Lessons Learned for Marketers from the Olympics

09/07/2016 09:08 am ET Updated Sep 08, 2016

From many people’s view, this year’s Olympics were a wash. I personally barely watched a minute of it, which is quite unusual for me. I typically immerse myself in the athlete’s underdog stories and I relish in the edge-of-your-seat competitions. Gymnastics is my favorite, but who can resist watching the swimming and diving. This year, I did.

My only real takeaways were that someone walked into the Opening Ceremony rubbed down in oil, someone didn’t put their hand over their heart during The National Anthem, and someone did something in a bathroom. Or did they?

That’s not good…not for a monumental cultural and marketing event like the Olympics. Careers are won and lost, and brands bet big time on a return. I’m not sure there was much of a return this year.

For a “brand” that’s been around for awhile (as in thousands of years in this case), that’s not where any of us would want to be.

Now I’m a marketer and I’m a big believer that marketing is a spectator sport, and as a result I think there’s a lot to be learned from this year’s Olympics from a business standpoint. As marketers, we have to take every opportunity we can to learn how to better market our own brands.

Let’s break it down.

Keep it fresh and mix it up. When you have annual programs that repeat time and time again, don’t keep them exactly the same every single time. Add new elements and delete worn out elements to keep the programs fresh and attention getting. While your customers are likely to appreciate the consistency of recurring programs, they are also likely to get fatigued with the repetition and they may walk away. Like many did with the Olympics this year.

Listen to feedback and course correct. Pay attention to comments from your customers and be willing to make changes in your business to keep giving them what they want. Don’t wait until a marketing program is over to decide if it was successful. Listen to feedback along the way and change what’s not working. This is where social media can be your best friend to give you an easy tool to interact with your customers and to listen to their comments. There was certainly a lot of social chatter about the Olympics, but I’m not sure that those covering the games did anything with the feedback.

Less is more. For this viewer, the Olympics coverage just seemed annoyingly long. I used to love the highlight reels and the recaps and the editorial on what had happened. While I’m sure it existed this time around, it didn’t capture my attention nor was it prominent enough to stand out. IMHO. So when serving up your brand to your customers, remember that less is more. Don’t overwhelm them with endless lists of facts and features, but instead communicate what is most important to them and let them become curious enough to ask for more. You’ll win in the end, as I suspect the Olympics may have if they had streamlined their coverage and made it more entertaining.

Now obviously your business is likely not on the scale of the Olympics, or the news networks that covered it, or the brands that sponsored it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from their work.

Good luck!

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