Shiny objects are more than mere attractive baubles. For millennia, man has elevated shiny objects not only to the pinnacle of desire, but to godhood. For example, the Chinese started crafting jade objects over 7,000 years ago. Freshly mined jade looks dull, and was used in axe-heads, knives and other weapons because of its durability. But, once jade was polished to a brilliant luster it grew legendary, and was rumored to have magical properties that preserved the body. Even today the Emperor of Heaven, a deity worshipped by many of the Chinese, is referred to as the Jade Emperor.

Let’s assume you’ve already discovered your shiny object. You’ve mined the resources of your brand, product or service and you’ve polished your shiny object until it sparkles. After scraping away the mundane, your efforts revealed a shiny object that many customers want and eagerly pursue. How can you keep that shiny object shiny, without compromising business momentum and goals?

Keeping your shiny object shiny isn’t easy. The fastest way for a shiny object to lose its shine is to block it from the view of your customers. If they can’t see it, they can’t recognize it as their shiny object, and sales suffer. Here are the top five corporate pitfalls to avoid, as they relate to hiding shiny objects.

  1. Chasing after other opportunities:In the natural course of business, opportunities arise. You usually can’t control which opportunities come your way, but you can control which ones you respond to. All too often, companies take their eye off their own shiny object, in search of another opportunity. These new opportunities are extremely tempting and end up diverting resources from promoting the true shiny object.
  2. Using confusing jargon: Many companies love speaking in their own language, even though the customer has no idea what they are saying. A certain amount of jargon is unavoidable, and sometimes even necessary, especially when conveying a technical message. But, in many cases, jargon is just a lazy way of saying something. It takes more work and creativity to spell out a complex message in simple terms. Sometimes ads become so full of jargon that they are no longer recognizable as English. I frequently come across this type of mumbo jumbo, especially among marketing companies that should know better. Here is a typical paragraph you might find on the Internet.
  • We are a leading, forward-thinking marketing firm with expertise, knowledge and know-how in the fields of market segmentation and differentiation of cross-platform initiatives. Our unique and results-driven versatility has allowed us to employ integrated marketing programs to expand our clients ROI while maintaining true brand entities. Our copy is always centered on industry-specific motivation and customer-centric optimization.
  • Is there a translator in the house? A company like this might have a great shiny object, but you have to spend too much time wading through their words to find it.

    3. Changing the guard: A company goes along for several years, building brand equity and market share by consistently promoting its shiny object. Then, along comes a new marketing or advertising manager. Feeling that he has to prove his worth, he starts changing things. First to go…the ad agency. What most marketing managers don’t seem to understand is that the agency is usually the biggest champion of their brand. People within the company often mistreat the brand and pull it in all sorts of directions. It is often the agency that is the sole voice of reason. There are many occasions when replacing the agency is the absolutely right action to take. If their work is not performing or if the resources of the agency are unable to take the company where it wants to go, then a change is warranted. However, the typical scenario is that the new manager just wants to flex his or her new muscles, resulting in an agency being fired, arbitrarily. This can be the quickest way to extinguish your shiny object. A new agency will be reluctant to pick-up the torch.

    4. Messing with the shiny object: People within a company become tired and bored with a campaign much faster than their customers and prospects do. After a while, they want to start messing with the shiny object, thinking they are “freshening it up.” In reality, they are altering the very thing that is bringing in sales. Campaigns may need to change often, but not if they are working. The Energizer Battery Bunny Campaign is a great example of an idea that superseded even the people who created it. Started in 1989 by BBD Needham Worldwide out of Chicago, the campaign took on a life of its own with the bunny appearing in over 115 spots. When TBWA/Chiat/Day took over the account, they inherited the bunny. Instead of going in a new creative direction, they wisely chose to keep the bunny going and going and going.

    5. Letting competition steal the light: We’ve all heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Don’t you believe it! Unless you react quickly, it is one of the fastest ways to lose the lure of your shiny object. Once you are successful, you will have competition. There is no way around it. You can’t avoid it. How you react to the competition determines if the shiny object you are holding out to your customers will continue to attract attention. Once you are challenged with another shiny object, you need to find a way to make yours the brightest one in the room.

    These are the five most common pitfalls I have encountered on the way to achieving successful shiny object marketing. The actual list of pitfalls is as endless as the list of shiny objects. Your challenge is to be a guard on the watchtower and spot the problem, whatever it might be, before it can block your shiny object.

    David LaBonte is a seasoned marketing professional,with over 30 years of experience. President and partner of AdMatrix, an Orange County, California-based marketing/advertising agency, LaBonte teaches futuristic marketing techniques to clients across the country. Author of the book, Shiny Objects Marketing (published by Wiley and Sons), LaBonte writes articles for marketing publications and blogs, and trains entrepreneurs in his successful marketing philosophy called Shiny Objects Marketing.