On rare occasions, I take the liberty of spouting off on a topic of interest to me, and perhaps to some readers. This is one of those times.

I had a long lunch yesterday with a friend a former colleague – a gifted marketing copywriter with whom I worked for several years. We met at Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa, a restaurant that I highly recommend if you haven’t already tried it.

Mike and I swapped recent marketing experiences. Mine was some recent major success with a cosmetic surgery practice for which I was doing all of the marketing. Over the nine months from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, phone inquiries increased by 19.5% and online inquiries increased several hundredfold.

We accomplished this feat almost entirely without the use of social media.

Many readers of this blog are self-employed and have succumbed to a herd mentality over social media marketing. They believe that they must have an active social media presence and do not do the research required to make a rational business decision. Their social media marketing decisions are almost always emotional ones.

Relying on social media – relying on adding the “f” or “g+” icons or Twitter’s little blue bird – to do the marketing for a business is severely detracting from the larger concerns, which are brand development, positioning, and creative messaging.

This has resulted in the worst creative drought I have witnessed in the 30 years I have been in advertising and marketing. I haven’t seen a truly good ad – one that is clever and highlights benefits – in many years. And that dearth of creativity is tied to the rise of and dependence on social media to do the heavy lifting.

It won’t work. At the end of the day, prospects are still going to be asking the same question they were asking before television, which is, “What’s in it for me?” If you don’t answer that question, you lose. Of course, there are a few ways to answer that question, but none of the answers can be achieved simply by having Facebook, Twitter, etc., accounts.

It Takes a Thoughtful Mind

So what is creative? Creative is clever. Creative understands the target audience and gives them what they want quickly and in an entertaining manner.

My favorite tag line (slogan) is from the 60’s and it broke a rule but still resonated. The tag line is for Mr. Bubble: “Gets you so clean, your mother won’t know you.” 

The rule it broke was the number of words. Marketing science says to limit tag lines to seven words. Mr. Bubble’s has nine.

And here’s my favorite TV commercial – written and directed by the great Stan Freberg:

At a workshop I attended almost three years ago, a speaker – who worked for GoDaddy – told us to ignore social media for business purposes and he kept emphasizing what eventually made the surgery practice even more successful: frequent, relevant content.

Developing interesting content is hard to do in an age when our attention spans have been reduced to moments. It’s much easier to just throw spaghetti against the Facebook wall and see if it sticks.

It’s easier, but not effective.

And in a little-noticed but significant development, marketing through direct mail – the U.S. Postal Service – is beating the pants off of e-mail marketing.

So, there you go. Thanks for reading.

Steve Smith