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  • Writer's pictureJohn Selzer

Bring on the Dancing Horses

Updated: Aug 21, 2018

"Gimmicks do not a business make."

- Yoda (probably)

I meet a lot of entrepreneurs. Hang around the startup scene long enough, and you are bound to get pitched. It’s what we do. We will pitch anyone who will listen.

It is pretty easy to quickly suss out the ones that have something tangible, executable and potentially valuable. These are the solutions people will actually pay for, that you can build a real business around.

Others have little more than a gimmick. Not a business, but a weak or rehashed idea paired with something shiny, (sort of) novel or just plain silly. Get past the gimmick, and there is nothing really there. In Texas, we call this “all hat, no cattle”.

Substance matters. Wear that audacious hat, but make sure that you have the herd to back it up.

Mere novelty loses its luster. And quickly. It was new and different, at first. Now, it is not. That new car smell fades fast. As the newness wanes, your customer is onto the next shiny thing. Building a business around the fickle and easily distracted is a crummy plan.

Gimmicks can have a place, however.

In a crowded world where many forces compete for our attention and finite dollars, something that cries “Hey, look at me!” can be a difference maker. We need to stand out; I get it. Just make sure that once you have grabbed our attention, you do not stare back at us blankly like a deer in headlights. The shouting cannot be all that you have to offer.

A gimmick is a marketing trick, not a feature.

But, there are always exceptions. Sometimes, a gimmick can be a business - just one with an extremely short shelf life. In 1975, a man named Gary Dahl took a rock, put it in a box with some straw and cut a few air holes. The Pet Rock was born. While it lasted only six months, 1.5 million were sold, making Dahl a multi-millionaire. Not bad for a one-hit wonder.

It is okay to be opportunistic, to shoot for short-lived virality. A flash in the pan can be better than no flash at all. But if you want to create something real, something sustainable, just don’t forget to create a solid business.

Solve a real problem – and be worth paying for.

Again and again.


Bring on the Dancing Horses by Echo & the Bunnymen

Two posts in April, and another trip back to the 80s. I do listen to other music, I swear. It’s just that Echo (Mr. Echo?) and his Bunnymen really delivered on this one. The perfect title for this post. Sometimes you just have to go with what works. To sacrifice variety and hang out in nostalgia a little longer.

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Apr 19, 2018

Excellent insight as always John.... but related to your comment "Building a business around the fickle and easily distracted is a crummy plan" isn't that really the plan of pretty much every social media platform? If we weren't so easily distracted - we'd stop using/checking/liking/posting, etc. and then where would they be?

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