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Marketing Tip #7 – best practice means settling for 2nd place

There is a saying in the competitive world that I absolutely love. It goes something like this: “Second place just means you’re the first loser.” I love that, it just make me smile and reminds me every day that second place is not where I want to be.

I like to translate this same thought into the business world, especially when I hear people mention two words that make my skin crawl. Those two words are “best practice.” Just physically saying those two words makes me suddenly feel claustrophobic and short of breath.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: “Best practice is used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.”

Now, for some aspects of a business, utilizing best practice makes sense. It’s a way to track and emulate results driven and proven processes that can ultimately help an organization survive. However, those of us who live, breathe, eat, sleep and earn a living in the creative world know that “best practice” will find no quarter in our compound.

Too many times I’ve seen the results of campaigns that have been based on what is considered best practice. They all look the same and there’s absolutely nothing that sets it apart from all the other messages cluttering our daily lives. Basically, there’s nothing groundbreaking about them. Nothing unexpected.

The thing that I find interesting about best practice is that at some point in time, some radical thought was introduced into an organization and that idea was given the ability to come to fruition. That radical idea was so successful that it soon became known as best practice for other organizations to emulate.  My point being, at one time, everything that is now considered a best practice was a radically different thought that had never been done before.

Volkswagen is a great example of an organization that doesn’t use best practice in their marketing. Heck, I’d be surprised if they use the concept of best practice in much of their everyday business and that’s why they are such an amazing enterprise. Here’s one of my favorite VW ads as an example of presenting a brand in a very fresh and interesting way.


Volkswagen may not win the Indy 500 but they’re in first place in the brand race.

Here’s the takeaway – VW breaks all the rules of best practice with this piece. There’s no voiceover, no pitch person, no fancy graphics and most importantly – you hardly even see a Volkswagen car. What the piece does convey is that Volkswagen is the purveyor of an exciting, fun and carefree life. How do you become this type of person? The first step is driving a Volkswagen. There’s no way the implementation of a best practice campaign strategy would get them to this point. They broke the rules and broke new ground. That’s where I want to be. How about you?


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