Marketing Mistake: I’ll know it when I see it

Are you new, relatively new, or a veteran of marketing or PR? You probably are considering that covers everyone in both industries. But I digress. If you are, chances are you’ve heard this sentence before, “I’ll know it when I see it.” It’s the sentence everyone dreads to hear because it means another cycle of creative effort that will most likely end with another, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And the cycle continues.

I hate, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And I have a little message for those who use the sentence…

You won’t know it when you see it. You didn’t know that Apple would define the portable music industry when you saw the first iPod. You didn’t know that MySpace would usher in the world of social networking. You didn’t know that blogging would grow in such popularity that it would threaten the newspaper industry. To quote Seth Godin, “You hardly ever ‘know it’.”

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is a crutch of those in authority, those with the power of approval and disapproval. It’s what they say when they really should be saying, “I don’t like it because I don’t even know what I like,” or “I’m too busy to give better input,” or “I don’t really know what to do.”

If you’re a person of authority, offer some feedback. After all, you are in a position of authority; you’re expected to offer feedback. It makes a big difference and is a lot better than “I’ll know when I see it.” Offering good, constructive criticism always helps. Offering an “I’ll know it when I see it” often de-motivates employees.

FYI – I have been extremely lucky in my current position. I have not encountered the insipid sentence. But if I do, I’m sure I’ll know it when I hear it.


Who am I ?

My name is Michael Morton. I believe in bringing energy and professionalism into the office, that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential than advertisements, that content is king, and that two heads are better than one. I currently lead the marketing efforts of the Strategic Alliances department of my company. Let’s talk marketing!

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