In a seminal keynote from 2011, Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, became instantaneously famous – or infamous, depending on your current job description – by stating that advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.
The keynote is all over the place and more a stream of consciousness rather than an elaborate theory of everything. Bear that in mind. But if you want to check it, here goes nothing:
He doubled down quite a few times, explaining his mindset further:
Of course, my views come from not having any money when I built Geek Squad. If I had had money when I started out, I never would have learned that advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable. I would have paid someone else to come up with the logo and the design behind Geek Squad, and the idea behind my company would not have been the same. Geek Squad would not have been original or authentic. Today, the world of blogs and YouTube has made being authentic and original all that much more important. - Robert Stephens
It's difficult to disagree with this idea if you consider that some of the largest ad budgets on the planet are commanded by two companies selling brown sugared water that essentially tastes the same.
Of course, this now feels like ancient history for digital startups, but I don't think it is. And in any case, I wouldn't be afraid to link this way of thinking further back to the prehistoric internet era with Seth Godin in 2007 and its Purple Cow book.
3. Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish much. It’s easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful. - Seth Godin
The discussion about how impactful marketing really is, even predates the internet era. In the early 1900s, John Wanamaker, founder of one of the first retail stores' empires and hilariously considered one of the first marketing gurus, said:
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.
A fair question, then...
What are you doing of late to be remarkable?