A few years ago I was scouted by a head hunter for a Fortune 500 company. At the time, I wasn’t aware of who the client was, I just knew that Barbara, the agent, wouldn’t relent. She emailed me every two-to-three days asking if I would set up a time to talk. I didn’t know what the pitch was, I just wasn’t interested.

“Barbara, thanks for your email. I appreciate reaching out. I’m not looking for any full-time opportunities at this time, and am happy serving my current client brands.”

“Stæven, I wish you would reconsider.”

Next day. New email. “They like that you work Sharp’s principles of “How Brands Grow (HBG).” HBG is a book by Professor of Marketing Science and Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. It’s quite a specific book. And they knew what it was.

Ok, now I was piqued. This is the equivalent of saying you like the same strain of oats used to make Lucky Charms. This was an oddly specific nod to something oddly specific.

Ends up, the client was one of the leading CPG companies. And boy, was I glad I replied. “Ok, let’s set up a time to talk.”


When it comes to your brand’s performance, one of the biggest problems isn’t your marketing, it’s your customer’s mind. Believe it or not, as a digital agency, brand manager, entrepreneur, or designer, your job isn’t to market your products. You think it would be.

As marketers, it seems that our conversations always focus on having our “messaging on-point,” “saying the right thing,” creating the right ad placement, the right social media channel, optimize the message, generate the most ideal headline. There are countless blogs about the right time to send social media, what day of the week to send a newsletter and hundreds of social media platforms of which to share.

As both consumers and marketing professionals, we paid our association dues, listened to the latest speakers, bought the books, and got on the fad train. Respectfully, we hopped on a Purple Cow while we Zagged in the Brand Gap so we could Differentiate and not die.

What if I told that you the majority of marketing was hogwash? That the practices of creating customer marketing plans, social media shares, and content publishing in and of itself are inherently void, and pointless? If that statement was true, you as a customer would grab your marketing retainer and go elsewhere, or in fact, do it yourself; you as a professional would feel quite empty inside and possibly looking for a new job.

Despite marketing being a practical sounding industry, there is an incredible lack of sound research, development, implementation, and tactics. Byron Sharp (2010) shares “Many of the things that we’ve been told are important, such as loyalty programs, are not…Many of the ‘facts’ marketing people believe, particularly about brand buying, are incorrect. Furthermore, many marketers lack the deep knowledge necessary to ask the questions that will lead to new valuable insights.” 

The marketing industry would be a lot different if we, as marketers, had the principles and processes to drive the most valuable insights with evidence-based rubrics. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with the principles of Sharp’s “How Brands Grow.”

So, here’s the rub.

Your job is not to share a message. Your job is to create and access memory structures.

While we as a civilization have changed, with our transportation, technology, medicine, and other various accomplishments, we as humans, have not. The only thing that has advanced is our understanding of biology, chemistry, and the science of how we think, not our actual thinking itself.

New marketers love to focus on telling clients about the ways of the magical marketing onion, when in fact, they just aren’t true. What is