It’s Not Brain Surgery, but…

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying before about pencils: there are two sides and the one with the eraser is much easier to use. Pencils aren’t used as much these days. But in a similar vein, maybe you noticed that the delete key on your keyboard is twice as big as the letter ones.

It’s a simple metaphor: it’s much easier to erase or delete than create. Reacting to the creative work of another – being a critic – takes minimal effort. It’s super easy and we all do it.

This is especially true in the world of marketing and advertising. Who doesn’t have an opinion of their favorite ad? The work of the marketer is impossible to avoid. We’ve been surrounded by advertising our entire lives. None of us can remember a time without it. Therefore it’s quite common, both those in business and among everyday consumers, to find those who have never practiced the craft of advertising tbat believe they know how to do it.

That’s not true for other professions. Brain surgery and medical researchers, for example, operate in a world most of us never see and in professions that require extensive training to earn the necessary credentials to practice. No sane layperson thinks they can perform brain surgery or concoct a cure for cancer.

Easy access to tools of the creative exacerbate this phenomenon. Who doesn’t have a pencil or keyboard? Unless you’re a doctor or PhD, it’s not likely you have a scalpel or test tubes lying around the house.

In many ways the ubiquity of the work of the marketer is what makes it fun. We are all consumers. Each of us possesses sufficient self awareness to know the type of messages that move us to take action. In that sense, whether we know it or not, we are all students of advertising on some level.

But awareness of what works is not the same as expertise in the craft of creating effective advertising. Make no mistake, there is process and craftsmanship behind every great campaign. But for the reasons I stated previously, there is a strong temptation for those not trained in the craft to think they can write better copy, provide better art direction or ideate better campaigns.

I don’t want to take this too far. Creating marketing and advertising is not brain surgery (if it were I’d be doing something else). It’s much harder to become a brain surgeon than a marketer and for good reason. Brain surgery is much harder.

Also unlike brain surgery constructive feedback by all stakeholders, especially those not in marketing, is essential to successful ad campaigns. Clearly no one’s brain surgery went better because of the suggestion of a medical layperson, however there are a of number examples of campaigns that were improved, inspired or even authored by non-advertising or marketing pros.

But not that many examples. Succumbing to the critic’s mindset, which minimizes the craft required to create great campaigns, or the belief that anyone can do it is dangerous for any business. In today’s hyper competitive environment great marketing is as essential as ever. You must have a process in place that both accounts for the invaluable input of others but at the same time respects the craft required to create the work.

Sure, it’s possible to succeed without good creative process. But you might as well buy a lottery ticket, because your chances of success aren’t much better.

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