I'm the son of a living Texas Advertising Legend. A member of the Texas Advertising Hall of Fame. The former Chairman of Goodwin, Dannenbaum, Littman & Wingfield advertising. The former Chair of multiple social work foundations, religious foundations, athletic foundations. I am the son of a marathon runner, a kayaker, a tennis player, a spinner. I am the son of a living legend, and I thank God every day that Earl is both living and legendary.
Dad was not prone to discussing the marketing profession. But he did share with me purposefully and unintentionally his 'secrets'. After all, his brain drove branding campaigns for Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Midas Mufflers, Church's Fried Chicken, Grandy's, Foley's, the Houston Oilers, the Houston Chronicle, and literally hundreds of other clients large and small. Earl knows retail. Earl knows how to sell.
Dad once positioned his agency as a place to 'Up Your Ads'. He did it with jingles, with his famed 'creactivity', with a relentless curiousity and an obsession towards selling. If dad didn't teach me the phrase 'selling is telling' it somehow has become part of my vocabulary.
Jason Falls, who is Doe-Anderson's Social Media Specialist reminds me that the art of blogging often breaks down to a simple list of rules or learnings that a writer can impart on a reader.
So in that spirit, here are 10 thoughts on life and marketing that Earl Littman taught Michael Littman.
1. Dream Boldly. Why settle for a small dream when you can imagine something grandiose?
Why limit your horizons when possibilities are always abundant? Don't settle for a 3% market share gain. Imagine 70% share and brand dominance. Imagine the other Marketing Directors in your category cowering in the presense of your brand. Imagine success without despair, love without heartache, life without disappointment. Dream Boldly.
2. Live Beyond Your Means. I know, it flies in the face of current events. If I were to be more politically correct, this would simply say 'Go Big or Don't Bother Going'. But Earl would simply go. Somehow the financial details would take care of themselves with time.
Dad taught me that you can't save your way to prosperity. Invest in a big idea, and big things will happen.
3. Be different. Dad hates nothing more than doing what others have done. To his way of thinking, originality trumps all else. Bill Samuels said that a bad ad is like a bad haircut, it will grow back with time and soon be forgotten. If more Marketing Directors followed this formula marketing wouldn't be perceived as a nuisance and advertisers wouldn't fear the DVR.
4. First Impressions Are Lasting. Never would you catch my father five pounds over weight or wearing baggy sweats and a t-shirt. The suit must be well made and well cut. The hair must be combed and in place. Visually the office space must be bold, original, defining. Comfort is secondary to visual stimulus. Or as the Duke Brothers said in Trading Spaces: "Looking Good Lewis." "Feeling Good Billy Ray."
5. Nothing Happens Until The Cash Register Rings. Dad wasn't a big believer in the Awareness/Preference/Purchase Intent school of advertising. That stuff was for wimps. Earl's client roster was largely made up of hard charging retail clients. Dad knew that if they had a bad weekend, he had a bad Monday. I vividly recall his fielding client phone calls on weekends and at night when the big event had produced less than anticipated sales results. I've been a brand guy all my career, but in my mind, it's not a program unless the result produced is a monetary one. Awareness is simply an excuse for a failed marketing effort.
6. Love is the Ultimate Trump Card. 60 years of marriage to one person, even one as magnificent as my mom, is more than a miniscule accomplishment. Eccentric in many areas, Earl had one traditional triumph. Marriage. He found the right partner and he was smart enough to stick by her. He had the sideburns of a 60's player, but he knew when to go home.
7. There is No Substitute For Hard Work. Smart comes and goes. But now more than ever, outworking your competition has much to do with outlasting your competition. I was blessed with marketing instincts. But I'm at my best when I integrate a brand program, precisely because I am relentless in seeking out differentiating touch points with consumers.
8. Innovate. Originate. Differentiate. Saturate. It's not a brilliant idea unless someone other than your parents and children know about it. Create something unique. Make sure to differentiate it from its competition. Then tell enough people enough times to transform a thought into a purchase.
9. Don't Do Stupid Stuff. Don't overeat. Don't drink to excess. Don't smoke. Don't do drugs. Don't lie. Don't hold back. Don't wait. Don't procrastinate. Don't fit in. Don't stop believing in yourself. Don't cheat. Don't slow down. Don't settle. Dad has never been long on 'To Do's', but man, he has given me a life-long list of 'To Don't's'.
10. Conquer One Mountain. Time to Climb Another. The word 'relax' is not in Earl's vocabulary. To do is to live. To lay down is to die. I have no idea what pithy phrase dad has inscribed on his tombstone, but if I were to get a vote, it would simply be 'What's Next'. Because I can guarantee you this. Whatever is 'what's next', Earl will be leading the charge to do it.
You can find Earl Littman at 80+ years old running Point of Sale Broadcasting in Houston, Texas. You can find Michael Littman at Doe-Anderson Advertising in Louisville, Kentucky. I hope that wherever you find me, you will find at least a pale representation of the best ad man I ever met.