Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The First and Last Word On Online Communities.

"An online community is no substitute for real-world interactions. In fact, the most successful online communities are the ones that throw parties, sponsor events, host get-togethers -- help members meet one another face-to-face in the real world."

Not my words but those of Craig Newmark, founder, Craigslist interviewed by Fast Company.

In November 2000.

Now can we all move on.

Change Resistance.

The Nokia 6310 mobile phone has been out of production for years. It has no camera, but it does have a bright screen, well-spaced keys and a long battery life. It works and its price on eBay is close to what it was when it first came to market.

Meanwhile a customer survey reveals that 63% of adults had no interest in 3G services and a further 18% were not very interested and sales have fallen from 20% of handsets to 12% in a quarter.

The moral of the stories: your early adopter may be out of step with your mass market and you should be cautious with your sales predictions.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Passive Branding.

The water cooler moment, that time when people paused to discuss the previous night's entertainment moments that they had shared while apart, is drying up. Mainstream media is far from dead, but it's equally clear that our collective dictated culture is giving way to a more fragmented colloquial culture that takes place online in social networks, discussion fora and blogs. The passivity of the viewer has been transformed into much more active and interactive participation in a variety of locations, both real and virtual. Marketers have to recognise this and change the way they think about their brands.

In the beginning, product choices were limited and unique selling propositions had some meaning. Offerings could be differentiated in a reductionist product market space. Brands assimilated in the consumers’ mind as a result of multiple advertising impressions across a small number of communication channels. Advertising flourished.

But by the late 1980s, branding emerged as an active verb due to an obsession with putting intangible assets like brand equity onto the balance sheet for the purposes of financial engineering. Brand extensions proliferated almost as much as branding consultancies and consumers became saturated with choices and multiple marketing messages. The writing was on the wall (and anywhere else it could be plastered).

Today, it’s almost counter-productive to brand actively because, unless you’re offering something seriously remarkable, you’re probably competing in a crowded field of “ok-ness”. The customer who crucially is now their own aggregator is assailed by noise emanating from every marketing department and probably ignores all of your entreaties. Advertising is imploding.

Marketing is no longer about segmenting customers and offering a differentiated product. It’s a case of segmenting yourself from all the other providers of related offerings and allowing customers to gravitate to you rather than the alternatives. In the world of the product market space, consumers were passive and producers could actively target them. But now the roles are reversed. It’s a buyer’s market, customers are active and it is twenty-first century branding that will have to be passive.

1) Let The Customers Decide

They are the aggregators and will decide what you are offering them and what they believe. Therein lies the branding myth – it is not faux emotional associations that customers want. It is whatever they think a product actually delivers that generates real emotional attachments. Customers sense implicitly that their needs are not unique and know that there is a category devoted to meeting those needs. There may however be a new, more optimal way to meet them, (as defined by the customer) and it is your job to provide that.

2) You're Not Them

This is your positioning statement. Some people may like you for the depth of your expertise, some for the simplicity of your solution, some for your value for money, some for your humour. For differing reasons, they feel they’re getting a good deal from you and will keep returning until you betray that trust. So don’t push a single source of attribute differentiation. All you can say is we’re in the same business as these other guys, but we're not them.

3) Stay Positive

When you say you’re not them, you implicitly ask the customer to question the competition’s expensively-made claims. But don’t explicitly attack them. Negative advertising is despised and useless because you won’t be able to convince the consumer that they don’t like what they’re using. While genuine dissatisfaction with the competition may become your most powerful marketing aid, you want customers to gravitate to you because they decide you are the best at meeting their needs.

4) Be Open, Honest and Authentic

Being passive doesn’t involve false modesty. Enable customers to get to know everything they want. Utilise new media and imagination to go where the potential customers are. Interact with them and become part of their colloquial culture. Don’t try to sell them stuff and certainly don’t try to sell them stuff that isn’t what they want. Become your category’s equivalent of the trusted family butcher or local mechanic - somebody with a unique area of expertise coupled with trustworthiness. Seed your crowd. Brand passively.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Just What They Deserve.

At eight o'clock this morning, the sweatiest restaurant in Chatham was full. Diners masticated upon reconstituted offalburgers and indeterminate items fried for several hours by a local youth.

Greasy Sid, the owner, grunted disdainfully at my comment that I'd been there for fifteen minutes with no acknowledgement. "Can't you see I'm busy?" he complained.

Imagining a stream of ever-fattening bodies invading this establishment every day made me shudder. Then I looked over the place and realised that for more than a decade, Sid has refused to compromise his standards. Or repaint the walls. There are dozens of coronaries that would disappear if only he wasn't catering to the lunch crowd as well, but that doesn't worry Sid.

Letting your customers set your standards is a game he epitomises and together they've won the race to the bottom. But he doesn't care because at heart he's a Keynsian and as he explains "in the long run, me and most of my customers will be dead."

With apologies to Seth.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The $200 Billion Illusion.

Five years ago, it was not some Luddite tendency that caused me to snort derisively at the news of the AOL Time Warner merger. Notwithstanding my natural cynicism regarding M & A departments and the multiplier effect of the synergy justification, I was mainly appalled by the "gullibility" of the Time Warner board.

There are many things wrong with the entertainment business but, having worked in it, I thought that it did at least give you an intimate exposure to the vagaries of customer behaviour and that a key realisation is that a collection of eyeballs is collected in one place for a specific reason. In this case, that reason was emphatically not a desire to buy entertainment products.

