Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Opposing Worldviews.

August 30, 2006
From the founder of the company partnering with Universal Music to provide music downloads for free on an advertising-funded site.

“Advertising is moving online at a huge speed. Whether it’s MySpace or YouTube, the internet is where young users get all of their content now,” said Mr Kent, who is also the former chairman and chief executive of Universal McCann, a media buying agency.

August 10, 2006
From the LA Times survey of the leisure habits of the same target audience (youth and twenty somethings).

"The survey, which asked a wide range of questions about entertainment consumption, highlighted the pervasive influence of television particularly on tween girls, a majority of whom reported that TV shows affected their dress, speech, music preferences or social activities. In addition, it found that a surprisingly high number of teenagers and young adults gleaned news from traditional media sources such as local television and network newscasts — for many through a sort of information osmosis as they absorbed news from programs their parents were watching."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Brand New Customers Only.

Having got over the delicious weirdness of word of mouth marketing needing to have an association (presumably to spread the word), I pondered the following statement cited in Guy's preview.

"The most powerful word-of-mouth advocates might be the customers who have only done business with you once so far. They are the most excited; repeat customers are probably accustomed to the great product/service and therefore, ironically, less likely to talk about it."

This struck me as a dangerously complacent view (even if "research" can justify it) and finds echo today in Kathy's post which I like to think was inspired by my seminal work Geek Marketing 101. She rightly asks,

"Why do so many companies treat potential users so much better than existing users?"

Maybe the reasoning is connected to what I see as the totally misguided belief that once you hook a customer (and this also erroneously is assumed to mean a young one), then their loyalty is assured. Companies know it is cheaper to keep a customer than to capture a new one, so the financial logic of chasing new prospects rather than growing more profitable existing ones must surely be predicated on some such falsehood. The outstanding Ageless Marketing by David Wolfe put the sword to this many years ago and is neatly encapsulated in his recent post.

Loyalty is not assured, brains and motivations evolve and the demography of most western economies is shifting against you. Don't be like the manager who featured in a comment I recently read on a blogpost. In it, a marketing assistant explained that he'd had no time in the past two years to perfect a macro with which he identified his boss's most profitable and exploitable customers because said boss was only interested in his putting together another list of 1000 new prospects!

Existing customers may appear docile but, as I keep banging on, success is very often about accentuating the negative and good service follows the elimination of those negatives. Crucially, word of mouth is not just about the positive recommendations. If any negatives return, you can be absolutely certain that existing customers will notice, talk and walk.

Addendum: As a bonus for non-UK readers, I staged this role play exercise for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Baby And Bathwater.

If your business model is broken, then fix it. But throwing it out completely takes real nerve.

Universal Music is entering into an advertising-funded download deal. Thus the official view of the world's biggest music company is that its product is no longer music but eyeballs and ears because music is seemingly something you give away while you push interruptive advertising at your advertising-resistant demographic.

Is it me or is this a case of simultaneously devaluing your output while annoying your core market?

Content Or Context?

It used to be said that content was king and I certainly subscribed to that side of the debate when the question was whether content or distribution channels would be the killer app in the convergence wars. But now things may be changing - one of the talking points of this weekend's Edinburgh Television Conference was the emergent primacy of context over content.

There is so much content now that the key problem is how people search for it across multiple channels in multiple media. Media people no longer think in terms of television but in terms of screens, be that a TV monitor, a PC screen or a phone screen. This raises a new set of issues for media but they apply to all businesses.

It's all very well having good content but if the context in which it appears is no good - be that technically deficient, be that failing to fit in with your users' needs or be that in terms of brand reputation - then you have a problem.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Free Market Economy?

Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson doesn't see any reason for startups to budget funds for marketing and tells businesses to go for "zero cost" marketing.

While I fully endorse the reasoning, such talk makes me think of the geek-inspired belief that there is some long tail nirvana in which purchaser and purchase are automatically connected in a frictionless way at zero cost. I find that more than a little disingenuous insofar as there is still a marketing cost in creating the product and the attributes which cause a purchaser to want to seek it out. This cost will not get close to the budget of a big advertising campaign online or off but there is a cost.

To deny this reeks of the "marketing = promotion"school of thought as opposed to "marketing = strategic and tactical elements that allow the customers’ needs (as defined by the customer) to be met". This was one of the things that prompted me to write my geek marketing 101 post - the fact that unfortunately there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Audience Isn't Even Speaking Now.

With a box office take down below $300 per screen per day, Snakes On A Plane is dead in the water after just eight days!

They gambled all on a single conversation and rammed it home across 3335 theatres like any other major release. In other words, "thank you for your input and passion, we marketing experts will take it from here."

