Brainstorm all your ideas

Failed marketing ideas that were never used

Brainstorm all your ideas

This week, I remembered something we brainstormed at PF about five years ago.

Something that never got off the ground. An idea that seemed incredibly brilliant at the time, but didn’t happen.

Looking back at it now I’m so grateful we didn’t go this route. (I admit this has been responsible for a LOT of laughter as I’ve shared it with others this week. I’ve even had a few laughs as I’m writing and sketching this note.)

This all came to pass about five years ago. Long before the PF rebrand and the creative agency as it is now. We were having a team meeting and brainstorming ideas around the way we help accountants.

We didn’t have the marketing map we have today, and looking back I can see we didn’t have the clarity of structure around what we offer and why.

We did still have a progression of what we offered accountants. Content to build awareness, free things, paid courses & programmes, monthly retainers, one-off projects.

And as we looked at the variety of what was available to accountants, and thought about the variety of stages accountants were at when it came to marketing, we had a brilliant idea.

We would give names to the ‘routes’ accountants could take to do marketing.

Some accountants want to move fast, we had learned. They knew the value of marketing, they’d learned a bit about it, they were ready to invest big in terms of time and money.

Other accountants weren’t ready yet. They’d been burned before, or hadn’t tried marketing at all, or had no clue where to start, or they were still building their marketing budget.

We wanted to reflect these various options. We sat round a table, with a flip chart and a whiteboard, and somehow we thought of using animals to reflect the various stages, or speeds of marketing.

You could go really fast – something like a cheetah, or a hare.

You could go slower – a turtle, a snail.

I know. Please, believe me…I know. Looking at it now I’m thinking….

…a snail????

Who in the wide world wants to be a snail? Who’s going to look at a series of marketing packages and go, “Ah, yes, excellent. A snail. THAT’S the direction for me. I’d like to go so slowly that my progress can’t be seen, and I’d like to leave a trail of slime as I do it.”

The flip side – the faster option – feels just as ridiculous.

We went far beyond just cheetah. A cheetah wasn’t fast enough for us. We wanted fire, and flame, and swooping through the air bringing fear to all the other accountants who were simply hopping along on the ground as a frog.


The options were, in order from slow to fast:

  • Snail
  • Turtle
  • Frog
  • Rabbit
  • Cheetah
  • Dragon

I do remember some laughter at the time. I’m pretty sure one of the team members pointed out that being a ‘turtle’ might not seem too appealing to an accountant considering marketing, and might make them feel like their results would be as slow as the related animal.

Our intentions were good. We knew not all accountants are alike, and not every “target client” acts in the same way. There are different options for different people.

But I see now why we never did anything with it. Never went through with it.

First, it wasn’t on brand. At that time the old PF logo was blue and grey and slightly formal and a little boring, to be honest. But even with those dull visuals, we still had a sense of the “brand” of the company, which was that we wanted to inspire accountants. To help them feel confidence that they were hiring an agency with authority, expertise, experience.

Second, it wouldn’t have been appealing to our target audience. This approach gives a real patronising feeling to someone considering hiring a marketing agency – as if no one would want to be anything less than a cheetah or a dragon, and you’re cheap or foolish to go with Turtle (much less Snail).

And finally, it’s because “packages” don’t work. No one is completely Snail, or completely Dragon. Some firms we work with are enthusiastic, ambitious, and ready to invest in a big way: but it takes them a while to come to the decision. Other firms are small, startup, with very little of a marketing budget at first: and yet they discover they’re ready to invest in a big way on their brand, or in learning about marketing.

It’s not about forcing people to decide how fast or slow they want to go, and trying to squeeze them into something that works.

Instead, it’s about getting to know the firm and the humans behind it. The pain they feel, the emotional upheaval that can come when you’re considering marketing, the frustration at having done nothing or the wrong thing or wasted money in the past. That’s what we have to tap into. That’s the kind of conversation we have to have.

Then we can help direct them to what will deliver the very best kind of results.

We do have a visual structure now. It’s called the Marketing Map. It visually represents the journey most firms take, in the order they take it.

It’s been created based on our experience of the direction most firms go when they get the very best kind of clients – and it helps other accountants see how they can go the most helpful route possible. It’s the core of every conversation with an accountant, talking through why it matters that you go in that order, why you might miss out on amazing results if you don’t, and why the services we’ve created are based on it.

But there are no animal names.

I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

Got any failed-marketing-idea stories?? Do share them!! Let’s have a laugh together!

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