The Big Game: Is Good Really the Enemy of Great?

Mark DiMassimo100x124By Mark DiMassimo, CEO, DiMassimo Goldstein

They say good is the enemy of great. I’m not sure it is. The absolute best spots of Super Bowl 50 Sunday night were insanely great, like the Choir of Super Bowl babies. A brilliant idea that perfectly answers the NFL’s critics without being at all argumentative.

NFL, “Super Bowl Babies Choir” feat. Seal

It was executed well. Good decisions were made. Not necessarily great decisions, but good ones. Decisions that helped it connect to a wide audience and helped it feel sweet.

The misfires of the Super Bowl were sometimes brave spots. SoFi’s unseen voice separating the few great people from the many not great, and not being afraid to say it. Brave.  But lacking goodness on one key level.
SoFi, “Great Loans for Great People”

If the problem was to get me to know who and what SoFi is, who it’s for, and who should like it, this spot was not good. The most popular spots were merely good. Kevin Hart using surveillance techniques facilitated by his trackable car stalks his daughter and her date, making romance impossible. The hanging from a helicopter was over-the-top and predictable but it was good enough. The advertising tribe may turn up its nose, but this won USA Today’s Ad Meter.
Hyundai, “First Date” feat. Kevin Hart


There were many admirably good spots that were solid ideas, addressing well-defined problems. So, is good the enemy of great?  Yes and no – both emphatically.

“SoFi needs to get on the map with a commercial that shows that we’re for people who want to be exceptional, who truly want to be great.” If you define the problem in a way that is just good enough, you’re not going to have a winning solution.

We need a feel-good commercial about the NFL. What about the phenomenon we’ve all heard of – Super Bowl Babies? Is that true? Yes, statistically. Wouldn’t you like to see these Super Bowl Babies? Wouldn’t it mean so much?

But the execution and production of the idea is where goodness is the ally of greatness. A lack of goodness here can undermine a good or great spot. In the case of the SoFi spot, the decision to divide people between “not great” and “great” tribes on nothing but first-impression took what could have been a workable brand idea and provoked the audience to hate it.

I think that in reaching for greatness, SoFi just failed to achieve goodness. On the other hand, the NFL Super Bowl Babies Choir commercial benefited from an accumulation of good decisions. Good direction. A good adaptation of a terrific song. A good use of Seal. Good use of titles and supers.

In short, good craftsmanship is the ally of a great idea. Good judgment in execution can save an idea from that one fatal decision that haunts every production. So, is good the enemy of great?  I tracked down the original quotation from Voltaire, who said, “”Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

This translates to “The best is the enemy of the good” and is often translated as, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” I like that. Some agencies and their clients failed while daring greatly. Others were so good that they ended up ranked alongside the great.

For those of us who tend to overvalue greatness and undervalue the goodness of many good decisions – this is a good lesson to absorb.

About the Author: Mark DiMassimo is founder and CEO of advertising agency DiMassimo Goldstein (digobrands.com), a veteran of Inc. 5000’s list of America’s fastest growing private companies, who’s mission is to accelerate growth for life-changing brands through their signature method of Inspiring Action. Mark is the author of Digital@SPEED and a regular commentary contributor on the evolution of the advertising and marketing industry. 

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