Milk Crate Marketing - It's a Mindset

Version 4

    When it comes to marketing, if you're doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, then how do you get an edge? The simple answer is you don't, but time and time again I hear colleagues telling me that they're going to try a thing that they saw this one company do, and they know "this guy" who did something else that they also thought about giving a shot - yada, yada, yada.

    Now I've been known to walk on the marketing wild side every now and then, and quite often I brainstorm and offer my advice to others on my personal blog www.MarketingCouch.com But recently a friend of mine asked me a very interesting question - "How Do You Think?" I have to admit - it made me think.

    What he was really getting at was my marketing mindset, how did I approach things and what do I do to gain a strategic advantage over everyone else? My short answer to him was - "I look beyond the obvious". He asked me if I could be a bit more specific, and I told him that I would address it in my next blog post. Just so you don't have to go clicking around the web, this is what I wrote. I hope that it compels you to assess your own marketing mindset and address the same question for yourself that I was asked - How Do You Think?

    Milk Crate Marketing

    Remember milk crates? They have got to be one of the greatest inventions of the modern era. Okay, maybe that's a bit over the top, but you know what I'm talking about right? Milk crates started out as milk crates, but then evolved into everything from bookshelves to filing cabinets even furniture. Come on you remember, you used to keep all of your groovy record albums in 'em. - BIG SMILE.

    For a moment, I want you to stop and think about the marketing tools and resources that you have in place. For example the sites that you visit early in the morning as you down your first of many cups of coffee. What do you use them for, and why? Allow me to answer that one for you.

    You use them for what they tell you to use them for. You go there because you were told that this site has what you're after. How do "they" know? - Because the site says so, and everyone else there is using it in the same way for the same reasons. Ah conformity.

    Just for kicks - when I tell you to jump, I want you to say - how high!

    The point that I'm trying to make here is that "user friendly" has given all of us as creative marketers tunnel vision; a molded perception that dictates that milk crates are to be used for carrying milk. Site navigation menus tell us that if we click here, that this will take us to a place where we can do "X". But what if we go there and we don't want to do "X"? What if we want to be a wild child and use this area or this tool in a way that it wasn't intended to be used? No harm done right? What's the worst that could happen? Oh I don't know - maybe a distinct advantage over everyone else?

    If you happen to be a guy or know one, then over time you've come to realize that we have an inherent tendency not to read instructions, or for that matter, ask for directions. Not because we're stubborn or know-it-alls, it's because we want to open our minds to possibilities and test the uncharted waters. You're not buying it are ya? Hey - can't blame a guy for trying. Now my bias perspective may be flawed and I may have a few "extra" pieces left over after putting my wife's new gizmo together, but along the way I've questioned everything. Does this go here? What is this piece for? And quite often I hear myself mumble "why doesn't it look like the picture?" Believe it or not, these are all good things, because they challenge your thought process and allow you to prove to your wife that there is more than one way to assemble a gizmo, or as you like to call it - the new and improved gizmo.

    Today I would like to invite you to look beyond the obvious and not to take things at face value. Forget about what something was intended for and throw away the instructions. Expand your marketing mindset and think of every tool, website or application that you use as a milk crate - what else could you do with it? Who knows, it may lead to innovation or perhaps a strategic marketing advantage that money and conformity just can't buy.