There’s a scene in the blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark that everyone loves. Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, has just arrived in Cairo when his partner Marion Ravenwood is kidnapped by the Nazis. Indy starts running through a crowded Egyptian bazaar, desperately searching for her.
Suddenly, the masses of locals part and Indy sees a huge swordsman in a black robe smiling at him. He’s brandishing a menacingly large scimitar (a sword with a curved blade) and begins displaying his skill with the weapon — spinning it this way and that — to intimidate the American archaeologist.
Indiana Jones is highly skilled with the bullwhip — so naturally, we expect to see a very interesting sword vs. whip fight. But Indy has no time for such a long, drawn-out fight. He needs fast, sure results.
He pulls out a pistol, and shoots the swordsman from 20 paces. It’s the best laugh in the movie. The Cairo onlookers cheer and run off with the bad guy’s sword.
The take-away? If you want quick, sure results in a sword fight — use a gun.
I learned a similar lesson some time ago. It wasn’t fatal, but I have to admit it was painful. In our early years in the business, we would impress the heck out of prospects during a pitch for a big advertising campaign or account. But sometimes, I’d get a call from the selection committee chairperson and hear “We admire your passion and your creativity, but we’re going with someone else.”
“How could they choose another firm?” I would complain to my staff. “Don’t they want an agency that is passionate and creative?” Eventually, I realized the answer was “No…they want someone who will help them achieve their goals — and quickly.”
If achieving their goals requires creativity and special effects, fine. If achieving their goals requires a boring post card, so be it.
In these agency reviews, I was trying to impress the selection committee with my bullwhip (my creativity and passion). But most organizations are not looking for passionate and creative marketing consultants. They simply want results.
Could I have achieved the results the prospective client wanted with my bullwhip? Maybe. Probably. But it seemed risky to to the client.
The take-away? To reach your marketing goal or make that sale, use the weapon or method that achieves the goal, creative or not.
Passion and creativity are very valuable weapons. The creativity of using a bullwhip is one thing that made Indiana Jones stand out. And passion helped him win many fights and escape many bad situations. But experience told him it was wise to carry a gun also.
Indiana Jones learned through experience that using a bullwhip was going to take too long and be too risky in his fight against a swordsman. He knew a gun would be more effective. Likewise, we learn through experience which weapon is most effective in a marketing campaign.
Creativity helps you develop marketing that stands out. Experience helps you connect with the market. And Passion keeps you on-task to achieve the goal. All are important for good marketing.
But the bottom line is, don’t favor one weapon over another — especially if it just looks better. Use the weapon that has the best chance of wining the battle. Sometimes that means leaving your bullwhip at home. ##
PHOTO CREDIT: Lucasfilm/Paramount from Google Images