Opinion: Marketing campaigns that swing like Jimmy

Creative Thinker Simon Brooke asks what we can learn from Jimmy Anderson's Test performances.

Having been an avid cricket fan since the age of 7 when I watched my dad walk out to bat for our local cricket side, an Ashes summer has always had a special feel.

Not always with excitement I have to say, having grown up through the era of Australian dominance. It does, however, make the current run of success for England seem all the more sweet.

As a proud Lancashire lad myself, the performance of my fellow countyman, Jimmy Anderson, in the first test of the 2013 Ashes was a fantastic show of skill, commitment and pure class. Analysing Jimmy’s performance his attributes are there for all to see, how he takes account of the batsman, the conditions, the match situation and his own skills to produce the type of deliveries that left 10 Aussie batsmen scurrying back to the Trent Bridge pavilion.

It was this performance that reminded me so much of the challenges we face as marketers and business owners. Every work day or campaign is like being out there in the heat of an Ashes battle. Some days it’s great, it’s your day, whilst others it isn’t. Hopefully it is on those days you just hope you get lucky with an umpire call or a dodgy DRS decision.

So what can we learn from Jimmy for our marketing campaigns to produce those knock-out deliveries just when our team or our business needs them?:

Do your planning

In an age of wall-to-wall TV coverage, you’ve nowhere to hide as an international batsman. It isn’t quite as easy for us in our businesses to really get to really understand our customers, but we should at least try.

When Jimmy goes out to bowl he has a clear plan for very batsman, he doesn’t just stand at the end of his run up and throw a ball down randomly. He’s studied the batsman, their strengths and weaknesses and come up with a plan to target them.

Likewise, your marketing campaigns should use all the data you can lay your hands on to target the customers or prospects you are after.

Look to market research, online analytics, social media, email tracking, past sales and wider industry research to form a clear picture of your prospects. Then create a plan that targets them where they operate and with a great reason for them to react.


One of Jimmy’s key strengths is his ability to put each ball in an over on the right spot time and again. It might sound dull, but this consistency puts pressure on the batsman, restricts their ability to score and often wins the battle of wits.

Likewise, consistency is the key to great marketing. With the constant innovations in marketing it is very easy to get distracted and trying every trick in your locker.

There is no problem with trying new things, but in between, or underpinning these, needs to be a consistency, whether that is the method you are using or the messages you are using. This is where a clear strategy plays a major part.

By having a clear strategy underpinning all your daily marketing activities and campaigns you will ensure consistent thinking, execution and most importantly results.

Take advantage of favourable conditions

Jimmy is a swing bowler, his skill is making the ball move and swing and he really comes to the fore when the atmospheric conditions mean the ball is able to swing.

At Trent Bridge, the ball swung a little bit at first, before reverse swinging later in the day. It’s what helped made Jimmy so deadly.

Like this big external factor over which Jimmy has no control, we often find ourselves in a position where the market conditions are just right for our business or product. It is those times that we need to make sure we are ready for.

When the ball isn’t swinging, Jimmy has worked hard to be able to still be an effective bowler, still taking wickets. But when the conditions are right he comes into his own.

Prepare your marketing, your campaigns and your offers, work on them and build consistency for those times when the market conditions are just right and you’ll then be in a position to take advantage of the more favourable conditions.

Produce the unexpected

In the First Test Jimmy produced a magic delivery to Aussie captain Michael “Pup” Clarke that left the classy batsman completely bamboozled. It was a ball of unbelievable skill, with movement, line and length of astounding brilliance, and Clarke just wasn’t able to deal with it.

Producing the unexpected gets you noticed, it makes you stand out and your customers or prospects sit up and take notice. Try to do something that your customers aren’t expecting, it could be something as simple as a discount offer on their birthday or perhaps wow your prospects with a clever direct mail piece, something they just think OMG! Where did that come from.

Try a different angle

A great skill Jimmy has developed is his ability to “use the width of the crease” as the experts will say.

Basically he’s developed the ability to deliver the ball from a slightly different angle which is a nightmare for batsman focused on a conventional delivery spot. Several of his wickets at Trent Bridge were due to this change of angle, giving the batsman no chance at all.

Every so often, particularly when your consistent approach is not quite delivering, maybe it’s time to try a different angle. Perhaps you could try a new tool, or put the focus of your marketing efforts onto a different aspect of your marketing mix, or try a slightly different message.

Whatever tools and angles you have, use them well and sparingly – changing your angle too many times can lead to inconsistency and “buffet bowling” as Geoff Boycott describes it (ie. help yourself to runs, batsman).

Step up to the challenge

As marketers it isn’t unusual for us to be the first port of call when things aren’t going right in a business. Indeed, even if you are running your own business without a marketing team, your first thoughts are often marketing ones (eg. how can I get more business?).

It is these times, and these tricky problems that every marketer (whether formal or informal) should thrive on step up to the mark ready to produce. It’s no use hiding at the back of the changing rooms, your business needs you. It needs your creativity, positivity and processes more than ever.

So step up, demand the ball and run in hard, now is your time to shine Simon Brooke A Happy Director and Creative Thinker www.happy-creative.co.uk