You need to learn the rules of the playground first-hand

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk to a large financial services firm that was having an off-site for one of their divisions.  The audience was a group of 60+ marketers that had gathered for a three-day meeting on a variety of topics.  I was there to talk about innovation and how a company could leverage digital as a key driver.  During the Q&A that followed, one of the marketers in the audience asked about keeping up with all the new digital platforms that are launching.  In particular, she wanted to know how important it is for marketers to have first-hand experience with things like Snapchat, ApplePay, etc.  Do marketers really need to try out everything new thing that comes on the market?

Well, the short answer is yes.

The thing is that marketing has changed quite a bit over the last decade.  If you think about the traditional marketing toolbox of a few years ago, just about everyone watched TV, read magazines, and drove by billboards.  So when we were making choices in the marketing mix, we were deciding between tools that we had first-hand experience with.  We knew the rules of the medium and could focus on the creative.

But today marketers are faced with more choices than ever before.  And for the first time ever, we are being forced to decide if a channel is right for our brand when we might not know what the channel is.  That is why marketers need to be prolific when it comes to experimenting with new platforms.  You need to download the new app that people are talking about.  You need to write a post on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse.  You need to support the latest project on Kickstarter.  And you need to buy that new FitBit, Nest, or Gear.  The goal is learning the rules of the playground first-hand.  You have to push yourself to experiment with everything that is new so you know what the boundaries are.  How do people behave on the platform?  What is appropriate and what is seen as shilling?

Before you can ever make that decision as a marketer, you have to be able to make the decision as a consumer.  And that means putting yourself out there and learn first-hand what all these new shiny objects are about.

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