Generally speaking, if you give a waiter your attention, it is not so that you can hear him pitch his screenplay.

ADDENDUM: This shows exactly why You Tube simultaneously is and isn't worth $100 million.


Is it me or has the proportion of garbage spouted by previously interesting A list bloggers suddenly rocketed in the past two weeks?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Being A Better Blogger.

In spite of my natural hubris, I have sometimes questioned whether I've got the hang of this blogging thing. But I should never have doubted myself. The secret is apparently to send your audience away. I'm a natural!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Many amphibians have the ability to shed their tails. In light of the Wall Street Journal's review of Chris Andersen's Long Tail, I'm not sure if many Web 2.0 businesses might wish they could do the same. It seems to blow a hole in his 98% argument which specified that 98% of inventories record at least one sale a quarter.

"Ecast told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays."

So, as inventory increases and storage/bandwidth expenses rise accordingly, the proportion of useless content seems to be rising far faster.

Now profitable Amazon are smart enough to avoid carrying costs for their huge virtual inventory and arguably minimise totally worthless content because that is filtered out by the rejection letters of publishers and record companies. Web 2.0 companies are not so fortunate and will discover that the long tail is very long indeed. All the more so if you have no such quality control filters as is the case with YouTube.

That doesn't mean they can't be profitable, but it does highlight the need to connect your customers to the content tail. The marketing-free world is a geek pipedream.

World Cup Hangover.

London's West End theatre district is suffering. Seats are readily available. Is this because of the shows on offer (I doubt it), or the heatwave, ticket prices and the heritage restrictions that prevent the addition of air conditioning to many theatres? Well, these are acknowledged, but astonishingly the World Cup is also cited as an excuse for poor performance.

Many of the feared economic impacts of the tournament that I wrote about before didn't actually come to pass. Indeed there were reports of buoyant retail sales amongst vendors of beer, plasma TVs, food, snacks and sports clothing. Some businesses did suffer temporarily, but I find it hard to imagine this recreational spending boom permanently supplanted too many purchases.

To suggest that this has removed £2 billion from the economy seems to misunderstand the circulatory nature of retail expenditure, while to equate the replica football shirt buyer with the potential theatre-goer is perhaps a little disingenuous. In any case, that was then, this is now. If things aren't going well, look inward and think about what it is you're offering that the potential consumer is rejecting. Don't make excuses, make changes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Movie Marketing 2.0.

Mark Cuban owns a cinema chain. He offers a job to anyone who comes up with a workable innovation in movie marketing. The blogpost receives hundreds of ideas of varying quality.

Universal Pictures make a lot of movies. They spend thirty minutes discussing a new movie with a movie blogger. The word spreads like wildfire.

Leon Redgate bought his local run-down cinema. He runs it with volunteers as "a place that brings the town together." The venture makes money.

Three separate conversations in the same marketplace. All very different but united by passionate users, community spirit and a willingness to deviate from the norm. They could be on to something.

The Whole Truth.

Having established that consumers are neither rocket scientists nor fools, it is important for marketers not to believe the digital hype. The ability to find information does not equate with the willingness to find that information or the ability to process it. In whatever country we are, we all know the complaints about our educational systems. Many consumers haven't changed that much.

Thus, the detox market has exploded from nowhere to be worth millions in recent years. People have convinced themselves they are overloading their bodies with toxins and will suffer deprivation and ignominy to make themselves feel in the full flush of health even though, if they are fortunate enough to have a fully functioning renal system, they are automatically filtering over 300 pints of water each and every day at no cost in time, foregone pleasure or money.

The detox industry is meeting a customer need that's arguably already being met, but in the mind of many consumers it is not and that's what counts. It is the marketer's role to tell the consumer an informative and educational story but, as long as it is truthful, there is no moral responsibility for how it is assimilated.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Problem With Podcasts And Videoblogs?

Robert Scoble's enthusiasm for podcasts and videoblogs can't be questioned and it is that sort of enthusiasm which ultimately feeds creativity. The ideas batted around in recent posts are interesting, but as a marketer and someone who's been involved in many content-provision industries, I really do struggle with some of the assumptions.

He says "The needs of an iPod user are DIFFERENT than the needs of someone sitting on their Barcalounger watching a TV screen. Don’t ya think?" Well I'm not instantly convinced. They're the same inherent needs of the same person albeit in different locations and mental states. The person hasn't changed dramatically by dint of wearing their iPod. This is a mistake that too many tech companies make - the user isn't looking at the situation through your geeky eye, but through the eyes of a viewer/reader. The question is can you meet those needs in a superior way via podcast or videoblog? On that question the jury's out.

Would you watch a recipe videoblog in the supermarket? Isn't that only relevant when you're making the dish yourself or when you're browsing for dinner party ideas? Surely in the supermarket you only need the list of ingredients - a static and visually uninteresting list of ingredients. Moreover, if you were a geek or indeed just a time-poor consumer you'd be increasingly likely to have that list delivered to your home courtesy of your supermarket's online ordering service, thereby negating your need to be in the supermarket with your portable geek device at all. The question of whether the customer need is for mobility or portability is key.

It's always informative to look for parallels in history and, rightly or wrongly, I think back to the Walkman revolution which also dramatically changed listening habits. Did sales of non-music items other than audio books and language lessons really rocket back then? I'm not sure they did and I certainly remember some failed audio magazine ventures.

