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Thinking Things

Superstitious?

For each of the five title-clinching games by the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox I’ve watched in my lifetime, I have worn the same “Nantucket red” sweatshirt. I’ve also dug up the same pair of blue jeans. If I could distinguish from my pairs of white underwear (and confess to keeping them that long), I probably would have sought the same pair and put them on. I assume the same position and posture on the sofa, don’t speak much, hardly eat, and take nothing more than the “mandatory” breaks.

I don’t wear the sweatshirt regularly – I only take it out on what I call “title nights.” This was all well and good. My outfit and idiosyncrasies had everything to do with the victories -- no disrespect to Brady’s arm or Ortiz’s bat.

Then the Giants beat the Patriots  -- with me in full regalia.

I always fold towels with the label to the inside. I keep the bills in my wallet facing the same direction, and in value sequence. I always turn my head from the TV when during a game they flash statistics that show probabilities. I intentionally look away, for example, when they tell me a team’s propensity for scoring inside the red zone. My peeking – and therefore knowing – in my superstitious world would constitute a violation that for sure would affect the outcome. Not to mention I’d turn into a pillar of salt.

Last year, the Pats were 14-3. I watched every one of those 14 wins alone in front of my television. I was in Calgary on business, invited to a friend’s house, and actually at the game for the three losses. An important lesson to friends: please make out-of-house social plans with my family on Saturdays, not game days.

Some would call this superstition. Others would call it fanatical nonsense. I’ve watched many Syracuse basketball games with my friend Alan in total darkness at his house in a small room that feels like a jail cell. Because of the darkness, it’s never quite clear how many other people are actually crammed into the tiny space. If this is Alan’s way to ensure victory, truth be told – I’m guessing the ‘Cuse wins about 70 percent of its games, so the strategy works often but not religiously.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. That’s a superstition – and a cliché – that has run its course, if not in the sports superstition world then certainly in the business world. If it ain’t broke, I’d prefer not to have to think up a new strategy to stay ahead of the curve and at top of mind with my customers. Or, if it ain’t broke today, that’s no assurance the exact same product or strategy won’t be broken tomorrow.

A friend once ran a trade show that dominated its market, but the trade show attendees and exhibitors hated the trade show company itself. No need for any change – or customer coddling – until a bunch of its exhibitors jumped ship and created a competing show of their own. If it ain’t broke – oops, too late.

I watched another good guy years ago insist that no one could touch his portfolio of print publications. All was great, knock on wood. He didn’t have the energy to develop a digital strategy. Someone else did. Everyone else did! End of story. End of brand.

I’m currently involved with an organization taking a radical and bold step with its two signature events and creating something entirely new and different. Superstition says stick to the habits and strategies that got you so far (or had you believe they would). Forward thinking and courage say break old traditions that have lost their relevance or their seeming magical powers over time. Shed your meaningless superstitions and welcome in new ideas and creativity. Make your brands moving targets.

If it ain’t broke, go out and fix it anyway. And you’ll come to see there’s nothing like a different colored sweatshirt to keep things interesting.

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