Best Practices Are Bullsh**

Here’s a little secret about True: We hate “best practice”.

Sure, they can be useful in some situations. For example, maybe you’re a Marketing Manager who’s been hiding under a rock for the last decade and has never heard of Facebook. In that very specific (and unfortunate) situation, reading an article on “Best Practices for Brands on Facebook” may in fact be a very good use of your time.

For the rest of you, best practices simply don’t (and shouldn’t) cut it.

The real problem is that they don’t take into consideration what makes products unique. If you adhere to a “one size fits all” approach when determining how best to market your business to new consumers, how is it possible for you to stand out amongst competitors? The answer is, you won’t.

Take a second and think about the most successful brand you can think of. Maybe it’s Amazon, Coke, Facebook or Starbucks.

What propelled those four businesses to world domination? Innovation.

They created a new way of doing business and introduced their products to a market of people who were compelled by their unique proposition. If they had adhered to universally accessible standards and practices, they wouldn’t have been able to cut through the clutter of new product launches.

We believe that approach can be adhered to when developing brand creative. We call them “best” practices for a reason. They have already been done before. So much so, in fact, that they have been approved by the masses and accepted as applicable universally.  And because of that, everyone – including your biggest competitors – have the ability to look them up online and apply the techniques themselves.

That’s why we push our clients to think and act differently. You should always strive to take on an “anti-best practice” approach, and here’s how to get started.


New Technology Is Your Friend

Every business that’s looking to grow market share should be investing in innovation. In fact, 84% of customers say it is somewhat or very important that the company they buy from is innovative, according to the research firm Lab42.

So whether it’s technology, new creative formats, or even design techniques, your most likely to win new business and stand out amongst your competitors if you just dive in and give innovation a shot.

The saying “fail fast, fail often” might seem like a silly business mantra, but the takeaway is relevant: Take risks and learn from your mistakes.

Ask yourself: Would my business benefit from an Amazon Alexa Skill? Why haven’t I tried a Livestream? Is this the year we launch a presence on Pinterest? How would we go about developing a Facebook Messenger chatbot?


Storyline > Story Length

One of the biggest issues about best practices is that they are often very technical. And while it’s important to focus on the length and size of a advertisement, this will often get in the way of the creative process if it’s your top priority.  

Instead of focusing on the technical elements first, start by developing a compelling narrative. Think of your audience and then build a story that you know will resonate with them. Once that storyline has been fleshed out, you can then focus on what mediums should be used to best tell that story.

Remember: The difference between a horrible movie and an amazing Instagram Story are not the length or the platform, it’s the quality of the content. If you focus on nailing the story, technical elements become added value.


Testing 1, 2, 3

It’s true that testing sometimes leads to failure. But it’s also true that failure always leads to a greater understanding.

One thing to consider when developing your business strategy for next year is that nearly every audience – even subsets of your current core target – thinks and responds differently to creative. So the only way to truly master communicating effectively to potential consumers is to test, test, test.

In 2016, eBay’s USA team implemented a creative test and learn process on 14 different social platforms, publishing more than 2,500 pieces of content. Ranging from 1-to-1 custom creative on Twitter to high-quality online commercials for Facebook and YouTube, the brand generated over 535MM total impressions and drove website traffic 4.8x higher than the previous year.

Food for thought: Instead of solely relying on insights gleaned from previous work, try saving 10% of your overall budget for Test & Learn campaigns. Who knows, maybe your old tests will become your new standard?


Steal… from yourself

When marketers are searching for inspiration for their next project or campaign, they often overlook their most relevant muse, themselves.

Try this out: We believe that success doesn’t have to be platform-specific. If you’ve run a successful email marketing campaign, use that as inspiration to guide the development of your next social post or maybe even a billboard. Context may seem like a barrier when determining if a creative learning is worth sharing with other teams, and we’re here to tell you that it isn’t.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be this. The road to mediocrity is paved with “best practice”, so embrace risk and question the status quo. That’s a best practice we can get behind.


Sean Szeps
Digital Strategist

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