• Warren Leppik

The curse of technology

What happened to the undeniable value of craftsmanship as it relates to brand?

Does buying Excel make you an accountant? Does buying Word make you a writer? No. So why does buying a camera supposedly make you a photographer? Or a videographer? Seems silly, right? So why are so many marketing gurus telling the world that anyone can do anything? If that were true, buying editing software would make you a great editor. They award Oscars for editing; if it were so easy, wouldn't there be a run on Oscars by now?

There's an epidemic of oversimplification and “do-it-yourself-ism” that is doing many brands more harm than good. Unsuspecting staff members with HD smartphones or cameras are being charged with tasks they have no hope of completing successfully. I once heard that telling a cameraman that her camera takes great pictures is like telling a chef that his stove makes great dinners.

It’s true that low-cost technology makes it possible for anyone to try their hand at almost anything these days. But unless an employee has some undiscovered aptitude for a craft, is it any wonder that business leaders are disappointed with the results they're getting? Or worse, that their brand has sustained damage!

I don’t believe the gurus promoting do-it-yourself are outright lying. I would accuse them of being overly optimistic. To their credit, they always give examples of people who did do it successfully, perhaps VERY successfully. Funny how they never cite the much greater number of people who tried it and made a money-losing mess of their brand in the process. I believe the ratio of success to failure would be shocking.

Now, thankfully, many companies don’t saddle their staff with tasks not suited to their skill sets. However, thanks again to technology removing the former barrier-to-entry of high cost of equipment, a lot of wannabe producers have entered the fray. It’s mind-boggling how many times people will try to get something for nothing, spending as little as possible on so-called experts – even multiple times – when they repeatedly get it wrong. Not just wrong, but so bad it’s unusable, a throwaway. Beyond the wasted money, do they factor in their wasted time? The combined cost of repeated failed attempts is higher than paying an expert to get it right, once.

What are you good at? What is your staff good at? The most successful people in the world say that you should focus your energies on your highest-value tasks and delegate everything else. Pretty simple. Pretty rare. When did you last run a brainstorming session and write a script based on that? How often have you planned a shoot day? I'd ask the same question of your staff including your marketing people. Aren’t your energies, and theirs, better spent focusing on your highest-value tasks?

Thanks to the growing attitude of "it's good enough", YouTube is becoming a cornucopia of crap. To a brand, "it's good enough" is the kiss of death. The only thing “good enough” is good for is putting a torpedo through your brand. But then again, the people who are doing that generally have their own do-it-yourself logo, DIY strategy, DIY corporate identity and DIY website, and all of it looks like a hack. If that's working for you, keep going. But in most cases, I would argue that it’s hampering you and you’re just not aware of it.

If you’re more than just a little concerned about how you appear to the outside world, and you know that it can have a dramatic effect on how your brand is perceived, consulting a professional is the best approach. But PLEASE do your due diligence. Thanks to the enabling effect of technology, the marketing world is saturated with unqualified wannabes that will happily take your money. In my experience, there’s a lot of truth to “Bullshit baffles brains.” Don’t just ask for references – CALL AND TALK TO THEM before you contract someone!

No matter what anybody says, an old truth holds true: “First impressions are everything.” And if you're going up against a competitor who values branding, and all things related to their brand show those values, where on the totem pole do you think that'll put you with a do-it-yourself package? I’d say, if you want to be a leader in your field, regardless of the field, “Hire a professional” holds true.

Let me finish with a story. In the early 1930s, while strolling the streets of Paris, a woman came across Pablo Picasso painting in a small café. At this time, Picasso’s genius was well known and the women could hardly believe her good fortune. She mustered the courage to interrupt his concentration to ask whether he would paint a portrait of her. He agreed. After just under an hour, Picasso revealed yet another masterpiece. The woman was speechless. Thrilled with her opportunity, she asked, “How much do I owe you?” Picasso replied, “25000 francs.” Shocked, the woman reminded him that it only took less than an hour to complete. To which Picasso clarified, “To paint the painting, about an hour. To know HOW to paint, a lifetime.”

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