Being a brave marketer has become absolutely essential, simply because there’s just no real scope for anything else these days. Five years ago, alternative approaches to marketing were a novelty but now they’re all that we have left. But there’s so much to lose if we make a brave decision and it turns out to be a stupid decision, which is entirely possible because bravery and stupidity are different sides of the same coin. After all, many of us are in paid positions that look after our mortgages, childcare, credit cards and so forth. Being brave isn’t easy when there’s so much at stake but there is a way around this. Bravery needs to be seen as an “up moment” with more to gain than to lose.
It takes a really remarkable person to be brave, simply because by its very definition, brave is something that not everyone is prepared to be. Standing up to a bully, asking for a raise, immigrating to a new country, getting married, starting your own business, implementing a revolutionary marketing plan, launching a new product range - these are all hard to do, some more so than others.
In the business arena, bravery works differently than in real life. Consider this business related example: you’re brave when you leave your nine to five and start your own business. You put in the hard yards, the long hours and after a few years become incredibly successful. What’s next? You hire lawyers to protect you and you buy out your competitors. No longer brave, are we? No need for competitors to keep us on our toes because it’s just easier to make it impossible for them to exist than to compete with them. But that’s business.
Now compare that example to this one: in the real world, Usain Bolt trains his entire life to become a champion athlete. He welcomes all challengers to his throne because he sees them as vital to maintaining his position abeing the best in the world. He doesn’t start breaking his competitor’s kneecaps because he fears they might beat him.
Whichever way you look at it, brave marketers are more likely to be found in new, maverick businesses and not entrenched ones simply due to the speed at which they operate. The bigger they are, the slower they are and as a marketer you have to decide which speed you are comfortable moving at. If you chose a marketing job at Unilever don’t expect your marketing initiatives to be implemented at the drop of the hat. And by the same token, if you find yourself at the sharp end of a new, innovative business start-up, don’t expect your ideas to find fertile soil that will result in them becoming the next big thing. Just like big business has its problems, so does small business. Not enough funding, too much competition, too little knowledge of the market are just a few that pop to mind.
If you want something you often have to make it what you want it to be. Smart marketers should be looking to partner with companies and suppliers that are willing to take the risk to be brave together, after all, two hands make light work. So consider this the next time you’re faced with making a brave decision: must I do this alone or will there be someone who can help share the load? It wasn’t one single marine who stormed the beaches on D-Day, Martin Luther King didn’t march alone for equal rights, Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple by himself and the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” didn’t stand up to the tanks by himself, he was part of a revolution that empowered him to do it.
So what does this all mean to marketing? Simply put, I think we’re all screwed if we carry on doing things the way they’ve always been done. Seth Godin said that innovation was no longer an option but all that we have left, and he’s right, not just from a marketing perspective but from a life perspective too. We, as marketers, have to be braver than any other segment of business. Bravery means risk, and if you aren’t inherently brave as a marketer, then you need to find a way to become brave. The bad news is that no one can tell you how to be brave. The good news is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to be brave. In fact, we’re all waiting for you to do it. So what are you waiting for?