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Preview: Make Marketing History

Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2016 12:13:18 +0000


Make Marketing Bolder.

Fri, 20 May 2016 19:50:00 +0000

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The new Clearasil campaign has rightly been getting a lot of praise for its clever tone of voice that parodies awkward corporate attempts to understand the youth market - even though they claim it's a parental voice for reasons that elude me. By doing so, they're able to produce what is quite a straightforward hard sell in the midst of a comedic approach that doesn't patronise.

I was amazed to read that it was difficult to get the client to buy into ta concept that is so obviously right. Perhaps that explains why some of the executions strike me as a little bland and repetitive.

I wish they'd been bolder and I especially wish they hadn't completely omitted the teens' voice. To my mind they missed a chance to empower the potential customer and make them laugh.

In the iteration posted above, I immediately envisaged one of the teens producing a phone from beneath the water and calling ths police or perhaps simply shouting out in a bemused, unthreatened way "Mom. There's a weird man in our hot tub!"

That sort of catch phrase is the thing that memes are made of and might well lead to the unearned media and sharing that everyone wants.

Who knows, it might even set of an instagram meme with people reproducing scenes of "There's a weird man in our hot tub" featuring any variety of family members, TV characters or Superheroes. The permuatations are endless.

Alternatively, the awkward hashtag request could be met by the teens showing flash cards with #lame on them.

Maybe this sort of thing is in the pipeline, but at the moment the YouTube clips have very few views and hardly any comments and that's a shame.

Inattention To Detail.

Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:41:00 +0000

I'm not sure if it's a mistranslation of an ad that originated in another country or simple incompetence, but I've been baffled by a recent Voltarol ad.

The voiceover uses the wrestling term “forearm smash” when illustrating how Voltarol has enhanced the "forehand smash" of the narrator’s wife's tennis game.

Pedantry perhaps, but it’s inexcusable given the amount of people involved in approving such a spot. People supposedly focused on engaging rather than confusing viewers.

Umbrella Marketing Is For Marketing Umbrellas.

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 14:07:00 +0000

A current Olivio advertisement spends the majority of its duration evoking ideas of Italian heritage and artisinal authenticity to be attached to its industrially-produced butter spread with added olive oil.

So far, so unexceptional. But then it’s topped off with the imposition of the Unilever corporate logo that undercuts everything that’s gone before. I’ve written before about this type of boardroom ego-trip, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it actually at odds with the marketing message.

Why do they think the Unilever logo will enhance the customers’ retail choice architecture in any way that their product positioning will not? How many products do they think shoppers can identify as coming from the Unilever stable?

Personally, I’m not sure I could be certain of more than two and I sadly have more interest in the question than the man or woman in the supermarket.

Twenty eight seconds is barely enough time to tell a story let alone enough to indulge in sub-plots. Do their marketers want to tell the Italian story or the Unilever story? They need to choose one.

Make Research Interesting.

Sat, 27 Feb 2016 10:50:00 +0000

Here's an art project from which research companies could learn a lot.

Everything We Touch literally illustrates one of my basic marketing axioms. Don't ask people what they think they do, find out what they actually do.

Every thing that each person has touched in a twenty four hour period is laid out chronologically on the same sheet. You don't see opinions, you see actual data and from that starting-point can construct and interrogate a day's narrative.

In the book, the photo creates a double-page spread that the reader can peruse and guess about before turning over to find a diagrammatic breakdown that identifies every item and a brief profile of and intereview with the person concerned.

The prevalence of Apple products and fresh food rather gives the game away that this is an affluent and creatively-skewed group of people, but there's no reason that the concept couldn't be expanded. Research that attracts and engages. How's that for differentiation?

As an industry colleague commented: "Few researchers do that because they only want to do what they’re going to be paid for rather than what we may find interesting."

Make Marketing User-Centric.

Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:20:00 +0000

Is it just me or does that sound remarkably product-centric when marketing should be user-centric? More evidence that Twitter doesn't actually understand its users?

It's the type of thinking that emphasises screen brightness and other fripperies when users are more interested in battery life.

Make Marketing Less Complicated.

Wed, 30 Dec 2015 22:31:00 +0000

“You want to try everything and you can do anything, but at the same time, there’s no model to work off of. There’s no blueprint for success. We’re trying a lot of things and we’re throwing a lot of stuff at the wall. But you have to in this space. Nobody has the formula. Now as we start to see what’s working and what’s not, we’re really learning what our fans want.”
A statement from a report in 2014 about the NCAA's new social media "strategy" that I found in my draft posts. It didn't become a post back then because there's no mileage in picking holes in such approaches, but today it echoes the type of prevailing marketing sentiment that worries me greatly.

Overcomplication for the sake of it and a bizarre willingness to admit that they don't know what works (while simultaneously bemoaning their lack of credibility in the boardroom) are marketing traits that I loathe.