Another lesson of the Walkman is that it met a need for mobile audio - predominantly relatively passive entertainment. Is the iPod user any different? The video element is an added dimension but it's very much an active one. The user makes a greater investment in their participation. I watched an interesting chat between two high-level bloggers Joi Ito and Loic Lemeur but, in hindsight, think their informative ideas could have been summarised in notes which would have taken me five minutes rather than fifty to digest. Am I typical or are there enough people out there who will subscribe to a podcast or videoblog on a regular basis to ensure cashflow or stimulate sufficient advertising income?

Regardless of the answer to that question, I'm also puzzled why geeks are seemingly so obsessed about selling non-geek products to geeks - sure they're the people you know but that's surely taking the social network thing too far? There's an element of the scout cookie drive to that (i.e. selling to friends) which concerns me. How many times does it have to be said? The majority of bloggers aren't geeks, nor are the majority of iPod, PDA and internet users. The distribution methods may be geeky, your content customers probably won't be.

Now I never wish to dissuade optimism. But the basic point that is applicable across all markets is that it's crucial to look at any offering from the perspective of reasons why the consumer wouldn't be interested, because if they don't think the way you expect them to think, your business model will be very, very shaky.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pescian Logic.

I'm sure the collective noun must be a redundancy of business gurus. There's just so many of them. I prefer to look elsewhere for my inspirations as I explained on a recent comment to Kathy Sierra's much commented upon piece about the importance of space. I wrote how it was important to

"Comply with the code of the ultimate guru on these matters.

I speak, of course, of Joe Pesci as featured on the soundtrack of My Cousin Vinnie. During the seminal track “Take Your Love And Shove It“, he harangues the backing band to "roll" rather than "tinkle".

Rolling music has a inner dynamic that allows for spaces. Tinkling music has no self-confidence and tries to fill every available space - think jazz-funk, the worst aspects of modern r n b and the noodling bed-wetting bands to whom I have referred before. Pescian logic has implications for every aspect of life."

I was serious.

Two Way Street.

Seth Godin used his stop light post to highlight the need for systems to be organised. In doing so, he reminded me of an article that argues that the elimination of traffic-calming devices leads to safer streets.

There's no contradiction here. The fewer restrictions you place on your customers, the more co-operative and collaborative realtionship you will foster. That's one of the great lessons of the blogosphere conversation - regulation is not needed to get people to co-operate, they can do that automatically. Limits are needed because an entirely unregulated system will disintegrate in the face of self-interested behaviour.

Marks and Spencer used to allow free "no questions asked" returns of all their goods. This greatly enhanced their reputation with their customers. It lasted for decades until shoplifters worked out that they could effectively fence their haul back to the stores at full face value and elements of the general public started to use the returns system as an informal free dress hire agency.

The golden rule is to make everything easy for your customers, but you do have the right to choose who those customers are. I wrote yesterday that potential customers should not be be treated as fools. But you should also be aware that some of them will take you for a fool if you let them.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Talk Me Through It

When it goes public next year, £13 million will accrue to the founder of TMTI. It started four years ago as a call centre providing expert product guidance to consumers befuddled by the manufacturers' jargon that goes with the overly complex products that I have referred to before.

It now also works with retailers and manufacturers to ensure that these problems don't emerge in the first place by helping to make products consumer-friendly. As founder Crispin Thomas puts it "It's just that people are not rocket scientists." That is something that marketers should never forget. And no, it doesn't mean they should be seen as easy to fool.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hitsville USA.

The Neue Galerie is a wonderful small museum (albeit with slightly eccentric opening times) opposite the much better known Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

It houses a collection of twentieth century German and Austrian art that includes wonderful furniture, exquisite silverware and some stunning paintings by Klimt, Klee and Schiele amongst others. It was a hidden treasure. I've never seen more than a handful of people there, yet now this townhouse museum with a capcity of 350 is overwhelemd by 1500 visitors.

The reason - a hit. Owner Ronald Lauder paid $135 million for Klimt's iconic portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and suddenly everybody wants to be there to see the poster in real life.

It doesn't seem the long tail applies here. The wisdom of crowds dictates that this glitzy image is the one to see rather than the pieces that were there all along. Just as the Louvre is the home of the Mona Lisa, the Neue galerie has become the home of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

For me, this is going to be the key issue for all long tail businesses - how do you ensure that the consumer discovers that unpopular item that exactly meets their needs? At this stage, my thinking is that you still need the hits to subsidise the promotion of the tail but even then there has to be a changed mindset to ensure that the tail is marketed.

It galls me that it seems that whenever I attend an exhibition - be it the Max Ernst show at the Met, Basquiat in Brooklyn or Frida Kahlo and the Michalanegelo drawing exhibitons here in London - that I can never find the image that I loved reproduced in postcard form.

OK my taste may not be that of the masses, but then maybe the people to whom I might send a postcard (and in doing so promote the less well-known "product-lines" ) might have smiliarly atypical or long tail tastes. In a time when amongst others allows for the "vanity" printing of books on demand, it could surely be viable for galleries and museums to utilise digital technologies to maximise the ways their customers market every aspect of the collections on their behalf.

I can tell you that I think the Nigerian barber shop signs hidden away on a British Musuem are fantastic, but I doubt you'll pay much attention. But if you get a postcard from me, you'll be able to see that I'm right.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Clicks And Mortar.

The great benefit of online retailing is that you order at your convenience and the product is delivered to your door (except when you're not in of course). Right?

