Marketing pothole (#1 of 3): I’ll know it when I see it

Here is the first of three common pitfalls that wreck your marketing efforts:

Lots of marketers (and most of their bosses) like to say, "I’ll know it when I see it."

That’s why they want to see three or five or twenty executions of an ad. Or ten or fifteen mockups of a car or a facade. That’s why marketers put their staff and their freelancers and their agencies through an infinite loop of versioning.

"I’ll know it when I see it."

Actually, you won’t.

You didn’t know it when you saw the first iPod or the first iteration of Google. You didn’t know it when first exposed to email or JetBlue or the Macarena or Britney Spears. No, in fact, you hardly ever "know it." If you did, you’d be a lot smarter than the rest of us, and we’d all be eagerly watching for your next product.

What is true is that we often know success when it smashes us in the face. We didn’t "know it" when Google went public at $85 a share (did you buy shares with your house as collateral?) but we sure knew it when it hit $300.

Perhaps Clive Davis knows a hit song when he hears one, and certainly Giorgio Armani has the magic eye. But, just speaking for myself, I don’t have Clive’s ears or Giorgio’s eyes.

Marketing campaigns are frequently crippled by managers who are sure that they know "it" when they see it–and this isn’t it. Some of my favorite stories are the ones about all the naysayers who tried to kill the stuff that ends up being great.  They just didn’t know what it was.