We exist to connect product and services to customers who want and benefit from them - it's really that simple and I hope in 2016 we all remember that while it's not easy, it doesn't need to be complicated.

Mindless Branding.

Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:57:00 +0000

From yesterday's London evening paper.

Small business agony aunt Jo Malone explains how to pick the right place to sell your products.
Dear Jo
I have just started a handbag brand.
I need to decide whether to sell my handbags on my website or through another retailer’s.
Should I sell it online until the brand has gained recognition before approaching buyers?
This is a great question and one that many new businesses struggle with.

No, it's not a great question. The writer has not created a handbag brand. They have decided to make a range of handbags. Nobody knows about them. There is no brand value, there is no brand equity, there is no brand.

This is what happens when the words used by marketers seep into public consciousness. Nonsense ensues. You don't start anything with a brand. You start with a user need and, one hopes, potential customers who might like your stuff enough to buy it.

Pretending you're a corporation with a marketing department that's busy finding clever-sounding work by which to justify its existence really isn't the way to go.

If Your Marketing Needs An Asterisk Revisited.

Thu, 08 Oct 2015 22:54:00 +0000

The claims looks clear enough, but there's one of those pesky asterisks that always bugs me. Does it reveal a small sample size? No, nothing so mundane. It reveals a new reality where 84 equals 85.

What were they thinking of?

It Ain't What You Do.

Mon, 21 Sep 2015 22:24:00 +0000

Not all products and services are glamourous. Marketing them well says a lot about the quality of the marketers involved. If you can make the unappealing, appealing then you're a good marketer.

Bodily functions and ailments aren't glamourous, but that doesn't mean the marketing has to fall into the trap of withdrawing into the dull or antiseptic.

Don't bore on about how you solve the problem, just demonstrate what hardship you're removing from their life. How you can set them free.

How do you make the unappealing appealing?

By focusing on the indirect effects. By using brief, clear copy and an elegant and witty image. By being bright (in every sense).

Design Misthinking.

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 21:40:00 +0000

It looks like a clever solution. But really the designer has put the walker in a precarious position and made their journey more mind-consuming than the quicker but longer alternative.

The design has been given precedence over the purpose. Like much marketing, it's become a goal unto itself.

Much better to place a complete strip/bridge across the grille. It wouldn't look as obviously clever as the pictured "solution" but that's what makes it really clever.

Observations From The Conference Frontline.

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 07:53:00 +0000

I recently heard the odd claim that people love lots of brands that they don't buy. Predictably, the advertising industry audience nodded and wrote down the wisdom. I'm sorry but that's patent nonsense. It's a truly odd type of love that inspires apathy. No, people largely don't care about (let alone love) brands and the sooner we all acknowledge that the better.

You may think you're "keynoting", I think you're delivering platitudes at a mediocre event.

And, if your marketing communication claim requires an asterisk (be that for regulatory or statistical explanation reasons), it's not really worth making.

Unevenly Distributed Futures.

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:34:00 +0000

Two sentences from a keynote lecture last week.

 "Almost everyone, almost everywhere, carries with them one of the most profound symbols of digital transformation the world has ever seen."

To me, that was alarming enough coming  as it did from a UK government minister who should be more aware of the issues of the digital divide that such an assertion overlooks.

But, within a couple of minutes, he followed with this bizarre clarification of "almost everyone, almost everywhere":

"Today over a quarter of the world’s population own one. It’s both a symbol and a cause of the change we’re living through."

 To be fair, the rest of the speech was good stuff, but while I'm all for progress and futurism, it's also impoetant to stay grounded in reality.

 Otherwise, you get things like this from Cannes where global chief cretaive officer Tham Kei Meng apparently declared that "many of the ads submitted for awards were conservative and should be making more use of innovations such as Oculus Rift".

Because, of course, so many of his clients' customers are walking around with VR headsets and will benefit from such inventive thinking!

Too Clever By Half.

Sun, 31 May 2015 18:48:00 +0000

I've become increasingly annoyed by marketers' desire to overcomplicate everything. A recent case in point occurred after a presentation by an advertising industry veteran to whom I had introduced myself. We were joined by a guy who professed to having a background in neurology and was fascinated by how MRI scans could be utilised to better understand the brain and be used to create better advertising.

Notwithstanding the fact that no decent neuroscientist would make any claim about what an MRI tells us (other than the part of the brain that is active at the time of the scan), I hardly think better advertising should be on the list of things that folllow from any such understanding. To his credit, the veteran made the salient point that the brain and the mind are not the same thing.

Why the aversion to keeping it simple. The first port of call is to place yourself in the customer's position. And that's not so hard because we are all customers - maybe not of the product/service you're selling, but of some thing similar. And let us always remember that customers neither work in agencies nor live the agency lifestyle.

