Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Redmond, We Have A Problem.

When businesses can make money by removing your latest product from people's computers, you don't really need to look at the groupthink research that tries to convince you that it's a success.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Make Marketing Confident.

Guinness's new advertisement featuring the elegant gentlemen of Brazzaville ties in well with their theme of individuality and is unquestionably interesting and visually arresting. But, oh how they shoe-horn in the product shots towards the end and emphasise that this is indeed an advertisement and not a slice of culture.

Personally, I'd have settled for a single mention at the end of the piece and the assumption that  the viewer was intelligent enough to make the connection. This way, I fear the reaction is much more likely to be along the lines of "What's this got to do with Guinness?"

It's possible that the fact that I watched the accompanying five minute mini-documentary before the ad has swayed my reaction. But while the drink is in that film too, it's very much in the background and not messaged at me in the way that Tom Fishburne skewers in this cartoon  (that I coincidentally received today as result of commenting on his post).

Enjoy the ad and try to watch the mini-documentary. It's truly fascinating and features the assertion by one of the sapeurs that people who dress up cannot be violent. Given the history of both Congo and Ireland, that's something that could be used to make a very interesting follow-up.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Marketing By The Numbers.

This year,  I've been mostly hearing people (usually politicians or religious folk) defending their viewpoints by saying things like "I think most people would agree that".  Business executives aren't immune either.

Anecdata has its place. It can hint at behaviours that are worthy of investigation. After all, who needs focus groups or trend analysts when a gym membership allows you to overhear and "learn" so much.
But that's all they are - random overhearings and observations filtered through heuristic biases and your worldview.

Reckons are useful, but statistical significance is what counts, especially when it's so easy to test and evaluate these days. Yet ,innumeracy remains widespread. That's inexcusable.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Context Trumps Content.

The projection that advertisers will spend an estimated $5.6bn on YouTube in 2013 baffles me.  I'm sure these advertisments run, but I wonder if advertisers are questioning how many people actually watch them.

Yes, they'll focus intensely on the five second countdown box before skipping the ad or, in the absence of that option,  they'll switch to another tab on their screen before  returning to view the desired content after thirty seconds. But actually watching the ad is another thing - how ever subconsciously engaging the first second of it might be.

Google made classified advertising more efficient. Users liked that because that was the content for which they were looking. On YouTube it's not.