In between frames
Scott McCloud's classic book on comics explains a lot more than comics.
A key part of his thesis is that comic books work because the action takes place between the frames. Our imagination fills in the gaps between what happened in that frame and this frame, which means that we're as much involved as the illustrator and author are in telling the story.
Marketing, it turns out, works precisely the same way.
Marketing is what happens in between the overt acts of the marketer. Yes you made a package and yes you designed a uniform and yes you ran an ad… but the consumer's take on what you did is driven by what happened out of the corner of her eye, in the dead spaces, in the moments when you let your guard down.
Marketing is what happens when you're not trying, when you're being transparent and when there's no script in place.
It's not marketing when everything goes right on the flight to Chicago. It's marketing when your people don't respond after losing the guitar that got checked.
It's not marketing when I use your product as intended. It's marketing when my friend and I are talking about how the thing we bought from you changed us.
It's not marketing when the smiling waitress appears with the soup. It's marketing when we hear two waiters muttering to each other behind the serving station.
Consumers are too smart for the frames. It's the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames.