What marketing professionals can learn from their failed NCAA bracket pool entries


To be honest, I haven’t participated in a bracket pool for several years. During my 20s and 30s, I was a student of NCAA hoops and rolled into the tourney bracket season each year armed with a wealth of knowledge, all but certain that my divination ability to identify cinderellas would see me to glory. 

Never once have I won a NCAA bracket pool.

The reason, I have discerned, is a nuance of human nature. Sometimes the more you know, or more appropriately, the more you think you know, the more you want to prove your brilliance to the world. Each year, I would fill my bracket with upset picks citing momentum and matchup arguments among other “scientific” justifications for my outlier picks. While there are clearly many instances of 14 seeds beating 3 seeds, more often than not the higher seed wins.

The point of this anecdote as it relates to marketing is to illustrate the value of humility when winning is at stake.

In marketing terms, professionals often seek to immediately impress their clients or internal stake holders with grand creative ideas and proposals before performing a survey of the marketing and sales landscape. A winning strategy should first begin with a humble analysis of what competitors are doing. The benefits of beginning with this step include:

  • Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, both of product or service offering and of their marketing and sales strategy.
  • Budgetary value captured through the study of marketing initiatives of competitors. Reinventing the wheel is costlier than using an already proven blue print.
  • A better depth of content to draw inspiration from when developing creative ideas for your own marketing and sales initiatives.

On the topic of original ideas, Mark Twain once said:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

If the goal is to win and winning is defined not by who is seen as the most brilliant, but by who can generate more traffic, interest, qualified leads, customers and repeat customers, then having the humility to recognize, study and improve upon the success and failure of your adversaries should help you gain some ground quickly and efficiently.