Staying Connected.

If your car managed only a quarter of the advertised top speed, you'd go ballistic! Yet in the world of UK broadband internet, customers face an array of ISPs making claims of download speeds of up to 8 megs which (via ADSL connection) turn out to be about four times what is technically feasible given the existing infrastructure.

Do they complain about this? Of course not, because most customers are non-geeks and believe what they're told if they don't know better. Their main sources of complaint involve customer service issues or connection breakdowns. But eventually it will not just be bitter and twisted individuals like me (who looked into the truth about ADSL some five or six years) who are aware of the reality. The truth will out and all trust will be gone.

Managing expectations does not mean blinding with science. It's good enough (plus) to promise excellent, but not impossible, performance and to deliver it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Clicks Have Eyes.

An online marketing campaign is praised by an online marketer. With my interest piqued, I click through to the site and notice a flickr link which inevitably grabs my attention. But then while spooling through the images, I find a month-old photo of a meeting between the two protagonists.

Hmmm - so perhaps it wasn't pure merit that led to this recommendation? Is it devalued? Is it an old fashioned PR scam? Are we being marketed to?

Who knows? But it's a reminder of how transparent the world is today.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Radio Is A Sound Salvation.

An iconoclast who championed Pink Floyd in the 60s, punk rock in the 70s, world music in the 80s, grunge in the 90s and was still broadcasting on the premier UK national music station at the time of his recent early death.

A megaphone of outrageous difference who disrupted the vapid similarity of New York's radio stations when I first encountered him on AM afternoon radio conducting "auditions" in a virtual shower in the mid 80s.

A doctor of horror movies who sees Ice Age II as the death of narrative cinema and whose scabrous reviews are often more entertaining than the main feature.

At various times, each of them has captured my prolonged attention with their inner voice, that combination of passion, humanity and lucidity that cuts through the fog of mediocrity, engages the mind and soul and elects them to true A-list status within their spheres.

Such voices are opinionated but not dictatorial and crucially possess the confidence to respond intelligently to criticism of their worldview. In an age of increasingly mind-numbing choice, such voices are the future for all media and that includes blogging. Their attributes should permeate the voice of your products, your services and your organisations.

How does your salvation sound?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good Enough Isn't.

Companies apply similar research methodologies to the outputs of similar technologies in order to determine what products and services appeal to a "representative" sample of the population. The resultant commoditisation of many categories is magnified by a fascination with brand extension and me-tooism, those avenues of least resistance that are simple to achieve and seemingly speak to an existing niche. It's a beige world.

To counter this, the trend has increasingly been to add functionality because technology allows it and because, in the world of the focus group, "less is more" only when more is unavailable. The resultant complication leaves consumers bewildered by feature fatigue and early-adopters increasingly unwilling to conform to their sterotype. It's a resistable world.

The entirely logical suggestion that follows (and was most recently outlined by Seth Godin) is that Good Enough is the new black because today Good Enough encompasses a considerable degree of functonality and sophistication and speaks to the inherent human trait of satisficing. Unfortunately Good Enough isn't. It isn't good enough because no one feels passionately about Good Enough and it isn't good enough because Good Enough is replicable and will quickly become a commodity.

The future is Good Enough Plus. Offerings that are functionally good enough but stand out because of their experiential oomph. That unique experience which separates the extraordinary from the good enough may be derived from one or many of the following.

Exceptional Design
Generating a positive emotional reaction and/or simplifying use.

Extraordinary Service
Standing out in itself and/or highlighting the competition's failings.

Extra Functionality
Easily discoverable without impinging upon the good enough experience.

These are the key parameters of competitive advantage today and ignoring them simply isn't good enough.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Licensed To Thrill.

In keeping with my current entertainment theme (Guy Kawasaki may have officially designated weeks, but we Z listers are more holistic), I can report how script development departments are adapting to their shifting audiences.

Dr No, arguably the original Bond movie, is renowned for Ursula Andress's emergence from the ocean. In the upcoming Casino Royale, it will be buffed-up Daniel Craig.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Essential Reading.

If you ever see a better post than this, please let me know.

The Audience Has Spoken.

Snakes On A Plane topped the box office at the weekend, but the numbers are apparently disappointing. Drill down and it's worse - perhaps as a result of the distorted expectations that I predicted.

The takings were as follows: Friday $6.4million, Saturday $5.1 million Sunday $3.8 million. It topped the box-office on opening night but then immediately slipped to second place to be replaced by Talledega Nights which on its third weekend of release pulled in these numbers: Friday $4.2million, Saturday $5.8 million, Sunday $3.8 million. No surprises about which has the better word of mouth. More importantly, Snakes On A Plane is hamstrung by falling numbers.

