Marketing, with a nod to Shakespeare


To be or not to be, that is the question… ok, so Shakespeare wrote this same thing 415 odd years ago, but his was a macabre soliloquy in Hamlet, my question references what I see as an inevitable challenge for marketers and organisations in general, and one which they are often unaware they are answering. The crux of it, indeed the sentiment of this blog, comes down to the fact that I’ve found in the circa 20 years or so I have been a marketer, I’ve noted there are two distinct types of organisation:

  • Those that claim to want to be leaders and challenge the norm
  • Those that actively pursue new territory and indeed do challenge the expected way of thinking.

Which one you fall into can be the difference between having a great strategy and awesome long lasting results and having solid results which generate spikes in sales, not long term baseline shifts. 

Let me be frank; you do not want to be part of a “To be” organisation or marketing team if you want serious results.

The “To be” organisation/team

“To Be” marketing teams are characterised by:

  • A focus on historical data, consumer research and on what is known
  • Being safe
  • Hiring in people with “previous experience in [insert industry]” as pre-requisites

Let me be frank; you do not want to be part of a “To be” organisation or marketing team if you want serious results. The “To Be’ers” are those claim to want to challenge the norm, but in practice, look to do things the way they have always been done. Sure there are variances in what they say, how they say, in what the product offers etc, but effectively, To Be’ers are not really looking to change the status quo. Marketing is safe, it is based on knowledge of what has worked before, on doing what is known.

Even the idea of getting new blood into the team is more often than not focussed on getting people who understand the industry or who bring competitive insights, rather than on bringing in new ways of thinking and insights garnered from other industries and which can have practical and advantageous application.

The "Not To Be" team

Let’s get a bit heavy here: In Hamlet, “Not to be” has been interpreted to be the option of death, so you may think this is the worse of the two options. However, from a marketing perspective, this is just the option you should take. It should represent a metaphysical death of the old way of doing things and the birth of new thinking. It is about learning about what you do not know, leveraging insights from previous activity and with the combination of these, challenging your current existence and to create strategy that truly challenges the market and perceived notions.

Not To be-ers are characteristed by:

  • Asking questions and seeking to learn about things they do not know
  • Using historical insights as a frame of reference only not as a dictate on what to do again
  • Actively wanting to change the equation

So, to be or not to be, that is the question

There is a simple truth to organisations being in business; we all want to grow and be more successful. Whether or not you are talking multi-national organisations, charities or mum and dad local businesses each and every one exists to do better than they have before. To do this, it is essential you break from the mould of what you have done before and what the industry dictates you should. Though that said, it’s important to note, challenging the status quo and mixing things up should never be about change for change sake. Rather, it should be about challenging your preconceived notions, asking different questions and looking at problems in new light, not trying to be different just because.

If you would like to discuss how you can view your marketing paradigm differently, let’s have a chat, after all, it’s something you haven’t done before and just one thing I say, may just be the start of something great. 


Hamish Anderson

Founder and Director at Mesh Consulting

Passionate about pushing the envelope, I am driven by the understanding that there is always more than one answer to any problem or question. I am a results focussed senior marketer with a history of improving ROI by successfully aligning offline marketing with online customer acquisition, through innovative strategy supported by mobile, web, SEM, social and content development.

Comments (2)
Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot, Editor at SavvySME

Great article! It's interesting that something that keep coming up in many areas is challenging yourself to evolve - tricky to say the least.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I think the "Not to be" is also exemplified by knowing that perhaps a specific type or offering will die. The market is always evolving so you can't expect an old or current method to prop you up into the future indefinitely. Also, have you tried something that didn't work? Let it die. Learn from the failure and move on, don't continue trying to make it work because you "already have put money into it". Know when to move on. You should know what your competitors are doing (what is and isn't working for them), however, at some level you need to ignore it. Trying to replicate your competitors will not elevate you beyond their success, at the most you'll mirror it (but be lagging behind). You must wade into the uncomfortable waters of being yourself (as an individual and a venture) and use feedback loops to either double down or change course.