The Insights Blog

The 4 letter word all marketers should know

The 4 letter word all marketers should know


Marketers and agency execs have some of the most demanding jobs on the planet.

These jobs can be nearly impossible to manage in a 24-hour day. The expectations of marketers and their agencies has never been higher and the work is always-on and can be always stressful.

In this world of constant challenges and stress, it is easy for marketers and agency execs to lose sight of their own behaviors. Marketers and their agencies work in a people business, and the ability to work effectively with people usually is (and should always be) paramount to long term success.

One of the all-time great advertising agencies found the solution. It’s a four-letter word that can be a guide to greater effectiveness as well as greater enjoyment in your job and life.

Many organizations and leaders today have lost many of the basics of good behavior and etiquette. Leaders that are routinely late for important meetings. Leaders that interrupt presentations to make their points before they understand the team’s or agency’s recommendation. Leaders that don’t genuinely thank the folks around them for their hard work and commitment. And in many organizations today, leaders are allowed to be mean. Instead of asking questions to build understanding, they interrogate to establish their own supremacy.

When a leader behaves in any of these ways – is late for meetings, interrupts, interrogates – their entire organization’s culture is negatively impacted. These behaviors cause damage that can last for many years. What can a leader do to avoid this trap?

Be Nice

Not too long ago we caught up with Kaplan Thaler Group founders Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Kaplan Thaler Group (KTG) was once the fastest growing major creative shop in the US. Founded in 1997 by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, and eventually acquired by Publicis, KTG shot to fame because of strategically insightful, brilliant campaigns that drove amazing results for their clients. They had a handful of core beliefs that guided the agency’s work, their strategic process and even their culture.

What was it like to work with this team? The Kaplan Thaler Group team often showcased their book The Power of Nice in their presentations. This book differentiates the experience of working with Kaplan Thaler Group from that of other agencies. In their words:

“A core philosophy of our agency is that we should be the best part our client’s day. We know there are many not-so-fun things our clients have to deal with on a regular basis. The creative and the agency should be two of the most enjoyable things.

We believe N-I-C-E is the most powerful four-letter word in the English language. It is at the heart of who we are, how we treat each other, how we work with our clients, and how we create loyal relationships with consumers.

All this translates to a culture of building up, not tearing down. Support, not isolation. And collaborative interaction, not pride of authorship. It starts from the top and trickles down to everyone at the agency.”


There you go – a four letter word that makes you more appealing. It reminds you to behave better, to be on time, to listen for understanding, to ask questions that build the team and lift the conversation to a higher level. A reminder to thank your people and your partners for how hard they are working and to be gracious when their output disappoints.

Be nice.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.