Dink, Dunk, then go for the big campaign

Jon Gruden’s offense teaches us a great way to run marketing campaigns.

He runs a West Coast offense with the Oakland Raiders. It relies on a lot of short yardage plays.

Then, once or twice a quarter, he opens up and calls a big play.

It’s a dink and dunk style.

What I love about this style is that when it works, it’s predictable. You know, with a lot of certainty that things are going to work. It will get the football down the field. It will get you a first down.

Then, with enough of those first downs, you can put points on the board.

This is a perfect framework for how to think about our marketing.

If we’re always investing in huge campaigns, we are setting ourselves up for boom and bust.

They might give us 100% growth or they might give us 0% growth. Nowhere in between.

Instead, if we launch our marketing activities in a dink and dunk fashion, getting 10% growth out of each activity, it only takes 10 of those to hit 100%.

And if only half of them get any growth, we just grew 50%.

Then, if we know we have this foundation of small marketing campaigns running, we might be able to go for the big one. Without the risk of betting all our growth on one thing.

Just like Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders.

Let’s just hope his strategy leads to a winning season.

Yellow Journalism


Attention grabbing headlines.

Getting you to read the story today. Regardless of facts.

Does this sound like modern media?

Well, it was the state of journalism in the late 1800s.

Newspapers were designed to sell now.

They needed your attention today, regardless of what was to come tomorrow.

It’s known as yellow journalism.

What is interesting about yellow journalism is what came after.

The New York Times.

The first subscription newspaper that changed journalism for the 20th century.

Which, led to more subscription newspapers.

Then, we got ground breaking stories, like The Pentagon Papers.

Today, we would call yellow journalism click bait or fake news.

It’s everywhere. It’s because of the internet. It’s why I can publish this.

Money is made on ad revenue from impressions.

This is a similar model yellow journalism operated with in the 1800s.

We think this might be a problem.

The best part about problems is that we get to find solutions.

Actually, it’s the only way we get solutions. It’s our path to something better.

It’s not fast. A problem has to get bad enough that we’re willing to pay for the solution.

At that point, the problem is worth solving.

Then, you have a product, you have marketing, and you have a business.

How do you find the line before you cross it?

Afternoon coffee is a simple pleasure of my work day.

The smell. The taste. The little boost of energy to finish out the day.

But, afternoon coffee is a dangerous dance.

It’s a dance with your night’s sleep.

With coffee, there is line where you’ve had too much, too late in the day.

Then, you can’t sleep.

The problem is, you never know where that line is until you’re wide awake at 2 am realizing you drank too much coffee.

The line where we’ve pushed something too far is rarely clear. Typically, we don’t know where it is until we’re well on the other side.

The side we don’t want to be on.

Through experience, we begin to take smaller steps forward.

We ask more questions.

We gather more information.

We move a bit slower.

Generally, we become a bit more risk averse.

All trying to avoid blowing through that imaginary line without realizing we’re doing it.

While this might be safe, it’s not nearly as fun.

Sometimes we should just take a leap.

There is a certain thrill of standing at the coffee machine at 3:30 pm.

Will I sleep tonight?


Three staples are the bare minimum needed when attaching fabric to a couch frame.

At least according to Jack White.

What is the bare minimum for a rock band?

Drums and a guitar.

Hence, why the White Stripes were a two-piece band.

Jack White is a master of working in constraints.

Guitars that are difficult to play. Touring with two bands. Forced 2-week recording deadlines.

All artificial constraints. But, his belief is that true creativity comes from constraints.

Our marketing also benefits from constraints.

A niche audience. Specific acquisition costs. Resources. Conversion rates. Time.

With abundance, constraints force us to focus.

What constraints are you putting on your work?

The Tonga Room

The Fairmont Hotel is a beautiful pre-war hotel in San Francisco.

If you walk in the main entrance, there is a piano player.

A marble staircase. 

And chandeliers they don’t make anymore.

But, if you take that marble staircase down, you reach The Tonga Room.

A tiki bar.

In the middle of the Fairmont Hotel.

Something you would only find in San Francisco. 

Now, The Tonga Room didn’t always exist inside the Fairmont. 

Before it was a tiki bar, it was the hotel pool.

Then, in some meeting in the mid-40s with hotel executives, someone raised their hand and suggested the Fairmont turn their pool into a tiki bar.

The Tonga Room was born.

A tiki bar, with a pool, rain, and a band that plays on a boat floating in the middle of the pool.

Seems like a crazy idea now. I’m sure it sounded crazier then.

The next time you have a crazy idea and are a bit nervous to mention it, just remember the person who raised their hand in a Fairmont Hotel meeting to propose The Tonga Room. 

Who knows, your crazy idea might just work.