Tuesday 2¢: We’ll be Countin’ Cards

In this week’s half-baked ramble, I compare card counting with marketing, following hearing a great story on a podcast

This week, I was inspired by the Nudge podcast, hosted by Phil Agnew, which now has a firm place in the podcast rotation that accompanies my daily walks. In this week’s episode, he chats with Steven Bridges, an expert card counter.

Aside from learning about the entertaining life of a card counter, which I also learned is perfectly legal, it transpires that card counting is a surprisingly easy skill to master based on a system most of us could learn. Yet, we are not all running into casinos and leaving with our pockets filled with cash.

Phil’s podcast is about behavioural science, so there is a good exploration of that. However, my takeaway, the reason why we can’t all do it, is that the system might be easy, but implementing it is hard.

From listening to the story, I learned that just looking like you are not card counting so you don’t get asked to leave while you are actually counting cards sounds like a lot of work. It seems staying at the table is the actual challenge. Also, card counters win by fine margins, so the system must be implemented precisely.

So, why am I sharing this on what is ostensibly a marketing blog?

Well, what jumped out in my mind was that this is just like many marketing techniques in that, at their core, they are simple to do.

I have read many marketing books and listened to lots of marketing podcasts (when I am not being educated by Phil on behavioural science) and, of course, through my consulting, writing, and podcast, given a lot of advice.

I have come across a lot of models, shared some, and developed others. The challenge is that in the face of real life, implementing these ideas, like our card counter looking like he’s not counting cards, is hard.

And, also like counting cards, in order to get a return on those chips that the business has slid our way requires discipline and a need to implement our marketing model precisely. Plus, dare I refer to the often quoted shortened tenure of marketing leaders, that to provide that return, we need to avoid being asked to leave the table.

One of the best Sales Directors I have ever worked with used to joke about the discipline of sales, quoting Groucho Marx:

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

And you’ll know this feeling.

To avoid being asked to leave the premises, a card counter has to fit in, and look like a regular gambling Joe, that complies with what that establishment believes to be what a lucky gambler looks like.

A card counter brings a peculiar betting system to the table, ruffling the feathers of what’s normal (remember this is perfectly legal, it’s playing a game but very, very thoughtfully), and it marks them as different and they have to leave.

Similarily, marketing gets slid some chips by the banker, but often the casino has a clear idea of how they should be betting them. You know what I mean, the thing we refer to as management by airline magazine (when there was such a thing) that marketing should bet on x channel or that y technique has never worked here.

In the data the marketing team count the cards, and see this is not a winning hand, but play it as they know they get to continue playing.

So, this Tuesday 2¢ – think like a card counter, try and stay at the table, and look like you fit in, but count the cards and be true to your discipline; you win by fine margins.

No robots were involved in the writing of this copy, however the image used in this blog post was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator

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