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Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Last Build Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2018 09:53:00 +0000


What Do Marketers Learn?

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 23:01:00 +0000

Crisis Marketing Isn't Crisis Management.

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 19:52:00 +0000

Everybody (well everybody in the marketing world) got very excited by KFC's apology for running out of chicken at 900 of their stores last month.

Even Mark Ritson wrote about "KFC marketers turning a chicken crisis into a brand triumph". Whatever that is.

I disagree. The one thing that made it stand out was that it employed KFC's brand tone rather than the bland tone legalese that these things usually employ. Though there is quite a lot of that in there if you bother to read it and I bet FCK has been sitting in someone's drawer for as long as French Connection's FCUK had been winning awards.

The real issue is how did it make their customers feel? Has it mended their view of KFC's distribution incompetence? Is sorry enough? Shouldn't they have offered some sort of coupon compensation to disappointed customers?

 My immediate reaction was that they better be absolutely sure they had got to the bottom of their problems before they did this. And what has now happened - well this month they've apparently run out of gravy. Are they going to run another ad to apologise for that?

When Tylenol were hit by extortionists claiming to have poisoned some of their products in 1982, they didn't offer apologies, they acted decisively and removed every one of their products from the shelves of every store in the United States.

That's how you offer customer reassurance. By deeds not words. Because if your product fails, you have a product problem not an advertising one.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 22:46:00 +0000

It happens repeatedly. Twitter competitons and naming polls are hijacked, appeals to praise a brand yield the opposite result and city bike schemes suffer theft and vandalism.

And it's all all totally predictable.

This is not with the benefit of hindsight. This happens simply because marketers and executives rarely ask the obvious question. What could possibly go wrong? No doubt because it's seen as providing problems not solutions or some similarly glib inanity.

But it's not negative thinking, It's damage limitation. There's no cost in terms of product dilution and there's everything to gain in avoiding bad publicity that is genuinely bad.

In other realms, this is caused stress-testing.  So don't ask how fabulous potential customers are going to find your latest initiative. Ask what could possibly go wrong. Because the last thing you need is more stress.

Make Marketing Legible.

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 14:32:00 +0000

Iceland have a claim worth promoting.

Although perceived as a low-end purveyor of frozen goods, they apparently produce the best mince pies in the mass market. So I have no problem with the claim, but in the West we read from left to right and horizontally. Not vertically.

What you see first is a list of their competittors. No comparison, just their names.  I take Selfridges away from this ad as much as I do Iceland.

If you look longer you might eventually discern the Iceland name, but why make it so difficult? They spent a lot of time coming up with the word puzzle, but didn't think to flip the diagram. That would leave the competitors' names written vertically and Iceland highlighted as a horizontal name.

It would be easier to read and you'd have Iceland riding high at the top of the image. Why didn't anyone pick this up? What goes on in creative sign-offs? Given the recent Dove debacles, it's increasingly hard to comprehend.

Infinite Marketing.

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 15:11:00 +0000

You can picture the scene. The creatives have been briefed to promote unlimited streaming but think that unlimited has been over used. So they opt for infinite. Because that's unlimited right?

Putting aside the mathematical issue of whether doing something infinitely has any meaning, it will be interesting to see if any customer complains that this promise should mean that they only ever have to pay for one month of data. Because it can't be used up and there's no ass-covering asterisk.

Jargon is bad enough, but if you're going to use regular words, you really should understand what they mean and what they convey. And the rule of the game is under-promise and over-deliver - not the other way round.

Make Economics Marketable.

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 14:55:00 +0000

Differentiation Is Different From Difference.

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 23:27:00 +0000

Back in 1967, Fab and Zoom were popular ice lollies. Bizarrely, Fab was originlly aimed at girls and Zoom at boys, but both were marketed in conjunction with popular TV show Thunderbirds to exploit the products' shapes and to exude the idea of play.

Fifty years on, a big push has been made to celebrate the anniversary and below you can see one of the outdoor ads that has been created. They're different. I saw one creative director tweet that they were the best outdoor ads he'd seen in years.

To which I'd respond with some pithy questioning of the state of outdoor advertising creativity.

No doubt there will be effectiveness papers claiming these did something for Fab - but that will have to be discounted by consideration of the heatwave and the fact that this was a huge increase in marketing expenditure.

Russell Davies has often written about winning the Honda business by pointing out that every car ad looked the same and being different was the way to create clear blue water between Honda and the rest. But this wasn't difference for the sake of it - it was difference that drew attention to a real differentiation.