Bottom line - as mentioned in this lovely documentary about two successful lyricists fitting their very different words to the same tune - it's better to be right than clever.

A Good Idea Is Only The Start.

Thu, 23 Apr 2015 23:31:00 +0000

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It's long been known that our ability to read exceeeds the speed at which we usually read. Last year, there was a lot of buzz around a speed-reading app called Spritz and, more recently, Honda sought to link the concept with their mechanical excellence in a series of three videos.
1.165 million views of the first video suggest that a lot of people enjoyed the demonstration of cognition speed and it is undeniably well executed.

But the 346,000 who viewed the follow-up didn't get what they could have got. The new experience is just the old one speeded up and that strikes me as a missed opportunity - both to expand the concept and, more relevantly, to deliver a second message to engaged viewers.
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They might walk away from that impressed that cognition is even faster than they thought, but they might also have considered the possibility that the fact that they knew the message might have an impact on that subsequent cognition. I've no idea if that's a valid consideration, but it certainly crossed my mind.

It seems to me that if a different set of words had been introduced in the second ad, or incorporated into the first so that the two speeds were experienced without the need to click through to a second spot, then the impact would have been greater.

Good ideas are hard to find, but once you do it's worth asking how can we make this even better.

Watch The Appeal.

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:15:00 +0000

While reading a 2009 interview with Marc Newsom,  I was struck by this seemingly innocuous exchange.

Louise Neri: Is the Solaris a unisex watch? 

Marc Newson: Yes, I’ve never really designed for men or women but most of my watches tend to appeal to men because of their scale and weight. Perhaps this is the first of my watches that will appeal as much, if not more, to women.

Maybe it's my obsession with the negative, but it seems to me that what he should have been asking why his previous watches had repelled many women. It's a similar question, but different.

Check Your Insight.

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 23:54:00 +0000

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That's one of the nicer variations on the inattention blindness theme originally demonstrated in the famous invisible gorilla experiment from 1975. Slickly and amusingly done.

Unlike this new Skoda ad.

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The obvious edits are irritating enough, but then what are we left with? Here's a car that holds your attention. That's not even a minimum viable proposition.

I thought we'd all agreed that attention was a given and marketing needed to aim for more than that, but apparently the memo didn't reach everyone.

What's worse is that the experiment shows that people are inattentive. People don't notice things. That's how you should use it in an ad.

You should not use it to suggest that people who are inattentive will pay attention to your car simply because it's parked in the street. There's no explanation as to why they would pay less attention to anything else that was parked there. Worse still, repeated viewings will inevitably focus attention on everything but the car.

The whole point of research is to unearth a new truth, not to underpin a lazy creative idea.

I Don't Get It.

Thu, 05 Feb 2015 22:30:00 +0000

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Sometimes, I just don't understand advertising. I get the idea of creating a character to represent your brand - a bit hackneyed, but I get it.

I see that the bottle has a wild boar on its cap (I'd never noticed that before), so I can see the link to heritage and authenticity. I get it.

But what I don't get is this. Gordon the Boar. What does that conjure up? Gordon the Bore, Gordon the Boor, or Gordon the Boar (aka Pig)? He doesn't even transform into a hip sophisticate (as indicated by the use of lime rather than lemon) upon imbibing the gin.

I just don't get it.

The Beginning And The End Of Narrative.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:14:00 +0000

In school, they teach you that the most important parts of essays are the introduction and the conclusion. They even suggest you compose them after you've completed the rest of the argument so that the whole thing flows. Performers know all about this, but many business people seem to have forgotten it.

The most obvious manifestations for me have been innumerable presentations that start and/or end apologetically. Too often, the start is either a fumbled vote of thanks for a pointless, overblown introduction or that interminable rundown of what's about to be presented. The end amazingly is either the self-effacing "that's all I've got to say" or a re-run of that interminable rundown of what's just been presented.

This in an industry where narrative is so loudly touted. So, time for a couple of performers to remind us how to do it.

From Bill Hicks, here's all you need to know about the opening.

"NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that."

In other words, begin like you know where you're going and take your audience with you. Don't ask them a question, remind them of one they want to answer and then tell them how you can answer it.

And from Chris Rock, here's the way to end.

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That's not the best example of the mic drop (there's one TV special where I'm sure the camera lingers on it on the stage), but you get the message. There's nothing more to say, it's all been said and there will unequivocally not be a diluting and embarrassing encore.

In other words, end on your terms. Get your points across, have the confidence that that's more than sufficient and don't be tempted to tag on some parent company logo or rushed details of some new discount.

And don't think that this has just been about presentations. These errors pervade all forms of communication and marketing.

What's The Question That Hasn't Been Asked?

