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Sea Change: Why Going Against the Tide in Marketing Can Be Rewarding

The one whale watch that I've been on in my life was simply amazing. The action consists of watching for specific whale behaviors: A fluke is when a whale is at the surface, then dives down, exposing its tail above the waterline before it submerges. A half-breach is when a whale propels itself from the deep, straight up and out of the water, but only gets about half its body out of the water before sinking back down. A full breach is when, you guessed it, the whale's entire body comes out of the ocean, sort of like a massive leap, head to tail exposed with air to spare underneath the massive mammal. This is not rare behavior for humpbacks, but this stupendous visual is certainly not as common as its other behaviors, and on that particular day it seemed to be eluding us. Witnessing a humpback whale in a full breach before crashing spectacularly to the surface is the holy grail of whale watching, and I was the only person on board that day to witness it.

How did this happen? The charter captain directs the crowd's attention over a loud speaker, a little bit like an MC. The captain knows what to look for; he has surveyed the ocean-scape for the day, understands the weather conditions and feeding habits of the whales, and then he sets the direction for the spectators to follow based on this information. Not unlike reading the conditions of the modern marketing landscape, the captain creates a tactical plan to ensure that he has as many eyeballs as possible receiving his product -- in this case, whales. His business depends on it, and although on this day he's called for everyone's attention toward a specific direction, I purposely looked the opposite way. And that is when I saw it...a full breach, about 150 yards off the boat on the port side, while all others were gazed over the railing on the other side of the boat.

Today's marketing execution is much the same: It's a reach strategy, based on information, and these days marketers are swimming in it. Masses of marketers follow the information, because that's what you're supposed to do, and the better the information, the better your prospects are for landing that client. And, like the masses, you're spending most of your budget on all things digital. But even within this sea of information and tactical direction, marketers can miss a big hit, much like the captain missed the full breach that day.

To put this into strategic terms, take print marketing, for example. Statistics from the Web site say 56 percent of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method, and seven out of 10 Americans report that they find direct-mail advertising more personal than online ads. Add to this HubSpot's finding that 47 percent of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. Smart marketers are most likely mixing it up between digital and print.

You may have absolutely no plans to spend on print marketing or any other "left for dead" marketing execution, but missed opportunities magnify themselves to larger proportions when you stop to realize that if few are executing on programs outside the trend, you would really be standing out if you were the one who did it. Remember that although today's strategies and tactics have everyone looking on one side of the boat, there's still the rest of the boat to consider. It really does pay to stop and look around.

Posted by Scott Shultz on 06/06/2018 at 9:46 AM