If Marketing Isn’t Effective, It’s Not Creative

Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative,” or so said David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising. What he meant was simple. Marketing and advertising exist to sell, period. Creativity is great. Anything can be designed to look or function uniquely. What matters is whether that unique look or function is valued by a relevant segment of customers. Creativity is subjective and should be measured by whether it achieved its desired ends. The desired end of marketing is revenue growth. Creative marketing without revenue growth isn’t creative, it’s just a failure.
Effective marketing doesn’t have to “break the internet” or be “on fleek.” It must only sell. That’s it. Everything has been done to death in every industry. Chances are, your product and company are like some other product or company either in your area, the country, or the world. What sets companies apart is their ability to effectively communicate their value. There usually isn’t some clear-cut reason for choosing one company over another similar company. Taste is subjective. Why buy Coke over Pepsi? Are they really that different? They want you to think so. Why buy an Apple iPhone over a Samsung? Both essentially do the same thing. Both feature the same apps. Both facilitate texting, calling, snapping, tweeting, twerking, and whatever else. The difference lies in how each company communicates its value.
So why the rant about marketing that sells versus “creative” marketing that doesn’t? Well, mostly because of the recent Pepsi commercial involving Kendall Jenner and an ill-fated attempt at capitalizing on the recent political protests around the country. Opponents of the ad characterized it as tone-deaf and insulting. It’s yet to be seen whether this marketing campaign will pay off for Pepsi. They ended up “pulling the ad,” but they accomplished their broader goal. We’re talking about Pepsi. EVERYONE is talking about Pepsi. And the Kardashians, of course, but that’s to be expected.
Pepsi isn’t exactly scrubbing the internet of all traces of the ad. It’s out there, and it’s getting them a massive amount of attention. They made a show of pulling it to appease their detractors, but make no mistake, this was effective marketing. This was creative marketing. It didn’t succeed the way Pepsi wanted. They assumed we’d see the ad, get warm and fuzzy feelings in our tummy, and drink tons of their sugar water. They thought they’d be hip. It didn’t happen that way, but the ad’s creativity struck enough chords that it resonated anyway and continues to days after being “pulled”.
There are countless examples of marketing missteps, controversies, and gaffes that worked out favorably and sometimes not so favorably for companies. Let’s look at a few of the memorable ones:

  • Apple’s 1984 ad debuting the Macintosh computer was controversial when it aired and deemed likely to be ineffective before it ever hit the airwaves. Apple’s own board of directors didn’t even like it. Today, it’s widely considered the most effective Super Bowl ad in history.


  • Proving you can never make everyone happy, Starbucks regularly gins up controversy with their annual holiday cup. Their debut of a plain red cup in 2015 led to some outrage but ultimately had little effect on their bottom line. Creative or not? You be the judge.


  • Target set off a firestorm when it announced in 2016 that its new bathroom policy would allow “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” Led by the American Family Association, Millions of consumers soon boycotted (and continue to boycott) Target, which has led to massive revenue and stock losses.


  • Nationwide ran an ad during the 2015 Super Bowl featuring a child doing all the things he’d never actually get to do (because he died in a household accident – yikes). People would rather not be reminded of dead children during their sporting events so a national backlash ensued. Nationwide released a statement saying they were happy they’d ignited a debate.


  • Proving marketing controversies come in all shapes and sizes, Apple angered millions of their customers when they forced them into owning their products with the new (at the time) U2 album fully installed. Nobody wants U2, or any band for the matter, randomly placed on their personal electronic devices without permission. This massive marketing campaign failed miserably. Millions of Apple customers were upset. And I still have that darn U2 album on my iPhone.

Regardless of the marketing campaign or idea, make sure it gets eyeballs and sells. Pointing out the instances where brands and companies stumble is fun, but it shows there isn’t always an easy answer. In fact, there really is. Getting eyeballs is half the battle. Getting them to buy is the other. Good marketing sells. Good marketing is creative. If you want creative without the selling, buy a coloring book.
If you need help finding the right marketing solution for your business, call Baer Performance Marketing (920-632-7648).