What ‘Outliers’ teaches us about marketing

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a skill such as learning an instrument, playing a sport or learning to code, you likely understand the importance of practice. However the publication of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell gave people a better understanding of just how much practice is truly needed to master something.

Even if you haven’t read the book, his theory – that you need 10,000 hours of practice to be great at something – is one that many of us are aware of. However, in an age where 3-4 month coding schools are replacing MBAs, the shortcut to instant success is replacing the discipline to truly master a craft. As a result, specializing no longer has the value it once had as brands opt for a “checking the boxes” approach.

And while B2B brands are slowly adapting to digital marketing, they often choose to check the “doing social” box rather than put in the time needed to master it or devote resources to someone who can. The result is a lot of average work and a frustrated marketing department.

What they need to understand is that the lack of results wasn’t from trying and failing, but from not failing enough.

Gladwell writes in Outliers about how the Beatles played 1,200 concerts by 1964 – the year they became an international hit. Not only did the number of concerts in the previous four years help make them elite, but their relentless devotion for practicing and love of practice turned them into who they became. The book reports the Beatles played eight hours per night, seven hours per week – about 16 hours more than an average work week. Between practice and concerts, they got their 10,000 hours.

By comparison, marketers need a similar discipline if they want to stand out. Business is more competitive than it’s ever been and even some of the formerly most sought after practices, like law, are over-saturated. If you truly want to stand out from your competition, you need to practice. You need to make your mistakes and learn from them. You need your 10,000 hours.

Sure, in the short-term brands can certainly use shortcuts to get buzz or publicity. If a spike in your metric of choice is what you’re looking for, it’s relatively easy to achieve that. However, a spike is only a temporary solution to a business problem as it’s only a matter of time before you’re back at square one.

Long-term takes a whole other level of commitment, but it’s a sure-fire way to separate your brand from the competition.

Instead of trying something because everyone else is doing it, pick a couple of marketing strategies to master and take the time needed to truly make your brand stand out. If you can’t take the time yourself, devote those resources to someone who will master it for you.

Achieving ROI in your marketing strategies doesn’t come from choosing one tactic or another. Rather, it comes from creating a thought-out campaign and giving it the time it needs to succeed. Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the top social media strategists, underlines this in his post on the ROI of social media.

In his post, he rhetorically asks about the ROI of a piano, a basketball and video games among other things that on the surface have no ROI. However, for professionals like Elton John, Kobe Bryant or Lee Jae Dong, the answer to the ROI question is millions of dollars.

Imagine if any of these three pulled the plug on their passion simply because they didn’t succeed immediately. Just think about what would happen if Rocket Man never existed!

It was the time Elton John gave himself to fail and his love of music that helped turn him into the star he became.

Brands spend valuable time and money coming up with campaign after campaign, wondering why their strategies aren’t working when the real answer lies internally. They simply lack the commitment needed to make it work.

When your brand starts a new campaign, ask yourself a simple question to gauge its effectiveness: Are we checking the box or are we treating this with the same passion and motivation a violinist would have in learning a new concerto?

If your answer is the former, don’t be surprised when it fails. But if you can truly and honestly answer the latter, keep working and the results will get there.

What marketing strategies would you like to master? Email us at info@lrgmarketing.com and we’ll work with you to get there.


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LRG Marketing