// 19 mins read
More than 600,000 new businesses launch each year in the US. With so many brands popping up every day, why do only a few become recognizable? How can Casper, the half-billion dollar mattress startup, rise to prominence among the nearly 200 competitors all vying to sell us a product that we already have in our homes?
After all, when the product looks similar and numerous brands battle in a frenzy to gain the affection of the same audience, it becomes a race to the bottom – splicing margins and spending more on ads in pursuit of market share.
Picture this: a single bridge connects an industry to an island of customers. Now picture the traffic jam as 200 brands try to cross that span all at once, honking and screeching to a halt as they clutter the bridge. The only way for a brand to win is to find a different way to cross the expanse. Do you fly a helicopter over the traffic, dig out a tunnel underneath, or build a new bridge for your own express lane?
Today’s most influential brands have one thing in common: a Restless Marketer who owns this challenge with tenacity, who breaks the rules and takes risks to capture the hearts and minds of modern consumers.
What makes a Restless Marketer?
1: Restless Marketers ask “what if”
Sometimes called a tough critic, the Restless Marketer struggles to see the good in their world as “good enough.” The Restless Marketer rolls their eyes at traditional marketing tactics and balks at pre-defined notions of how things should be done.
Instead, they use “what if” as a tool to define how their world can be even better. They deeply understand their brand’s purpose and aspire to create an ideal future with this purpose at its core. They embrace the tenets of entrepreneurship and ask the questions other people are afraid to answer. They champion creativity that breaks the rules and disrupts the expected.
“What if” in action
You’re likely familiar with Ring – the video doorbell company with a mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods. It takes guts to realize the potential for a simple alert product that’s existed in much the same way for decades to become a smart technology product with impacts on home security and community safety.
Take a minute to explore the journey that built this empire:
- Founder Jamie Siminoff started with the key question – what if doorbells could provide meaningful home security?
- The first iteration of the product, DoorBot, was announced in 2012. In 2013, DoorBot was denied investments on the popular show Shark Tank.
- In the years since, Doorbot became Ring and the company adopted a mission that is aspirational, long-term, and impactful to the everyday consumer. It became the basis for an ever-expanding product line that all works together to cloak your home in a ring of security.
- In 2017, Ring held up to 97% of market share. In 2018, Ring was sold to Amazon for a ludicrous amount of money and the company continues to ask “what if” as it battles up-and-coming competitors from start-ups and brand giants alike. What if a smart tech company created a partnership with police? What if 360º home security became accessible to the DIY consumer? The list goes on and helps the company continue to create, reinvent, and communicate its offerings to the world.
2: Restless Marketers reward ideas, not results
Yes, results are important. But with today’s increasingly powerful ad-tech automation, measuring results is easier than ever. So is the manipulation of quantitative data into favorable presentations, relying heavily on vanity metrics as markers of success.
Performance marketing is the unsuspecting brand’s crash diet. The only way to “win” is continually increasing investments in paid advertising with same-same creative tactics. Any moment can find you victim to budget cuts or algorithmic adjustments. Back to square 1.
Restless Marketers understand that only rewarding results leads to teams that copy previously successful pathways (or worse, manipulate numbers) to deliver upon this expectation. Only rewarding results creates a downward cost spiral and breeds opportunities for innovative competitors to swoop in.
Instead, Restless Marketers see that brands who flip the script win. They focus on rewarding big ideas as the best lead indicators for massive outcomes.
“Rewarding ideas” in action
Enter Dollar Shave Club, the subscription service that delivers razors and shaving products direct to customers’ homes. Their launch video “Our Blades are F****** Great!” cost only $4,500 and took one day to produce. It went viral and brought in 12,000 customers within the first two days.
You can trace this success back to two key points:
- They approached their target audience in an entirely new way than what was seen in the market at that time. They observed the typical overly-aspirational highbrow or base Neanderthalic approaches of their competitors, and instead, spoke to their target customer with authenticity and humor. This approach has carried their marketing since launch and allows men of all kinds to relate with the brand.
- They dove into video as the medium to tell their story. Dollar Shave Club broke the mold of go-to-market advertising and bet it all on video. In video, they found a way to speak directly to their target audience and tell their story in a memorable way.
The brand’s first marketing employee worked with his CEO to execute on this crazy idea then rose to serve as Dollar Shave Club’s CMO where he led his team to own those same ideals and solve big problems with solutions that create bottom-line growth.
3: Restless Marketers redefine success
Restless Marketers recognize that what’s always been is not what must be. They don’t let traditional industry norms hold them back, and they know that it’s ok to define their own metrics that lead to success.
