When Marketing’s Not Working, Stop Trying So Hard

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff, and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

As a mom of three elite ski racers, I’ve seen it for years — among athletes young and old. And when it happens, its labeled as “over-thinking” that gets in the way of a relaxed performance driven by passion and not results. In fact, the old adage in the ski racing industry is, “Focus on results, be disappointed. Focus on passion, be happily surprised.”

If focusing on passion vs. results can pay big dividends in sports performance, can it do the same for marketing?

Think about it. Marketers are rushing to push out more content, more emails, more ads — and we work long hard hours to do this faster and better than everyone else. And then so often we sit back to watch the results, and end up disappointed or even stunned at the lack of response, even from our best customers. This tends to be the pattern more often than not.

Yet, when we launch campaigns that do not follow the rules of skills, tactics and techniques we have learned over the years, and just let go of the boundaries and set loose our passion for our brand, category or the purpose our products enable us to fulfill, we quite often experience something very different: customer engagement, response and ROI levels that exceed even our basic expectations. Much like when an athlete quits thinking of results and plays his/her game for the love of it instead of the glory, marketers quite often achieve personal bests.

Take a look at the brands that are more movements than profit centers:

  • Tom’s Shoes is one of the pioneer brands in this area. Instead of organizing and operating to make rich shareholders richer, founder Blake Mycoskie started an organization to put shoes on the feet of children living in poverty in third-world countries in which he had volunteered. His business reached $23 million in revenue in just three years, because his mission and his passion were contagious. That made his product that much more attractive, even when it was priced well over the cost of goods equation.
  • Another great example is Newman’s Own, a line of natural food products from which all profits are donated to charity. Its mission is “Newman’s Own Foundation uses the power of giving to help transform lives and nourish the common good.” And since starting in 1982, it has donated more than $530 million to charity. Giving back was a passion of founder, Paul Newman, whose personal mantra was, “What could be better than to hold your hand out to those who are less fortunate?” His products are top sellers at grocery stores nationwide, because they are good, and because the company creates good — both of which are contagious and inspire people to engage or purchase time and time again.

While many might call the above brand examples cause-related marketing models, others might join me in calling it Passion Marketing, which I define as: Building products and business models around a cause about which you are passionate, and working hard to engage others in your cause in order to make a powerful contact.

Like the athletes or performers who operate for the joy of doing what they love, and the passion to share their talents or gifts with others, when brands operate toward this higher purpose, they do better. Achieve more. And attract more people to their tribe, based upon like values and goals.

At some point, you — the business owner, marketing executive, operations lead — need to ask yourself a key question: Why do you do what you do? What about your job gives you joy? And why should others join your cause?

If you still have passion for what you do, your product, your brand, shift your focus and efforts to passing forward the joy you receive vs. the profits you are expected to increase.

If you are not getting the results you want. Stop trying so hard. Chances are, you’re over-thinking and not communicating with contagious passion or sharing the joy that keeps you doing what you do. Like the athlete, your efforts could be so routinized that they are just stiff and ineffective, even at the most basic level.

Instead, build campaigns around furthering the cause that you’ve aligned with your brand, and building a community around your cause that makes people want to be part of your brand. When you can do this, like Tom’s did with his mantra to give a pair of shoes away for every pair he sold, you will surprisingly see your profits grow in ways that routine, expected marketing efforts never will.