Advertising Is Just Creative Bragging

Think you have a marketing problem? You may actually have a value problem. How to live up to your own hype

Written by Mira Shenker

Business management, marketing and service expert Donald Cooper says every business owner has the same to-do list: sell more, manage smarter, grow your bottom line and have a life. After working for 20 years as a manufacturer and 14 years as a retailer, Cooper now spends his time helping business owners check items off that list.

Cooper compares a business to the human body. “In medicine, you have to look at the health of your whole body—you can’t heal the liver but ignore the heart. That same holistic approach has to apply when running a business,” says Cooper. “If I help a business with marketing, they’re just going to die of something else.”

So, what are the business equivalents to head, heart and lungs? Cooper lists five things every business owner needs to get clarity on. Ask yourself:

1. What is the extraordinary customer value we commit to deliver to customer?
2. What do we commit to become in three to five years from now? (Looking 10 years out is “just goofy,” says Cooper. “You lose your sense of urgency.”)
3. How are we going to get there?
4. What is the extra bottom line we commit to generating?
5. How do we commit to behave along the way? In other words, what are the company values? “So many businesses have lost their moral compass,” says Cooper.

“These are commitments—not goals, targets, aims or objectives,” emphasizes Cooper. “I’m on a big campaign to eliminate those weak, wishy-washy words. A target, by definition, is something we hit sometimes and miss other times. But a commitment is for our soul.”

Is it all just semantics? Not as far as Cooper is concerned. “When we change our language, we change our culture,” he insists.

Cooper says getting clarity in these areas will help break through some of the lies business owners and managers tell themselves.

The biggest lie? There’s no such thing as customer loyalty anymore. “It’s not so,” says Cooper. “We’re all desperately searching for businesses we can trust and stick with.” Cooper’s advice: ask yourself, are you the wise choice for your target customers? Rather than spending your money and energy on deceptive marketing measures to convince people you’re the right choice for them when you’re not, expend those same resources to become the right choice, says Cooper.

“The other big lie we tell ourselves is you can’t get good staff anymore,” says Cooper. “The best people have to work for someone, you just have to deserve them; you have to create a business environment that people want to work in.”

And forget about that big competitor that could lure that good staff away with higher salaries. Cooper says everyone, whether customer or employee, has four currencies: money, time, feeling safe and feeling special. “I don’t think you can pay [staff] enough money to make up for the absence of the other three currencies,” says Cooper.

How do you make staff feel special? It may sound touchy feely, but Cooper swears that a simple “thank you” every day goes a long way. “A €˜thank you’ at work is like an €˜I love you’ at home,” says Cooper. “If you don’t hear it every day, after a few days you start to wonder if they still love you.”

Cooper’s best advice for every business owner: be extraordinary—you can’t afford not to be. In an increasingly crowded and cynical market, Cooper says, if you’re failing, you probably don’t have an advertising or marketing problem; you have a value problem. “I’m old enough to remember when you could make a very good living being mediocre at work. Those days are gone. We need to be extraordinary,” he says. “Advertising is nothing more than creative bragging. If you’re not extraordinary, you have nothing to brag about; you’re boring.”

For Cooper, it’s as simple as that: “First you get good, and then you brag.”

Donald Cooper will be talking about this and more at the PROFIT Growth Summit in Calgary on September 18.

Early-bird registration ends August 1!

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