You have to conclude that "Where There's Fab, There's Fun" doesn't really challenge Honda's "Isn't It Good When Something Just Works?" and fun certainly isn't illustrated in the ad.  It's an ad which is designed to appeal to a sense of irony rather than a sense of play. An ad that the industry might like, but that customers will ignore.

Make Marketing Stress-Tested.

Fri, 26 May 2017 22:18:00 +0000

Hot on the heels of Boaty McBoatface , Tay and the rest comes the latest marketing fiasco.

Joining the rush to involve their customers in their marketing, Walker's Crisps encouraged them to upload photos to appear online with their brand spokesman. A few complied, but many more uploaded images of serial killers and others who didn't really fit the brand guidelines. And, of course, there were live billboard feeds of the Twitterstream.

It happens again and again. After all this time, it's still amazing how little digital marketers seem to understand about the web.

The answer is simple. You need to stress-test all your marketing. You need to look at it with scepticism and wrack your brains for the worst case scenarios of how it might mis-fire. This doesn't happen for the simple reason that it's viewed as negativity. But unthinking team-players are still unthinking and bad ideas are still bad.

Keep Calm And Monetise.

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:42:00 +0000

Marketing is all about creating a sense of scarcity through functional differentiation or pricing. That gets harder in the world of abundance that characterises free or freemium business models. It gets harder still in the world of phone apps. had a problem. They were an early entrant into the mindfulness space. They were run by seasoned entrepreneurs. They provided their users with daily meditation guides. Daily meditation guides that too many of their users downloaded to their devices and didn't use.

Because signing up to a mindfulness app doesn't make you a practioner. And if you're not an active practitioner you're not much use as a prospect for upgrading to profitable, premium offerings.

Their solution is an elegant product hack. By making the downloads last only 24 hours, they created genuine scarcity. You no longer have a phone full of unused meditation guides, you now have one meditation guide that will disappear if you don't get serious about this mindfulness thing.

If you're not serious about meditation, this might irritate you a little, but that's presumably your default state so no problem there. But, if you're serious or want to be, it is exactly the kind of prompt that might nudge you to make the effort to practice daily. It's not a restriction,  it's an encouragment.

Soon enough, you appreciate that are actually helping you towards your goal. By doing so, they're also helping you towards their goal. Which is one reason why they're already profitable and have multi million dollar revenues.

Marketing is about changing behaviour; changing behaviour is about creating habits; and creating habits is about interaction. And this is a simple reminder that product is the first P of marketing.

Where's The Beef?

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 13:57:00 +0000

Your poster has my attention. You seem to be establishing a hierarchy of beef and suggesting that Scotch Beef sits at its pinnacle.

But you don't tell me why. You don't even give me a hint. You just assume I will be willing to devote some more of my attention to your website.

You lost my attention.

Make Marketing Credible.

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 16:18:00 +0000

This is the work of advertising craft that greeted me on a train a couple of days ago. It immediately felt wrong. Can you see what they've done there?

The first thing that struck me was the cueing action of the woman preparing to strike the white ball. It looks to me as if there's a real possibility that she's not even going to hit it but, even if she does, what shot is she playing? I was baffled. But then I realised that it didn't matter because the game is already over. There are just four red balls on the table and nothing else. And yet her compatriots are ridiculously over-excited by the non-situation. No wonder her cueing action has fallen apart.

By now, I was more engaged with the ad than expected and my attention switched from the art director's craft to that of the copywriter.  Added extras could be accused of superfluity but "More FREE added extras" really is laying it on thick even for Villa Plus. That said,  I note that punctuation is not one of the aforementioned extras.

There are a three sentences on this ad. One of them ends with a full-stop/period, the other two don't. And the one that does, hyphenates air-conditioning but doesn't hyphenate table-tennis (when to do so would arguably improve the blocking of the text) and thinks a comma between the much and much is too much - probably becase they've eschewed the Oxford comma after air-conditioning.

Pedantry? Perhaps. But let's get back to the art director. What's going on with the sun here? Was the logo incorporated into it at the top left or was that just the best place to put the logo and was the sun originally at top right? It's really hard to tell because the various shadows tell contrasting stories. Those around the pergola and those on the pool point to it having been top right. Many of the others look like attempts to make it top left while that one on the pool table suggests the sun is directly overhead.