It's impossible to know whether a different release strategy might have induced gently rising numbers and an implicitly longer life, but it goes to prove that William Goldman's dictum also applies in this brave new world. Even online, Nobody Knows Anything.

Digital Killed The TV Star?

So television is old media and a dying element of the marketing mix? Well certainly there is a fall in absolute viewing figures and in weekly consumption especially by younger demographics. But that's only part of the story.

Amidst a polemic in a recent post, Robert Scoble reported "I’ll tell you what executives from big companies (like Kraft, Procter and Gamble, GM, and others) who were at MSN’s own advertising conference told me. An influencer is worth THOUSANDS of times more than a non-influencer."

This hardly earth-shattering insight was being used as a plea on behalf of blogging as a marketing tool which is fine by me, but we should not forget that television can be a far more serious influencer than any blogger.

Consider the UK equivalent of Oprah's book club. Titles featured on this segment currently occupy positions 1,2, 4 and 6 in the bestsellers list and executive producer Amanda Ross is described as the most powerful person in publishing.

Consider the advice given by Simon Cowell to the manager of UK success Katie Melua who's currently trying to "break" America - "Mike, don't believe anything they they say here. You don't have to tour for two years, you don't have to work radio slowly, you just have to get on a lot of television."

It's TV advertising that's dying, not TV.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Statistical Significance?

Having pointed to the LA Times series which indicated that old media is less ignored by younger demographics than certain eveangelists would have us believe, it is only right that I also point out the recent UK survey by OFCOM which seemingly gives slightly different indications.

There's been much media coverage of the that finding 70% of young people (against 41% of all adults) have used a social network in past week and that young people spend more time online. But if you dig deeper and visit the OFCOM site, you find as ever that the media is quoting the press release.

Look at the survey questionnaire and you discover that the term social network is not defined and that there was no option to distinguish between the daily user (who I guess will be prevalent amongst the young) and someone who "used" the network once a week. To my eyes, this survey does not have the depth of the LA Times equivalent and yet the idea that young adults use the internet more than previous generations will now have been implanted in the media psyche.

The actual fact that they are using the internet for a whole extra 21 minutes a week (yes that's 3 minutes a day) more than the UK average is not so widely known because that's not such a sexy finding. But we should always remember that losing money on bad investments and pursuing non-existent niches is similarly unsexy.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Word Of Mouse.

A plethora of posts have burst around a discussion of the validity of Metcalfe's law and its application to the valuation of social networks. It's interesting but far from light reading which you can follow here , here , here and here from Metcalfe himself.

From a marketing perspective, I'd love to truly understand how the original article published here over a month ago has suddenly spread to some heavyweight sneezers this weekend.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Hissing Of Summer Yawns.

I've already blogged about the positive potential of Snakes On A Plane from a marketing perspective. Simply put, it sounded to me like a great movie. But if you wanted to know whether the great concept translated into a great execution, you had to buy a ticket because no-one was allowed to pre-judge it.

A refusal to show the film to critics is often seen as a warning sign of the studio's assumption that they won't be generating positive word of mouth. This time New Line cleverly justified their reticence and fed the hype by saying it was the people's movie but I'm not sure about the wisdom of that.

Too often recently, I've seen the role of critic attacked on the basis that if they're not creating something themselves then they have no right to speak. I'm against the constantly destructive critic, but pointing out what's wrong is something I won't attack and of which you should never be scared. New Line were.

The judgement now appears to be that it's an OK movie but not a great one. The critics would have said that and early audience expectations would have been realistic. Indeed, this genre movie would have been connected to its true audience. But, in the absence of critics, we have a whole day's attendance who probably feel slightly underwhelmed and will push out a more negative word of mouth than might have been the case. The opening weekend take will be good but will the cumulative revenue have been maximised?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Brand Over-Extension?

In the wake of the success of The Dangerous Book For Boys which I blogged about some time ago, it's inevitable that The Glorious Book For Girls is being created for publication next summer.

Where I suggested that the Boy's book was being bought by grown-up boys harking back to childish days, I wonder if the Girl's book will be so successful. Are today's young girls at all interested in innocent pleasures that do not involve celebrity, accelerated maturity and crucially have no digital component? Moroever, are older women likely to want to relive those aspects of their life - and do they indeed have the time?

It is an obvious move to create the female version, but does it show an understanding of why the male version succceeded?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Buzz Marketing.

