Always push to re-invent the wheel. This is a view of mine that I could pull into nearly every aspect of my life from community to daily life, but as it pertains to this post I would like to keep it limited to marketing. As marketers we are known for re-inventing the wheel. Marketing practices or tactics that worked years ago do not work today because we have innovated from what we thought wasn’t broken and improved it to create an entirely new and improved system.

Marketing strategies that used to be extremely popular and effective:

  1. magazine and print marketing through subscriptions (PAID subscriptions)
  2. massive catalogues of goods to order (subscriptions)
  3. billboard advertisement
  4. tv commercials

How these strategies have been re-engineered over time:

  • magazine and print marketing has turned into email marketing 
  • catalogues have turned into e-commerce stores 
  • billboard advertisements have turned into banner & ppc advertisements 
  • tv commercials have turned into viral video inbound marketing

So, Magazines

Magazines are dying out, they are cramming ads to pay for their publishing to the point of absurdity. Often magazines will be loaded to the brim with full page advertisements while featuring 5-10 pages worth of actual content, if that were a website your body content would be limited to whats on your right side nav with push marketing ads covering 80% of your screen. What would a site like that’s bounce rate look like? Probably scalable to the % of ad real-estate and that is without a pay-per-month subscription.


If magazines are dying then what is it’s modern day re-invented equivalent? Email marketing. Take advantage of email marketing by creating a strong, user-opt-in subscriber list from customers in-store and online. Implement a subscription opt-in section to your check-out page, to a landing page, and to your checkout process on-location. Send out promotional newsletters with discount codes, new products, upcoming events and relevant information that gives a benefit to your subscriber. Using custom email templates, or such services as MailChimp you can serve up beautifully designed newsletters that will convert to your audience as sales. Email subscriptions don’t cost money like magazines, so you take out the barrier to entry for your customers and increase your overall subscriber base while not having to pay for printing & mailing. You would probably pay a graphic designer and someone to maintain your email campaign, but it would be a lot less than the graphic designer to design an entire magazine, to have it printed, to have it stocked and then shipped. Save your money and go inbound.



Nope. Think about this before you make a catalogue in todays world, have you ever had a fictional book you just craved to read but were too intimidated to start because it was just too massive? Yeah, that same intimidation happens with a catalogue. I would love to read the Game of Thrones but I can’t be bothered to grind through 3,188 pages (the amount of pages collectively in the first 1-4 books). What do I do? I go watch the HBO series (which I recommend everyone do) and get the full story without the same commitment or barrier to entry. As much as people would like to know EVERYTHING you have to sell, they won’t sit through that giant tome of products. The argument could be levied that they would not go through every page, but essentially pick up the catalogue and flip to the section that pertains to them. This is a self-defeating argument. If you are paying for each and every one of these catalogues and 90% of each one is not being used, then essentially 90% of your money spent is directly wasted.

So what is the solution? E-commerce. With an e-commerce site you only pay for one site that has every single one of your products, like a global catalogue. The major perk to this catalogue however is that you do not pay for each page that isn’t visited. If a customer comes to your site and wants to see all of your pea-coats (can you tell where the materialistic side of my brain is at?) then all he has to do is go to the pea-coat side navigation categorie and vuala. Instead of promoting a huge and costly catalogue campaign, consider creating a site that has all of your products on it that you can then funnel all of your marketing efforts to and thus coordinate more sales than if you silo’ed yourself to a print-based initiative. My personal favorite e-commerce solution is Shopify, they have default themes that anyone could get a site running on or for the more detailed customer they offer custom site builds or premium themes.

Then Billboards!

NO! Billboards in prominent areas can still be effective to reach the general audience, but in a direct ROI comparison PPC is more scalable, has more reach, and is infinitely more measurable. I have to be honest, i’m not the biggest proponent of PPC because after all it is still push marketing. However it is incredibly effective if handled correctly. PPC (or Pay-Per-Click) allows businesses to push themselves to the forefront of locations on the web that get more traffic in a day than would see a billboard in a year. Banner ads usually get a far less click rate than those gained organically through SEO etc. however that does not make them any less valuable. The company does not lose any money if no one clicks their ad, they can re-assess the terms they are showing up for, re-measure and re-calibrate their approach. It would take far more time to realize that a billboard is just not getting sales than it would for a PPC campaign.

The real game-changer (or wheel re-inventer) is re-marketing ads. Re-marketing ad’s essentially apply a cookie to a persons browser, when the person goes to another site that has ad-blocks enabled they are re-marketed to by the site they previously went to’s banner ads. These ads could show a discount, or even your check-out “cart” full of items. I’m just speaking for myself here, but that shit works. Express does this perfectly, as well as their email marketing (don’t subscribe, your pocket will dissipate). For some good re-marketing strategies check out this post on searchenginewatch by Joseph Kerschbaum.

TV commercials then, surely

Eh, I’m a bit on the fence regarding this one. TV commercials can still be usable for big business’s that already have their foot in that kind of market, or are big enough to throw around ad-spend however they want. Apple has some great TV-spot commercials promoting their new products but they have one of the largest marketing budgets in the world. The thing about TV commercials and general advertising is that you have to be bold to get any sort of attention, think Old Spice.

Now, if you clicked that link I want you to think of Old Spice again but from a different angle. That commercial was aired on TV initially and immediately upon it being published to the web, it went viral.

Viral video marketing is how marketers have re-invented the TV-commercial wheel. Put up a video on YouTube with a bold and hilarious message and suddenly you have 44 million views, 154 thousand likes and who knows how many social shares? That kind of brand exposure would have been unheard of just years ago. This, like PPC is very measurable yet not as scalable. The unfortunate thing about virility is that even though you can estimate how much of a chance your content has to explode it e-greatness, you are not always going to be correct.

There are plenty of other more recent changes. Here are some from the SEO world:
  • link wheels to social spheres
  • meta keywords to rel=author
  • link building to link earning (seriously great whiteboard-friday video by Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz addressing this)
  • links to likes, shares & +1′s

There are many more and I’m sure that you can think of a few ways we have re-invented the wheel over the years. I would love to know if you have any that you would add to this list!

Hit me up on Twitter, i’m always happy to talk! @seandillonsmith

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Always push to re-invent the wheel, no matter what industry you are in. Think of what way you can change the status quo to improve and revolutionize your time-allocation, workload, task system or even your whole industry.

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