Oh and while I'm at it, don't those sun-loungers appear to be on a slope while the pool table manages to maintain the horizontal? Maybe all this visual cognitive dissonance is a sneaky device designed to maintain my interest in the vista, but my two minutes were up and all I was left wondering was how on earth this sort of shoddiness got through a creative review at a major business and a substantial agency? Baffling Plus.

The 4 Ws Of Messaging.

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 17:57:00 +0000

The 4Ws of messaging are what you say, where you say it, when you say it and to whom you say it. I invented them in reaction to seeing this poster the other day.

For non-UK readers, the Northern Line is one of the lines of the London tube/subway system and one that has recently been synonymous with torrid travel. So, what is being said is clear enough. Not award-winning, but clear.

Unfortunately, I did not see this poster in London. Rather, it was on the back of a bus stop in a side-street in a commuter town. So, not the optimal where - especially as the side-street was nowhere near the town's station. And that means that commuters who might have a knowledge of the Northern Line were unlikely to see it.

So, not the optimal who either.

None of this is necessarily the fault of the non award-winning copywriter and art director (unless the brief was to create a nationally relevant campaign) even if it does suffer from metropolitan centricism. But it does serve as a reminder that media buyers should focus on the message they're placing as well as the audience in front of whom they're being asked to place it.

Narrative Fallacies.

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 15:45:00 +0000

The new year brings an invitation to a story-telling webinar.

An article about it asserts that "In the past, before tech came and muddled everything, a brand's objective was simple: create engaging stories to capture the public's imagination and endear them to the brand"

No, no, no. Marketing is not about stories. Stories are made up. Stories are contrived. Stories are disbelieved.

No. Great marketing is about uncovering and communicating truths. Not truths that please the CMO or support the Board's delusions aboutthe nature of their customers. But truths that resonate with the lives of real people and make them more inclined to buy your product or service.

And, yes, suggesting that your product or service wil make the user feel like a superhuman is a legitimate story, even if we and they both know that they won't actually become superhuman. Because that's not the truth.

Make Marketing Contextual.

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:48:00 +0000

Perhaps I'm being pedantic, but the first time I saw this bus I found myself completely confused by the bland Jingle and Tonic and my primary identification was with Tanqueray Gin. I don't know if some brand manager insisted on the brand name being the first word, but swapping the 12 Twists of Christmas and the Schweppes logo seems to me to produce a far more comprehensible whole.

You decide to run a campaign on the side of a bus. You know that people read from left to right. You presumably understand that buses are mobile and that people will often have a very limited time to absorb your message. And still you choose to put what is effectively the header that contextualises the message on the far right of the image? The headline at the bottom of the page.

If this were online, people would be all over the user experience of the communication. Offline, it's maybe even more important.

Sharing The Sharing Economy.

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 08:57:00 +0000

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In anticipation of an imminent IPO and with an eye on the myriad regulatory threats to its original business model, Airbnb have announced Trips. Guests will now be offered guided tours by local hosts.

You can argue that these will be personalised, authentic and non-corporate versions of existing tours that might expose the guest to the benefits of truly local knowledge. I wouldn't be surprised if that's how the management rationalised this brand extension. But, as an outsider, it also looks like they think package tours will paradoxically appeal to independent travellers and that's just odd.

I'm not saying they won't be popular. I'm also sure there will be regulatory issues (tour guides in many countries are required to be licensed) but I'm not sure that Airbnb have put themselves in their users' shoes.

Have they asked what could our users do with what we offer or have they asked what can we offer our users? They are very different questions and, I imagine, existing hosts who've already been doing this as an adjunct to their hosting might not be pleased to give up a share of that income. That's not what they understood by the sharing economy, but it is what the platforms mean.

What Marketers Should Know About Filter Bubbles.

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 16:47:00 +0000

Filter bubbles work via confirmation bias. People construct them to reinforce their worldview. It's far from clear that demolishing filter bubbles will lead to people changing their worldview. Biases abide.

That Kodak Momentum.

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 15:43:00 +0000

Kodak has become the poster-child for bad incumbent management. We all know the story. They controlled 90% of the film and camera market in the mid-1970s but were ultimately "disrupted" by eight people working at a start-up called Instagram.

Of course, that's nonsense if only because it overlooks the thousands of people involved in the creation of phone and internet infrastructure without which Instagram has no business and the fact that Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975.