So what's going on at consumer electronics retailer Circuit City where 62% of their online business is collected by the customer from their local store. Not only does that save on delivery cost, it also means that their customers are back in their aisles, so it's no wonder that the service (started in 1999 when the end of bricks and mortar was predicted) is spreading to retailers in other sectors.

Their Express In-Store Pickup guarantees you a $24 gift voucher if you don't get your item within 24 minutes and they rarely hand out any vouchers, but I hardly imagine that's the reason. It's just a reminder that convenience, like every other service attribute is defined by your customer and not by you.

Marketing By OSMOSIS

There's a lot of talk and rehashing of concepts of social currency around the blogosphere lately. Theorising about ooze, particles and waves. I think the heat is getting to everyone. It's simply about insinuating your product/service into the consciousness of potential consumers who are open to having their life enriched by whatever it is you are providing.

Social currency can incorporate social awareness, can enhance social interaction, can insinuate you into consumers' social milieu. There are many ways to do it and many ways not to do it as I hope I've pointed out in my blogging so far, but let's not get too carried away with theory. It's just marketing by osmosis because

Operating Socially Makes Our Stuff Interesting Stuff.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Physical Graffiti.

While the phrase consumer-generated content tends to bring to mind blogging, podcasts and YouTube mash-ups, there is also a groundswell amongst marketers trying to co-opt their customers' creativity. The goal is to engage them in a more intimate two-way interaction which unites them with the brand. For a mass brand, it seems that the problem will always be that they're only connecting with the most avid devotees and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's a lot of effort focussed on that small group of influencers.

In Germany, Adidas cleverly improved the methodology. They engaged the rabid consumers through an "invitation" to add graffiti to their posters (via a da Vinci quotation) but also transmitted a message to the passive consumer by incorporating that graffiti into new iterations of the poster that appeared within a matter of days. The whole process is illustrated in a slide show here.

There is a pretension to true interactivity with the few most active (or, perhaps,most destructive) people and while it's still literally wallpaper, its constant swift mutation is bound to be more engaging. One can argue about issues around encouraging graffiti and the blatant use of a tag that links to a shoe store (to be fair, I dont know if that was Adidas's idea or a smart entrpreneur co-opting their co-option). But, in contrast with those campaigns that impose their corporate graffiti on a neighbourhood and earn the wrath of the cynical consumer as exemplified by Sony PSP here, Adicolour was definitely part of the word on the street.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bursting The Videoblog Balloon.

I'm not sure if it was her intention, but the wonderful Gia who was a professional TV presenter for nearly two centuries (or something like that) totally debunks videoblogging here.

This is exactly why the top 100 YouTube clips garner collectively only 2 million of a total of 70 million viewings according to this analysis and why it takes old fashioned marketing ideas to ensure that the cream really does rise to the top and from there, no doubt, to mainstream media jobs.

We Give Good Meeting.

I read this mind-boggling comment on Scoble's post about Second Life.

"I didn’t get Second Life either…but now an organization that I’m a part of is holding meetings in there. SL allows them to include and reach out to people who aren’t able to attend these frequent meetings physically. Yes, you could have a phone or web conference but SL provides a richer experience."

I couldn't help wondering how their employment codes would deal with the type of richer experience detailed in this Sunday Times piece about it, where one resident enthuses that “Already, on my short travels there, I’ve.. . had several types of sex that I wouldn’t THINK of doing in real life”

I'm all for richer experiences, but I think the prime aim for meetings should be to make them much shorter experiences.

P.S. I wish people (usually people without much business sense) would stop using the phrase business model to ascribe some sort of economic wisdom to a situation. Other people may be trying to overlay their own theories on where virtual interaction might lead, but that has nothing to do with Second Life's business model. That is predicated upon getting people to participate in their virtual world and that's it!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Scrambled Thinking.

CBS intend to advertise their fall schedule via pun-riddled laser imprint on 35 million eggs.

“It’s unlike any other ad medium in the world, because you are looking at the medium while you are using it,” says Bradley Parker of Eggfusion. So that's totally different from televison and print then.

CBS's marketing director ends the piece on this eggsasperating yolk by saying “I think it’s like you know good ideas when you see them." He clearly doesn't read marketing blogs or remember how quickly eggshells end up in the trash.

Coming First.

A-listers have louder online voices. That's a no-brainer. As are some A-listers. But what about the commenters? If you are first to comment on an A-lister's blog, does that give you louder voice?

My facetious umbrage at being recently beaten to the comment punch on this blogpost led me to whimsically wonder whether fast blog commenting is a marketing skill we all need to cultivate. The vision included aggressive bloggers with an umbilical relationship with comment-monitoring software, RSS aggregators and no real world life.

Chris Yeh one-upped me again by positing the idea of using "automated comment generators that parse the RSS feeds of the A-Listers and then push out pre-generated comments on specific topics."

I have seen the future! Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Shabby Chic?

Last year, at the British Museum, I had the privilege of holding a remarkable artifact in my bare hand. It was an African hand axe fashioned from a flint-like stone. While I wouldn't have recognised it as an axe, it was clear once it was in my palm that its design was beautifully functional and there was only one way to hold it. It was like shaking hands with the man who had made and used it somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million years ago.

This came to mind when, in the midst of innumerable comments in reaction to Kathy's Sierra's, ode to Swiss banknotes, I read the following from "cheep'.

