The best book I’ve ever read about marketing isn’t about marketing. It’s about baseball.
The book’s called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis. If you’re a marketer or advertiser you need to read this book.
The premise is that baseball insiders are guilty of a herd mentality that’s focused on the wrong things and reaches the wrong conclusions. If you know nothing at all about baseball you’ll still learn very valuable lessons about business.
The book is centered on Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s.
Beane ignores all the conventional wisdom (i.e., baloney) that permeates the sport. He and his staff developed their own principles about what makes a ballplayer valuable. And they follow these principles regardless of what the herd thinks.
They’ve developed, and then traded away, some of the best players in baseball. Often these trades have been viewed as crazy by baseball insiders and fans alike. And yet, in the fullness of time, the trades almost always pay off.
They have oddball ideas about the importance of defense and speed and batting average. They pass on players other teams value, and draft and trade for players no one else wants.
The result? Although every year the A’s have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, since 2002 they have won more regular season baseball games than any major league team other than the New York Yankees.
As I read the book I marveled at the parallels to marketing and advertising.
Everything You Know About Marketing May Be Wrong
There is an ossified aristocracy of marketing and advertising insiders — just look at all the near-identical blog rolls on marketing blogs or pick up any issue of Ad Age to find out who they are — who are locked into the same mind-numbing clichés and truisms.
They come equipped with false goals, a whole lexicon of dreadful jargon, and a compendium of trendy opinions and unreliable anecdotes masquerading as facts. If we in the industry are sick of these platitudes, imagine how our clients feel.
The hard part is getting beyond the stupefying double-talk of these trend-setters and developing your own principles.
I bought a copy of Moneyball for each of our managers and gave them an assignment to read it. After we read it, we examined what we really believed about marketing and advertising and put it down in writing. This led us to create three guiding principles by which we conduct our business and design our campaigns. And, by the way, what we found was that if you can’t express it in plain English, it’s not a principle. It’s jargon.
These principles have given us a fresh way to talk to our clients – and potential clients – about their business and about communications. Not every potential client agrees with us. But you know what, you can’t be everyone’s girlfriend.
Find Your Own Winning Difference
We’ve discovered our winning difference. Have you done the same?
We may not be the smartest people in the world but at least our principles explain how we’re different from our competitors. And if we’re not different, why are we necessary?
No matter how large or small your enterprise is, there are likely a thousand others just like it. If you hope to distinguish yourself, you need to find some guiding principles that help your clients and customers understand how you stand apart from those thousand other enterprises that want their business.
I recommend Moneyball as a good way to get to first base.
About the Author: Bob Hoffman is CEO of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St Louis. He is author of the book The Ad Contrarian and The Ad Contrarian blog.