When Your Great Idea Is Dead as a Doornail

Stave Five: Where Ebenezer learns to test before rolling out

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I saw this cartoon last December on Facebook.  I am a big fan of A Christmas Carol (I read it almost every year) and I thought this cartoon was brilliant.  Brilliant, as in, one of the two or three wittiest things I saw last year.  Do I have an official list?  No, I do not.  Do I keep an informal mental list?  Um … maybe I shouldn’t admit to that.  But, as you may be gathering, I usually kinda do.  You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, I thought it was brilliant.

This being the early 21st century I did the next natural thing and I shared it on Facebook.  My friends will LOVE IT, I thought!  (It was, after all … brilliant!)

Later that day I was back goofing around on Facebook and … and … and … how could it be?  No one had “liked” it.  I mean, yeah, my mother liked it, but, sheesh … Ma likes just about everything I post.

You may recall last December was also the premiere of the long awaited, long anticipated, long feared-that-it-might-stink-as-badly-as-the-prequels new Star Wars movie.  I saw an amusing meme and I shared it.  It was not a brilliant meme.  It was marginally witty.  It made me smile … and that was good enough.  I shared it.  It was this:

See? It's cute, right? Brilliant? Nah ...

Because the readers of The Completely Interesting Direct Marketing Blog are also brilliant, you, dear reader, can see where this is going.  This one, along with the 15 bizmillion other Star Wars’ related anti-spoiler memes posted, received all kinds of hits.  My nerd-tastic friends loved it.  Meanwhile, back at my brilliant Ghost of Christmas Future Imperfect Conditional cartoon … crickets.  And Ma.

And this, my dear web-based friends, brings us to marketing.  Specifically, testing.  Please test.  Please, please, please test.  Please test even when you know you have a really good idea.  Please test even when you know your concept and creative is brilliant.  Please test even when you couldn’t imagine your offer being anything other than impossible to ignore.  Moreover, know your audience.  I thought I knew my audience.  The response was, if you’ll forgive me, as dead as a door-nail.  I was wrong.  (Well, I mean, they were wrong not to see the cartoon’s brilliance, but, all it cost me was about 30 seconds and not the thousands of dollars not knowing your audience can cost in a direct marketing campaign.)  You may have a great idea … but, it’s only great in direct marketing terms if your audience responds.

Tim Burnell

About Tim Burnell

Tim Burnell, principal owner of Complete Medical Lists, has been helping clients reach their targeted markets through direct channels for over 20 years. He believes offering high quality data and unsurpassed service are the keys to Complete Medical’s success. He also believes all his CDs should be alphabetized by artist and then sorted by release date. Except for the Beatle CDs. They get sorted before all others.
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