"Most of the economics work I've done suggests it's utilitarianism in the U.S. For the majority of things people consume, advanced design is a heuristic for poor value..... for most consumables and mid to low cost items, products are purposely designed in a dumbed down fashion to cue the buyer that it is cheaper."

It's clear that there's a lot of truth in this both on the basis of the appearance of supermarket shelves and also from the division engendered by the design of Apple products - users are impassioned disciples while the dissidents are convinced that they are too expensive (even if objective assessors argue that you actually get more for your buck). But if it's true that producers are keying in on national puritansim, then they are definitely missing a trick because imbuing a product with true desirability via exceptional design is surely cheaper than attempting to brand it as such.

Moreover, good design doesn't necessitate fripperies or an expensive appearance that might raise doubts about value for money, but rather like the hand axe it can generate a deep connection and in some relative sense make the most prosaic product an object of desire.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Do I Have Famous Friends?

Three months ago we were swapping emails. Today her first release is the number one record and download. But do I feel connected to Lily Allen? No not really - we spoke via MySpace that's all and today Lily, quite understandably, barely has time to write her blog let alone chat to all her "friends".

By extreme coincidence, the song is produced by Mark Ronson who I met when he was ten years old (and I was much older and working with his father). We haven't met since.

So, I don't know Lily or Mark or indeed Kevin Bacon, even though I'm connected to him by one degree of separation (by dint of my friend's lovely sister having married him), but they are all part of this allegedly miraculous thing called my social network! No, sadly, they're not.

Lily Allen's music is terrific, fresh and lyrically edgy and deservedly successful but I didn't come across it by scouring through mySpace. No - I am a recipient of a scabrous industry gossip sheet which dropped her name a few months back and for some reason I was attracted to this classic piece of crowd-seeding.

Similarly, Sandi Thom a previous number 1 artist who allegedly got a record deal on the back of webcasts from her flat that started with an audience of 643 on February 24 and rose to one of 86,325 by March 4. This figure was not achieved simply by social networking word of mouth - her mother has run her own marketing company for twelve years, her management had fired off a million e-mails advertising it and a streaming company was persuaded to donate the necessary bandwidth for thousands to view it.

Cream doesn't just rise to the top via social network legerdemain, it has to be pushed. It's still all about sneezers and influencers and there's nothing illegal or immoral about this, it's just not a new paradigm. Moreover, as well as being largely ineffective "networking" for the unimaginative and lazy, I do wonder if the hype devalues the real talent that the cream possess. For how long will The Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen be known as MySpace acts rather than talented performers?

That would be unfair since MySpace was really just a free website for them. As Mark Cuban puts it in more technical terms in his recent declaration that the internet is boring.

"if GeoCities had the foresite (sic) to add the MySpace concept of friends instead of rings and host people’s media files, would we call it a revolutionary social network ? Or just a webpage and file hosting service? Which is exactly what MySpace and other social networks are."

Worse still, it's got to the point where you MUST have one and that always strikes me as an indicator of an effectiveness tipping point. A DJ friend has been advised by his management that he must have a MySpace profile despite his many years in the business. Why? Because everyone has one and because they've belatedly read about this phenomenon.

The result will be another node on the social networks of some of the world's most influential club DJs with whom he's played, but then what? Will the world beat a path to his door and his schedule of international performances mushroom? No, and similarly, I'm not counting the days till Kevin and I have dinner, while being serenaded by Lily, before Mark drops some beats at the after-party.

Friday, July 14, 2006

First Impressions.

It's well known that if attending a job interview, you should be very careful to make the correct impression on the receptionist and every one else you meet since they may will provide input into whether you will be hired. It will pay to be as professional in your dealings with the receptionist as with the chief executive.

But do you think of reversing that mindset? Aimia Foods certainly does. If you attend their headquarters in Wigan (even as a salesperson), your car is valeted while you're in your meeting. Now how many positive conversations does that generate?

Marketing is not just about impressing your customers, it's about connecting with everyone within your industry too. Do all visitors to your premises have a memorable experience?

Conventional Marketers.

Here's further evidence of differing perceptions among seemingly like-minded people. It was only when I clicked what turned out to be a link to his book, that I realised that the point of the gag of Seth's marketers' convention was that they all had liars' noses.

And there was I thinking that they were obviously marketers because they had no sense of individuality, felt conventions were worth attending and clearly weren't talking to each other.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The New Segmentation.

English Cut have thrown down their immaculately tailored gauntlet in reaction to Giorgio Armani's cliched attack on Savile Row. It's good stuff, but I was prompted to ask Hugh MacLeod about his reference to Savile Row's answer when it was surely that of English Cut which, in my eyes, is a very different beast. He demured, as is his way, and told me that English Cut was "VERY MUCH Savile Row but with a different business model."

As an outsider, I see English Cut slightly differently. I see it as the combination of Thomas's Savile Row skills, his creative sensibilities and his personality, all of which are allowed to flourish as a result of his choice of working methods. In turn, these are promoted to new customers in an innovative way that has broken down barriers to entry that ironically were faced by the customers, rather than the seller, when they were confronted by Savile Row or, at least, their (and perhaps Giorgio's) perception of it. In other words, English Cut is Savile Row with attitude. Or maybe that should be without the Savile Row attitude?

It epitomises my belief that increasingly your business can simultaneously be different things to different people depending upon their perception of you. This is emphatically not a contrived, pushed perception, but rather the result of the highly-informed customers' different outlooks on the world.

