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Why We Love Gimmicks

Photo by JJ Shev on Unsplash

Let me share with you a little rant, and a little warning.

Gimmicks get a bad rap. In presenting creative marketing ideas to clients, I often hear businesspeople criticize a good creative idea by saying “it’s too gimicky.” However, those same businesspeople will also say, in the same sentence, that my b@tsh!t crazy idea probably would work, but it’s “just not our brand.”

Ironically, I have actually witnessed that SAME “serious” businessperson at the conference-room table, wearing a freakin’ SNUGGIE (a fleece abomination that resembles a monastic hood for those of you who have been blessed not to have seen one) because the A/C is up too high; sipping her tea from a USB-powered mug because it keeps the tea warm.

Gimmicks.

Inevitably, our team’s account executive will then report in the next staff production meeting that said client is frustrated that we don’t present any new ideas, and that they are looking for a new marketing company.

[SMH. With the accompanying, obligatory facepalm.]

Yes, I know. You really don’t want your company to be presented to the world like a circus clown. But, at the same time, you also have to admit that we live in ClownWorld.

I’m going to lay a little psychology on you.

People love gimmicks.

Why? Because we humans are drawn to novelty — the new. We also assume that the new-thing is also an improved-thing. We are easily bored with the same-old-same-old, very quickly.

This is because we are still, at our core, hunter-gatherers. We just have credit cards. We are always on the hunt, looking to gather that new, exciting berry that will add that little something-extra to our boring mammoth stew.

So why are we so afraid of being “gimmicky” in business?

We are afraid, because it will work. It might just work too well, and then we would have to back-up our claims with consistent, great delivery.

We would have to have a solid product or service, coupled with awe-inspiring customer care. We would have to really understand what makes our marketplace tick. We would have to invest the time and energy to do the introspection required to build a solid brand, discover the skeletons hiding in our closets, and get rid of them. We would have to go deeper with our brand promise, and actually deliver on it.

When companies don’t really believe in their brand, and don’t have the trust of their customers, they are afraid of the gimmick that works.

They don’t want to run ads on Tik-Tok, even if there is a hungry gaggle of Zoomers foaming at the mouth to spend with their parents’ credit cards. They don’t try the guerilla-marketing campaign that will bring in people to see what all the excitement is about. They don’t use humor in their ads. They don’t put the giant inflatable gorilla on their roof to attract people to their corner store. (There might be legitimate building codes and traffic management concerns with that one, but that’s beside the point.)

They would prefer to be quiet and predictable. But then hope that they can still, somehow, cut through the noise to attract new customers.

That makes a lot of sense, for a mediocre product or service; and we do have to admit that we are swimming in a sea of mediocrity.

Mediocre is safe, and no one gets fired being safe.

But businesses do go bust being safe.

Let That Freak-Flag Fly! (Shmaybe)

The best brands, the ones who do have the great product or service, are unafraid of being gimmicky. They do it all the time, and they back up all the attention they receive with solid fundamentals and great products. They do the fun, novel thing alongside the boring, consistent thing, because they built a brand their customers can trust.

And, this leads to the warning — good advertising will kill a bad product faster than anything else. If you don’t have the solid product, don’t you DARE go for the gimmick until you do.

But, if you’ve done the work to get to a great product, don’t back away from the occasional gimmick. People love new things. Don’t be afraid to be the new thing.

Vive la Gimmick!