Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

100 Marketing Experts Walk Into A Definition.

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.


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Myth Of Data Visualisation.

The real problem with infographics and data visualisation isn't the visualisation, it's the innumeracy of dunces and marketing folk.

Making it easier to see, doesn't mean it's any clearer. If anything, it makes it easier to deceive because we all want to believe that we understand. Even when we don't.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tone Of What?

I'm a great admirer of the recent Lurpak advertising. Perhaps that's why I scrutinise it  more closely than the usual dross. Thus it was that I noticed a jarring mix of language in this poster.

On the one hand you have  the portentous "Venture Forth, on the other the more than mundane "Cooking Liquid".  You can debate whether either is the appropriate tone of voice with which to address the customer, but the dissonance is striking.

For me, the product name is the weak link. Redolent of brake fluid, it's functional naming taken a step too far - all the more so as it's meant to be an innovation. In light of the excellence of the other executions,  I'm probably being over-fussy, but a lot of lip-service is paid to consistency of voice and it's particularly obvious when you see it in print.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Does Marketing By Numbers Mean Reversion To The Bland?

The entertainment industry creates short-lived products that often generate intense customer passions. As such, it's a terrific source of case-studies for marketers. Forget FMCG, this is the world of VFMCG.

Unfortunately,  it intermittantly dabbles with  FMCG practices such as reducing its output to product rather than "art".  Some years ago, this took the form of hiring traditional consumer goods' marketers  who, while they added some much-needed rigour,  neither understood the market nor the output.

It's arguable that this is re-emerging in the movie business. This article from The Atlantic suggests that

Studios were better at making great movies when they were worse at figuring out what we wanted to see.

The problem, of course,  is that marketing by numbers can all too easily focus on the consistency of the product rather than the excellence of the user experience. So, while it's valid to point out that

it turns out there are a lot of people who are fine with fine
it's also clear that a lot of people are not. If they were, they'd be buying more than four tickets a year and the US box-office might not be stagnating. It's a fascinating article for anyone interested in movies, but the parallels with all industries should not be lost on any marketer/differentiator.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Ten April Fool's Day Marketing Pranks.


The one that tries to get you to believe that all networks have the same hierarchical structure and contain special individuals who you can manipulate to lead their sheep-like followers to your product. Like celebrity endorsements but cheaper and without the sex scandals. You can even assign an ego-stroking numerical value to them. Ignores the fact that network structures are varied and varying and that people smell fakery a mile off.


The one that takes the maxim that a picture paints a thousand words and produces PDFs featuring multiple pictures and multiple words that paint themselves into a confusing corner. Data visualization that overlooks the fact that innumeracy is innumeracy even in the presence of pretty pictures,  that graph axes have to be labeled meaningfully and that few people will rememebr which brand produced it.

Big Data

The one that assumes more data must mean more insights and definitive causation. Appeals to marketers who think that the CEO and CFO will swoon at the sight of any number and will be as unaware of concepts like sample bias as they themselves are. More information doesn't mean more representative information. Data is hard. Hard data, doubly so.

Content Strategy

The one that sells omni-channel publishing as the apotheosis of that "markets are conversations" axiom from that book that surprsingly few modern marketers have actually read. This is broadcasting that focuses on the supply side of the equation when it should be looking at demand. Do people really want to read more committee-approved, brand-aligned advertorials or would you be better off worrying about customer discontent?


The one that self-delusional marketers espouse when they forget how they behave when they are customers/consumers/users and choose to overlook the real big data that debunks it. The data that shows that customers are fickle, that light users represent your largest audience and that mental and physical availability should be your focus.


The one that views media-literate customers as mindless drones who believe everything you say. Ignores the fact that it is they, not you, who decide what your brand means to them. Marketing that's not aligned with your corporate behaviour and your product/service performance may generate good prompted-recall figures, but it ultimately convinces no-one.

Growth Hacking

The one that supposedly does away with the need for marketing activity but is actually old-school marketing by anti-marketing geeks who don't realise they're doing marketing. Forgets the inalienable truth that Product has always been the first P of marketing.


The one that confuses immediacy with intimacy. Reactive marketing is nothing new, but the most important real-time is the time when customers want your attention to solve their problems. "Always on" means always being available on the customers' terms, not always interrupting them with your latest creative masterpiece.


The one that takes to extreme levels the feasible idea that some customers are buying your values rather than your product or service. Misunderstanding Mark Earls' purpose-idea  and Simon Sinek's why, it forgets that your true purpose is to meet customer needs with sincere conviction and not to boast about your latest CSR initiative.

Fan Pages

The one that takes the idea of customer relationships too literally and denies that the vast majority of social media behaviour is performative, that likes are about the liker not the likee and that shares and re-tweets don't drive traffic as much as presumed. Overcoming indifference is the name of the game - leave the pursuit of celebrity to the needy and the greedy.

So, that's ten that came to mind on the occasion of the eight anniversary of this blog. There are many more. Like the best pranks, they all contain an element of credibility that draws you in. But don't let that fool you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital Chicken Or More Nuanced Egg?

You will no doubt have seen CapGemini's Digital Transformation study that shows that digitally mature businesses perform better on a number of financial indices. One might question the validity of some of the indicators e.g. market capitalisation, but the importance of integrating digital into the heart of a business is undeniable.

However, I'm not sure they've shown the causality that some are claiming on their behalf. Their hypothesis is that if you go digital, you achieve better results.  I'd offer an alternative hypothesis; that well-run businesses would have seen the promise of digital and embraced it quicker than poorly-run businesses.

Indeed, the study shows that some industries are lagging behind, but whether that's due to bad management or structural and legal issues is debateable. I've sent out some emails and will see what responses are forthcoming.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Hybrid Online Retail = Clicks And Hawker?

Amid all the discussion of the best combination of online and physical presence for retailers, Russian online fashion business Lamoda has an interesting variant that combines them.

Their delivery person stays with the buyer for up to fifteen minutes and effectively brings the in-store dressing room and sales assistant experience to the home. Now that's what I call customer centricity.