August 17, 2006
Paradox In Direct Response Radio Advertising
Are the most successful direct response radio advertisers always right? Not the most successful ones. Why? Because when your identity is invested in always being right, you're afraid to fail - the stakes are too high, I mean your identity? That has to be protected and propped up at all costs, right?
Fear of failure spells doom in direct response advertising because experimentation is at the core of the practice. Intelligent experimentation, that is.
Seth Godin has an interesting way of articulating this, which I'll point to in order to provide proof that I'm not crazy for even suggesting in some way that you embrace failure.
In a recent interview, Seth said:
"I argue that competence is the enemy. People who are competent are afraid to fail, afraid to experiment. They like being competent and defend it.
I've worked hard all my life to become incompetent but motivated at just about everything.... in general, if there's a chance to get worse at something, I'm willing to give it a shot."
I would make one important change to what Seth says. It is the need to always be competent that is the enemy of success because it leads to a fear of failure. And that fear means you're more worried about being right than you are about building a successful direct response radio campaign.
Nonetheless, Seth would be very successful in direct response radio advertising. With this perspective, he'd "fail" a lot but he'd succeed more than most because he'd test fearlessly and he'd fail forward.
Fear of failure not only undermines the crucial testing element of direct response advertising, but also the creative process that leads to the breakthrough ads and the key insights.
In direct response advertising, the intelligently fearless are the most successful. So be cautious when you're talking to people or agencies who say they're the best, that they know it all, and that they have a super high success rate that nearly guarantees you a fortune. They'll be forced to care more about defending their "rightness" than figuring out how your campaign can achieve maximum success.
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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Made to Stick, Heath & Heath
The Power of Persuasion, Robert Levine
Influence: Science & Practice, Cialdini
Words That Work, Frank Lutz
My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins
Or Your Money Back, Alvin Eicoff
Being Direct, Lester Wunderman