As for disruption, Clay Christensen puts an interesting slant on the received wisdom and points out that Kodak invested $8billion trying to get digital photography right. Yes, there were mis-steps like the focus on cameras, but to criticise Kodak management alone is to forget that the market has to be ready for an innovation.

What job does photgraphy do for the person in the street? It's not an easy question to answer. A repository of memory perhaps? In the days before digital, you took your photos, you had the film developed and you looked at your disappointing results. Once. Maybe twice. And then they resided in a drawer - as they still do today. Not doing their job. Or any job for that matter.

At some point in the past, Kodak got closer to the truth when they started to offer double prints for the price of one. The examination ritual continued to be played out, but the user also had the opportunity to give/mail a print or two to a loved one.

In doing so, he or she was able to tell the recipient that they were thinking of them and this was what they'de been doing even though they didn't have the time or inclination to write them a letter. Analog Facebook was born.

Many years later, new technology allowed the job to be done seamlessly and unthinkingly and Kodak's goose was cooked. The job to be done had been distilled and the identified user need could be addressed. That's the real lesson. And the fact that I used the word unthinkingly makes me wonder if that might mean the seeds of its disruption is already built in to the latest solution. Time will tell.

Really Identifying User Needs.

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 23:15:00 +0000

I recently learned that Evian's target audience is a group labelled "Leaders in Life".  This information emerged from a presentation that was ostensibly an attempt to justify their sponsorship of Wimbledon but, at heart, was yet another bizarre attempt by marketers to suggest that a disparate group of people has a similar outlook.

The idea that people's physical and mental attributes determine their behaviour is a short-cut to oblivion as millennialism has shown. Anyone who thinks that a group of minimally 1.5 billion humans is likely to behave and think the same is seriously deluded.

It's an approach that originates with the marketer and their products and services when what is needed is an approach that is more thoughtful and customer-centric. One that focusses on user need rather than tries to create user wants.

Clay Christensen is best known for his somewhat misunderstood disruption theory of innovation, but  he's also developed a very interesting critique of marketing's demographic segmentation obsession. In it, he convincingly argues that life creates a series of moments in time when you need to hire a product or service to get a specific job done.

Marketers have to identify what that job is; shape their product or service to fulfil that job seamlessly; and communicate that fact so that when the job has to be done, it is their product or service which immediately comes to the customer's mind.

Everything flows from the user need.

Marketing Poll.

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 15:33:00 +0000

I understand the sentiment. The election is important and there will be a flood of dreadful blogposts and promotional articles that draw false lessons from it. But, I couldn't disagree more.

The election is exactly the sort of case study from which we should be drawing marketing lessons because it addresses a huge and engaged audience. Lessons about strategy and tactics, lessons about communication and calls to action, and lessons about infrastructure and earned versus paid media.

Because it's not some silly meme or the latest new shiny thing but a significant decision about which so many people rightly care.

Marketing Communication Matters.

Wed, 02 Nov 2016 23:15:00 +0000

It's 2016 and still you get stuff like this.

Do I click OK to agree with the question or do I click cancel because that's what I wanted to do?

Or do I lose the will to live?

Make Marketing Longer.

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 23:33:00 +0000

Les Binet and Peter Field delivered the latest raft of their advertising effectiveness research yesterday. It was especially interesting because their analysis increasingly covers the digital age and begins to slay some of the myths about changing media behaviour.

Key takeaways included.

Short-termism in marketing is undermining effectiveness - it boosts ROI but not profit growth. This ties in with their existing thesis that brand-building campaigns generate longer terms sales growth where activation campaigns might cause short term sales spikes but spikes that dissipate quickly as they target the low-hanging fruit of customers who are already about to buy.

The optimal split of marketing expenditure should be 60% brand building and 40% short-term activation.  Current activation rates of 47% are clearly sub-optimal, so it's  interesting thtat Unilever CEO has banned quarterly reporting for marketing effectiveness because he rightly sees that the best marketing doesn't operate on a quarterly schedule.

Television is key to successful marketing campaigns and increases a campaign's effectiveness by 40%. This again relates to their original thesis - video is repeatedly shown to be the most effective medium for stimulating an emotional response and it is emotional response that builds brands. As a side-note, it was also suggested that marketers need to be aware of which media are better at brand-building and therefore should not be used in activation mode.

