Unicorn blankets

Folks are always looking for short cuts to get results. 5 steps to do this, checklists to become an expert in that, 7 habits to help you get to whatever.

There’s no doubt there’s value in lists, steps and processes, but there still needs to be more.

Thinking is a good place to start.

Doing anything “by the numbers” will get you results. But it doesn’t mean they’ll be the ones you want. Take, for instance, marketing by the numbers. It can work. But you will undoubtedly get results that are lower than they should be at best, idiotic otherwise.

I worked for a company that sold supplies for pets. Large and small ones. I say it like that because it’s a world dear to me and that’s how those of us in it refer to these animals. We handled dogs, fish, birds, ferrets, cats, “pocket pets” such as rabbits, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, … and horses. We who love horse consider and pamper them like pets.

The team I worked with were mainly pet people. The team at the first search agency we worked with were not. They gave us recommendations by the numbers, based on automated like terms and calculated results by search type. They didn’t read them. They sent us templated reports and tasked us to create customized landing pages based on search terms. They were horrified whenever we gave them other terms or questioned their recommendations. They were marketing by the numbers, and as we all know, “data doesn’t lie”.

True, but not thinking loses clients.

We spent approximately a full hour explaining, in business appropriate, carefully chosen language, why we were not going to set up customized landing pages and ad copy for the search phrase “unicorn blankets”.

The agency people were snippy and condescending as they rattled off search stats for the terms and related click rates. They went on for a while further explaining how they are professionals and how their PhD analysts could get on the call to explain it to us but how we probably wouldn’t understand since we’re not in the business.

After letting them get all pompous for a while I finally chimed in, cutting off their mention of how we were compromising their ability to succeed based on the mandate our BOSS gave them (never threaten a client with their own boss. Tattletales got in trouble in elementary school…and beat up) , and asked if they had ever clicked on an ad for a unicorn blanket.

They got instantly pissy saying they are not the audience but ….. I stopped them and said no, not as individuals but rather as an agency working for their client in doing competitive research. Oddly enough they said no. But offered up engaging copy to entice clicks.

Just as a cat who caught a mouse and played with it for hours, it was time to put them …. well, not out of “their” misery. Rather out of ours. I mentioned how we do not doubt that there are a large number of searches for unicorn blankets, it’s just that they’re not our customers as we do not sell people blankets with unicorns on them.

It was like offering a baby his first pickle. You know they’ll take it and then make that face.

They did. Again came the attitude. This time we were being too short-sighted. We were narrowing in on our own vision and not seeing the potential for other sales avenues.

My cohort and I looked at each other in near hysterical disbelief at the ego hit our precious little agency twits were about to take. We smiled and asked, “Oh? And what would that be?”

Not blankets WITH unicorns on them. No. Blankets FOR unicorns. They’re the same size as some horses.


We started to speak a few times and stopped. Eventually the client on the other end of the speakerphone asked if we were still there. I said oh yes.

“So. Are we in agreement then?” The dumbass non-thinking numbers-only marketer asked.

No, we answered. Obviously we were asked why. “Because you’re obviously smoking something funny to think we will sell blankets for unicorns.” Before she could answer but with just enough time for her to try, I informed her that she should not say anything else.

It was then and only then that I reminded her that unicorns were not real. I also told her she clearly should drop her attitude based on this expressed level of stupidity.

We got a new agency. Not just for the unicorn blankets, which honestly spoke volumes for their competency, but sadly that wasn’t an isolated incident. (There was a recommended search phrase for ferret supplies that clearly showed they were not familiar with avoiding search phrases by the general public when hidden behind the–false–privacy of Internet searches.)

When it’s right, marketing by the numbers or doing anything by the numbers is a lot like painting by the numbers. You get a condensed palette, raw edges, no blending or nuances, but you can end up with a radically simplified but recognizeable version of something better.

And all defined by someone else to provide repeatable outcomes exactly the same for everyone.


And that’s fine. If fine is what you were going for.


About Laurissa Doonan

I'm a marketer. I've been a professional marketer for over 25 years, but in reality, I have always been one. Marketing to me is about communicating effectively, regardless of platform, regardless of channel. Marketing is understanding both your objectives and your audience, and finding the right method and message for your customers to reach them where they are. Now I dedicate my efforts to helping very small and small companies pursue their passions and grow their businesses through marketing; providing agency trained expertise without the overhead. www.Charter-Marketing.com www.CharterMarketing.wordpress.com
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