Failed marketing ideas that were never used

Brainstorm all your ideas

Brainstorm all your ideas

This week, I remembered something we brainstormed at PF about five years ago.

Something that never got off the ground. An idea that seemed incredibly brilliant at the time, but didn’t happen.

Looking back at it now I’m so grateful we didn’t go this route. (I admit this has been responsible for a LOT of laughter as I’ve shared it with others this week. I’ve even had a few laughs as I’m writing and sketching this note.)

This all came to pass about five years ago. Long before the PF rebrand and the creative agency as it is now. We were having a team meeting and brainstorming ideas around the way we help accountants.

We didn’t have the marketing map we have today, and looking back I can see we didn’t have the clarity of structure around what we offer and why.

We did still have a progression of what we offered accountants. Content to build awareness, free things, paid courses & programmes, monthly retainers, one-off projects.

And as we looked at the variety of what was available to accountants, and thought about the variety of stages accountants were at when it came to marketing, we had a brilliant idea.

We would give names to the ‘routes’ accountants could take to do marketing.

Some accountants want to move fast, we had learned. They knew the value of marketing, they’d learned a bit about it, they were ready to invest big in terms of time and money.

Other accountants weren’t ready yet. They’d been burned before, or hadn’t tried marketing at all, or had no clue where to start, or they were still building their marketing budget.

We wanted to reflect these various options. We sat round a table, with a flip chart and a whiteboard, and somehow we thought of using animals to reflect the various stages, or speeds of marketing.

You could go really fast – something like a cheetah, or a hare.

You could go slower – a turtle, a snail.

I know. Please, believe me…I know. Looking at it now I’m thinking….

…a snail????

Who in the wide world wants to be a snail? Who’s going to look at a series of marketing packages and go, “Ah, yes, excellent. A snail. THAT’S the direction for me. I’d like to go so slowly that my progress can’t be seen, and I’d like to leave a trail of slime as I do it.”

The flip side – the faster option – feels just as ridiculous.

We went far beyond just cheetah. A cheetah wasn’t fast enough for us. We wanted fire, and flame, and swooping through the air bringing fear to all the other accountants who were simply hopping along on the ground as a frog.


The options were, in order from slow to fast:

  • Snail
  • Turtle
  • Frog
  • Rabbit
  • Cheetah
  • Dragon

I do remember some laughter at the time. I’m pretty sure one of the team members pointed out that being a ‘turtle’ might not seem too appealing to an accountant considering marketing, and might make them feel like their results would be as slow as the related animal.

Our intentions were good. We knew not all accountants are alike, and not every “target client” acts in the same way. There are different options for different people.

But I see now why we never did anything with it. Never went through with it.

First, it wasn’t on brand. At that time the old PF logo was blue and grey and slightly formal and a little boring, to be honest. But even with those dull visuals, we still had a sense of the “brand” of the company, which was that we wanted to inspire accountants. To help them feel confidence that they were hiring an agency with authority, expertise, experience.

Second, it wouldn’t have been appealing to our target audience. This approach gives a real patronising feeling to someone considering hiring a marketing agency – as if no one would want to be anything less than a cheetah or a dragon, and you’re cheap or foolish to go with Turtle (much less Snail).

And finally, it’s because “packages” don’t work. No one is completely Snail, or completely Dragon. Some firms we work with are enthusiastic, ambitious, and ready to invest in a big way: but it takes them a while to come to the decision. Other firms are small, startup, with very little of a marketing budget at first: and yet they discover they’re ready to invest in a big way on their brand, or in learning about marketing.

It’s not about forcing people to decide how fast or slow they want to go, and trying to squeeze them into something that works.

Instead, it’s about getting to know the firm and the humans behind it. The pain they feel, the emotional upheaval that can come when you’re considering marketing, the frustration at having done nothing or the wrong thing or wasted money in the past. That’s what we have to tap into. That’s the kind of conversation we have to have.

Then we can help direct them to what will deliver the very best kind of results.

We do have a visual structure now. It’s called the Marketing Map. It visually represents the journey most firms take, in the order they take it.

