Is Marketing Professional Gambling?

Marketing is gambling

Remember how you felt the last time one of your marketing initiatives worked? We’ve all experienced that. It feels tremendous. It feels like you are in command of destiny.

But they don’t all work, do they? Every marketer has experienced the feeling of failure when one of his or her campaigns or pet projects underperforms. It feels like you drove the family car into a tree and you are slowly shuffling home to face mom and dad.

I have failed a lot. I’ve run advertisements that didn’t drive one single lead. I developed a video podcast that was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, but didn’t generate any interest from clients. I’ve sent email campaigns that have underperformed. I’ve made go/no go decisions that have cost my firm thousands of dollars.

And I’d do it all again…

Everything I do, every decision I make, is a gamble. And it’s not just OK. Frankly, it’s pretty cool.

Marketing Is Professional Gambling

Let’s be honest. Let’s make no bones about it. We are gambling every dollar we spend on marketing.

Like every professional gambler, we’re not fools. We try to play smart. We try to bet when we think we’ll win and walk away when we know we’ll lose.

But the higher the stakes, the more our brains try to trip us up.

Our Minds On Gambling

How our minds deal with money is a strange thing. When we are dealing with small amounts of money, we’re very careful not to spend our money foolishly.

For example, let’s say you are playing a $200 game of blackjack. The goal is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over.

And let’s say, you’re dealt two cards worth a total of 20. Would you say, “hit me” and ask for another card? No way.

But how do we act when we deal with much larger amounts of money?

Let’s take our 401Ks as an example. Many of us have money that goes from every paycheck into our 401K funds. They are typically mutual funds. For most people, a good portion of all the money we earn go into these funds.

…and, make no mistake, it is gambling on a much grander scale. But what we’re trying to do is “beat the market.”

Think about this, when you take into account the fees they charge us, less than 3% percent of all mutual funds actually beat the market.

So, if you were at the blackjack table and are looking at 20 and somehow your inner idiot says, “hit me.”

…you actually have a better chance of winning that blackjack hand than you do beating the market with mutual funds.

So, when $200 is on the line we are careful to make good choices. But when tens or hundreds of thousands are on the line, it’s almost like we spend that money without even thinking. It’s almost like that money is not real.

None Of The Above

People dealing with large amounts of money they can’t see or touch seem to fall into Brewster’s Millions Syndrome.

In the movie Brewster’s Millions, a man is given 30 days to spend $30M or lose his inheritance. He quickly figures out that’s not an easy thing to do. So, he spends it on ridiculous things, like running a mayoral campaign for “none of the above.”

Of course, that’s fantasy. Nobody would go to great lengths to spend a budget because if they don’t their budget will be reduced…


I’m sure THAT has never happened.

Yeah, right.

And what about already sunk costs, like salaries? Hey, we’re going to pay Bob anyway so why not have him work on a proposal we have absolutely no chance of winning. It’s not like we are losing money…

…yes, you are. You are blowing massive amounts of money. You just can’t see it.

How about getting Bob to spend his time on something that might actually generate revenue?

Even what the marketing staff spends their time on is a bet you are placing. You are even gambling with your own time.

Know When To Hold Them

When you think about it, we get to gamble for a living. That’s actually really cool.

We’re gambling every dollar we spend on marketing. And let’s treat it like that. Let’s think like professional gamblers when we’re betting.

If the bet is small, the chances fair, and the reward large…let’s not overthink that bet.

But let’s also recognize the big bets and give them the careful thought and attention they deserve. Let’s not bet foolishly just because that money can’t fit into our pocket.

Now is your turn. Leave a comment and tell us about a bet you made, in business or life, which paid off.

P.S. There is still time to register for the Help Everybody Every Day LA Meet up this Wednesday.

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