Dear CMO:

In Texas Hold ‘Em, you’ve got up cards — ones that everyone can see — and down cards — the ones that are face down, that only you can see.

Same as in marketing.

We all have the obvious, the face-value, and the surface issues. I want performance. I want a lower cost. I want a name that says what I am.

We all have the hidden, too. I need to feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself and my family, even if I don’t live in a 1800’s farmhouse and grow my own pinot noir grapes for a living. I need to make sure I know what’s happening in my company, my industry, and with my collegues not because work is important  but because work is fragile.

We have this dialog with ourselves everyday. We say what we want. We emotionally connect to metaphors. And we see ourselves in stories.

Snakes on a Plane is a movie about snakes on a plane. If you’re an action disaster movie buff and like Samuel L. Jackson, this is for you. Up card marketing.

Burt’s Bees is a company that makes natural health and beauty aids. The company name tells a story. You draw your own lines and follow your own path. Down card marketing.

Both have roles, of course, and I don’t want to present this idea as an absolute in either direction. But there is a glaring difference between them that benefits from some analysis. Your up card marketing efforts speak to immediacy: I need you to know this, now. Shorter term engagement. Your down card marketing efforts are more subtle and build over time: branding, loyalty, and deeper relationships.

The trouble is we usually stick with up card marketing when we need to get to the real problems our customers are trying to solve. We stick with the obvious and don’t push ourselves to understand the down card issues.

Up cards, in short, are factual; but if you don’t understand your customer’s hole card, you’re just another voice amongst many.



PS: the idea of “up cards” and “down cards” describing the obvious and hidden priorities of our customers came from a very insightful conversation with “Advantage Makers” author Steven Feinberg of ROI Dynamics.

Photo courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons.