The Entrepreneur and the Jedi Mind Trick Selfie

February 25, 2015

Battle with light sabersUnless your geek quotient is low, you know that a Jedi mind trick uses powerful suggestion to influence and control minds. Selfie has become so well-known that it’s Oxford Dictionaries’ 2013 word of the year.

Two very important concepts! Welding them together to create a “Jedi mind trick selfie” produces a third concept, which is an attempt to use powerful messaging to influence and control minds so that they embrace something crafted entirely of one’s own image. This is also known as the failed launch.

Failed launches are as old as entrepreneurial undertakings, as few successful entrepreneurs can resist the temptation to pull the Jedi mind-trick selfie. It works like this:

  1. Budding entrepreneur has great idea, takes idea to market, is successful beyond all expectations.

  1. Entrepreneur has equally great follow-up idea, takes idea to market, market yawns, idea totally bombs.

  1. Knowing that the problem couldn’t be the great idea, entrepreneur focuses on determining which part(s) of the organization failed, seldom excluding marketing.

Don’t get me wrong; I obviously love entrepreneurial endeavors, but this cycle has been a hallmark of entrepreneur-led companies for decades. I don’t want to call out anyone in particular, but if you’ve been in tech long enough, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve been in tech marketing long enough, chances are you’ve had a key role in one or more of the industry’s many failed Jedi mind trick selfies.

When the dust has settled post-launch and the attempts to salvage are over, it nearly always becomes clear that the launch didn’t fail because of marketing, the “powerful suggestion” in the Jedi mind trick. After all, Jedi mind tricks aren’t actually real, so how could they make or break a product?

Businessman taking a selfie

Selfies do exist, the result of believing others find us as interesting as we ourselves do. Once an entrepreneur has been handsomely rewarded for a great idea, it’s natural to conflate that idea with self. Employees, partners, family and friends reinforce it constantly – “That was brilliant! What’s your next big thing?”

It’s a trap that serially successful entrepreneurs avoid. Steve Jobs aside, entrepreneurial success does not equate to innate, infallible market sensibilities (industry vets will remember that even Steve followed up the Mac with NeXT, a pioneer in the Jedi mind trick selfie). To forget that entrepreneurial success doesn’t equal innate marketing superiority invites the mistaken expectation that others will find your ideas as wonderful as you do. Therein lies the frequent cause of unexpected failures that follow unexpected successes. Entrepreneurs can’t force their vision on the world, no matter how skilled they, or their marketing departments, are at powerful suggestion.

The fresh idea usually is a huge part of any runaway entrepreneurial success, but it’s never all of it. A great deal of work from others is invariably required to transform a first great idea into a successful offering – along with more than a little luck.

business plan with cup of coffee

The challenge in avoiding one-hit wonder status is to minimize the reliance on luck in subsequent launches. That means talking with customers and prospects, sizing up the competitive landscape for opportunities at hand, testing messages and refining them before rolling them out on a broad basis, and much, much more, all of it pointing to hard work on the part of marketing. It’s what good marketers are happy to do so that they can contribute their share of success along with every other function involved in orchestrating a successful launch. 

This post originally appeared on The Connector blog and was reprinted with permission.

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