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Is your brand trying too hard?


It was 25 years ago this month that Caroline and I bought a carpet in Istanbul.

Actually, we were married 25 years ago and then spent September traveling Turkey for our honeymoon. While (ahem) that wedding detail is pretty important, it’s the carpet I want to focus on here.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the mother of all markets. 

Its 4,000 shops sprawl over 60 covered streets in one of the biggest cities on the planet. As the oldest covered market in the world, it’s a massive tourist draw that attracts 100 million visitors a year.

 The Grand Bazaar is fascinating, overwhelming and exasperating all at the same time. The stall owners there have one mantra:  Close. The. Sale.  Their approach is about as far as you can get from building a brand. 

The vendors have no insights into customer desires.
No real passion for a customer “relationship.”
No fear of reprisals from disgruntled buyers.

What they have is an endless parade of wide-eyed travellers (like Caroline and me) passing through their market. They’ll never see these two Canadians again. So it’s now or never.  At every shop we passed, a vendor would rush us:

“I love Canada! Canada Dry!
Best deal for you today! Carpets very cheap!”

This M.O. doesn’t work all that well.
The shop owners are trying too hard.
  • When brands scream, “Like us on Facebook,” they try too hard.
  • When brands sell aggressively, they try too hard.
  • When brands put their own agenda before the customer’s, they’re trying too hard.

So why not try… easier?

Later in our trip, away from the intensity of Istanbul, we found ourselves in the middle of Turkey’s outback, a spectacular region known as Cappadocia. Here the pace was slower, the towns and villages laid back, the relaxation easier.

Even buying carpets was different in Cappadocia. The shop owners invited us in for hot Turkish tea served in tiny glasses. We sat and relaxed. We put down our backpacks and rested our sore feet. The shop owners seemed less focused on selling, and we were in no rush to buy. Yet we somehow left Cappadocia with several Turkish kilims.

These shop owners proved that trying easier can work.

Other examples are all around us.

  • When brands thoughtfully create information of value (and share it freely and willingly), they take a vastly different approach from the traditional sell, sell, sell. Content marketing is trying easier.
  • When my 88-year-old Mom broke her leg in three places this summer, she learned that trying harder in her physio wasn’t always a good thing. On certain days, Mom had to relax and let the treatment “come to her.” Pushing too hard sometimes set her back.
  • When I lose my golf swing mid-round (a frequent occurrence), my go-to fix is always the same: choke down on the club, shorten my backswing, swing easier. This almost always leads to better contact. Slowly, my swing returns to normal… and it’s never by trying harder.

Eventually, Caroline and I made our way back to Istanbul for our return flight to Canada. We made a final stop at the Grand Bazaar and bought (haggled for) a large Turkish carpet that’s still in our living room today. But only because we wanted to avoid lugging it around for a month.

So what about you?

It’s now the week after Labour Day, the traditional start of the sprint to the finish line. It’s understandable that you might try to quicken your step, ramp up your game, try harder.

But what if you turned that idea on its head?

Ask yourself:
Why not try easier?


P.S.      Happy Anniversary, Caroline! I’m looking forward to the next 25…