ROMI (return on marketing investment) is a misguided focus. It can be increased simply by reducing budgets, but since promotions reduce margins, overall profitability can fall. As Peter Field said real-time marketing is all too often deal-time marketing and that just reinforces the importance for marketers to be numerate and to know their way round an income statement.

I'm still a little wary that their data-set is derived solely from IPA effectiveness award papers and I'm not clear how closely the validity of those individual papers is scrutinised. But the rigour of the analysis is praiseworthy and its lessons should be acted on by more marketers than currently seems to be the case.

An Apple Video A Day.

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 13:00:00 +0000

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Some people who don't like the new Macbook Pros have highlighted this old video. In it, Steve Jobs talks about the dangerous impact the rise of "sales and marketing" can have on product development.

I'll overlook his use of the dreaded "sales and marketing" conflation and agree he makes a good point, but it's not the one that other people think he's making. He's simply reminding us of the pre-eminence of product in the marketing mix.

Now, his disdain for Sculley and Pepsico is clear and the world is indeed full of idiotic brand extensions and even more spurious claims to innovation, but a new bottle size could be just as much an innovation as a new technical specification if it reflects an acknowledgement of a new customer behaviour or need.

And this is what the complainants are missing. The Macbok Pros may not meet their upgrade criteria, but there's an argument to be made that the changes reflect Apple's view of the wider market and the decreasing importance of the laptop segment as more and more buisness functions are run on increasingly sophisticated iPads and iPhones. After all, Marc Benioff was claiming he ran from his phone back in 2014.

So, this is not necessarily proof that bad marketers are in the ascendancy at Apple. Nor are Xiaomi's falling sales proof of what happens when a business is avowedly opposed to promotion. Steve Jobs knew all of this. To infer he was opposed to marketing is to ignore everthing he did.

The Marmite Effect.

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 22:29:00 +0000

When the Unilever/Tesco spat blew up a couple of weeks ago, my immediate tongue in cheek response was to tweet that it was a clever marketing ploy designed to get a lot of earned media for low involvement products like Marmite.

Fast forward to today and I found myself in an online debate with some smart people after it was revealed that Marmite sales had soared by 61% during the dispute.

To my surprise, the majority were suggesting that this sales spike was all a bonus and would be reflected in the end of year sales total.

My argument is that I doubt one single unit of marmite was sold to a new user and that what we saw was a bunch of existing customers bringing forward an imminent purchase for fear that future shortages or price rises would disadvantage them. Exactly the sort of panic buying that the article claims wasn't happening. Yeah, right.

I'm a fully paid up memeber of the Byron Sharp school of saliency and accept that the publicity would generally be a good thing, but I think Marmite may be an exception. If we're to believe their advertising, this is a product that polarises and so it might be assumed that light users are few and far between. I don't know if this is true. It's just a feeling I have and if I'm right,then the amount of genuinely new sales is going to have been tiny.

Yes sales went up 1.2% during those two days, but that's a short-term spike and the proof of the pudding will be seen in a year's time when we'll see whether annual sales have risen by 1.2%. Or more. Or less. My bet is on the latter.

We rightly attack short-term effects in marketing (especially in effectiveness award papers) but then get super excited about this extraordinarily short term incident. Sometimes, marketers just baffle me.

Plenty Of Fish Where The Fish Are.

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 21:54:00 +0000

This is a snap of the analog equivalent of Subway Crush and that appears in a free paper distributed at railway stations in the UK.

I don't know how many connections are made, but I'd imagine it's not a large number given the randomness of the process and the paucity of recent activity on Subway Crush.

But here it's even less likely to happen because, as the guy who tweeted this points out, she's an avid book-reader being targetted with a message in a publication she clearly ignores. A perfect example of focussing on the broadcast to the exclusion of the recipient.

Now, the people selling ad space in the free paper would identify the woman as typical of their target demographic - something like literate aspirational commuter.  A perfect example of focussing on categorising the consumer rather than understanding the context of the experience.

 Fish where the fish are.

Under(estimating) The Influence.

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 11:20:00 +0000

If there's one thing I distrust more than the reams of unthinking nonsense written about influencer marketing, it's the idea that self-reported attitudinal research has any validity.

I've seen it claimed that the graphic above shows that social media "influencers" have little effect on people. I treat that claim with the same credence that I give to people who claim they're not influenced by advertising.

But, equally,  I wish that the influencer marketing zealots would read a little network theory and accept that virality is dependent on the structure of the network rather than the popularity of the "influencer".  Receptivity trumps volume every time.