The Unnaturals: What Roy Hobbs Can Teach Us About Marketing

Marketing is hard. Here’s what to do about it.

Roy Hobbs was born to play baseball. In the 1984 film The Natural, a young Roy was playing catch with his dad on their Iowa farm when his father offered some sage advice. “You got a gift, Roy. But it’s not enough. You gotta develop yourself. Rely too much on your own gift and you’ll fail.”

That’s exactly what Roy did. Even though he was supremely talented, he worked hard. How hard? He threw a ball through the side of a barn for starters. That’s some serious velo! He made a bat named “Wonderboy” from a tree that was struck by lightning that held mythical powers. He eventually grew up into a dashing Robert Redford, and after a dramatic turn of events, he fulfilled his potential and became “the best there ever was”. The rest is movie history

I was on a call with a prospect this week. Using a particularly colorful idiom, they referred to their marketing as a kind of pariah or outcast. They didn’t mean any disrespect. They simply meant that marketing was something that was neglected at their company. Truthfully, that’s something I hear often. 

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to be good at marketing if it’s not your full-time gig is it’s changing so fast. Take for example these 10 Digital Marketing Trends for 2022 from WordStream:

  1. The metaverse
  2. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  3. Cryptocurrency
  4. Zero & first-party data
  5. Supply chain buffering
  6. Social commerce
  7. Simple content
  8. Sustainability & DEI
  9. Gender neutrality
  10. Accessibility

Now let’s look at the trends from last year from the same source:

  1. In-email purchases and super-sophisticated targeting
  2. Progressive web apps (PWAs)
  3. Virtual reality
  4. Drone software
  5. Artificial intelligence
  6. Voice search
  7. Chatbots
  8. Conversational marketing
  9. Personalization
  10. Influencer marketing

How can anyone be expected to keep up? I’m in marketing and I had to Google half the terms from last year. Don’t even get me started on this year’s list.

The point is marketing is complicated. That’s why so many B2B companies struggle with it. The fact of the matter is most CEOs and VPs of sales and marketing aren’t naturally talented marketers. Yet, many of them are tasked with the responsibility of creating great marketing with little or little natural ability or training. That’s a recipe for frustration.

Marketing requires a particular set of skills; skills that are acquired over a very long career. The key to creating marketing that moves the needle is a) hiring the right people with the right skills, b) with a marketing agency that lives and breathes this stuff on a daily basis, or c) better yet, all of the above.

Remember, rely too much on your own gifts, and you’re going to fail. It’s okay to bring someone onto the team who can do what you find to be unnatural.

Jason is a Partner and the CEO at Revel, a B2B marketing agency. He is a diehard baseball fan who loves his Detroit Tigers. Family vacations often revolve around seeing games in different MLB ballparks around the country – they’ve been to 21 so far and counting. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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