I greatly appreciate the work of Mitch Joel of Twist Image, a social media and marketing agency in Montreal, Quebec. The Six Pixels of Separation book, blog, and podcast provide a steady stream of smart, interesting, and useful ideas.
Below is a simple graphic I made to demonstrate one of his best go-to lines; you’ll hear it regularly if you listen often.
What It Means To Me
The visual treatment of this quote was inspired by a line I heard from Gary Vaynerchuk during a recent webinar he delivered based on The Thank You Economy – “the answer is always gray.” When everything is “with,” the gradient is continuous with black and white at the extremes. When everything is “instead of,” it’s simply black or white.
In the context of marketing, I accept Everything is “with,” not “instead of” as a solid, foundational precept. It eliminates the tendency to simplify or minimize your choices in strategic or tactical decision making. It’s accepting of subtlety and synthesis. It’s almost demanding of innovation.
In the podcast, the line’s often heard in discussions of tactical decisions like whether or not to use traditional forms of advertising. Fashion says absolutely not – especially in the context of a social media and marketing podcast. In the “What We Do” section of the Twist Image site, they describe their efforts as finding “real insights” and communicating them “not just through the newest channels, but through the smartest ones.”
The Related Idea
This idea is expressed by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last as “The Tyranny of the OR.” The implication is that we often settle for “this” or “that” options in decision making. These are often false choices – and we suffer for accepting the dynamic.
“And” is not nearly so limiting and, again, is related to synthesis and innovation. Certainly we can’t do it all or continually compromise, but we must remain open to the “and,” lest we fall prey to the tyranny of the “or.”
The Idea In Action
Working for a video email marketing software company, I see many ideas around email being oversimplified. People tend to want easy rules to follow: the best day to send, the best time of day to send, how often to send. The answers are always gray – they depend completely on your goals, your strategies, your buying cycle, your email lists, your content, and so many other factors. As a result, I’m looking forward to reading this book by Jason Falls and DJ Waldow.
I recently watched a debate based completely on a false choice. The topic was sending frequency in email marketing. Featuring Dan Zarrella and Sam Mallikarjunan and hosted by Hubspot, the debate can be seen right here.
Dan’s position (simplified): sending email daily results in a much lower unsubscribe rate and, therefore, is a good idea. Sam’s position (simplified): sending email daily will burn out your list; unsubscribe rate is not a sole – and perhaps not even a key – metric of success. To generalize, Dan’s position was positioned as data-based (the source was not explicitly stated) and Sam’s more in intuition and common sense.
Because the answer is always gray, Dan had to put a huge asterisk on his position – it’s best to send email every day or as often as you can send “relevant content” to the people on your email lists.
In fact, the opponents behave based on “and,” while the structure of the debate demanded an “or.”
The Bottom Line
While linkbait headlines love to declare marketing channels like television or email “dead,” no idea should be torched. Traditional versus digital and social versus email, for example, are false choices. Even newspaper ads (as long as they’re around) may be an incredibly useful way for a business to reach good prospects. Whether or not they’re priced reasonably is a separate conversation.
For optimal decision making, whether strategic or tactical, is not based in hard rules, oversimplifications, and false dichotomies. Everything is “with,” not “instead of.”