You're not segmenting customers and offering a differentiated product any more, you're segmenting yourself from all the other providers of related offerings and accordingly customers gravitate to you rather than the alternatives. I would argue that some of English Cut's longer-term customers have a more traditional Savile Row view of their tailor, whereas the newer customers are buying into something else. But they are all receiving the same remarkable suits and legendary service.

With the possible exception of ethical issues, business models are only important internally. Customers don't see a business model, they see a product/service offering - one that is facilitated by the business model you choose to employ. In reality, you're implicitly choosing your customers as much as they're choosing you and this is the precursor to what Seth Godin rightly highlights as focussing on happy constituents.

You pick your customers or rather you make them pick you, and that pretty much ensures they will be happy because you haven't been silly enough to make false promises, have you?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

When Legends Fade.

I recently wrote about the need to make your marketing story legendary. Implicit in that post was the need to constantly reinvigorate the legend as the recent story of the Leonard Cheshire Homes illustrates.

Leonard Cheshire was a war veteran, Victoria Cross recipient and then nurse who founded a charity that runs homes for the disabled around the world. As a child, I was aware of his story and his work. But it is argued today that it has no resonance with younger generations and there has been much press coverage of the intention to change the charity's name to something like eQual UK, Equalability UK or A-BL UK.

Will these names have any resonance with the younger generation and, if so, for how long? How much alienation (or publicity) will be caused by the apparent jettisoning of the true legend? Is it possible to reinvigorate a truly amazing story so that it appeals to all generations going forward?

It's a tough call to make but, whatever decison is reached, the lesson is clear. They must decide what legend they're propagating and live it every day because their failure to do that in the past is the reason they're facing this dilemma.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Neither Geek Nor Technophobe (aka The Majority).

Attention all blogging-related companies. You probably think you're really good at enabling worldwide communication and are pretty pleased with yourselves because there are 47 million blogs out there and everyone's talking about the blogosphere. Well listen up! Until someone shows me otherwise, I'm saying you all suck. Your communication with potential users is staggeringly bad and you better wise up fast or someone will take this business.

My post requesting technical help and guidance has generated many responses (for which I'm very grateful), but it has also highlighted that the industry is stuck in geekworld. I'm sorry, but your new customers aren't geeks.

Is it beyond your intelligence to write your "help" pages so that they explain step by step how I can transfer the html code to my blog, or show an illustration of how your feature would appear on my blog rather than just telling me they're a whizzo good thing, or clarify the technical terms that are meaningless to the vast majority of people. It's not a big fix. Just a few lines here and there that reach out to the non-geek majority would make such a difference.

Indeed, I note (thanks Ann Michael) that Six Apart are recognising that fact by developing what seems to be an idiot-proof blogging platform. But until that arrives, I don't think it's too much to ask for some consideration for the mass of us who lie somewhere between geekdom and technophobia.

I may not know all the intricacies of blog technology even though I've been using computers for twenty years but I do know a little bit about business. I'm not dumb, but today you did a really good job of making me feel dumb and I know that making your potential users feel dumb is really not good for business.

Prompting Passion?

I've always been puzzled by the concept of prompted recall that is so beloved of advertising agencies. To show the effectiveness of campaigns, they survey the awareness of the product/service or bizarrely, on some occasions, the advertising itself. In order to get a better number, they repeat the questions after prompting the poor forgetful consumer with various brand names.

Awareness of what you offer is obviously essential to generate interest in what you're selling, but prompted awareness hardly implies a passionate consumer so what's the point?

Monday, July 10, 2006

I Have Seen The Future Of Television.

I give you a marketing visionary. He "believed TV viewers would not tolerate commercials and was convinced that sooner or later commercial television would collapse" and be replaced by subscription services.

His name was Commander Eugene F. McDonald Jr and he said this over 55 years ago! More than that, he marketed his Zenith Space Command wireless remote control on the basis that you could eradicate the sound of those "annnoying commercials."

What a guy!

There's A Time And A Place.

"Cast where the fish are" is great marketing advice, but too often chief executives forget that you also have to cast with the correct bait for hungry fish. This is most evident when it comes to the P of place. Optimising this marketing element is about making it easy for your customers to access your product/service, it is not about casting your net wide.

Many years ago, I was involved with a project in the US which looked at widening video rental distribution and the relative inconvenience of having to make two visits to a rental store to rent and then return a video. The solution was - and still is - to integrate this double drop into the existing life patterns of consumers, i.e take the rental outlet to locations where the customer is likely to be twice in any 24 hour period. Sadly, back then, the prospective automated rental machines (that might have been placed in office lobbies or commuter railway staions) turned out not to exist beyond the drawing board and so the lesser option of rental outlets within supermarkets was trialled.

But, throughout the exercise, the focus was on facilitating the errand aspect of the process and finding the "places" where that fit with the customers' existing behaviour. It's not rocket science. Yet, today I read of a deal by which a major bank will install ATMs in phone booths (in an attempt to save the ailing phone booth network and maximise distribution of ATMs). It reminds me of the piece of dotcom lunacy that led a photobooth company to rebrand itself by offering internet access in their locations. The inevitable failure was an expensive one because people didn't know what the internet was and were certainly not thinking of it while outside their homes or offices.

It seems equally unlikely that people who have lost the habit of using phonebooths will search them out to access their bank account and how long I wonder will it be until the first phone box is removed by thieves with a mechanical digger (as has been the case with hole in the wall ATMs for many years)?

