If You Want To Succeed, Here’s How NOT To Promote Yourself Or Your Business

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-08-2328

You want to market yourself? Then let’s get real about it.

I have an amusing but cautionary business tale to share with you.

I guess everyone wants to make something of themselves and get ahead in life. In the past, I’ve read and also written about how great ideas have changed people’s lives, presumably solving all their financial problems. We’ve had discussion here about how to become a millionaire in so many steps by doing what we love. I’ve also written about just how easy it is to become deluded in the pursuit of a dream. It’s too easy to lose sight of reality when you’re chasing a dream. How many people out there have dropped their day jobs while trying out for a one-in-a-million shot at a talent contest? I’m sure too many.

If you want to be successful, you must obviously first have something to offer, which will actually sell. You need to have something that will be in demand, which is hopefully, of high standards. Unfortunately, wanting something badly enough won’t necessarily propel you towards your goals — it may take a lot of tries before you get a break, so don’t be discouraged if you get nowhere at first.

This is all just an intro to a story about something that happened to me a few days ago that brought to mind these standard lessons on business.

The Story

I normally park my car over at an open lot in San Francisco. It’s somewhere near the financial district and used mostly by office workers who perform their jobs in nearby corporate buildings. I’m a regular there and I’ve seen the clientele. Yeah, pretty much all business people.

After work one day, I approached my car and noticed somebody stuck a CD on my windshield. Interesting, as I’ve never received a free CD on my car before. I didn’t know what to make of it at first till I noticed that every other vehicle in the lot had the same thing on their windshields. Except with different designs. Somebody was enterprising enough to create multiple styles of packaging for their product since there were different CD covers (by the same “label”) glinting under car wipers.

CD Cover

I had no idea what to expect. It looked like an urban type CD. On the cover, it said “K-Rob, R & B Hood Legend”. So I hurriedly popped the thing in my player and what greeted my ears was nothing short of…..strange.

To some degree, I enjoyed the music. It kind of grew on me after a while, but in a way that I don’t believe the artists intended. After a while, I developed a serious earworm. At home I checked their “label” and I wondered whether they borrowed another R & B performer’s moniker. There’s a guy out there who already has an internet presence with the same name. I refuse to believe this music was produced by that same guy or outfit.

The Lessons

So this is a marketing effort by some people who clearly want to change their lives by getting discovered. It’s self-promotion attempted through word of mouth (aka street) marketing. Sad to say, I feel it is a misguided effort on promotion.

Why is this misguided? [Those responsible for this CD windshield drop and distribution scheme are hereby referred to as “They”.]

#1 They targeted the wrong demographic.
Last I checked, soccer moms who drive large vans and work in 9-to-5 desk jobs aren’t really the type who’ll listen to this sort of thing. But I could be stereotyping and that would be wrong.

#2 They didn’t leave any contact information, just a name.
Maybe they were going for the mystery effect — you know, like the “Blair Witch Project” approach that hit you hard and made you wonder where it was all coming from. Yes, it certainly left me scratching my head.

#3 There wasn’t any clear direction behind the “marketing effort”.
What’s next after dropping the product on unsuspecting reviewers? We’ve been baited, so when are we supposed to be reeled in? There’s no contact info, so how can I reach them for some enthusiastic feedback? Then I saw the message inscribed in the inner sleeve: “KEEP GOD 1st!” and I thought that maybe it’s some sort of tribute. I’ll give them props for trying.

CD Cover 2

#4 They spent money before developing a strategy.
At least, that’s what it seems like. Again, I could be wrong and this could be all part of a huge master plan that my old-fangled capacities are failing to grasp. Things must’ve been functioning according to plan when they tested the market with a small budget expecting to see their street marketing strategy take fire. And I’m sure they felt particularly optimistic when they spent money on multiple eye-catching CD cover art that were certain to grab a good deal of attention.

#5 They should’ve gotten feedback from their personal network/inner circle/family/friends prior to casting a wider marketing net.
I apologize for being presumptuous but when your older sis tells you that you’re making too much noise in the basement with your homies, she may not be just saying it to annoy you. When your granny tells you the same thing, don’t always assume her hearing aid has malfunctioned. No, the music may not just be “misunderstood”.


Just like with approaching a new business endeavor or idea, or when reviewing a career change you need to do some basic groundwork to improve your chances for success. Why not do the following before executing your ideas or acting on a dream?