Bleary-eyed I switched on my computer a few days ago. Tabbing through various sites and email accounts, I was struck rigid by the dreaded sound of a whining hard-drive. It couldn't be failing so soon! All my attention was focussed on shutting things down and limiting damage.

And then I saw it. For this was not a damage alert, but the "mosquito" buzz imposed on me by an appalling ad on my dreadful old lycos email account. If I clicked through on the ad, I could rid myself of the annoyance.

Ah yes, so that would be interactive advertising designed to engage me with your product and harbour feelings of good will. And not just another nail in Lycos's staggeringly user-unfriendly email service (and now Yahoo's as well).

State Of The Blogosphere.

Isn't it ironic so many bloggers simultaneously espouse the changing world of the Long Tail yet are desparate about getting to the head of the Technorati rankings? Being different takes nerve.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Rules of Blog Club

1st RULE: Everyone talks about BLOG CLUB.

2nd RULE: For the love of links, everyone talks about BLOG CLUB.

3rd RULE: If someone says "A list" or goes limp, the blog is over.

4th RULE: Only two brain cells to a fight.

5th RULE: One blog at a time.

6th RULE: No links, no points.

7th RULE: Blogs will go on as long as they have to - and then some.

8th RULE: If this is your first night at BLOG CLUB, you HAVE to blog.


Taxpayers' money is being used to subsidise Savile Row rents in order to help preserve the street's heritage. It's a misguided political intervention that ignores a changing world.

While the maintenance of a local specialised work force may be integral to the bespoke suit business, that surely is up to the industry to ensure. But this seems to me more reminiscent of manufacturers of various items such as Parma ham, Bordeaux wine and Feta cheese seeking regulatory intervention to defend a competitive advantage. I can see some validity to this if the production location contributes to quality which, in the case of foodstuffs, may be true due to climate and ecology.

But, if it's just about the label, then what guarantee of quality is that? It hopes to make the customer think that by making suits physically in Savile Row (as opposed to utilising expertise that may once only have existed in that street) you are de facto superior to other suit makers. This may be true, but if you need subsidies to maintain that "tradition" it's not clear to me that it's defensible.

Nor is it wise for the producers because it skews the value equation and allows other people falsely to claim excellence solely on the basis of location. What is important is not the name but the name you make for yourself. Piggybacking may be fun but not if you're the one being ridden.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Business Customers Only?

Some weeks ago, a major company declared their intention to embrace blogging. I was particularly taken by the announcement that a senior executive in the consumer division was going to blog and so wrote to him, applauding the decison and offering my opinion that it was necessary to be personal and regular in his posting.

As promised, a business blog has appeared. But, last week I received a response to my letter. I was thanked for my advice and informed that his blog would not now be happening because "it has now been decided that this is not the most effective way to communicate with customers."

So blogging is OK for smart business customers but not for regular consumers? The company seems to have forgotten that it's good to talk.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Experiential Edinburgh.

More evidence that the Edinburgh festival is at the forefront of marketing thinking.

1) Passer-bys are found to be more willing to take a leaflet when they are told that it also features a free Sudoku game. Is this the first experiential flyer?

2) More revolutionary still, we see that Seth Godin's philosophy has been turned on its head in order to host comedy shows.

There's something happening here...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Viral Marketing - A Viral Debate.

Hugh has posted today about an ongoing debate about viral marketing. Having started to post a comment, I ended up turning it into this post

For me, a major problem is that just as it was wrong to turn the word brand into a verb, it's been wrong to turn viral into a noun (and the same established parties are guilty in both cases). To do so suggests that creating a viral is the goal when the goal is actually the spreading not the creation.

Thus, Doc Searl's snowball, which I had not encountered before, sounds to me like a case of throwing lots of things against a wall and seeing what sticks and thus deep down is quite redolent of a mass marketing ethos. Some may spread and become viral, but I think that the snowball per se is not.

Indeed the fact that they are evolving may prevent them from being truly viral. In real life, viruses do of course mutate, but they mutate and then spread. I'm no biology expert, but I don't think they mutate while spreading. Perhaps an idea has to be fully formed before it can go viral (and then inspire imitative mutations, spoofs and variants which add to the spread)?

By contrast, Hugh has been pimping his online network in a distinctly viral way - and let me stress immediately that I do not intend to diminish or demean his achievements by using that verb. His work on behalf of various clients has been qualitatively superior to the classic PR email to lists of influencers precisely because his network has not be culled from directories. Rather it has been established (or maybe, given its accidental nature, it's more appropriate to say it has coalesced) over a number of years. It comprises people who on a consistent basis gave credence to what he wrote and/or enjoyed his cartoons and that social cohesion gives his voice potency.

