Maybe I have been experiencing self-delusion all these years but during this rainy weekend whilst catching up on all the TV programs I have missed, my bubble of idealism was painfully punctured, not just in relation to myself as a marketing consultant or in relation to consultants in other business disciplines but to people and consumers in general.

The sad truth was probably always there in the recesses of my mind, but my wishful self just kept suppressing the truth in the same way that we all suppress information that is likely to clash with our firm held beliefs or wishful thinking.

In 6 out of the 7 episodes (I couldn’t bear watch any more) in Season 1, of The Pitch” by AMC – the reality TV show about ad agencies pitching for new business, the client chooses not the strongest idea but the average idea that was presented in the slickest way. Interestingly, almost always, the agency that used video won the pitch! It seems that even seasoned marketers of big brands lack the strategic foresight and imagination to recognize brilliant positioning or the big campaign-able idea for their brand.

Presentation and Execution win over Strategy every time!

You can’t imagine the disappointment I felt when I was rudely awakened by the fact that Style beats Substance. Surely as a seasoned marketing consultant this is something that I should have known? Of course I did…but maybe my own knowledge and 20 years experience in the marketing industry, together with the knowledge of these 3 facts below, have been the very culprits that have clouded my mind and lulled me into a false sense of security:

  1. Most clients in the small business arena lack marketing strategy,

  2. Brilliant strategy is nothing without the execution and

  3. Great marketing strategy allows a company to create an execution that will WOW the target audience

How could I have become complacent about the very essence of marketing communication when it comes to our own business, something that I repeat to every one of our clients, every day of the week, which is that humans are mostly creatures driven by feelings not rationality, making emotional decisions and then justifying them with logic!

Maybe like me, you love what you do, but remember to place enough emphasis on the execution part, especially during the sales or pitch process, the very process that gives us the professional service providers or consultants the opportunity and privilege to work with the client in the first place!

“The Pitch” is a show that once again highlighted to me the basic human need to see explicitly the “finished product” or the “end result”.
People simply don’t have the time, imagination and desire to work hard and turn that great idea into a great execution or result, they’d rather buy the idea that simply looks good and is ready to use!

That’s why a furnished house will beat an unfurnished one at an auction and why an average idea executed well will beat a great idea executed in an average way!
Of course my judgement about “The Pitch” is subjective and based on the footage shown to us as TV viewers, whereas in reality that is outside of ‘Reality TV’ there would have been other factors at play other than a competition of brilliant ideas. The size of the agencies, their personalities, passion, the clients perception about the agency’s ability to make their idea come to life, would have all played a role in the client’s decision.

A lesson for all professional services providers and consultants – have the great idea but make sure you execute it brilliantly to win the client!

My only consolation is that once the ideas are accepted and put into practice the brand needs both substance and style to get the target audience engaged and all things ‘executional’ being equal, the better idea will win, but that sort of comparison is rarely possible!

“Industry executives and analysts often mistakenly talk about strategy as if it were some kind of chess match.  But in chess, you have just two opponents, each with identical resources, and with luck playing a minimal role.  The real world is much more like a poker game, with multiple players trying to make the best of whatever hand fortune has dealt them.” – David Moschella

But in the end it all comes down to relationships, being liked and playing the hand you’ve been dealt. People buy from people they like. Tall sales people out-perform short sales people and being attractive is likely to swing the odds of a deal in your favour which means that the rest of us who are under 6′ and do not belong on the cover of a fashion magazine just need to work smarter.