The Chasm Between Knowing And Doing

Posted by

We have terrible habits, don’t we?

I have so many issues. There are nights when I go to bed without flossing (I’m just too lazy). That’s going to cause some extra scraping by the dental hygienist. I try to eat well, but there are some nights when a little bowl of Hershey’s Chipits (the milk chocolate ones) are screaming my name. I never feel good after that indulgence. I have too many new books on my Kindle app that I have every intention of reading (and lots of older ones too). It ain’t going to happen. My to do list? It’s getting longer, no matter how well-intentioned I am to wake up (extra) early tomorrow and tackle it. Yes, I’m basically staring at a list of actions (without any contempt) and just not getting it all done. How many close friend have I not called (or gotten together with) in far too long? I’m a terrible friend. You’re probably waiting for me to respond to an email, a tweet, a Facebook post, a blog comment… I’m going to mess that one up too. I apologize.

I’m human. You’re human. 

I often forget about our collective humanity when I think about the possibilities and opportunities that marketing has now given us all. We all know what we’re supposed to do. We know that we should be focused much more on smartphones and tablets than on PCs. We know that we shouldn’t be doing the whole "set it and forget it" when it comes to advertising campaigns, because we can now leverage data and analytics to test, iterate and optimize in real time. Everyone knows that we can build deep and direct relationships with our consumers through channels like social media and email. We all know that in the next few years, everything that can be plugged into a wall will be connected to the Internet. Still, what is the common, day to day, reality of the marketing departments and advertising agencies that service them?

Is everything and everyone just a bunch of hot air?

I find it hard to believe that I have written close to 4000 blog posts since I first started Six Pixels of Separation back in 2003. I’m beginning to lose my passion for the word "passion," but it’s hard to find a better word to describe why anybody would put this kind of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears into anything. It’s not just the writing of the words that takes effort. The heavy lifting is everything that comes before my eyeballs star at a blank screen. It’s the reading, the thinking, the client work, the failures, the successes, the what-ifs and everything in between. That’s the real hard and funky stuff. It’s the scars and scares of the trenches. The tinkering and toying. The testing and tweaking. Still, when I look around, I can smell the fear. Still, with every inch of proof that the Internet has fundamentally changed how brands can connect and tell their stories to consumers, the vast majority of brands (no matter how much they’re peacocking) and agencies (no matter how much they’re inflating their own tires with marketing jargon press releases) are doing little more than what they were doing decades ago. They’re pimping, promoting, screaming and begging for consumers to look their way… even for a moment.

What’s really happening?

I’m going to stop being so tough on marketers. Marketers are like my lapse in flossing judgment. They know what they’re supposed to. They’ve read the books (or watched a video on YouTube). They’ve read a ton of blog posts (or followed some smart people on Twitter). They’ve attended a conference or two on the topic of digital marketing (or listened to a podcast on it). The thing is that there’s this chasm that exists between knowing and doing. I know I should floss every night (and every morning). It’s not that hard to do. I’ve done it before. But, still, there are some nights when it just slides. We all get to work with the best of intentions, but the emails start to flow, the meetings runneth over and the next thing you know, you have to choose between doing something that may rattle some cages or going for a coffee with someone from your department.

Guess which option usually wins?

Since Twist Image got acquired by WPP, the interest in brands wanting to work with us has picked up. The opportunities to work on some super-interesting brands has put me back in a much more operational role (which I really do love). I’m writing decks, pitching clients, tossing ideas around and it feels comfortable. The work I was meant to do. I’m constantly working with some of the smartest people on finding the images and words to help brands solve very specific (and profound) business challenges. That, coupled with this blog, makes me feel very complete. I was walking over to a radio interview this afternoon when it struck me. This feeling of completeness. Why? When I write, I feel like I’m expressing things that we either all know or have yet to realize about where business is headed. That’s fine. That’s dandy. When you actually do the work. When you actually take ideas and turn them into tangible products and services that help a business solve a problem, you move from knowing to doing. Most don’t have that luxury.

Wait. Stop. Right. There.

This is starting to read like tough talk. Like I’m the only one doing, while everyone else is just blogging and talking up a good storm. That’s not the case. The real reality of my situation is this: I find that in all of the work that I am doing, it’s still too much knowing and not enough doing. I feel this from the people I speak to, every day, as well. They feel surrounded by people who would rather live in the dogma of traditional marketing. They find themselves having to sell ideas to people who should, intuitively, know better. What this really means: we have work to do. Lots of work. Knowing that we have the work (and how to solve it) is a great thing (don’t diminish it), but doing it… making that dent in the universe… adapting to the new realities. This is the work that we’re all really meant to do.

Who’s with me on this? Let’s turn ditch that chasm between knowing and doing. Let’s just do a whole lot more.