The spread of his viruses are aided by his identity (we're back to classic Godin and Gladwell territory here), so I agree with his premise about the sender, but I think that is neither sufficient nor indeed essential to ensure success.

It's not sufficient because anyone with a social network can post an idea, but for it to spread the initial recipients have to agree with it and then be the type of person who wants to pass it on. We all have experience with blogposts when readers no doubt correctly tut tut and say "he/she's lost it today". That's why, in the commercial arena, Hugh has been very selective about the formed messages he's projecting - there are not endless permutations relating to numerous clients because throwing stuff against the wall is not the way to go.

It's not essential because we can all come across viruses by chance - we may open an email from some stranger who is on a mutual friend's address list or we could be idly browsing YouTube. For me, this emphasies that the key factor is the content not the transmitter. In medicine, after all, many viruses spread, but it's the nature of the pathogen that determines the impact. A sniffly friend might give us an illness but unless he/she and we are very unfortunate we will recover quickly and forget about it.

In marketing terms, the equivalent is that at the heart of something that goes viral is a potent idea, a great product perhaps or a great piece of social interaction. It's not a great viral, it's a great "something else" that goes viral.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Geek Marketing 101.

Following various comments I've made about deficiencies in technology marketing and my disagreement with Doc Searl's provocations, I've been rightly harassed into prescribing some solutions to my complaints. So I give you Geek Marketing 101.

It is so named because I see amongst many geeks a pervasive misunderstanding and consequent distrust of what marketing is, and a failure to recognise that much technology marketing is no longer geek to geek since complex products are increasingly being bought by non-geeks. Of course, these observations are equally applicable to geek to geek and non-geek businesses.

1) Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development). Promotion and sales are just sub-sets of marketing.

2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don't speak geek.
Successful technology marketing must translate the creations of the uncommunicative into the needs of the untechnical. Spin is not good marketing. Lucid two-way communication is.

3) Simplicity does not negate complexity.
Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation. It facilitates an entree to your world. You can't have passionate users until they start using.

4) Think what, not how?
Think of the "product" in terms of what it does, not how it does it. You may be interested in the latter, but your users generally aren't. Portable computer memory is not a difficult concept to enunciate, yet flash drive and USB drive nomenclature is predicated on technological aspects not the actual function. Long words confuse, don't they?

5) Think will, not can.
Think of the "product" in terms of what most people will be happy doing with it and not in the myriad possibilities it offers. You may think speed and multiple settings are hot, but outside the lab such attributes may not provide the greatest satisfaction. Simple, intuitive interfaces will.

6) Only you RTFM.
Regular people don't read the manual. It's too big (see 5), too complicated (see 3) and thus incomprehensible. It's not that people are averse to science and technology - they're averse to being made to feel helpless. The demand for books that simplify science is huge the world over. Your manual is marketing.

7) Technical Support is marketing.
In the absence of all of the above, your users inevitably need help. A technical support department speaking in non-technical, hand-holding language transforms their purchase from waste of money to life-enhancing boon and is the greatest marketing tool you have.

8) You're not marketing to people who hate marketing.
Don't allow your misguided prejudices about advertising and snake-oil to infect your approach and damage sales. People hate hype, spin and unfulfilled expectations. They do not hate having their needs met (see 1).

9) You're not marketing to people who hate technology products.
They're not Luddites, but nor are they geeks - that's what you're paid to be. However, they often hate how technology products make them feel because blinding with science is as bad as baffling with bullshit.

10) Marketing demystifies.
As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

False Economies.

Budgetary considerations may justify the cutbacks in online activities at my alma mater's journalism school. But when the savings are then allocated to an interruptive direct mail subscription campaign, it makes one realise that marketing in our changing world is still woefully misunderstood.

The physical distance between the school of journalism and the business school is tiny, but there's clearly an attitudinal chasm.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Air Fayre.

Today's security alert means that virtually all carry-on luggage (with particular attention to liquids) is being banned on flights. As someone who always carries on a bottle of water, my mind immediately contemplated long flights with insufficient hydration.

Now, I know things are changing, albeit for cost-cutting purposes, but it has always struck me that it is quite possible for any healthy person to go up to ten hours without a major meal. Food services are really a ritual designed to occcupy our time on board. But is that what passengers want? Surely a constant supply of non-alcoholic liquids and cold snacks would be sufficient - not to mention easier to supply and would reduce passengers' carry-on provisions.

Marketers may claim to add value to their offerings in order to achieve differentiation (or justify a higher price), but that is only true if it's valued by the customer.

