Marketing is Easy

I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back; marketing is easy… 

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking:

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So let me explain.

I’ve done a lot of marketing, including running multi-million dollar campaigns for Nike, Lowe’s, and Complete Nutrition. I worked for BBDO, the most awarded ad agency in the world. My Co-Founder and I started a company and we’ve landed major brand partners like Disney, Buzzfeed, and Crayola. 

I’m telling you this because on paper my career is full of marketing success stories. But the reality is that for every success there are nine failures trailing close behind. I’ve fucked up a lot of marketing plans. Like a lot, a lot. In fact, when I started Bulu I said the two things I never wanted to do (in order) are: 1. Become a marketing agency and 2. Play golf. 

But, the reality is marketing matters to all of us whether you’re marketing yourself for a job, preparing to run your first ad campaign, or you’re a seasoned exec whose been grinding for 30 years. 

So again I say, Marketing is easy… but this time I’ll add:

To talk about, 

But it’s really hard to do. 

Marketing is easy to talk about, but it’s really hard to do. 

After trial and error, winning and losing, overselling boxes with a lucky tactic to dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bad campaign, I’ve boiled down my thoughts on marketing to three main ideas. Really, these are the things I wish someone would have told me when I was fresh in my career. And like marketing, they are easy to talk about but really hard to do:

  1. Understand your Goals. 

  2. Aggressively Execute. 

  3. Unpack the Why. 

In line with my last post, I planned to give you an acronym to remember the punch line, but all I came up with is GEW, as in GEW that’s a terrible acronym. Don’t judge, I’m a sleep-deprived dad. 

  1. Understand your goals.

This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen confusing goals lead to massive failures. Let’s do some IRL examples. 

The good: You’ve heard me talk about Lunarly a lot recently, but that’s because it’s a great example of smart business and marketing principles. Lunarly exists to “create an amazing customer experience for future potential Scott’s Miracle-Gro customers.” Bulu understands that. Our partners understand that. So ultimately our marketing decisions are simple: we pursue tactics that help us deliver a first-class experience while gaining valuable customer insights. 

The bad: Complete Nutrition. Fuuuuuuckkkkkk When I was V.P. of Marketing I once sank $250K into a marketing campaign and made $0 from it. I remember going to work the day the campaign ended and packing up my office. The CEO walked by and said, “Yo, Big P… how much did we lose on that campaign again.” Embarrassed, I said “250k” to which he responded, “Cool, you learn anything?” What do you mean did I learn anything? I thought I was getting fired. Turns out, all he wanted to know was if I understood why the campaign was a miss… but we’ll get to that. Ultimately, we lost a lot of money because we didn’t understand our goals. 

The lesson: Goals become misaligned when the team doesn’t have a shared understanding. Clearly define your goals and make them S.M.A.R.T. Then design marketing tactics to achieve those specific goals. 

2. Aggressively execute. 

In the early days of Bulu we’d say done is better than perfect. And while we shoot for perfection (or close to), there comes a point where you have to get aggressive about execution, perfect or not. 

The good: Our Shark Week Box was badass. However, being totally transparent we struggled with lengthy approval processes for our marketing plans. In working with big brands, every aspect of a box can take weeks to get a yes or no as it circulates to the right people. Even after that, there are usually iterations that hit reset on the waiting process. Here’s what we knew about Shark Week: it’s one freaking week. If our marketing efforts were too slow we would have an irrelevant box. And a shit ton of expired Swedish Fish. We couldn’t afford to keep waiting on marketing approvals. So, we got a shark suit, shot the most rad digital ads ever and put them online. Ya know what happened? We sold out. 

The bad: Crayola CIY Box. You get one shot to make a big impression with your marketing. When we launched the Crayola CIY Box we brought on a PR agency in New York to land the box on major media platforms. My first Google alert: a licensing website. This Box should have been exclusively revealed by PopSugar, Buzzfeed, someone big who got the scoop. Opportunity missed.

The lesson: You can strategize all day but at some point, you have to get aggressive about your execution. At Bulu we use this phrase (and I promise it will change your life), “I’m going to do (action) by (date) and I expect it will cost this much (money) and will have this (result) unless you tell me no by (date).” Try it out and hit me with a comment on the result. 

3. Unpack the why. 

This is the ultimate lesson: Much like my experience at Complete Nutrition, all that really matters is if you understand why you met or missed your goal. For every ten marketing campaigns you launch, you’ll be lucky to have one that’s a success. It’s okay to fail hard and fail fast. What matters is that you can take the one tactic that worked and unpack it so you can optimize, scale and mimic it in the future. 

Marketing REALLY is easy. The hard part is confusing goals, slow execution, and embarrassing failure.