Mythbuster: Marketing must be serious

Les Binet and Sarah Carter

Les Binet and Sarah Carter get a little bit angry about some of the nonsense they hear around them… like the idea that marketing must be serious.

Many years ago, we worked on a paint brand. Our agency had come up with a cracking new TV idea showing people up and down Britain painting different rooms in their homes, all set to a stirring song. We were convinced we were on to a winner, but when we showed it to the client we discovered an unexpected problem. One little scene showed someone cheerfully painting their loo. The client was horrified: 'our customers do not use the toilet', she said frostily. The scene had to go.

We've always sympathised with clients when faced with new creative ideas to judge. Marketing is a serious business in the sense that it has a big effect on the financial well-being of firms, their owners and their staff. Brands are important in the sense that they are valuable financial assets. Unfortunately, this can lead some clients to believe that all aspects of marketing must be done in a serious and self-important way. Their view can echo that of the great Claude Hopkins: "Don't treat your subject lightly. Don't lessen respect for your self or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronise a clown. An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fool's cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects," Scientific Advertising (1923).