legal team has had as much input in the latest campaign as the VP of marketing. It’s a wonderful thing for a poker player to sit at a table full of players who think that, no mater what they do, the outcome will depend only on the fall of the cards, card sharks keep a sharp lookout for these weak “fish” and know that the game gets progressively easier to beat with each fish at the table.

In my years as a marketing and advertising professional I have come across the tendency amongst most people to equate marketing as a game of smoke, mirrors, illusion and luck. Most companies don’t consider their marketing departments to be the backbone of the company, and fill the positions with reasonably competent individuals amongst all the soft hires and sheltered family employment, after all the real business is done in the production, finance, distribution and other real working arms of the business.

These companies are making the same mistake as a fish sitting down at a poker table of Vegas sharks, they believe that the apparent simplicity of the task is all there is to the game. Let them keep thinking that while the rest of us swim with the sharks.

To be continued ……