Day 23,723: What You See vs. What You Get.

I’ve mostly worked in very tangible industries from newspapers to Lipton Tea and now passengers on a ferry boat. For each, my team could visibly see success when we achieved it. It was the advantage of our chosen industries, not our field.

Each month, there were numbers on a report that would say how we were doing, but if we really did our jobs right you could see it. When you went into a hotel, they served Lipton Tea. When you drove down a street in Bergen County, NJ, you could see papers lining driveways. When we did a new promotion for motorcycles, the lot at the ferry was filled to the brim with motorcycles on the day of the event. Success was evident. That’s the joy of the tangible.

Yet, the better I get at my field, and the more my field becomes digitized, our work as well as our successes are increasingly invisible. Co-workers are never quite sure what we’re doing, and it’s easy to think we’re doing nothing at all. Those efforts that “move the needle” the most, as financial types like to say, are efforts that cannot be seen like billboards on a highway.  And when people magically show up to take a ride with us, it’s not clear to others that the passengers are there because of anything we did.

Faith in Marketing

I’m not complaining. I’m becoming more understanding of religion. For years, the really religious would espouse that you just have to have faith. No rabbi, priest or pastor can prove the existence of God. You must believe. It’s why skepticism is so easy.

Related Post: Religion and Me – Still Not Perfect Together.

In marketing, I can prove many things, but not every thing. For the first time in a long career, I find myself almost saying “You just have to have faith.”  I would never really say it, because I’d get laughed out of a room that wants to only hear about ROI (return on investment), conversions (sales), and incremental sales (new customers). Still, I’m starting to think that you either believe in marketing or you don’t.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what numbers I show you, you’ll discount their value. If you do, you’ll feel comfortable supporting our efforts and encourage ongoing work in the field.

Religion, according to the Google dictionary, is a belief in a deity, but it is also “a particular system of faith and worship,” and “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.” The last one can be marketing — my field.

For many executive, you either think marketing is important, or you don’t, regardless of what I say or do. If you believe in marketing and the outcome is good, you’ll credit –to some degree-marketing.  If you don’t believe in marketing, you’ll easily find four other things to credit for the success instead.  Fro some nonbelievers, I can move them a bit closer to accepting the importance of my department’s work, but I can never totally convince them. They just don’t believe in it.

Invisible book_ 2

Working With The Invisible

In 1997, Harry Beckwith wrote the book “Selling the Invisible.”  It detailed what it took in “modern” marketing to sell services and qualities that a patron couldn’t see.  It was one of the first books to discuss how marketing did more than just sell retail products, and could be used to effectively differentiate the value of various professional services.  Frequently, in marketing, it feels like the task is always to use the invisible to create real sales out of thin air.

There’s an old saying: “What You See Is What You Get.”  I know it’s not true. In marketing, WYSIWYG is an acronym pronounced Whiz-eee-wig.  It’s used in web -based marketing for putting content on a page for the less technological of us. It is never quite right. You put something on a page, and it shifts.  You never 100% get what you see, or hope to see.

In real life, eyesight is so personal with some being nearsighted and some far.  Some can see colors and others are colorblind. Some can see auras and most cannot.  If what is real is only what we can see, then we’re likely missing so much of what is really in the world around us much like a horse with blinders on.

Being in marketing, helps me believe in the magic of putting ideas out into the world and watching them manifest. Being in marketing helps me believe in the invisible. I think, as I’m getting older, it’s even leading to me becoming more religious. Who wouldda thunk?


Daily Focus on Gun Sanity:  A movement is a concept. Sometimes, it’s tangible in the number of people who show up for march. Mostly, it’s intangible, as in hearts and minds that have been changed. In the end,  a movement is judged by metrics — laws passed, votes cast, people motivated to be seen and counted.  Some are calling #MarchforOurLives  a movement. It well may be. The final decision will be made in the future when people look back and find things to count about it. However, those who believe in the cause aren’t waiting for the metrics. They’re counting themselves in to do something now to manifest change in the future. They have faith.