unboxed marketing

group therapy for marketers and business owners

swing away

Posted by Steve Buchholz on April 12, 2009

marketers need to learn from athletes and be willing to fail in spectacular ways
marketers need to learn from athletes and be willing to fail in spectacular ways


Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both came up short down the stretch of the Masters golf tournament today as they tried to catch the tournament leader. Millions watched on TV. The live crowd groaned.

Watching, I was struck more than ever by how publicly golfers are forced to fail.

Of course, golfers and other athletes are forced to fail in public because they perform in front of us. They also have to try. A golfer isn’t going to pick up her ball and walk away when she’s down by two on the 17th green. A quarterback won’t head to locker room during a timeout while driving for a winning touchdown during a two-minute drill. Athletes have to try.

There’s a lesson here for marketers.   

Marketing folks can avoid major failures by not trying. We cannot pursue the innovative product or promotional idea we dream of, or we can decide not to push hard enough for the resources needed to execute a great advertising campaign. We can decide that OK is good enough because exceptional will take a few more hours and require leadership we aren’t willing to give.  

Those are failures by omission. Athletes fail during commission. Marketers should do the same.

We need to get over our fear of failure. We need to insulate our personal feelings from the sting of criticism. We need to remain focused on serving customers and meeting their needs. If we want to do those things really well, if we want to break through the clutter, we need to take risks. We need to be willing to miss.


We need to stare down that tough shot when it’s all on the line. And we need to swing.



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