Woman punching air with hands tied for boxing gloves

A journey into bravery (and marketing)

Spikes Asia was packed with many examples of great marketing campaigns and a whole series of brilliant speakers, a really inspirational must attend event for any marketer. During the Wednesday breakfast session with Shekar Khosla (Chief Commercial Officer, Kellogg’s) he talked about being bold & brave.
He noted that it was important to have the courage to do the right thing. Wait…. why should we need “courage” to do the right thing? Surely “doing the right thing” is what our parents & schools have been teaching us to do since we were children? Why does it suddenly need so much extra effort when we’re in the workplace? Do we need to hold a leadership position to be courageous? Why does this seem to contradict so much that we’ve been taught?

The Reality

The reality is that boldness & bravery are very far away from conformity & safety. Doing something different puts you at risk of failure, which no one likes (Be honest!) – but could it really jeopardize that next promotion you’re looking for? Or worse, line you up for termination? Hopefully not! Aren’t marketers hired to think differently, innovate and make noise?

Fear, is why marketers stick to tried and tested formulas, staying “safe” with campaigns that will deliver the same “safe”, expected results. After all, nobody ever got fired for following the standard process, right… ?

Champions of Bravery

Good leaders need to encourage their teams to take risks like the Starship Enterprise, “Boldly go where no one has gone before”, and just like Captain Kirk, they need to protect their teams with fanaticism, so that there’s no fear of being penalized for those risks.

That doesn’t mean you’re providing a license for mayhem. The risks that you’re taking need to be aligned to your corporate strategic goals and measured. Perhaps the simplest way to check if it’s the right direction is just to ask is this a topic we want to have an opinion on?

Ask yourself: “Is this a topic we want to have an opinion on? Do we want to be part of this conversation?”

Yes, there will always be trolls, but it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, taking a stand on any meaningful issue will always provoke a reaction from some-group-or-the-other. Consider the recent Nike endorsement of Colin Kaepernick, yes there were people burning Nike products, but sales, social chatter are up considerably and customer happiness is back to normal levels. The endorsement was brave, bold – and in line with it’s history of taking a stand in social issues. It was purposeful.


As a leader you’ll need to make hard decisions every day. Bravery is not about feminism, disabilities or whatever the social topic of the day is; it’s being strong enough to confidently embrace purposeful controversy & standing behind your team so that they can take risky, change making steps.


Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Trial by fire

Do your customers understand your marketing material?

Have you ever seen a promotional video or flyer and just flinched? Something so disconnected from what you (as a potential customer) might want that it’s almost painful to watch? It got me thinking, how many new businesses have actually met their customers? How many actually vet their (top of funnel) marketing materials with customers?

Did they understand you?

Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve met your customer, and you’ve got a good understanding of what they want. Next step, creating some materials to help promote your business to them. It’s incredible how many different ways there are for one set of words to be interpreted. When they see your material, even if they weren’t overwhelmed, it’s important they hear the right message.

Think of the most interesting advert that you can, what do you remember about it? What message did you get from it? It’s not often that more than three key points get taken away from any collateral (except for possibly detailed spec sheets). You might have multiple supporting points, but they should all lead towards the same tightly defined key message(s). Don’t try to cram too much into one piece of collateral (unless it’s a bottom of funnel piece), your customer won’t be able to digest or recall it. You’ll want to make sure that your point is being unambiguously being driven home.

Did you dip your toes in first?

Whether you’re running a web business that sells to a large consumer audience, or a high-end niche business, the time & cost involved in getting your solution in-front of customers is always high. Going out with material that isn’t leaving your customers with the right message is a waste of your very precious resources.

Instead of a trial-by-fire approach that could potentially burn some prospects, it might be better to test your materials on a sample audience first. Understand what they take away and how they react. Refine your materials based on this feedback so that your customer can easily recall the intended key messages. The key thing here is “test on a sample audience”, not your mum.

The time taken to refine your materials will be less than what’s lost by going out with something unclear, but be careful not to get stuck in analysis-paralysis, or a never-ending cycle of improvement.


If you read this and take-away only one thing, hopefully it will be “Clearly define up-to three key points that you want your customers to recall, then test on real customers”. Message received?