We are each a composite of many different consumers with different mindsets and worldviews dependent upon the time of day and what we're doing. Marketers need simultaneously to tap into that mental "place" in our mind/day and our physical "place." It's the only way they'll get their rod to bend.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Don't Sell. Tell.

Seth Godin's experience in the farmers market led him to conclude that "I'm pretty sure we need more good salespeople, not less."

My argument is that he didn't encounter a salesperson - he encountered a true marketer. More specifically, a customer-facing marketer who had been given permission to educate and excite about eggplants by dint of potential customers showing interest in his other produce.

I think the term salesperson has become too perjorative - imbued, as it must be, with the push ethos. Salespeople attempt to sell TO anyone who'll listen, whereas customer-facing marketers inform and impassion people so that they buy FROM them.

They are sometimes building upon the foundations of other marketing efforts, but sometimes, as in the farmers market case, they are building only on the existence of a demand for organic produce. They speak from passion, they don't use tricks. They don't sell. They tell.

100 Days Of Blogitude.

Given that there are allegedly 45 million blogs, shouldn't there be better guidance out there?

I know it seems like longer (and you wish it were shorter) but this is the hundredth day of my blathering. Lacking Guy Kawasaki's email address book, I reach the centenary not in the technorati top 100, feel suitably chastened and am not going to pronounce to the blogosphere on the moment of this moment.

Seriously, though, I reach this point increasingly aware of my own ignorance and the lack of simple "how to blog" resources. Are people reading? How do I monitor this? What is wrong with the technical aspects of the blog? How do I improve this? So tell me what's wrong and what are the simple fixes? Be brutal, be helpful and maybe I'll get enough insight to turn into a Squidoo lens that will help others out there.

After all, it's the words and pictures that count and if blogging truly is to be egalitarian, the geek requirement should be minimised.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Emotional Rescue.

I've spent a lot of time recently discussing a terrific, if unnerving, piece of film-making entitled Hard Candy. Apart from the outstanding performances (Ellen Page is going to be a huge star) and inventive camera-work, it is notable for the fact that we have amassed many different interpretations of what is essentially a thriller. In common with all the best movies, the script hints but doesn't lead you by the hand on minor plot-points like motivation and denouement.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it's prompted by Hugh's very interesting post in which he asserts that "If people like buying your product, it's because its story helps fill in the narrative gaps in their own lives."

It's a potent thought that reminded me of one credited to a business acquaintance, customer service specialist Nigel May Barlow whom I met a couple of years ago, when we were separately working for the same client. Where others justifiably talk of aiming to be remarkable, he deliberately chooses the word legendary because he asserts that the best customer service is that which is talked about; that which creates a legend or, in Hugh's terms, fills a narrative gap.

My take on this is that it is possible for the same product to fill different people's narrative gaps in different ways. Where traditional product market space diagrams illustrate segmentation on the basis of meeting customer needs with specific product attributes (I seem to recall it was usually a toss up betwen toothpaste's whitening power and breath-freshening capabilities), we could now be entering the realms of emotional or psychological segmentation. This would, in fact, not be segmentation at all, but an holistic approach along the lines of David Wolfe's Firms of Endearment. It's not the theoretical targetting of defined segments with over-researched products/services, but the creation of legendary offers that impassion jaded twenty-first century citizens seeking self-actualisation.

Friday, July 07, 2006

There's Nothing Happening Here.

Robert Scoble infuriates me endlessly, but I wholeheartedly agree with him about social networks. In practice, they are just irritating and in commercial terms I've already expressed my doubts about them here. Relationships (of whatever nature) take significant investment, whereas connections facilitated by social networks don't.

Moreover, the excitement generated by a massive collection of eyeballs seems to run counter to everything we know about the way things are going. If it weren't for mechanical failures I'd be here discussing the long tail, rather than writing this. So, I was delighted to read this sceptical account of eBay's plan to monetise another type of network. The list (that appears in the comments) of companies that have failed to monetise a huge audience is music to my ears.

Feature Fatigue.

Having been infuriated by a proclamation on HDTV which seemed predicated on a couple of pals at a party, I went in search of more rigorous information. Nothing is the final word, but I discovered this informed piece that seems both comprehensive and also provides much food for thought for marketers.

In the latter regard, it was point eight that really resonated. It echoes what I've suspected about many sectors. "Enthusiasts are getting tired (and smarter)......This leaves a shrunken market of even the bleeding-edge consumers, and that means even less sales to early-adopters". The Gap may want me to be on the bleeding edge of technology in order to buy some T shirts, but here is the suggestion that, even in a sector that is famed for them, the early adopters are not adopting as early as before.

Marketers must remember that they are both Joe Public and they are not. Yes, they are users of the products/services that they sell (and can thus get valuable, albeit subjective, insights into their customers' mindset), but they also get far more involved in the minutiae of those products/services than all but the rarest of customers. This is as it should be. No detail should be too small for the marketer, but increasingly it seems you also have to be able to identify with your inner apathist.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Credibility Gap.

I can't believe this still happens. I run Macs with a browser that I accept is not the latest manifestation but is only two years old and fully updated. Yet The Gap website greets me with this.

We're sorry, but we do not support the version of the browser you are using.
Our site works best with the following browsers:

PC users
Internet Explorer 5.5 and above. Click here to download the latest browser.
Netscape 7 and above. Click here to download the latest browser.
Mozilla (including Firefox) 1.0 and above. Click here to download the latest browser.

