During professional football’s 2022 “big game” (don’t try to say anything else, or you’ll hear from Roger Goodell and his lawyers), we saw Coinbase spend $14 million to run sixty seconds of weird music and a bouncing QR code (you can watch it on YouTube here). Viewers were transfixed – not by how awesome the commercial was, or by how enticing the offer was – but by the sheer gall that the cryptocurrency exchange platform displayed in doing it. You could hear a collective “what the?” across the United States. Then you could hear millions of people reaching for their smartphones.
I, too, was taken aback. I recall turning to my wife and saying “man, did that take guts.” It was a massive gamble for Coinbase, one that not only might have cost them $14 million, but could have resulted in millions of viewers collectively saying “that’s dumb.” In fact, I’m fairly certain that millions of viewers did say “that’s dumb,” but it didn’t stop so many of them scanning the QR code that it overloaded the Coinbase servers. It also didn’t stop websites, social media influencers, news programs and newspapers from discussing it on Monday, a massive boost of extra, free publicity for the brand.
If you look back at human history, nothing great was ever accomplished without risk. Business leaders around the world will eagerly acknowledge this fact if you ask them about it (they read about it every day in those books they buy at the airport, after all). Yet if you tell them that you want to spend a massive chunk of their marketing budget on a single ad without any voice over and a bouncing QR code, virtually all of those same business leaders will look at you like you are a small child who just said something nonsensical and reply “uhh… no.” Most of those men and women had the courage to risk everything to start a business or to earn a leadership role in a business, but for some reason they become risk averse when it comes to building their brand. In their minds, there is just too much on the line. So they play it safe.
Have you ever noticed that the most successful brands act like they have nothing to lose?
How do you treat your brand? Do you let a committee make decisions that inevitably result in weak, compromised ideas? Do you let conservative voices convince you to take the path of least resistance? Risky, creative ideas make brands stand out. Safe ideas do not.
It’s time for your messaging to make an impact. Listen to big ideas. Look outside of the folks who are terrified of looking dumb. Find the guts to light your brand on fire, because that is the only way it will glow.