Addendum: Seth echoes my other thought on hearing the tales of many business people at Heathrow at 6 a.m. - wouldn't their hours of travel and waiting time incurred to make one or two meetings have been better spent utilising modern technology to get much more done?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wit And Wisdom.

Seth Godin shows us how to combine them to great effect.

I See Musicians' Minds!

The LA Times series on youth and entertainment continues to throw up interesting insights. Where kids seem to be having some moral qualms about freely copying material, an academic sees things so much more clearly,

"At my wedding I handed out about 150 mix-CDs," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor at New York University and author of "Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity."

"I was freeloading on songs by Louis Armstrong and others, but I think that's why they became musicians in the first place," Vaidhyanathan said. "Music has worth because it lets us communicate in ways we can't manage on our own. But to communicate, we have to be able to share."

I bet his/her classes are popular at NYU because he/she clearly couldn't object to totally plagiarised term papers and exam answers. After all knowledge is expanded by sharing and I think that's what the original thinkers wanted in the first place. Though I note the book retails at $19!

Creative Disruption.

Semantics play havoc with many business concepts - witness the ongoing confusion of promotion and marketing that remarkably still persists. Another example, I think, is that of disruption which to me is a word that generates visions of almost violent upheaval, but Clayton Christensen's paradigm shifts do not necesarily have to be like that. The impact may be significant, but that which causes the disruption can be subtle.

As Christensen himself says "The successful disruptive business model facilitates or lubricates existing patterns of behavior. It's not predicated on consumers changing behaviour." Web 2.0 advocates should take note.

Cement companies have lifted themselves out of the commodity business and grabbed more of the value chain by becoming suppliers of ready mixed concrete with guaranteed delivery times, while a frustrated junior chef in London entered the wholesale fish business and realised he could charge far more if he supplied ready filleted and prepared portions to his restaurant customers. Customer behaviour didn't change, but their life was made far easier.

The coup d'oeuil (literally a bang in the eye) outlined by famous military strategist Von Clausewitz is so described because it's a rare thing and we can all waste vast amounts of time looking for the next big idea when merely adapting something from one market to another can be hugely disruptive and successful.

Costnerian economics is all too often undermined by building in the wrong place so just cast where the fish are.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm Not Them.

The Edinburgh Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. In the past fifteen years or so, it has become a mecca for established and aspiring stand-up comedians in their hundreds. So how do you get yourself noticed? The noisy answer (in every sense of that word) is wacky stunts or fevered flyposting. The normal result is playing gigs to dispiritingly tiny audiences.

Tim Vine however has clearly been following my passive branding advice and said I'm Not Them. How has he done this? Via a large billboard bearing his face, it announces "Tim Vine" and then in much smaller type “is not appearing at the Fringe this year”.

Amber Ambivalence.

Many will point to the decision of Foster's to switch all their advertising activity to online as a highly significant event. It will be interesting to watch, but the fact they only spent $5 million on TV previously is a key consideration. Big brands are still just dipping their conservative toes in the water.

Fulfillment Not Promises.

Crime is often said to be at the forefront of business developments (as in the case of online payment systems) but I wasn't expecting to find marketing insights in Michael Mann's Miami Vice. Amidst the terrific camera work, the laughable love scenes and a surprisingly turgid narrative, he managed to put the following line into the mouth of a major drug dealer.

"I don't pay for a service I pay for results."

Service may be your great differentiator, but results are even more effective.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Meet The New Kids. Same As The Old Kids.

Here's a survey from the LA Times that will challenge many of your assumptions or reinforce doubts about some of the received wisdom that's being spouted about changing habits.

Let me whet your appetite with this one "respondents say that traditional sources such as television advertising and radio airplay still tend to drive their decisions about movies and music more than online networking sites." There's a lot more where that came from today and for the rest of this week.

Cachet Society.

In a fickle twist of fate, the Times today reports that the subliminal name droppers of whom I wrote yesterday may be dropping decidely the wrong names.

Any suggestion that this development is correlated with Hugh's plans is of course entirely scurrilous.


Mimobot have been adding character design to flash drives with a view to making them more desirable to computer users and to capitalise on the burgeoning art-toy market.

They are sold through non-technology retail outlets and it emerges that many people don't realise that they're simply data storage devices because they don't know what a "flash drive" or "USB" is. If that isn't a condemnation of technology marketing, I don't know what is.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Pink Dollar.

A piece in today's New York Times about the rise of rosé highlights a marketing angle somewhat different from that which I reported before. That was a physical product attribute, this is something far more ephemeral because apparently,

".. now, among a certain group of global style setters ordering rosé is a sign of being in the know. Dropping the name of a Provençal rosé like Domaine Tempier can be code for having recently frolicked in St.-Tropez or Cap d’Antibes, where rosé accompanies leisurely seaside lunches."