It’s been created based on our experience of the direction most firms go when they get the very best kind of clients – and it helps other accountants see how they can go the most helpful route possible. It’s the core of every conversation with an accountant, talking through why it matters that you go in that order, why you might miss out on amazing results if you don’t, and why the services we’ve created are based on it.

But there are no animal names.

I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

Got any failed-marketing-idea stories?? Do share them!! Let’s have a laugh together!

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Morning walk. I stood and watched the ferry come in and the sun lighten this little edge of the world.
Been going through old photos and letters - the last of the boxes i had stored at my sister’s house in america. 

When I first moved to Scotland, I only planned to live here for a few years and then go back. Then after a few years I wasn’t ready yet…then I got my residency…still not quite ready….then started a business…then Scottish citizenship…bought a house …finally accepted this is my home and I wasn’t moving back. 

And with every visit back to the states I would go through more boxes, more photos and letters and memories. I’d keep some and throw others away; take photos out of frames and give away the frames; and as time went on I was able to distinguish between the ones I definitely wanted and needed to keep, and those which were lovely at the time but didn’t need to be saved anymore.

Over twenty years on and this past trip I went through the very last of the boxes. I joked to my sister that I’ve now officially settled into Scotland 😆 

This photo of me and my Gramps is a fave and definitely a keeper. Most of the photos and letters I’ve kept are those of family - parents, grandparents, sisters, nieces and nephews. And as much as I love taking landscape photos, I noticed that 20 years later it’s the people photos I am more likely to keep. Thankful for the traditions and patterns of seeing family every year or so since moving to Scotland. They’re small things - baking Christmas cookies and going for walks and going for road trips - but it’s the time together and the continuing family jokes and the memories which remain. And a few photos.

My grandfather (and all my grandparents) have now passed on, but I remember with fondness sitting around at their kitchen table, eating fresh vegetables from the garden, playing scrabble, laughing and talking and drinking coffee.

It’s the small things, and the rhythms of family, which last. ❤️ 
#family #memories #grandparents #oldphotos
Made fresh mince pies for the first time ever. Over twenty years in Scotland and I’d never tried to make them from scratch, so I figured…now is the time! I’m doing lots of thanksgiving baking (yes, we stretch it out here so I’m still prepping!) and decided to buy the ingredients. 

Dried fruit…mixed peel…lots of spices…and Venezuelan rum :) I made up the mincemeat last night, and then today put it in the little pastries and even cut out the wee stars to go on top!

I think I can safely say they’re the best mince pies I’ve ever had. Fresh out of the oven sprinkled with icing sugar and with a glass of said rum alongside :) 

Now we are curled up with a Harry Potter marathon, with plenty of mince pies AND a thanksgiving feast still to come. Happiness! 

#mincepies #homebaking #maryberry #maryberryrecipe #happythanksgiving #happychristmas #harrypotter #hpmarathon
Oh hey, it’s me. 

And a new updated KLR brand and website! 

For the past six months or so, while I was finishing my book content and the final edits from my side, we have also been working on an updated KLR brand and website, to distinguish from the PF brand and site. 

It’s a tough job, when you’re the business owner and have been for ten years. And the book you’ve written is for the kind of clients your business serves, so it feels like a PF project.

But I’ve also been working for years to figure out (and help others see) that PF is far more than me. I’m the owner and MD, and I’m involved in sales and speaking and writing, and yet our clients primarily work with the team. There are 18 beautiful humans delivering great creative work every day from PF (soon to be 19!) and as I always say to potential clients, you definitely want all of them working on your creative projects. They’re structured and organised and talented - 19x more talented than just me. 

I’ve still got my own skills. And my own identity. It took us weeks to dig into how we represent “Karen L Reyburn” as a personal brand, with an audience of clients and friends and accountants and non-accountants and witches and wizards and family members and creative humans. 

We settled on “Leader, writer, creative, coach”, because those are the areas I love the most and want to lean into more as PF grows. And as I write more books and keep being my own self. 

If you’d like to be on the list to get “Karen’s notes” by email every Saturday, or to be on the waiting list for the book (coming May 2023), the link is in my bio. 

And I’d love for you to head over to my new site ( and let me know what you love or anything you notice and wonder about! 

Stay strong, stay creative, and keep going. 

#karensnotes #staycreative #justkeepgoing