Why is efficiency & marketing a pair that doesn’t go well together and might even be antonyms?
Let’s look at the world of nature to explain this phenomenon.
Even though there are different kinds of weeds, you call them all… “Weed”.
Flowers, on the other hand, you distinguish into different kinds: lavender, rose…tulip, etc. (unless you’re completely clueless like many men about colors 😂)
Why is that?
Because all flowers are different, and the majority of weeds are mostly the same.
Each flower has a different color, different smell, shape & even taste.
What are these flowers doing by having those wonderful smells and beautiful colors? Isn’t that completely _inefficient_?
**They’re marketing to bees.
On the one hand, it increases the chance of being eaten by an animal or picked by pesky humans.
Conversely, it makes it more likely that a bee will come and pollinate it.
Weeds blend-in. Flowers STAND OUT.
But how do you signal that you’re an attractive flower?
First, for the signal to be honest, it has to be costly. (Sahavian signal)
A quote from Rory, to further illustrate the point:
Yes, costly signaling can lead to economic inefficiency, but such inefficiencies are also necessary to establish valuable social qualities such as trustworthiness and commitment—and perhaps altruism. Politeness and good manners are, after all, simply costly signaling in face-to-face form.
– Sexual Selection by Rory Sutherland
Don’t confuse costly with cost.
The slight difference between nature and humans is that a weed cannot fake being a flower. It simply is or isn’t.
We, humans, can talk and possess this unique ability to say one thing and do another. Also called lying, cheating, and faking.
We can pretend to be a flower.
This is why costly signaling plays an even bigger role.
But another crucial point is– on the inside, flowers & weeds, are not very different from each other. If you analyzed them from an engineering point of view, they shouldn’t be valued much differently.
Yet, we DO value them differently.
Similarly, we humans don’t buy “services” or “products” by comparing the ingredients used. We often buy based on “packaging” more than the “thing” in itself.
Eg. the last time you went to a store for a beer, given the crazy number of possible choices, you likely made the choice based on how “cool” the etiquette was.
(Guilty is charged here.)
Think of marketing/branding as “packaging” for whatever you’re selling.
A flower is a weed with a marketing budget.
What Are the Practical Implications of This Grand Theory?
- That focus on **digital** marketing, instead of marketing in general, might be a… dumb idea.
- Marketing is **not** a necessary evil and a cost to be reduced, but (as Peter Drucker put it) one of only two sources of value in business (the other being Innovation).
- That IMPACT precedes Persuasion. You first have to get noticed and remembered.
- Engaging multiple senses catches more attention, builds more trust, and stays longer in your memory: flower smells, looks attractive, can be touched…
- Costly, can mean – **you’re willing to make enemies, put out challenging ideas, have strong opinions**, etc.
- That “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife”. Meaning that we humans use many subconscious mechanisms to tell the fake from the real deal.
- That you’re either one of the weeds or a flower…binary, there’s no in-between.
A Few Business/Marketing Examples to Drive the Point Home
Big brands invest in TV ads, billboards, and other kinds of insanely costly advertising.
While I don’t believe that much of it is any good, it’s also a strategy. Small guys can’t simply play in those arenas, so it’s a selection mechanism. In your head, you’re thinking, “If these guys are on XYZ channel or giant billboard in my city, it means they are an established business with money…thus I can trust them”.
Most of it is probably a waste of money, but it builds subconscious trust and elevates that brand’s prestige.
- eBook Vs. Signed hard copies sent to your door.
It may cost more to create & send hardcopies or direct mail letters…but how many people are going to open, read, respond to, and remember one versus the other?
- Webinars vs Live Events
Is doing webinars more ‘scalable’ than doing live events? Does it work better?
How Do You Turn Your Ugly Weed into the Sexiest Flower of the Bunch?
- Be more whacky, audacious, and bold.
- Break the pattern.
- Share your best. (altruism is costly)
- Do the unscalable.
- Forget digital— think about what will have an impact first.
- Stand for/against something. (skin in the game)
- Spice things up a bit. (color, smell, touch, sounds)
Some questions to spark the inner marketing rebel in you and/or your team:
- How might we drive category awareness/consideration like no one else?_
- Which channel/medium is underutilized (not trendy) but could effectively reach your ideal customers?
- What are we NOT doing because it’s not scalable/simple/easy/fast?
- Where are we trying to “optimize” our marketing – reduce its costs, ship it faster, or scale it – even if none of it gets neither noticed or remembered?
- What could we do instead?
- What if we suspended so-called “best practices”, formulas, and other gimmicks and instead tried to bend (or even break) the rules slightly?
Creativity might be the last unfair advantage, we’re legally allowed to have over our competition. – Bill Bernbach
I invite you to bring some magic back to your marketing rather than treat it like a car-part factory.
Just like flowers stand out in nature, your business needs to stand out in the market. So, don’t be a weed; be a flower with a marketing budget.
Report back your failures/successes, so we can all learn from each other.
Sapere Aude and Let Yerba Mate Be With You 🧉