Every day, I see hundreds of articles claiming to provide a solution to whatever problem you may encounter in just a few simple steps. Headlines like “Build Your Brand in 10 Easy Steps,” or “3 Tricks to Sales Success” make one reasonably conclude anything and everything in life is possible if you just know the shortcuts to success.
Really? Is this what life has come to—that every skill can be mastered in a few minutes if you know the simple, secret steps?
In today’s world, where information is catapulted around the globe in a matter of moments, it is now possible to capture a reader’s attention by promising quick solutions to life’s quandaries.
“10 Essential Steps to Reach Your Dreams,” one headline barked. Then, scrolling down just a bit, I discovered an even better option. Beating the ten-step solution by a sizable margin, this headline boasted readers could do the job in half the time: “5 Steps to Success in Life.”
Hmmm. I considered it, but five steps are still a lot for my sedentary lifestyle. Perhaps someone could offer me the key to success in just one simple step.
Clearly, my job is in jeopardy. I’ve seen countless headlines boasting the reader will become a master at marketing, a builder of brands, and a wizard at writing in less time than it’s taken you to read this paragraph.
It makes me cringe when I think about all those wasted years in college, not to mention countless hours working in the industry, gaining experience, learning from mentors and leaders in the field, studying response rates, and crafting ever-more-effective solutions. I merely should have quickly scanned the appropriate paragraph and learned the simple steps to succeeding in my fields of expertise. It would have saved years of pointless learning.
I call this “The Dumbing Down of Everything,” and as a marketing and branding professional and writer, I’m embarrassed to be a member of the club that perpetuates this click-bait snake oil.
I wonder whether the Dumbing Down of Everything could apply to any skill: “6 Steps to Becoming a Nuclear Physicist” or “3 Tricks to Becoming an Astronaut.”
Wow! Who knew it was so easy!
Sarcasm aside, I have seen this disregard for expertise all too often. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked a client for a photograph of their product for a brochure or website we are creating, and they sent me something they snapped with their iPhone. Hey, who needs a professional photographer as long as they clicked on “3 Steps to Being a Master Photographer with a Cellphone.”
Getting someone to write nowadays is easier than ever because virtually everyone knows the alphabet.
“Let’s get Mikey to write our website. He read that book, whaddayacallit… ‘To Hurt a Mockingjay?’”
I have taught classes about copywriting. I have written articles about improving response rates. I have spoken about marketing tactics and how to build a brand—with a foundation built upon lessons I learned working with some of the largest and most successful companies in the world. I have toiled for years writing novels and screenplays, now in various stages of completion, not to mention countless articles, websites, brochures, and press releases. And all I really needed to do was read “3 Simple Steps to Becoming an Expert at Everything.”
All that time, wasted.
The horror…the horror.
Randall Huft is president and creative director at Innovation Agency, an advertising, branding, and public relations firm specializing in the cannabis industry. While working with blue-chip companies including AT&T, United Airlines, IBM, Walgreens, American Express, Toyota, and Disney, he discovered what works, what doesn’t, and how to gain market share.