Marketing vs. Gimmicks

Know the Difference

Remember when companies thought slapping QR Codes on all public displays meant they were edgy and innovative?

Remember when Pokemon GO was the hottest thing for 15 minutes with businesses, churches, and establishments everywhere jumping on that bandwagon trying to snag walk-ins?

Remember when small businesses thought simply having Facebook & Twitter pages meant they were relevant and part of the conversation?

The list could go on and on with all failed attempts at grasping for free electricity from another’s lightning-in-a-bottle. Desperate to capture a new demographic and diving head-first into the deep end…with no life jacket or swimming skills. It happens all the time. We’re constantly connected; constantly pressured to produce; and constantly searching for innovation to a point where the process itself is hijacked by the ever-so attractive low-hanging fruit.

These are gimmicks.

Gimmick, defn: A trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.

Juvenile as this seems, it is imperative we understand the actual meaning of these instant flare-ups. And even more important, remember what they are not.

Gimmicks are not marketing. Period. Best case scenario, they’re a side-effect of a much larger marketing narrative.

A healthy marketing plan does not rely on gimmicks as a cornerstone.

Look back at the trendy gimmicks you’ve seen across the marketing spectrum in your network. Whether it’s QR Codes, a neglected Twitter account, or becoming a “hotspot” for the new interactive iPhone app — think logically. Ask these questions:

  • Was any new business written as a direct result?
  • How much walk-in-traffic did it produce?
  • Did the walk-ins have an interaction with a key member of the establishment?
  • Are there any measurables for word-of-mouth increasing?
  • Were the gimmicks carrying an action-point or a take-away?

More often than not, the answers the above questions are: No, or, I don’t know. And if we’re being brutally honest, “No” and, “I don’t know” won’t cut it.

Marketing is difficult enough. Countless arenas are constantly questioning whether the mounds of money they’ve invested marketing pursuits and professionals are even worthwhile. Sure, cognitively they understand it’s expected and perhaps even important. But we can’t afford to get side-tracked by the new shiny opportunity that’s bred by convenience, pop-culture, and quick-fixes.


Convenient technology doesn’t solve your marketing problems. Consistency, relationships, and story-telling do.

Without the why, the what, who, and how don’t matter.

Marketing is vastly more than simply buying ad space in your small town periodical. Marketing is more than slapping a QR code on a flyer that takes people to your web-site. Marketing is more than knowing your targeted demographic(s). Marketing is more than convenience, and it’s more than a status update. Perhaps all of the cogs are common side-effect of the larger machine — but they’re not the end-game.

If your marketing plan is hinged on gimmicks — it will be shallow, and expensive in more than one way. But if you’re pursuit of innovation is birthed through research, cloaked in story that needs to be told, and carries the antidote to the need — than you’ve got yourself an opportunity worth pursuing.

Marketing is about initiating the conversation you want to direct in order to best service the public that may benefit from the awesomeness you offer. Don’t settle at grasping for relevance.