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 22:04:00 +0000

Three brief quotes from a fabulous interview with Chris Rock that have all sorts of resonances for marketing.

"What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?
I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people."

"A lot of comedians are very, very similar. So I’ve always said, “Okay, what if the thing that everybody’s talking about is wrong?”"

"Forget being a comedian, just act like a reporter. What’s the question that hasn’t been asked?"

As Caitlin Moran rightly tweeted "Comedy is intelligence speeded up." Read the full interview here.

The Longest Five Seconds On The Internet.

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:55:00 +0000

The longest five seconds on the internet are the five seconds you spend watching that tiny corner countdown to the moment when you can skip the pre-roll ad on YouTube and focus on watching what you were looking for in the first place.

So Stella Artois, there's really no sense in serving up a version of your advertising that starts with five seconds of moody silence. 

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Because if you don't grab the passing viewers attention in those first five seconds, they're never going to see second six. It's basic stuff. Tailor your marketing to where it's received and not to the client's boardroom.

Behavioural Marketing.

Thu, 09 Oct 2014 11:39:00 +0000

I always think I'm stating the obvious in my posts. It really shouldn't be hard to avoid marketing mistakes. But the "data" so often suggests otherwise.

The latest example festoons the walls of the escalators at the City Road tube station.  In the pitch, there was no doubt much talk about leveraging social media. In the cold half-light of civic transportation, this means that every few feet there's a barely legible white on pink mini-poster comprising solely of a tweet from a user.  So far, so meaningless.

It's the latest version of the invasion of movie marketing with ever more obscure five star review snippets. Yes, they may be "authentic" and yes they may all be a truthful assessment of the experience but, as with the movie posters,  the reviewer has to have some credibility before anyone pays attention. Do the marketers really think that we'll sudddenly give credence to the opinions of strangers like those we've spent our journey ignoring?

Presumably so, because they also know that their escalator audience is literally mobile and yet have chosen colours that make it hard to read in the real world. Not that anybody who isn't  a marketer is going to read them anyway because real people are either rushing up the stairs, their eyes focussed on the top,  or they're stationary their eyes buried in their device - ironically leveraging their own social media rather than looking at the one they're being expected to admire.

The first rule of behavioural marketing is to market to the behaviours of those whose attention you seek. So, if you're going to be interruptive, you have at least to make an effort to make it worthwhile.
Fish were the fish are is only part of the equation, you also have to fish when they're feeding and make it enticing.

As Bill Bernbach said "If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic." Or part of an overlooked effectiveness award paper.

PS The tweets are for Lumia something - I had to check my notes because I truly couldn't remember.

Parents Know Best?

Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:16:00 +0000

Why focus your marketing on a single brand when you can dilute it with a second? Because it will play well in the board-room where they strangely believe that customers care about brands and will be reassured by your corporate logo. Especially in a communication that emphasises a heritage from which you were absent for 181 years.

When is authentic too authentic?

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 22:26:00 +0000

Budget supermarket chain Lidl decided to crowd-source its advertising via customer tweets.  Not a bad idea, but my photo reveals that not all people are copy editors.

Would correcting the grammar have undermined the authenticity? Does reproducing the error suggest a lack of attention to detail and reflect badly on the brand? It's a judgment call.

Lidl apparently decided it's OK to leave the comment to stand on its own merits. Or did they?


Sun, 31 Aug 2014 18:43:00 +0000

"This sort of inefficiency didn't vanish the moment it was spotted and acted upon. It was like a broken slot machine in the casino that pays off every time. It would keep paying off until someone said something about it; but no one who played the slot machine had any interest in pointing out that it was broken."

From Michael Lewis's excellent Flash Boys, but applicable to so many areas of the marketing ecosystem.

100 Marketing Experts Walk Into A Definition.

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:16:00 +0000

What do you get if you ask one hundred experts to define branding

You get talk of manipulation, myth building and ratios (whatever that means), you get ego-massaging bios that are often longer than the buzzword-laden answers and you get an overwhelming sense of despair at the state of marketing. But, there are exceptions.

James Heaton rightly says that "A brand is whatever your consumers have in their minds about you" while Lee Cockerell's "Branding is simply the reputation of a product, person or organization" and Noah Briar's  "Brand is the sum-total of interactions a person has with a company's products, people, and communications" are similarly on the money.

Interestingly, most of the respondents choose to answer a different question (how unlike marketers) and try to define the word brand rather than branding. They duck the implicit question of whether you can actively brand something in a meaningful way and Joe Rospars gets close to that when he asserts that "At worst, it's the communications equivalent of searing an ironclad message into the hide of your unwilling audience."

As I have often written here, the mark on a cow is simply possessive and skin-deep and is no reflection of its DNA. To think otherwise is delusional and, apparently, quite common.