Gimmicks Fall Apart

This is a story that’s been told and retold by NBA fans all summer, but let’s recap it for those less in-the-know:

Ben Simmons is a dynamic two-way player who, on paper, makes GMs swoon:

> 16-8-8-2 (career averages)
> 32 career triple doubles
> Rookie of the Year
> 3x All-Star
> 2x All-Defensive First Team

The one gaping hole in his game has been the absence of a reliable jump shot.

After the 2018-19 season, when he shot only 60% from the free throw line and made zero three-pointers (read that again), Ben Simmons vowed to work on his shooting. Later that summer, he released a video of him dropping buckets from every spot on the court. Things were looking up.

But when the next season started, the J wasn’t there.

Across 57 regular season games in 2019-2020, Ben shot just 62% from the line and 28% from three-point range. Simmons missed the playoffs that year with a knee injury. Sixers fans started to really wonder.

But, yet again, Kendall Jenner’s boyfriend promised to work on his shot — after he was done rehabbing his knee — and come back ready for battle in October.

And, again, he released a video that summer showing off his new-and-improved jump shot.

And, again, when the new season started … the shot wasn’t there.

Cut to: A historically disastrous playoff loss to the Hawks last June. Simmons shot 25-for-73 (34%) from the line in the playoffs. And, in the last four games of that series, he didn’t attempt a single shot in the fourth quarter. (Mind you, he’s the starting point guard.)

AND (though you’re tired of hearing it by now) he passed up an easy dunk late in the fourth quarter in Game 7 — when the game was still winnable — because he thought Danilo Gallinari was about to foul him (which would have put him at the line, where he shoots about as well as Mr. Magoo drives).

Cut to: The aforementioned trade-related drama that’s been happening since.

After all that, Ben Simmons wouldn’t possibly try his standard summer stunt yet again? Right? RIGHT???


What does any of this have to do with marketing?

Simply that the old adage of the boy who cried wolf applies to your brand, too.

The late, great Bill Bernbach once gave the following advice to advertising creatives: “No matter how skillful you are, you can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist. And if you do, and it’s just a gimmick, it’s going to fall apart anyway.”

You can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist. Nor can you use empty hyperbole to make your product or brand seem better than it is. Your audience can smell bullshit from a mile away. And every time you make a hollow attempt to put a little more shine on your brand, you’re only chipping away at its credibility.

At the end of the day, credibility is at the center of your brand’s value.

So, learn from Bill. Learn from Ben (or, at least from his mistakes). Don’t make claims you can’t back up. And, instead of vapid hyperbole, find TRUE things you can say about your solutions — relevant things that will matter to your audience — and find interesting ways to present them.

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