May 05, 2010

Not Following The Herd

A few days ago I was reading a blog I often read called "If This Is A Blog Then What's Christmas?" The post I was reading was called What Can Moneyball Teach Us About Advertising? It seemed to me that I had written a very similar post about the book "Moneyball" a few years ago. I went back into my archives and found that I had written it in July of 2008, but apparently never posted it. So I'm posting it today. It makes a nice companion to the piece mentioned above.

The best book I ever read about advertising wasn't about advertising. It was about baseball.

It was called Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. If you are in marketing or advertising you should read this book.

The premise of the book is that baseball insiders are guilty of a herd mentality that is focused on the wrong things and reaches the wrong conclusions.

The book is centered on Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A's. The A's have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, and yet, have won more regular season baseball games since 2002 than any team other than the Yankees (Note: In 2008 when I wrote this, it was true - TAC.)

How they do this is by ignoring the conventional wisdom (i.e., bullshit) that permeates their business. They have developed their own principles about what makes a ballplayer valuable. And they follow these principles regardless of what the herd thinks.

As I read the book I marveled at the parallels to advertising.

There is an ossified aristocracy of advertising insiders -- just pick up any issue of Ad Age or Adweek to find out who they are -- who keep repeating the same dreadful cliches about "engagement" and "conversations" and "media neutrality" and "touchpoints" and "disruption" and "integration"... ad nauseum. And the herd follows.

The hard part is getting beyond the mind-numbing double-talk of the trend-setters and developing your own principles. (And here's a tip -- if you can't express it plain English, it's not a principle. It's jargon.)

I bought a copy of Moneyball for each of our managers and gave them an assignment to read it. We examined what we really believed about advertising and put it down in writing. This helped us develop 3 guiding principles by which we create advertising (you can find them here.)

We may not be the smartest people in the world, but at least we know what we're doing and why we do it. And it's different from anyone else.

I highly recommend this exercise.

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