Why ‘Best Practices’ is Killing Your Marketing Efforts

Best practice is killing your marketing

You’re standing at the water cooler having a discussion with Brad about a cool bit of advertising you’ve seen.

In years gone by, it would have been the commercials which punctuated your favourite TV programme. Now it’s the YouTube pre-rolls. But the premise is the same: something grabbed your attention and stopped you from surfing channels or hitting the ‘skip ad’ button.

Why? Because a creative mind broke the mould. They challenged what you’ve seen time and time again and thought ‘we need to be different’.

These are the moments which get us talking, the ones which infiltrate our memories and never leave. These are what makes brands stand out from the crowd.

Creativity is a staple of marketing. Well, it should be.

Unfortunately – and unintentionally – the ability to capture data at every digital marketing step has resulted in an often processional flow of mediocrity, caused by the notion of ‘best practice’.

“The best performing Instagram posts have an average of 11 hashtags”.

“Email open rate averages increase if you use these words in the subject line”

“Landing pages convert at a higher average if you follow these steps”

This leads to a herd mentality; a flock of marketing sheep chasing the average. And know what? Chasing average numbers leads to average outputs.

The focus shifts from the creative to the structure. Marketing becomes painting by numbers. Best practice leads to conformity and no marketer should ever want to conform.

Instead of exciting, inspiring team sessions about the creative itself, talk of ‘best practice’ takes over. What are others doing? What channels are they using? How are they getting more likes and comments?

What are they doing that we can mimic?

Stop. Please, just stop.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be using data to help with your marketing; it’s just that it is there to assist you, not control you. And focusing on averages misses a crucial element of data – the outliers.

These are the data points which exceed – or fall way below – expectations.

And why would a piece of marketing perform considerably better than the average? Because it sticks a middle finger up at best practice. It refuses to conform. When the crowds are running one way, it explores a different path.

Water cooler conversations don’t begin with ‘Did you see that Instagram video of an influencer doing the same thing that 100 others have already done and who included 11 hashtags?’ Of course, they begin with ‘Did you see that Instagram video…? I’ve never seen anything like it.’

Exciting people, making people laugh, even shocking people: that’s what powerful marketing does and that should be a marketer’s goal. Take best practice, pat it sympathetically on the head and then shut it in your desk drawer.

It takes bravery and balls to achieve so let’s take a look at some examples from brands of different shapes and sizes. Maybe it will inspire you to be different.

How to make your marketing different

Have a bit of fun with social media customer service

Move a customer complaint offline, use DM blah, blah, blah.

Check out fast-food chain Wendy’s for an alternative approach. They call out customers, roast them and gladly lay into competitors. The customer service best practice manual wouldn’t like this.

Write your emails as if you were sending to friends

Use hi {first name} and include one clear call-to-action blah blah blah

Check out Joe Glover’s emails from The Marketing Meetup community – informal, engaging, just nice to receive.

Make your videos lively and entertaining

Ensure to include keywords, optimise blah blah blah

Check out Dollar Shave Club, still to this day a fantastic piece of marketing. How much discussion in the creative process went into keywords and optimising titles, I wonder?

Think laterally with your content marketing

Help a potential customer, give advice with blah blah blah

Check out Blendtec’s Will it Blend? 868,000 subscribers watching random items being destroyed by a blender. Some people hate this type of marketing…so what?

Build a memorable website

And if you want to really freak out the best practicers out there, show them Ling’s Cars, a crazy car leasing website which breaks a bunch of UX rules and, according to SimilarWeb, attracts 60,000 or so visits per month.

Summary: True innovators stand out from the crowd

One of the reasons you get into marketing is because you want to have fun so take some risks: excite yourself, scare yourself, make some memorable moments.

Ignore the naysayers who exclaim ‘you can’t do that’, ‘best practice says it should be done this way’ or, even worse, ‘this is the way we do it here’.

Take the mindset of a disruptor into your marketing and you’ll reap the rewards. Or suffer utter humiliation. Ah, well.

Now it’s over to you. How are you going to shake up your marketing? Are you a rule-breaker or do you prefer to play it safe? Hit us up and tell us what you think. Just don’t expect a best-practice response.


Nathan Lomax is founder and director of UK-based Quickfire Digital, an e-commerce focused digital transformation agency, helping businesses maximise efficiency, profitability and scalability through the use of technology.

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This is a guestpost shared on ReferralCandy. The author bio is at the bottom of the article!