The Restless Marketer uses this confidence to build new ways of thinking for their team and create new reasons to celebrate, new models of success.
“Redefine success” in action
Southwest’s 1990s attack on the commercial air industry provides a great example of redefining success. This journey began with the brand centering on customer service as its key performance indicator. Most importantly, Southwest enlisted every member of its team in pursuit of this goal – not just the obvious players.
When the Department of Transportation began reporting monthly statistics ranking all commercial airlines on industry metrics, Southwest saw an opportunity. In the early 90s, Southwest became the first airline to ever hold the #1 ranking across baggage handling, on-time flights, and customer complaints – an achievement they dubbed the Triple Crown.
By naming this award based on a bland collection of data points, Southwest gave all of its employees a sense of ownership, purpose, and pride. Southwest earned the Triple Crown for five years in a row and rose to prominence among the domestic airspace. In 1997, the brand celebrated with a casual dress code (“before it was cool” they’ll tell you) and a special plane known as Triple Crown One. Along with a custom Triple Crown paint job, every single employee’s name was etched into the overhead bin doors commemorating the team work that got them there.
Fast forward to 2020, and Southwest now struggles to hold the rankings it once did. They’ve entered the price war, improved their rewards program, and launched new branding – but each of those achievements can be seen as relatively isolated wins. Restless Marketers must keep their foot on the gas, with one innovation giving momentum to the next.
After all, what got you here won’t get you there.
4: Restless Marketers break things
Restless Marketers see themselves as change agents within their organizations. They often obsess over the flaws around them but use their visionary nature to find a path to what ought to be. In pursuit of their vision for the future, they tend to break things – the processes, siloes, budgets, schedules – that stand as obstacles in their way.
It takes courage and resilience to make this happen. A certain oomph to stand in the face of fear and uncertainty. But Restless Marketers own this liminal space and use their future vision to imbue confidence and clarity among their executives and team.
“Break things” in action
So many rules govern what we think should and shouldn’t do, like which channel is best to use, when, and how. The team behind The Infatuation, a digital restaurant guide, bucked the norms of building community via Facebook when launching their brand. Instead, they used SMS to cultivate their community directly. In turn, they were able to thrive, despite Facebook algorithm changes that hurt other brands, while learning more about their fans’ preferences through direct and detailed behavior data.
In recent months, this same team has again bucked norms by doing away with numerical reviews of restaurants on their platform. This bold move to do things differently was spurred by “mulling over the purpose of ratings” – a thought that’d been on their minds for a year and catalyzed to action by the challenges of the pandemic. The courage to break the norms of their industry in response to changing conditions of today’s reality give us a prime study in what it means to break things for a better future.
Own Your Identity as a Restless Marketer
If you’re still reading this article, it feels reasonable to assume you fall into one of two camps: you recognize yourself in our profile of the Restless Marketer, or you see a vision of where you want to take your career.
To grow your impact as a Restless Marketer, embrace your natural curiosity and get comfortable with asking questions. But not just any questions – ask good questions that open doors, challenge common thinking, and reveal opportunities. We find Restless Marketers tend to follow, whether consciously or not, the three-question framework coined by innovation expert Warren Berger:
- Why – Ask why to seek understanding. Why are things being done a certain way? Respect the innovation and ingenuity that came before you, and seek to improve upon that foundation.
- What if – To challenge common thinking, try thinking in juxtapositions. “What if we could offer [our product] with [crazy-sounding idea]?” Casper bucked the traditions of mattress selling when they asked “What if we could offer affordable mattresses via online ordering?” Using what if to examine juxtapositions and finding a way to make that work is what makes a Restless Marketer great.
- How – Restless Marketers think in macro strategies and micro tactics, and they use this strength to gauge their potential for impact. This ability to execute separates a marketer with great ideas from one who challenges their industry.
Look around, and you’ll see these questions behind the development of several billion-dollar companies that have changed the way we see the world. Take AirBnB, for instance.
- Why pay for hotel rooms when we could just couch surf?
- What if we created a platform that shows people where to couch surf?
- How could we deliver this at scale and make it worthwhile for both hosts and guests?
Now think about this – if these disruptors didn’t yet exist, how much would you pay to get those questions? With the proper ingenuity, it could have led you to a billion-dollar idea.
Restlessness and curiosity pay off.
Let's Build an Uncommon Future
The bridges of old are crowded and crumbling. It’s going to take new bridges to cross the overflowing river of crap and connect with the consumers of tomorrow. Restless Marketers are the engineers we need to build this future.