As marketing leaders, we often find ourselves drawn to shiny new ideas and tools, excited by the potential they promise. But what if the keys to true success lie in the shadows, just waiting to be discovered?

I recently read the following parable from the Bryan Johnson Blueprint and had to find a fun way to apply it to marketing:

A person is looking for their keys under a street light. Someone walks by and inquires, “Are you certain you lost your keys here?”

“No” they reply, “I lost them across the street.”

Confused, the stranger says, “Then why are you looking here?”

They responded, “The light is much brighter here!”Principle 4 – Bryan Johnson, Blueprint

Inspired by this age-old parable – apparently called the streetlight effect – let’s explore how embracing the darkness can lead to innovative and effective marketing strategies. Let’s dive into the shadows and find out how you can apply this principle to your marketing leadership.

  1. Dare to Venture Beyond the Light

In the parable, the person searches for their lost keys under the streetlight, even though they know it’s not where they dropped them. Similarly, marketers often focus on tried-and-tested methods, fearing the unknown. To avoid being blinded by the light, take calculated risks and explore new channels, tactics, or ideas. You may find unexpected opportunities that were hidden in the darkness all along.

TikTok and other evolving social media channels are a great example of this. To the uneducated, they are for gossip and teenagers. Yet this article features 5 Creative Brands that are Killing it on TikTok;  the WSJ and apps such as Duolingo are not places you would initially consider.

  1. Foster a Culture of Curiosity

Encourage your marketing team to be curious and question conventional wisdom. By fostering a culture that values diverse perspectives and experimentation, you’ll create an environment where innovation thrives. Don’t shy away from challenging the status quo and exploring unconventional marketing approaches. The darkness may hold the key to your next big breakthrough.

  1. Embrace the Power of Data

This is without a doubt my favourite. Data can be a guiding light in the darkness, providing insights that illuminate hidden opportunities. Make data-driven decisions by investing in data analytics and research. By leveraging data, you’ll make informed choices and uncover valuable insights that may have gone unnoticed in the glare of traditional marketing methods.

Data-first marketing is something that will make you stand out from the rest. Just as sales and IT has to quantify their output, utilising data allows you to hyper-focus your campaigns and act on facts rather than inkling.

In many of my job roles, everyone thinks they know something about marketing. Use data to provide insights and backup your business decisions.

  1. Learn from Failure

Not every venture into the darkness will lead to success, but failure can be an invaluable teacher. Embrace setbacks and use them to refine your marketing strategies. By learning from failure, you’ll become a more resilient and adaptable marketing leader, ready to face the challenges that lie in the shadows.

This interview with Giannis Antetokounmpo went viral during a-post game interview about his views on failure. This is something we should all remember and as one comment puts it: “People will be replaying this for years to come”. As Daron K. Roberts often says, THIS IS NOT ABOUT SPORT:

  1. Balance Darkness and Light

While it’s important to explore the darkness, don’t forget the value of the light. Strive for a balance between the tried-and-true and the uncharted. Use your experience and intuition to guide your marketing efforts, while remaining open to new possibilities. This balance will help you create a marketing strategy that is both grounded in reality and primed for innovation.

Thanks for reading!


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