Portent Staff // Apr 17 2008
When it comes to marketing, it’s always peanut butter and jelly time.
No, this isn’t some lame joke about how lunchtime is the best part of an internet marketing gig, nor is it some vaguely incestuous reference to the necessary blend between technology and creative. Actually, this is a story about my fourth grade teacher, who in between Newberry classics and ancient Greece, gave me my most valuable internet marketing lesson to date.
The infamous peanut butter and jelly lesson goes something like this, and I’m sure many of you can relate:
Her: “Tell me step by step how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Me: “Pull out two pieces of bread.”
So far, so good.
Me: “Now open the jam and spread it.”
Teacher opens jam and starts spreading on desk.
Me (alarmed): “No, not on the desk, on the bread! ON THE BREAD!”
Teacher (innocently): “Well why didn’t you say so?”
This went on for quite some time, and by the time my teacher completed my instructions there was peanut butter on the projector and saw marks in the Social Studies textbook. As a saucer-eyed fourth grader, it was pretty much the equivalent to the fall-out from a war, and I was totally freaked.
My guess is, anyone who has ever worked in internet marketing in a non-freelancer capacity has dealt with a not-on-the-desk-on-the-bread moment. As an impressionable nine year old, I wanted to slap my still-hot-from-recess forehead and marvel at my octogenarian teacher’s ineptitude to infer even the most obvious instructions on how to make the most basic of items: a freaking peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Now, as a creative lead, I am firmly sandwiched myself under a host of managers and over a rotating team of designers, writers and developers. What middle management blues have taught me more than anything is that there are in fact two secret staple ingredients that keep a simple project from turning into ludicrous pandemonium.
During my years in internet marketing, I have both been amazed and amazed others with unbelievable gaps in communication that have led to truly outlandish consequences. After spending what felt like forever creating my latest marketing task: including links, examples, contacts, visuals, I am startled again and again when my peanut butter and jelly sandwich becomes in the hands of another an elephant eating a peanut, a jellyfish with peanut butter smeared on top, a Sand Witch who craves only peanut butter and jelly. While it is easy to marvel at other’s perceived ineptitude I know there are many, many times where I myself have been guilty of spreading peanut butter on the desk.
The moral? Over communication on the manager’s part and critical thinking on the team’s part is the only truly satisfying combination. If you are a marketing manager, don’t worry about talking down to your team, and don’t assume they will know what you are talking about. Provide every last scrap of information you have ever heard on the topic. When I am creating a marketing task, I start with the five W’s of journalism, make sure I’ve included all relevant links and documents, and try to include an example or two. This may sound like a laborious amount of work but it will save you centuries in the long run.
If, on the other hand, you are the person receiving the task, think critically about whether the solution to your problem, while not explicitly detailed, is relatively obvious. If so, go with your common sense. Do as much independent research as you can to try and come up with answers, and then be persistent about following up with the project manager about the questions a simple Google search won’t solve.
One without the other is as bad as peanut butter without jelly, but with both overcommunication and critical thinking in place your next internet marketing project is bound to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.