Digital Marketing Lessons From a Child: Know Your ABCs

When developing digital marketing strategies, many companies approach them as if they were a child learning to write their ABCs. They put in the work and effort, for the ohs and ahs of a few individuals, who hang them up on the ‘fridge’, until a few months or years pass and they write something better or more coherent which takes its place. They are promptly forgotten about until they are found in a drawer in a few years and think “oh we were cute back then”.

While this is great for children, it’s no way to create a business strategy.

Know Your ABCs

In the business world, ABC has traditionally stood for “always be closing” an antiquated idiom from the Reganomic 80’s that applied to sales and was taught in business schools until recently when, as Dan Tyre writes “the balance of 80s guypower shifted away from the sales rep and toward the buyer”.1 There are several fictional characters that embody this sentiment. Think Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko from “Wall Street”, or anyone except Giovanni Ribisi from “Boiler Room”. While some, maybe many, people idolize these figures, and only dream of tossing a set of keys to a Ferrari 355 Cabriolet at a bunch of young trainees like Ben Affleck, what most people don’t seem to comprehend is they are the villains. Like 80’s guy from the popular animated sitcom, Futurama, this persona has become more of a joke than a mantra. As he states “I’m an 80’s guy. Friendship to me means that for two bucks I’d beat you with a pool cue till you got detached retinas.2” I hope I’ve metaphorically hit you over the head with a pool cue at this point, but the question remains, what do you do now? Can we unlearn things we have always known?

The world needs acronyms dammit. I’m not for the elimination of them. Walk into any business in America and you will hear a slew of letters and shortened phrases that only people on the inside understand. People in today’s world are too busy to use entire phrases. I’m merely suggesting updating them to better suit the world of today. Like a child, you must embrace the fact that you are still continuing to learn.

I’m also not against strategies of the past, in fact, I think one of the best lessons in developing a digital strategy can be taken from the 80’s and still use the acronym ABC. Hopefully your mind has recovered from that pool cue swing I took a couple of seconds ago, because this is about to get deep.

When I was a child growing up in the 80’s, ABC stood for something completely different. I first encountered it on the playground when a cute girl asked me if I wanted some ABC gum. I was young and dumb, and wanted to be full IMG_0312of gum, so of course I said yes. She promptly spit out the piece she had been chewing and put it in my hand and ran away giggling. The ABC gum she had been referring to stood for “already been chewed”.  While childish, this sentiment, like some of the drawings that hang on my fridge today from my favorite 5 year old (like the one to the right), was also extremely enlightening. Since this was a running joke that day, like telling someone they had a buttfore on their head was the week before, I knew to avoid it after that first time. What’s a butt for you ask? Never mind, moving on.

The lesson is, avoid things that have already been chewed up and spit out by other companies and develop you own, unique strategy, that empirically fits your brand, culture, business model, and personality. Something that is tired and played out will only work once, and then people will become wise to your ruse.

Developing a digital strategy shouldn’t be as easy as “ABC, 123” as Michael Jackson sang, it should be difficult. You can’t merely try to copy a competitor’s strategy, or as it has become popular to say in the conventional business world “leverage other’s work”. Besides the point that it is stealing, it won’t work for you exactly like it works for them.

In order to develop your own strategy, try and utilize the following lessons we all (hopefully) learned as children:

  1. Keep it simple and colorful. The easier it is for you to articulate your strategy, the easier it will be for your customers to comprehend. Like and adult reading a book to a child, it’s not about just the words, but it’s about showing them the big pictures as well.
  2. Keep learning. You don’t know it all, and you never will. Keep learning and evolving.
  3. Be original. It only takes one piece of chewed up gum in someone’s hand for them to realize what’s going on. Develop unique strategies to keep your customer’s on the edge of their seats and not knowing what to expect next.
  4. Develop your own ABCs. Always be Creating. In the digital world, content is king. You need to continuously be creating, evaluating and re-creating your strategies to be successful.

By following these steps, you have a better chance to create a more successful strategy and not have your judgement or creativity clouded by antiquated ideas, unless a cute girl (or boy) is involved. That one still usually works.

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