For over a hundred years psychologists have understood a phenomenon known as “the comfort zone.” Generally speaking, it describes a mental state in which people become set in their routines; doing the same things over and over again, rather than trying anything new. It’s a natural state that helps us maintain a certain level of predictability and safety in our lives.
While this isn’t necessarily bad, getting too comfortable, especially in a constantly changing field such as marketing, can lead to diminishing returns. In this post, we’ll take a look at the marketing comfort zone, how it can prevent you from trying new things with your marketing, and how to break out of it so you can take the sort of risks that eventually lead to truly innovative marketing solutions.
It’s Good to Take Risks
Scientists believe that the comfort zone arose as an evolutionary advantage. Those ancient humans who took less risks were more likely to live long enough to reproduce. It’s a good strategy when you’re trying not to get eaten by a wild animal, or fall down a cliff and break your neck, but these concerns are largely nonexistent in our modern world.
Yet, it’s the same instinctual drive we inherited from our ancestors that make stepping out of our own comfort zones seem so difficult. Trying new things with your marketing doesn’t pose the same risk as eating an unknown berry, but they can both inspire the same anxiety of the unknown. In business however, there are far more benefits to stepping outside your comfort zone than there are to staying in it. Time and time again we see that the most successful brands were the ones willing to take the biggest risks.
Venturing into uncharted territory gives you an edge over competitors who are too afraid to leave their marketing comfort zone — it helps you stand out to your audience, and inspires confidence. Of course, there’s a difference between taking calculated risks, and being just plain reckless.
Using the Same Tactics Doesn’t Foster Growth
Marketing is a rapidly evolving field. Those who aren’t able to stay on the cutting edge soon perish. When you foster a culture of innovation in your marketing, it helps prepare you for your next move too, because it’s a learning experience. Use the same tactics over and over again, and when you do finally decide to take a step outside of your comfort zone, it will inevitably be a small one. But if you’re constantly pushing your limits, you’ll learn all sorts of things that can help you develop new techniques that are constantly improving with each campaign. If you’re focused on growing business from where it currently is, the only way to do so is by trying new things.
Just Because it Didn’t Work Before Doesn’t Mean it Won’t Work This Time
Conversely, a one time failure of a particular marketing tactic doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a second shot. Oftentimes as marketers, a particular medium or advertising tactic that didn’t work six months, or two years, ago will be written off entirely. Too often the blame is put on the medium without considering the multitude of other variables that could come into play including:
- Audience Behavior – The medium was fine, but not enough demographic research was done to be able to reach that audience in a meaningful way.
- Technological Changes – The proliferation of mobile usage in the last few years makes it a much more viable advertising format than it has been in the past, while a medium like newspaper continues to decline and has the opposite effect for advertisers.
- Messaging – If a campaign’s message isn’t tailored to fit the media being used, it can be tough to break through the clutter. Often times brands need to refresh their messaging in a way that better fits the chosen format.
- Tracking – Poorly implemented tracking of metrics can give a wildly inaccurate picture of the success of a campaign.
- Goals – Having unrealistic goals, or goals that don’t fit with a particular format or tactic can kill a campaign before it even begins.
- Partners – There’s a monumental difference between advertising with a media partner who just wants to take your money vs. one who understands your audience, and is committed to helping your brand succeed.
- Changes in Consumer Taste – In advertising, being ahead of your time can be just as bad as being old and stuffy. Consumer taste is constantly changing, and an inability to stay current with trends can leave an otherwise great campaign dead in the water.
The point to consider is that new marketing methods can expose your brand to entirely new audiences and ways of thinking. But this can’t happen if you aren’t willing to be innovative, to try new things.
So get out there and explore! Do research, talk to experts, get the full picture of the current environment so you can begin to start thinking about what things will potentially improve your marketing approach. Try looking at recent stats and research to see what’s changed in your industry. Talk to other business leaders and marketing professionals about what’s worked for them. Look for niches that show huge growth potential — remember, marketing and media change as fast as your consumer behavior does.
Once you’ve done all that, all that is left is to take that first step. So take a deep breath, close your eyes, and prepare for a whole new world of marketing innovation.