#1 Get some reality checks.
Believe in your inner circle, but yes, I agree you need to trust them first. If they tell you that you need to have talent before you try something like this, don’t ignore them. If you’re doing this for fun, then good — for starters, your heart is in the right place. Think harder about what strengths you could possibly have and move in that direction.

#2 Do some product, service, market or ANY research.
You have to start somewhere and it usually begins with some kind of study. I get that not all brilliant plans are founded on learning and study, in which case I’d chuck a lot of the resulting success to luck.

#3 Create a plan or strategy.
A real one, not a strange one that involves product placement of urban R & B hood tunes on the cars of corporate workers. Am I wrong to assume that most office workers listen to some other type of music?

#4 Watch the money and invest in your ideas or business wisely.
Unless you’re a big L.A. advertising firm who has gobs of money to turn nobodies into stars, I’d say it would be very wise to conserve your money as much as possible. And try to get a free agent who knows what they’re doing.

#5 Get the right people behind you and find the right support.
If your entire neighborhood thinks you’re hot, then you probably are. If they walk away while you practice, then go back to step 1: you need a reality check.

If you’re jostling for a spot in the entertainment field, be prepared for hard competition. In fact, this rings true for any field of work. My message here is that before you take a huge risk — say by quitting your day job or by spending your life savings on an idea — make sure you have a real skill and a business plan (and failing that, a plan B).

Now if I could only make that @#$*%^! earworm go away.

[For those of you into demos, I’d be curious to hear what you think of the tune.]

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kris August 23, 2007 at 10:35 am

*jaw dropping*

That song’s gotta be a joke, right? RIGHT?


Silicon Valley Blogger August 23, 2007 at 10:41 am


No, this wasn’t a joke! I *really* found this on my van hood. Lol. I thought it was a gem of a blanket promotion.

IMO whoever is responsible for this shouldn’t be discouraged. They need to work hard and repeat this as a daily mantra: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

boomie August 23, 2007 at 11:02 am

I’d listen but what is earworm first????

Silicon Valley Blogger August 23, 2007 at 12:05 pm


Found these definitions of earworm:

From Webster’s New Millenium (from dictionary.com)
“a song or tune that gets stuck in one’s mind and repeats as if on a tape; also written ear-worm, ear worm; also called cognitive itch, sticky tune”

From the Urban Dictionary:
“Most likely originated around the time of Hanson’s “Mmmbop”; an ear worm refers to any song that is so catchy, and at the same time extremely annoying, that it feels like a worm has crawled into your ear and eaten the intelligent parts of your brain so that you hum the song all day long, no matter how much you hate it.”


Amber Yount August 23, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Wow they took a bad song and turned it into a worse one. Way to go. WHY don’t songwriters/singers/movie makers make up their own crap anymore???

Kris August 23, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Man. I thought Kenny G was bad on his own.

Great find and post, man.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 23, 2007 at 4:48 pm

If you listen hard enough, there is some reference to financial and economic status somewhere in there. I swear.

@Amber, the 80’s era is over and with it, the end of great, original music…. 😉

@Kris, thanks! Too funny to pass up.

Ted August 24, 2007 at 1:39 pm

He doesn’t need a lesson in marketing, he needs voice lessons. Thanks for the laugh!!!

Jonathan August 25, 2007 at 5:25 am

Dude. That song was not good.

But the CD-replication business is good to be in =D

dimes August 25, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Sounds like someone is doing karaoke to a Kenny G CD.
Street marketing works for some people, but it’s more the exception than the rule.

FIRE Finance August 25, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Really jaw dropping!

Silicon Valley Blogger August 25, 2007 at 2:32 pm

This song is definitely very familiar to me. Must’ve heard it a million times at some department stores. What’s the title of the original? Sounds like it’s a Kenny G piece with all the comments here about it!

Jake August 25, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Well guess what, the name of the song is

Songbird by Kenny G:


and no, it should not have any lyrics on it! That was an abominable corruption of a classic.

MoneyNing August 26, 2007 at 9:47 pm

It took my idea! Doh!

formul8 August 26, 2007 at 11:56 pm

OMG…that is absolutely horrible. Maybe someone did a vanity press and could not get rid of them, so this was a last resort??

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein September 9, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Great way to take a real-life story and make it into a marketing lesson for all of us! Definitely falls into the research-before-you-spend-money issue. I’ve seen so many people spend money on website, take time writing tons of content etc., before they research whether this niche is good, whether people will buy the product at that price, how it will be monetized, what keywords are good, etc. Oh, and whether you need voice/music lessons before you release your first CD. 🙂

~ ElizabethPW

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