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Why I take boring marketing personally

As the pandemic began to wane around two and a half months ago, I started noticing something bizarre. Several times a week, I’d see young, apparently healthy people riding their bikes with masks but no helmet. And often, they’d be wearing over-ear headphones to boot.

We all have weird ways of assessing risk that we tend not to be aware of. But the risks associated with willfully muffling your hearing and forgoing a helmet are vastly greater than the (vanishingly low) risks of catching COVID-19 on a bike ride.

Wearing a mask and no helmet on a bike is like wearing a helmet and no mask at an asbestos mitigation site. It’s a weird risk assessment.

People also make weird risk assessments in marketing—especially B2B marketing. In particular, they overestimate the risk of alienating clients by sounding colorful. And they underestimate the opportunity costs of coming across as tooth-achingly boring. Because the world is full of capable, credible, undifferentiated companies. The world is full of reliable but undifferentiated products.

Boring, rhetoric-driven marketing makes my hair fall out.

It makes me want to shave my eyebrows.

It makes me want to sell all my possessions and join a polyamorous, sun-worshipping cult.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching in the last year and came to a very simple conclusion about my work: I’m at my best when I’m thinking of my job as making people not boring.

Everything else I do falls under this umbrella. Concise language is less boring than verbose language. Vibrant language is un-boring; jargon is boring.

Copywriting shouldn’t be boring, ever.

I take boring personally, like Woodie Harrelson takes zombies personally in Zombieland. I literally think even instruction manuals can and should be reasonably interesting.

That’s why my new motto is “don’t be boring!”

Seriously, I don’t care if you’re in finance, logistics, household products, public relations or any other field. Give people a damn break. Give yourself a break!

Don’t be boring.

You’re gonna die one day, and on that day, you’ll meet your inner child. And they’ll say, “Were you boring?” And you might have to admit that you were.

Or you might say, “I worked in an un-sexy industry, but I celebrated my humanity. I spoke plain English, I had a clear sense of purpose, and occasionally I let out a big belly laugh.”

If you even have a vague suspicion that your brand is boring, it almost certainly is. Fixing it (assuming you do it right) will not only prove profitable, it will make your work more fun!

Don’t be boring.

John Garvey is a copywriter, marketing consultant and StoryBrand Certified Guide, bringing together business impact and belly laughs through story-driven marketing.

Get a free copy of John’s marketing guide, 7-Point Checklist for Websites that Convert, by using this link or texting “Garvington” to 33777.