CHAPTER ONE – A New Decision
An old man sat in a chair and looked into an open book.
A younger man entered the room. “Poobah, I’ve decided it’s time to start advertising.”
“Why?” the old man said, without looking up.
“What do you mean, ‘Why?’ I thought you believed in advertising.”
“I do. I’m just trying to figure out why you suddenly started believing in it.”
“I was thinking it might improve our sales figures.”
“Well, that’s the purpose of advertising, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so.” The old man turned the page.
The younger man’s jaws grew tight. He looked off to his left a moment, then back at the old man, “You said that like you don’t really believe it.”
Still looking at his book, the old man said, “I believe the purpose of advertising is to let a person tell their story. What story do you plan to tell?”
“I want people to change their minds about my company.”
“People never change their minds, Sunshine.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have interrupted. I’ll come back later.”
The old man looked up from his book and said, “If you give people the same information you gave them in the past, they’ll continue to make the same decision they made in the past.”
“In other words, they’ll continue not to buy from my company.”
The old man nodded. “When a person appears to have changed their mind, they’ve merely made a new decision based on new information… No new information, no new decision.” The old man lifted a ceramic mug to his lips and sipped. “My tea got cold.” He stood to his feet. “Would you like a cup?”
“What have you got?”
“Well, if you’ve got that, I’ll bet you have Napoleon.”
“I’d really rather have coffee if you’ve got it.”
They began walking toward the kitchen.
“You’ve gotten downright self-indulgent in your old age, you know that?”
The old man smiled, “I’ve always been self-indulgent.”
The water was heated. The tea was made. The old man handed a mug to the younger. “Napoleon for you. 1837 for me.” He opened a drawer, pulled out a small book and handed it to the younger man. “I want you to have this.”
The younger man sat down and placed his mug on the kitchen table. He turned the book over in his hands. “A Decent Cup of Tea, by Malachi McCormick.” He opened the cover and flipped through its pages. “Handmade paper. Deckled edges. Second-color illustrations. This looks like something the Roycrofters would have made 100 years ago.”
The old man nodded, “It was definitely a labor of love.”
The younger man looked up. “Thank you, Poobah.”
“Read that little book and you’ll fall in love with the ritual of tea.”
The younger man grinned. “Oh really? Is that so?”
“It is, in fact, so.” The old man raised his mug to eyebrow height, “And you’ll wish Malachi McCormick was your next-door neighbor.”
“I really do appreciate the gift, Poobah. Can we talk about advertising now?”
“We’ve been talking about advertising all along.”
The younger man looked at his steaming mug of tea and then at the little book beside him. “This book will teach me about advertising?”
“If you’ve got the eyes to see it.”
“What do you mean?”
“McCormick will give you a new perspective on an old subject. And he’ll probably cause you to make a new decision about tea.”
“A new decision based on new information?”
The old man nodded, then took a sip.
“Is his information scientific? Is it evidence based? Does he have third party credibility?”
“Of course not,” said the old man. Then he slapped the tabletop. “Win the heart and the mind will follow. The mind creates logic to justify what the heart has already decided.”
The younger man looked at the old man and blinked for a minute. Finally, he said, “You never told me whether you thought I should advertise.”
The old man began walking toward his study. “You never told me what story you plan to tell.”
CHAPTER TWO – The Study
The ceiling was high. Books covered the walls. A rolling ladder stood in front of each bookcase. The study had a desk with a chair behind it and two chairs in front. There was a small side-table between the chairs. The old man sat his mug on that table as he plopped into the more weary and worn of the chairs. The younger man sat gently in its fresher twin.
They sipped their tea.
Two and a half minutes later the younger man said, “Are you still waiting for me to make up a story?”
The old man held his mug in both hands, “When you have nothing to say, don’t let anyone convince you to say it.”
“Are we still talking about advertising?”
“That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“Who, besides you, is trying to get me to answer a question no one was asking?”
“Sunshine, most advertising is sold to men and women who have nothing to say. I’m just trying to encourage you not to be one of those people.”
“I thought you believed in my company.”
“I do believe in your company, Sunshine. I was hoping you would tell me why YOU believe in it.”
“I came over here because I thought you’d help me decide which media to use. I thought you knew about that sort of thing.”
The old man’s eyes grew unfocused as he stared off into the distance. When he returned from wherever he had been, he looked at the younger man. “So you’re trying to choose between TV, radio, billboards, newspaper, magazines, bus shelters, direct mail, email, Facebook, Google adwords, social media, content marketing, and retargeting. Is that it?”
“Exactly. And I was thinking about maybe hiring a PR firm.”
“Sunshine,” the old man said, “the message makes the media work. The media doesn’t make the message work. When your message is right, every media works. When the message isn’t right, nothing works. So I’m going to ask you one last time, what story do you plan to tell?”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Running me in circles and refusing to answer my questions. Is this fun for you?”
The old man smiled and nodded. “A little bit.”
“Well it’s not fun for me. So cut it out, okay?”
The old man gave a single nod. “Okay.”
“Now help me decide what should be included in my media mix and what percentage of my budget should be spent on each element of the mix.”
The old man looked down at the ground and slowly shook his head.
“I hate it when you do that,” said the younger man.
“Act like I’ve said something stupid.”
“Sunshine, a media mix is the wrong approach. It’s better to do one thing wholeheartedly than two things half-heartedly.”
“Put all your eggs in one basket?”
“Yeah. And then guard that basket.”
“That’s not what my friends in advertising are telling me.”
“Are they telling you the secret is to reach the right people?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what they’re telling me! Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m glad you agree.”
“But I don’t agree. I was just asking if that’s what they’re telling you.”
The younger man smiled and said, “Poobah, someday I’m going to smother you with a pillow while you’re asleep.”
The old man smiled and said, “But Sunshine, if you do that, I won’t be there to clap and cheer when you become a big success.”
The old man extended his tea mug and the younger one clinked it with his as though they were wine glasses.
They had obviously done this before.
# # To Be Continued # #
© 2017, Roy H. Williams