Over 100 years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was in the heyday of his writing career with the immensely popular Sherlock Holmes serials and novels. These stories of the legendary “consulting detective” captivated audiences then, and continue to play heavily in popular culture.
To marketers, Sherlock Holmes presents some practical lessons.
1. Be as scientific as possible.
Sherlock Holmes was a scientist. In A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Watson assesses Holmes proficiencies. While the detective has no understanding of philosophy, literature, and astronomy, he has an in depth knowledge of chemistry and a practical and necessary knowledge of anatomy, geology, and botany.
Once Sherlock cried out, “Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay.”
While marketing may not be an exact science, science still plays a very important element in what you do. As marketing becomes more and more precise, so too do the methods of measurement. A reliance on measurement has steadily replaced well-informed guesswork in the field.
While we often consider marketing a conversation between a brand and audiences, we aren’t able to judge reactions immediately based on body language and inflection. However, you can convert responses into measurable data through analytics platforms to determine campaign effectiveness.
“I never guess. It is a shocking habit – destructive to the logical faculty.”
2. The most obvious answer isn’t always right.
Throughout his well-known adventures, Sherlock Holmes has proven time and time again that the most obvious solution to a problem isn’t always the correct one. There are many situations involving the genius detective where the solution to a crime was improbable and hidden in plain sight.
Your campaigns are the same way. The obvious answer is not always the correct one. As a marketer you need to look deeper into your campaigns to deduce exactly what went wrong, eliminating explanations and creating new theories as you go.
You can’t rely on assumptions based on what you think your audience needs or wants. There may even be something you aren’t taking into account that a cursory search may not reveal.
“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”
3. Pay attention to the little details.
“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.”
One of the main reasons Sherlock Holmes is so effective at what he does is because he pays attention to everything, especially the small details. Nothing ever gets past him. And it is the attention to small details that are important to a case.
Being scientific doesn’t just mean you look at the big picture. Sometimes you need to look at the smaller details and try to understand exactly how they affect your campaigns.
While you can’t always quantify everything, it’s important to take the small stuff into account, such as the length of your copy, the design of a whitepaper, or the colors on your website. You might be surprised at how much impact they can have. And understanding the little things can help you better hypothesize how a campaign might perform.
4. Rely on your coworkers and companions.
“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”
Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are written from the point-of-view of Dr. John Watson. He is the constant, loyal companion who provides a balance to the eccentricities of the genius detective. Watson also provides a listening ear and assistance that often proves invaluable.
Your coworkers and companions need to fulfill the same role for you. Most marketing staffs, including the corporate marketing department here at Randall-Reilly, are made up of a number of people with different specialities. These people are valuable resources that you should take advantage of.
Often you can probably develop an idea and create a campaign by yourself. But having people who think differently and involved on different projects can lead to major breakthroughs in your planning.
A simple brain-storming session can lead to possible problems and new solutions you would never have deduced alone.
5. The story isn’t over until you have had your say.
Now, I don’t mean to say that you have complete control over your brand story. Unfortunately, you don’t. While you can influence your brand’s perception with carefully crafted and strategic content, your audience ultimately controls your brand’s story.
However, you need to be telling the story of your campaigns to internal audiences. And you have control over this narrative.
In the Sherlock Holmes stories, there is a point where Sherlock begins a narrative explaining the entire mystery and his deductions. During the story both the fictional audience and the reader waits with baited breath to learn the results. Until Sherlock Holmes finishes his explanation, the story can’t end.
Don’t be known as the fluff department, instead explain exactly what you are doing and how that provides real value for your business.
Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest characters in the history of literature. His powers of deduction and his capacity for genius have made him a lasting figure in the public imagination. By taking a few lessons from the legendary detective, you can become a lasting hero for you company.