One complaint often heard about marketing is that it’s too formulaic, that it’s too rote and lacks creativity. “Don’t you have something new?” is a common refrain asked of marketers like you and I. Our answer, too often, is to scramble to try and invent something new on the spot and usually not produce something better than the formula. Perhaps, in the words of Chen Stormstout, there is a better question: “is the formula working?”

Consider this: some of the bestselling authors on the planet, whose works are loved by millions, obey clear, unambiguous formulae. “Trashy romance novels” all follow the same boy meets girl formula. Even one of my favorite authors, the late and beloved Tom Clancy, had clear formulae for his books. The topics and subjects may have varied, but the underlying structure shared many common themes.

MarTech 2014 Boston Watercolors

Think about what you cook in the kitchen. A recipe is nothing more than a formula, a way of ensuring you get a consistent result each time you try to make a dish. Ultimately, the question isn’t whether or not you should be using a formula/recipe in the kitchen, but whether the recipe is any good. If it’s not, you work on it until the recipe is a good one.

Do the same with your marketing. Don’t invent things for the sake of invention – one of the greatest lies about innovation in today’s marketing. Rely on formulae that work, discard or improve formulae that don’t work, but don’t mindlessly throw away the process of systematizing your marketing because it feels uncreative. Be creative within your marketing recipes, be creative about improving them, but keep the recipes. It’s the only way to ensure consistency and scale.


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