When It Comes to Marketing, There is No Silver Bullet


Tim Hemingway

March 16, 2020

One of the things that I enjoy most about my career is the numerous opportunities I have had working with the next generation of marketers, be it through teaching, mentoring or hiring and training.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, we had an amazing time giving communication students from Brigham Young University (BYU) a tour of Disruptive Advertising’s offices. As part of the tour, we had a Q&A session about what it’s really like working in the advertising/marketing industry.

Regardless of the situation, one question that almost always comes up when working with new marketers is:

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?

While my answer hasn’t always been the same, for the past few years I have been pretty consistent with the answer that there really isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to marketing.

Sure, one great campaign can have a huge impact on your business, but the impact is generally short-lived. A few months down the road, once the “viral” effect has worn off, you’re generally in the same position, and sometimes, a worse position than where you started.

Chasing the “Silver Bullet”

In a lot of ways, Hollywood has shaped young marketers’ minds by telling them that the “silver bullet” campaign is the way to success.

After an hour of watching our lovable underdogs struggle, someone has an idea that is a pure stroke of genius. Against all odds, they pull it off. They save the day. Everyone is happy. End scene.

No one asks what happened to Empire Records two months after the store-saving concert.

Sure, everyone wants to have that viral YouTube video that is an instant classic and gets shared millions of times. Or, they want that celebrity endorsement that shoots sales through the roof. While these types of “successes” do happen from time to time, they’re rarely planned. Even worse, they’re rarely sustainable unless you have a massive marketing budget to “fuel the beast”.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Having worked directly with several companies that have had that “flash in the pan” moment, I have seen exactly how detrimental it can be to a company’s long-term success, especially for small to medium-sized companies.

The initial excitement is almost always followed by an “oh crap” moment as reality sets in and the unprepared team is faced with the logistics of fulfillment on products or services. More often than not, this leads to a poor work environment and a poor customer experience.

Once things have settled down and business goes back to normal—or possibly slightly better than the previous normal—many companies get bored. They start going down the path of “how can we do it again?”

While they have experienced the challenges first hand, they miss the excitement and they start chasing it. So much so, that I have seen companies go under because they are more focused on the next “big thing” than they are on the repetitive daily tasks. Tasks, that if taken seriously, compound over time to build a strong, sustainable business.

Are Your Expectations Off-Target?

The truth is, the most successful campaigns have a strategic plan, they are run across multiple channels, and they show steady success over months or years.

As an agency, we see a similar mentality from some of our clients, especially from startups and those who are new to marketing. These individuals approach Disruptive as well as other agencies looking for the “silver bullet” that will solve all of their business’s issues.

The thought process is that the right set of keywords and the right ads will transform the business overnight and put it in a successful position. After all, they have a good product or service, they just need that one brilliant idea marketing secret and they’ll be the next big thing.

Unfortunately, even the best marketing does little to compensate for a poor business plan or an unproven product.

Roughly 2500 years ago, Greek fabulist, Aesop wrote his cautionary fable about a race between a tortoise and a hare. SPOILER ALERT: the tortoise wins the race.


Not because he’s faster. Not because he’s smarter. Not because he’s more talented. He wins because he puts in consistent work while the lazy hare alternates between bursts of speed, showing off and taking naps.

At the conclusion of the story we read the timeless line:

Slow and steady wins the race.

This statement is as true today as it was in Aesop’s time. The most successful ad campaigns are those that have gone through continual testing, optimizations based on learnings, and monitoring day after day.


Effective marketing isn’t always fun. It isn’t always glamorous. Much of the work that goes into it is spent sifting through data and looking for trends that guide you to small, well-educated decisions and adjustments.

But, when you see the fruits of your weeks and months of labor pay off, it’s every bit as exciting as that fabled “silver bullet” moment. In fact, oftentimes it’s better—because you’ve set your business up for continued success for years to come.

By the way, if you’re interested in seeing what a sustainable marketing strategy that provides years of value would look like for your business, let us know here or in the comments. We’d love to take a look at what you’re doing and help you put together a roadmap for long-term, sustainable success.

Do you agree with my take? Is there a silver bullet for marketing? What success (or failure) stories have you seen? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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