Baby marketing turtles

Turtle In 1978, marine biologists from Mexico and the USA joined forces to try to save the rapidly declining turtle population. They incubated turtle eggs and raised the hatchlings for 10 months. They then tried to imprint them with their current location, tagged them and then released them into the wild. If the imprinting succeeded then the baby turtles would behave like ones born in the wild. They would return some point later to form nests at their birthplace, to breed, to lay eggs in the sand and to start the cycle anew.

No turtles returned in 1979 so they tagged and released some more turtles. In 1980 there will still no new turtles or nests, so they released yet more turtles. By 1988 they had released more than 22,000 turtles into the wild. None had returned. They experiment was stopped, and the attempt to replenish the turtle population had clearly failed.

Then, in April 1996, a turtle nest appeared on the Texas coast. Five more were laid between 26th May and 5th June. New nests have been discovered since. Almost 20 years after the start of the experiment it had started to show results. It turns out that turtles don’t return to their birthplaces until after some 20 years, often having travelled thousands of miles.

You often find the same thing in marketing. You release your baby marketing turtles into the wild and wait for them to return. Nothing happens, so you release some more. Still nothing happens so you release yet more. Eventually, you think you’ve failed. Then after more time than you could possibly have anticipated, your marketing turtles return to nest.

Marketing is about sustained, hard work. If you run print ads, you need to run them over months. If you do local marketing, you’ll need to advertise in multiple places for a long time. It’s not about spending all your market budget in one big print full-spread or in a single superbowl advert.

So, release your marketing turtles again, again and again and be patient.

Enjoyed this post? Subscribe to the RSS feed.

3 responses to “Baby marketing turtles”

  1. Andy Brice says:

    I agree with much of what you say, but:
    >If you run print ads, you need to run them over months.
    If you use coupon codes or a separate URL to track your print ads you should know pretty quickly what sort of response you are getting.
    Advertising execs have told me several times that people need to see your ad 7 times before it registers. Personally I think that is total BS dreamt up by an advertising exec.
    I have given up on print ads.

  2. Print ads is a hard one. They’re really hard to measure. We might run a print ad for a few months and there will be a spike in traffic, but nobody says they found us via the print ad, uses the coupon code or the tracking URL. Maybe they see the ad, then they see a review, then somebody talks about. Finally it sinks into their consciousness, they Google us and come to our web site. We go through periods where we fall in and out of love with print ads. I definitely wouldn’t use them as the primary means of advertising though.

  3. Print ads should be held to the same level of accountability as any other part of a marketing or PR campaign. I used to be resolutely against print ads for companies that don’t have large marketing budgets — it is very difficult to target them properly and one rarely gets what one pays for: You’re very fortunate if you can reach 1/10 of the audience you pay to reach in an ad.
    If you have a healthy marketing budget in place and have set up a good foundation of community-based marketing, media relations, and direct marketing via e-mail, web and even good-old snail mail at times (this can be very effective because of the reduced amount of business mail we now receive), print ads can be a good complement. The keys to success are to have a very compelling story, a hook that generates interaction with the target audience, and most importantly, a publication that your customers (and potential customers) read and value.
    If you can find such a publication (or develop one yourself), and have someone who can generate a great ad campaign, you’ll get the response, simply because there are very few compelling ads out there; you’ll stand out among the mediocrity.