It may cost twice as much as allegedly superior non-french rosés, but it's not good taste that they're buying.


A lot of discussion around what I'd call post-branding marketing is about the need to focus on trust, socialisation and appreciation. To me these all sound like elements of self actualisation which neurology shows to be an increasingly important motivator as we age and our brain chemistry evolves.

This would explain changing attitudes to brands and businesses in what has become the largest segment of society - the baby boomers. But I wonder if cultural changes are also having a similar impact on other younger demographic groups.

Finanical wealth and material possessions are obtained at an increasingly early age in developed economies so people are discovering earlier that this is not the route to happiness. Factor in an increased secularisation in many societies and a generally fragile geopolitical and physical environment and there is little wonder that a quest for spiritual meaning is becoming pervasive.

The put-down that when you don't believe in anything, you tend to believe in everything may, in fact, be a true reflection of societal thinking. As much as there are technological disruptions and a surplus of promotional noise turning consumers away from being tradiitonal marketing fodder, it's still true that successful marketing is all in the mind and if the colllective mind is changing, it's not surpise that marketing has to change radically. Here endeth the sermon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

By The Time We Got To Fruitstock.

Taking the smart advice of an insightful blogger, I went into the fresh air and, as the song might have gone, "by the time we got to Fruitstock, we were many thousand strong."

I didn't get to meet Camilla from Innocent or, sadly, branding guru John Grant whose designated differentiation (a white sun hat) rather failed to make him stand out from the sun-drenched crowd. Moreover, I seriously doubt that I won anything in the raffle. But none of that prevented this from being a gloriously successful event.

It was the quintessence of passive branding. A true tribal gathering of people who trust Innocent to show them a good time and treat them right or people who will certainly do so in the future because they experienced a day of Innocent pleasures and memories.

This wasn't tacked-on sponsorship. The brand was the infrastructure, both physically and (for want of a better word) spiritually. While there was little overt product presence beyond some welcoming signage and banners, there were many ways of discovering the brand and its ethos around the venue - you could sample the product, contribute to their charities, meet employees and even apply for a job with them. You could also stroke their grass-covered delivery van. Artificial grass of course.

I liked the subversion of a dance music tent where ragga beats pounded out across the heads of numerous picnic groups sheltering from the sun (though I'm sure it livened up later); I marvelled at the otherwise restrained hen-party who were dressed as Statues of Liberty; and I hereby predict that the Puppini Sisters will be this year's Gypsy Kings. Any band that deliver a perfect country and western version of Blondie's Heart of Glass and a reggae version of Wuthering Heights while dressed as 40's troop sweethearts will be essential listening at all dinner parties. But they're much better than that.

It felt like a very busy school summer fete without the latent hostility. The atmosphere was friendly and unthreatening and everyone looked healthy. The gates were very wide, but where were the fat people and beer-guts renowned of other outdoor festivals? This was surely another osmotic brand message - as was the placement of the VNP area (for very nice people of course). It was not located right by the stage in a privileged way, but was unostentatiously hidden away in the far reaches of the arena and this implicitly showed that those people would join the crowd to watch the bands.

And I also discovered the reason why this company tops the rankings of places to work. It's a well-known fact that all lists are compiled by men and my observation is that all Innocent women are beautiful and friendly. Thus, no doubt, it would be a great place to work - which is why they can risk situating their offices in Shepherd's Bush!

The only cloud on the horizon was in fact, the crowd. This event has perhaps reached its tipping point in terms of attendance, but if your branding problems are those of excessive popularity, then you have very little to complain about.

Connections Not Interruptions.

Innocent, one of my favourite companies shows hows to connect (and proves that some former management consultants can walk the walk). If you're within range, get off your computer and go!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Be Constructive Not Obstructive.

My lack of self-awareness does not extend to ignorance of the fact that I am a tad opinionated and ever so slightly critical. Naturally, I don't think this is a bad thing. However, a recent blog exchange (in which I advocated their benefits) has caused me to rethink my definition of critic. What I mean by a critic is, in fact, an editor as opposed to a troll. It's a question of nuance but, as long as you define your terms correctly, constructive criticism is obviously to be welcomed and obstructive criticism to be avoided.

An extension of this thought prompted me to consider common business goals and practices in terms of whether they are ultimately constructive or, at best, obstructive. Embrace the former. Suspect the latter. Opt for

Editors not Critics
Market Analysis not Market Research
Connections not Interruptions
Customer Needs not Business Models
Usability not Features
Marketing not Promotion
Fulfillment not Promises
Passion not Finesse
Observation not Focus Groups
Psychology not Demography

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Still Too Geeky.

