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Why “Safe” Marketing Is Like Buying Lottery Tickets

February 19, 2019

What is safe marketing?blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I’d define it this way: it’s cheap, because you’re investing little or no money, and it breaks no new ground: it can’t offend anyone because others have already covered the
same material, and no one’s complained about it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It’s “safe” because it’s risk-free: you won’t lose money, you won’t look “weird,” you won’t cause a fuss.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Of course you won’t get noticed, either, but… you’re “safe.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What about buying lottery tickets?– that’s risky, isn’t it? Not if you’re only buying $1 or $2 tickets, and you can afford to lose.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Or if you only jump in and buy a $2 Powerball ticket when the jackpot hits $100 billion.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It’s a safe bet as long as you’re only spending a few bucks.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Plus, you get to be in on the action, and there’s always a chance you’ll win big.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Infinitesimal, perhaps, but it could happen.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

man with umbrella scratching lottery ticket red dice chance raining down piling up on ground

(Before going further: I don’t mean to be flippant about gambling: people do get addicted, people are buying more $20 (and higher) tickets, which promise a bigger payoff, and most lottery tickets are purchased by those who can least afford it.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

As a long-term money-making strategy, buying lottery tickets is a losing game.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So is “safe” marketing– because “safe” content goes unnoticed.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Behavioral researcher Richard Shotton writes that brands tend to overestimate people’s interest in their products.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

As a result, they create content that takes being noticed for granted. They ignore the first-step problem of grabbing people’s attention. blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highShotton writes that you have to “prioritize being noticed above other goals. If you fail there, everything else is academic.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He adds that the best way to be noticed is to be distinctive. Mimic other people’s content, and you’ll be ignored.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Shotton quotes creative director Vic Polkinghorne:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

“(What) feels safe or familiar is actually quite risky… If someone else is doing something similar to what you’re doing, or looks or sounds like you, you’re both in trouble.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Which explains why no one pays any attention to stock photos, and why so many blog posts go unread.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

When it comes to getting your brand message heard, playing it “safe” isn’t safe at all.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels highcloseup man with umbrella scratching lottery ticket red dice chance raining down piling up on ground
blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Robyn Dochterman, Owner Chocolatier St. Croix Chocolate Company

blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 40 pixels high

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2019 8:48 AM

    Probably the most distinctly entertaining advertising campaign was launched by Volkswagen in the 50’s and 60’s. People said the car looked like a bug, so they went with that.

    Like

    • February 21, 2019 9:29 AM

      Those old Volkswagen print ads!– man, I couldn’t agree more. Those are such classics, and they really broke the advertising mold. You might enjoy this post about the original “Think small” ad, which includes these lines: “… the advert was viewed with suspicion by those on Madison Avenue. The public, however, had a different reaction. People talked about it around the water cooler. Teenagers ripped it out of magazines and pinned it to their walls…” The power of being different. Thanks so much for your kind and insightful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 19, 2019 3:52 PM

    As a consumer, I agree. I see so many immaculately produced but bland car adverts that I recognise as having seen several times before but I still couldn’t tell you what brand of car they are for let alone what model. On the other hand, I have seen some truly abysmal adverts that must have looked like truly terrible pitches on paper but they are so bad that I remember the brand and product.

    Like

    • February 21, 2019 10:06 AM

      Ha! Thanks, Laura. I think you’ve just come up with a colorful rephrasing of a key advertising principle: “It doesn’t matter if your ad is abysmal, as long as it’s different!!” 😊

      It’s weird to think it’s a waste of time for a brand to say it’s better. Sounds so counterintuitive. But it’s true because all brands make that claim. And people ignore it (and them) for that very reason. If you’re saying the same thing everyone else is, you’re condemning yourself to obscurity.

      Of course that will never happen to us. We’re different in the best possible way!! 👍🏆😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 19, 2019 9:30 PM

    This is sooooo truuuuueeeee. Thanks for taking the risk and putting this out there, Mark.

    Like

    • February 21, 2019 10:08 AM

      Ha! Thanks, Alison!– I knew my risky behavior would pay off for me eventually!! 😂😂😂

      Like

  4. February 20, 2019 10:06 AM

    Right on the money!! 😀 Super way to explain things – love the illustration!

    Like

    • February 21, 2019 10:24 AM

      The money?? Did I win Powerball?? I thought I was just buying a raffle ticket for a new tea cosy!! Oh, well… 😂 Thanks, RK, glad you enjoyed it, and thanks as always for your kind support. May Reeses Pieces rain down upon you like, well, dice!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. February 20, 2019 12:18 PM

    Amen, Brother Mark!

    Like

    • February 21, 2019 10:31 AM

      Say ‘amen,’ somebody!!– oh wait, you just did!! Thanks, Brother Freddy– may your cowl be filled with pennies from Heaven! Wait– make that gold doubloons from Heaven!! 😊

      Like

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