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Marketing and Grilling Have More in Common Than You Think

Authors: Tim Kopp Tim Kopp
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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Marketing and Grilling Have More In Common Than You Think

May is my favorite time of year. In Indianapolis, it means everything is in bloom, Memorial Day is around the corner, and you can literally smell the burning rubber from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! In my house, it also means it’s time to fire up the grill.

I must have had marketing on the brain during my last cookout because the gears started to turn on why I love them both. Then it occurred to me—they’re actually more similar than you might initially think. Here’s why.

1. Both Require the Best Ingredients

“Good” truly is the enemy of “great.” It’s the reason the steak at the gourmet restaurant tastes so delicious—the high quality and the experience. By not bringing the best “ingredients” to the table in your marketing, the experience can end up being forgettable.

In my days as CMO at ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), we were famous for having t-shirts made for almost every product launch or big event. One of the reasons everyone loved them is because we picked the most comfortable t-shirts you could buy. On the surface, you might choose a $4 shirt, so you can buy a higher quantity and give out as many as possible. But a cheaper shirt means cheaper materials and something uncomfortable that will never get worn. However, investing in a $10 shirt meant seeing them worn constantly, resulting in maximum impact and brand awareness.

The same is true for your website, emails, content, and other marketing assets. Go the extra mile to choose something that will produce the best long-term results. Quality trumps quantity.

CMO tip: Opt for marketing programs and assets that will give you the highest ROI—not the ones that have the cheapest up-front cost.

Grillmaster tip: Only 4% of steaks are graded prime. It only costs a few dollars more, but most people grab what’s easiest. Just remember: What is easiest is not always best.

2. A Perfect Blend of Art and Science

Blending art and science is truly the essence of marketing. Some marketers focus on the right-brained activities (branding and creative assets), while others focus on the left side of the brain (data and optimization). The best marketers, however, are skilled at both.

Consider an outbound campaign that your marketing department might send to top customers. Without incredibly well-designed packaging that stands out from the crowd, the potential buyer won’t even bother opening your package or email. At the same time, failing to properly analyze your customers ahead of time might result in the campaign being sent at the wrong time in the buying cycle.

CMO tip: Do the “relevance check” when producing customer-facing material: Will my audience care? Is the content compelling enough? Am I reaching them at the right time?

Grillmaster tip: Study “what works” in grilling—temperature, time on grill, etc.—but don’t be afraid to exercise your personal style to create true artfulness.

3. Don’t Forget the Seasoning!

It’s shocking to me how many people can forget the most basic thing in cooking: flavor. Unfortunately, marketing is almost as under-seasoned as food in many cases. Over the past few years, marketing has all started to look the same. The same webinars, ebooks, and blog topics seem to be copied and reapplied time and time again. Those that stand out aren’t simply copying. They’re taking risks by adding some creative edge to engage the reader, bringing “flavor” to their brand and overall digital marketing strategy.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that too much seasoning is just as detrimental as too little. In marketing, this manifests as creativity without strategy or purpose. Striking the right balance is what will deliver the product with the most “taste” and memorable experience.

CMO tip: Find out what makes your brand unique and amplify it. At ExactTarget, we were so well-known for our orange branding that our customers could identify us based on color alone.

Grillmaster tip: My go-to seasoning is equal parts salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, and red pepper flakes. It only takes a couple of minutes to create, and it’s fresh and authentic (who needs all the preservatives anyway?).

4. It’s About Creating an Experience

My most memorable meals have always been when I was in the presence of great people. Good company seems to be the perfect complement to good food because of the emotions it triggers and the memories it creates. The same holds true for marketing and the way you treat your customers.

The brand experience is just as important as the product, and that experience is made in the little things—the stories you tell, your attention to detail, and the true value/helpfulness you bring to the customer instead of your desire to sell. Jay Baer calls this “Youtility,” noting that, “If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.”

No one wants to be cold called or spammed. They want to be informed, educated, and inspired. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Start with the end in mind, and work backwards.” The next time you want to create a compelling experience for your audience, consider:

  • What is the one thing you want your customer to truly remember from this campaign/content?
  • How can I create a truly memorable experience by best using all the senses?
  • Am I stripping away all the buzzwords and telling a short, compelling, memorable story?
  • How can I make consuming this content as easy and helpful as possible for my audience?


CMO tip: Take a step back, and think about the brands you’re most loyal to and the memorable experiences they’ve created. They typically connect with you on a much deeper emotional level by pulling you into their story versus just telling it to you.

Grillmaster tip: The best dining experiences occur when in the presence of great people. Gather friends and family, or get to know new acquaintances over food to make good food great. Engage all the senses.


5. Details Make All the Difference

As with a great cookout, the most essential part of marketing is simply thoughtfulness. Fluidity and attention to detail are outcomes of being thoughtful (and maybe even empathetic). When hosting, these details may be in the type of music you play, the presentation of the food, or the temperature of the room. In marketing, it’s in things like choosing visuals that are original instead of cutting and pasting from clip art. It’s in the fonts and colors you use and obsessively ensuring consistency in delivery. Simply put, delivering world-class marketing means obsessing over the smallest details, and delivering experiences in simple, consistent ways.

For me, the world’s top brands like Apple, Nike, or Coca-Cola come to mind for their obsessive attention to detail in consistently creating memorable experiences for their customers. Our brains are wired to remember experiences. You may be compelled to spend most of your time preparing “the big stuff” like campaigns, websites, and resources, but remember: Without attention to detail, it will be just like anything else they’ve experienced.

CMO tip: Go deep to plan for small, but memorable details. Think about events you’ve attended in the past—you often remember the layout, lighting, and even the smell far better than the exact content a speaker delivered. Are you focused on delivering to this level of detail?

Grillmaster tip: Tie the steak in with side dishes and wine whose flavors pair well with your seasoning. Create a mood for your meal with music, lighting, outdoor seating, etc. In the end, it will often be these small touches that matter most.

New seasons bring about change and reinvigorate your ideas. Take this opportunity to infuse some of the best ideas from other aspects of your life (like cooking and grilling) to make your work in marketing truly great.

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