In a live thread conversation on Reddit last week, Bill Murray (the actor) responded to a marketing presentation: "Making Ads Suck Less (Or Why Brands Should Be More Like Bill Murray)".  Here was his exact response:

"Well I don't know if brands should be more like Bill Murray, but there's no question they should suck less. I think if you just hold that thought in front of yourself, like a marching brand trumpet player has the music mounted on his trumpet, about how to make ads suck less, then that will inform your daily life. It will be the last thing you think before you go to bed, and the first thing you think about in the morning, and you will add up the cumulative data of which ads are bearable to you, which ads you respond to. Ads aren't bad in themselves. It's just the attitude. We all have to go to the store, we all have to have groceries, but there's a way to sell you things to make the exchange more of a human one. Sometimes you buy things from someone because you like their style. They watch with some fascination about the way YOU choose. If you think the ad will work backwards to what you're trying to tell them in the first place."

Murray has managed his brand successfully through five decades, gaining respect in comedy, drama, TV, film, stage and standup--no easy feat. In fact, the first year he was on Saturday Night Live, he was struggling to get approval after replacing the breakout stardom of Chevy Chase. In a bold move he wrote and performed a brilliant monologue where he confronted the audience directly, admitting that he sucked and wasn't very funny.  The irony of him seriously apologizing and vowing to do better won him laughs and popularity, sending him on to a lifetime of opportunity and adoration.

Want to make your marketing suck less? Do like Murray: Own it, improve it and be transparently human about it. And if that doesn't work, follow his lead and at least attempt some humor.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Be True to What You Do

The mistakes made most often in marketing communication are targeting the message to everyone, and changing messaging too abruptly. Instead, you should focus on your best customer, speak only to them, and pay careful attention to when your customer is changing so you can keep up.

Bill Murray has done this throughout his career.  He has stayed true to his talents and his fans, taking on roles that made sense and fit his overall body of work.  In doing so, he has remained relevant, which is difficult to do in the ever-changing world of Hollywood and pop culture.

Your company can do the same by understanding how your best customers perceive your brand and the products or services you provide.  Use this knowledge to build marketing communications that fit within this perception and to create products and services that are natural extensions of your core. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Let the Consumer Have Choice

When ads suck, it's for a simple reason: The advertiser isn't on the customer's side. So many seem intended to deceive or annoy. "Your computer may be at risk--click here!" is a notorious example. But what about an ad for a "free" article that turns out to be nothing more than a promotional piece for your paid service? Or the dreaded "Your page will load in 15 seconds." Do customers want to spend those 15 seconds watching your ad? Or have you turned into the enemy? Better to offer real information or entertainment and let consumers choose when to consume it. That's how ads stop sucking. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

3. Give Worthwhile Value

Most ads do indeed suck, and one of my personal joys in life is skipping TV ads with my TiVo. However, sometimes an online ad will catch my eye, and there's a reason why: because it's actually worth watching. So, what makes an ad worth watching to me? First it's got to have an immediate hook that grabs my attention. Second, once my attention is grabbed, then it's got to be entertaining--it has to be funny or dramatic or show me something I'm really interested in. Third, it's got to be relevant to ME. I'm not going to watch even the most entertaining ad in the world for Spanx--just doesn't float my boat. So advertisers, give me something worth watching and I'll watch. Anything less, and I'll use my remote to click right on by. Peter Economy - The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

4. Put on Your Customer Cap

The key to making your marketing suck less is to take off your marketing / business cap and put on your customer cap. We're all customers as well as entrepreneurs--so put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Ask, "If I saw this ad (or tweet, or email, etc.) would I click the "Like" button? Would I share this, retweet this, or comment?" If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, then your marketing sucks, and it's time to try again. Dave Kerpen--Likeable Leadership

Want to read more from Dave? Click here.

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