Mac users
Netscape 7 and above. Click here to download the latest browser.
Mozilla (including Firefox) 1.0 and above. Click here to download the latest browser.
Safari 2.0.3* and above. Click here to update your browser.
* Safari 2.0.3 is a part of the Mac OS X Version 10.4.4 Update.

Note they say, "works best" where in fact they mean " works only." They are effectively insisting that I upgrade my browser for their convenience. In other words, The Gap expect me to pay so that I can have the privilege of being able to browse their site and become a customer.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Caveat Vendor.

The vendor's information premium has been eroded. In many markets, suppliers have responded with price deflation and, as I've written before, this can be adapted as a marketing tool. But what if the customers mobilise?

Sig alerts me to this fascinating display of consumer-mobbing from China and posits some interesting ways to exploit it. I'm not sure how his suggestion differs from online wholesaling or a more formal version of price-drop tv or, indeed, why the vendors shouldn't collectively refuse to bow to this pressure, but it certainly crystallises the rise of the informed customer.

War On Weather.

While browsing through various Ted Talks recently, I noted that Al Gore was raising that old chestnut about global warming being too nice a name to excite public action. He seemed to favour Climate Crisis, though to my ears that seems equally lukewarm. If the predictions are correct, then surely Climate Catastrophe is closer to the mark?

From a marketing perspective, I would argue that shock tactics are necessary since there is a need to engender behaviour change now, but this brings with it the question of how far you can safely go? The War on Terror is a well known soundbite, so why not admit that we're doing more damage than Al Qaeda could do in their wildest dreams simply because we have declared a daily War On Weather? If accompanied by visual representations of the doomsday scenarios, namely images of famous locations under water, then there is a good chance of stimulating awareness. But converting that awareness into changed behaviour seems unlikely to me, especially as the benefit will be greater for future generations

No, you have to communicate on your audience's current passion plane. Engage their worldview in a way that actually causes inertia to be against their interest. One provocative answer would be to appeal to people's moral conscience in order to instil guilt and promote action. How do you do that in middle America? Just ask people "Who Said You Could Play God?"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mind Your Language.

In publicising an alarming increase in sexually transmitted diseases, is it really beyond the wit of public officials to know that the recommendation of a "two pronged approach" will not get the desired reaction?

This Won't Hurt.

Men are willing to stand more pain if it is inflicted by a woman. So says a study from the Univeristy Of Stirling psychology department in which a woman dressed in skirt and heels "to emphasise her gender role" tested the resilience of male students.

Dr Karel Gisjbers concluded that the appearance of the woman distracted the men from the pain. Marketers will recognise this to be further evidence of Marshall McLuhan's dictum that "The medium is the message."

Independence Day.

How can anyone say that marketing doesn't work when today millions of people are celebrating a holiday based upon the illusion that independence from Britain, the home of culture, irony and refinement is a good thing?

They buy into this crazy story that small government, initiative and Jon Stewart are in some way superior to the nanny state, inertia and Benny Hill. Oh well, bad examples. Happy 4th.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Good Enough.

No, I'm not going to tell you how to keep it kinky. Rather, I'm going to highlight the indicator of customer satisficing that I referred to yesterday. It is that sales of own-label goods in the US are growing at almost twice the rate of big name brands and account for some 16% of all consumer packaged goods sold in America today according to A C Nielsen. This is replicating an existing trend in Europe where the figure has approached 40% in some countries.

Smaller manufacturers copycat a succesful branded product at a much lower cost, due to reduced overheads and research and development budgets. Consumers know this isn't the real thing, but frankly they don't care because food isn't remarkable enough to pay double the price for the branded product. The lower cost option is good enough.

Food isn't remarkable - so creating a brand isn't enough - in fact it's irrelevant. Create something good and the "brand" will follow, but in an age of copycats and deflationary price competition, it will have to be very, very good and you'll have to be permanently committed to improvement in every aspect of your business.

As Roy Disney, guardian of arguably one of the most resonant brands of all time, memorably said brand "means all the things we're not....We're in people's hearts, people's souls. Calling it a brand demeans it."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Honey Trap.

In answering the question "When is a pot of honey ever worth £10?" a recent newspaper article pointed out that specialty honeys are effectively single malts and that you could buy a two pound jar of Caribbean mango honey in London for £42.95.

In discussing how he spends his multi million pound salary, the CEO of a big supermarket chain commented that "If I spend money, it's generally to buy back time with my family."

Perhaps irrationally, I conflated these two pieces of reading and wondered, even if £10 honey is superior, how long does it remain remarkable (especially in comparison to arguably priceless entities such as time with your family)? Does the consumer ever come to the realisation that a downshifting in their buying behaviours (as opposed to their career behaviours) can increase their total Benthamite utility?

I think there are signs that this could be happening and shall highlight one tomorrow, but as a starting point I'll leave you with my favourite T shirt slogan of recent sighting which struck me as having great resonance for marketers. It read "It's only kinky the first time."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I See Dead Marketing.

I was recently told about an FMCG company that had created a kids' breakfast cereal. Starting with a new ingredient, they focussed on the required shape before progressing to the name and, only once all that had been tested, did they consider what it would taste like. Against all the odds, it wasn't a huge success.

My writing about problem-less solutions yesterday was highlighting how such reverse engineering brings marketers close to a very slippery slope. Creating a problem, then providing the solution is a legtimate strategy if the problem has some credible authenticity. Too many marketers go over that edge.