Monday, February 1, 2010

Marketers could learn a lot from trial lawyers.

I spent last week as a juror on a criminal case brought by the Federal Government. It was a technical case involving a lot of complicated tax law–not the sexiest case for a jury, but I found myself fascinated. I was amazed at the strategic discipline exhibited by the prosecutor who had to “sell” the jury his evidence. Naturally I let my mind explore what it would be like if us marketers were forced to adhere to the same strict discipline.

Prosecuting a case before a jury is a lot like developing a marketing strategy and subsequent creative campaign. The win–conviction in a trial, sale for a marketer–only happens if you stick like glue to the facts and relevant principles surrounding whatever you are selling. You need to completely understand your target market and you have a very small window to convince them that they want or need your product.

In advertising, our opening statement consists of a creative strategy, a statement that sets the tone of the communication, establishes the objective, gives an overview of supporting evidence and identifies the target market. In this stage we can be opinionated and site hearsay, but our true challenge lies in the evidence we present to support the charges about our product.

Once you start presenting your evidence, the ultimate challenge is to prove it is authentic and relevant. Stay on message and communicate clearly in a way that will move your target to take the desired action.

Throughout the week, I found myself fantasizing about how many times I would have liked to stand and “object” when myself, a co-worker or a client got off strategy.

“I object your honor, please have the creative director state the relevance!”

“I object your honor, client has not admitted any evidence to support that statement.”

“I object your honor, this evidence is outside of the scope of the original intent of the case the client brought in front of our creative team.”

Advertising teams are challenged with the burden of proof when charged with marketing objectives. Our marketing campaigns are the production of evidence to support our positioning and make it relevant to our potential customers. We have to be very careful not to mislead our target market into believing that they will be getting something that our client’s product or service cannot deliver. No matter how badly you want to believe that your brand supports your positioning, it must rest in a verifiable truth.

All of us marketers could benefit from a judge overruling our imperfect strategic plans. Because like a courtroom prosecution, the judge and jury have the right to throw out the case (read: abandon the pursuit of your product or service) when you have not proven that you can pay off (prove) your brand positioning.

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