Hugh's post yesterday suggests to me that the blogosphere is even geekier than I imagined. If he doesn't have a handle on these things after blogging for so long, then what hope is there for the less geeky among us?

I have no idea how many people read my blog nor what my rising Technorati ranking actually means and I've absolutely no idea where to find the statistical tracking devices to which he alludes. Intuitively, I suspect that the presence of repeat visitors on a single day might to some degree counter his argument, but I don't have the ammunition to be in a position to prove or disprove that and that strikes me as a crazy state of affairs. But then I've written before that blogging companies are really failling behind the transformation of the blogosphere from geekfest to mass medium.

It's perfectly valid to argue in favour of the indirect effects of blogging, but that doesn't remove the marketing need for meaningful, clear metrics to be easily obtainable by the blogger in the street.

Not Reading, Writing And Arithmetic.

58% of people never read a book after leaving high-school. 46% of people didn't read newspapers in 2004. Today that figure may be lower. I wonder how many will never read a blog?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Affirmation. Not That I Need It Of Course!

I deliberately subtitled this blog "The views of a marketing deviant" not because I was projecting a subliminal message but because I think conventional wisdom and common sense are not necessarily wise or that common. While entirely sceptical about new paradigms and hyperbole, my philopsophy of accentuating the negative means I'm always looking for the new way that works (even if it isn't actually new).

Thus the approach of Jerry Sternin developed from his time at Save The Children is music to my ears. "Maybe the problem is that you can't import change from the outside in. Instead, you have to find small, successful but "deviant" practices that are already working in the organization and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is already alive in the organization -- and change comes when you find it."

He advocates searching for positive deviants whose abnormal behaviour enables them to outperform their peers in the same environment and to persuade the rest of the community to change their behaviour to that of the positive deviants. It's an approach that has saved lives and for me that gives it more credibility than the latest four-quadrant matrix or technology mash-up.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Just Another Remarkable Day In The Blogosphere.

You may have divined by now that I don't rate social networks very much but that I do value highly the connectivity of impassioned crowds which are facilitated and magnified by the blogosphere.

Some weeks ago, via a non business-related blog that I regularly read, I found myself reading the blog of a commenter thereon and chanced upon an informational post that I really liked and which I later kicked myself for not bookmarking. It was the kind of passionate, experiential piece that would help anyone who wanted to follow in that writer's footsteps.

It was also over a year old and on a blog I'd never previously visited and about which I had no information. I enquired of some technically-aware A listers as to whether there was some sort of software algorithm that could help me track it down. But no, the blogosphere is too big and disparate a social network for that to be feasible currently (or ever I would venture).

Thus, your cynical (albeit persistent) author found himself using the comment section of the original blog in a Hail-Mary attempt to track down the year old post from an unknown blog about a totally unrelated subject. I didn't hold out much hope and this lessened when the post I happened to comment upon stretched to over 150 comments (far, far more than normal on that blog due to unusual circumstances). Even if they returned to the blog on a regular basis (I had no idea if they would), there was little chance that my quarry would be interested in delving through this extended comment fest and chance upon my request. Or would they?

Today, weeks after I made my request and many weeks after my original blog safari, I find in my email a note from the original author. We're not connected by some faux social network, but rather we share a passionate interest in a third blog, our eyeballs are truly engaged when reading that blog and we feel a connection to fellow readers.

Fred Wilson writing recently about what attracted him to a blog summed it up well, I think, and echoed what I was talking about in regard to passive branding. He wrote that he is interested in reading a blog "As long as it's personal, real, and authentic." and that, I believe, is the type of engagement that all bloggers and indeed all marketers should be seeking because, as you can see from this experience, it can engender astonishing results.

Statistical Significance.

Three million people in the UK watched 2006 World Cup matches by live Internet/video streaming. An interesting headline but what does it actually mean?

I suspected it might refer to three million separate streaming views within the UK but, having contacted the source of the quoted figure, I discover that this is the extrapolated result from a single question in an omnibus survey. So while it's not a direct measurement, it is statistically valid and a significant number.

However, there is no minimum time qualification here. Someone who caught thirty seconds online of one game is equivalent to the sad person who watched every game that way. Given that sixteen million viewers sat through the entire three hours of a single game (England's quarter final defeat to Portugal) and twenty million watched the penalty shootout phase of a final that didn't involve England, it is sensible to conclude that while viewing habits are changing, they're not changing out of all recognition.