Creating Emptiness and/or Staleness: A Look Inside Dr. T.J. Von Don Nostrum’s Empty Box Theory

In his widely acclaimed book The Empty Box Theory: Why Marketers are Better Off Doing Nothing than Creating a Space for Nothing, Dr. T.J. Von Don Nostrum argues that there is no greater crime in marketing than to build a box and then leave it empty or allow its contents to grow stale.

Von Don Nostrum, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the Triangle Campus of the University of Bermuda, considers a box any platform designed to connect an entity with its target audience. He cites such examples as websites, blogs and social media profiles.

question-3254991Setting up one of these platforms, Von Don Nostrum argues, is akin to creating a box. That box serves as a promise to your audience, telling them that whenever they look inside it something new and of value can be found. When that box is neglected – or left empty – the promise is broken, breaking the hearts of the consumers who have emotionally invested in your brand.

For example, going six months without writing a new blog post or firing off a tweet is to leave your box empty. That you built the blog or set up the Twitter handle was a promise to your audience that you would fill it regularly. Failing to do so is in many ways worse than had you never set it up in the first place.

Imagine the disappointment of opening a gift, only to find the box is completely empty. Or, worse yet, imagine the disappointment of opening a birthday gift and finding it’s precisely the same thing you received last year. The outrage! Indeed, Von Don Nostrum, who earned a degree in Structural Engineering from Iowa State University in the late 1970s, says its better to do – or give – nothing than to create a space for nothing and/or staleness.

“There is no promise made by the marketer who does nothing. There are no expectations and thus there can be no opportunity to disappoint. Similarly, there can be no opportunity to impress. The marketer who endeavors to do something, the one who builds a box, is obligated to fulfill the promise the box implies. They must continually fill it with value, lest the audience find its contents stale, assuming they find any contents at all.” (Von Don Nostrum, The Empty Box Theory: Why Marketers are Better Off Doing Nothing than Creating a Space for Nothing, p. 98)

In conclusion, Dr. T.J. Von Don Nostrum’s Empty Box Theory reminds us that good marketing is not a hit-and-run affair. Commitment from your entire team is necessary to fill the box and keep your audience/customers/clients satisfied. Take AdMavericks, for instance. Do you think this blog could really succeed if only one person were writing all the content? HA! Laughable. We preach teamwork in these parts.