January 17, 2020

5 things Brené Brown can teach us about marketing

Karen Gould

Brené Brown, New York Times bestselling author, star of the new Netflix special The Call to Courageleading researcher on shame, vulnerability and courage, and—marketing genius?  

We’re bringing you five things a shame researcher can teach us about an industry that frequently requires a boatload of vulnerability and a heaping helping of courage. 

“We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” 

One of the most courageous and necessary things we can do as creative thinkers is to intentionally seek out critique and feedback. 

After all, what challenge or growth lies in hitting it out of the park the first time? 

In an agency, client service team members are the most obvious partners with whom to vet. But think beyond them. Find the people who don’t think like you do. Involve them in assessing ideas and thinking through solutions. Challenge them to foresee potential pitfalls. Wear your black hat and look closely at risks. Ask all the questions. From every direction. Beat up every idea. 

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” 

In some organizations, this kind of process can result in a bloodbath, but when there’s alignment on expectations and rules of engagement, holes are poked then filled. And ideas are polished. 

Ultimately, creating a safe space for wrongness or failure is the clearest way to reach true innovation. 

“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat; it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.” 

As a creative agency, we believe that the client is the smartest person in the room when it comes to their business or industry. Saying things like, “Say more about that,” and, “Tell me why that is,” shows a form of vulnerability and willingness to learn more. Curiosity is a treetree value, and demonstrating it to your team and clients, despite the decades of experience you may be packing, sends the message that you’re here to help, not to prove how smart you are. 

Raise your hand. 

Ask the question. 

Admit what you don’t know. 

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” 

We associate wrongness with humiliation—a sure confidence crusher. So, as far back as our childhood classrooms, we’ve chased the feeling of rightness. And our lifelong avoidance of being wrong has kept us stressed, sweaty and silent, most certainly stopping some of those wrong (read: best) ideas from ever getting air. 

If we come to each interaction recognizing we are imperfect, and we are here simply to understand and be understood, we are being our whole selves. We’re able to take off our mask. 

Related story: How to Be Wrong in Three Easy Steps 

“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” 

You don’t have to keep everything in-house or farm it all out.  

Make it your goal to engage the internal resources you have to their greatest potential. Then, strategically use your budget where an outside partner can round out the capabilities your team already has. 

Where does your internal marketing team most excel? Are they great at doing the research and getting the hard-hitting facts? Executing marketing materials once they have a concept in–hand? Blue-sky thinking that needs grounded in strategy and tactics?   

Is the complexity of the task—like a full-blown marketing plan—too much for a bootstrapped internal team to tackle?  

Identify your team’s strengths so you can decide what they can take on and what would most benefit from an outside partner.