Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

No Great Shakes.

While getting in touch with our feminine sides at the Girl Geek Dinner last night, I recall telling Hugh MacLeod that I thought his posts and cartoons were either great or rubbish. He knew that I wasn't being literal, that I meant that blogged opinions polarise reactions (especially amongst the similarly opinionated) and that it's better to evince a passionate reaction than to get a mediocre OK. But does it go further than that?

Does our short attention span towards blogposts (by Hugh or anyone else) mean that we need to be provoked to react? Does the same apply in the world of products and services? And given that I think the answer to both those questions is a resounding yes, does it follow that, in both realms, we too easily consign some very good stuff to the category of not-great?

Whose Opinion Counts?

In the comments section of a discussion about HD television, I read "My sister has had HDTV for over a year. To me that means it's moved well beyond the "early adopter" stage."

Our own taste and our own worldview may suit us but, sadly, they generally don't dictate how the rest of the world acts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who's Cousin Dupree?

Seth's post on copywrong reminded me of the best reaction to potential copyright infringement that I've ever seen.

It appears that Cousin Dupree was a Steely Dan song before the character featured in the Owen Wilson film You, Me and Dupree. Rather than haul in the lawyers, they went to the source and generated far more goodwill for themselves.

Bonus link.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Searching For Simplicity.

Google has shown that the key to online search is user simplicity and's reformation has certainly featured a move to a visually similar homepage.

So, I was surprised to open my paper this morning and find their verbose vertical ad covering 70% of the sheet and comprising a list of "10 very reasonable reasons to challenge" - aka 10 reasons that nobody but a bewildered marketing devaint would choose to examine.

Advertising that's harder to consume than the product - that's a first!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Art Of Communication.

The other day, I almost fell asleep during a Powerpoint presentation which was particularly bad news since I was the one making it!

Seriously though, when presentations are generally dull for those of us who are accustomed to them, what hope is there for transmitting detailed information to those not normally in such an audience? As Hugh rightly pointed out in his Hughtrain update, "the future of advertising is internal", so the quest for a common language is increasingly critical.

Now, Kathy Sierra has extolled and continually demonstrated the benefit that graphics bring to communication, but what about transforming the presentation into a single visual like this one created by Delta7?

All those pages of strategic thinking and creative insights distilled into a single A3 picture. An image which visualises the thrust of the thinking for all the people, from shop-floor to boardroom, who need to understand it and who can refresh their comprehension with a single glance to the wall. And not a buzzword or mission statement in sight.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Net Neutrality In Other Words.

This post would have appeared as a comment on Danah's blog in response to her appeal for a way to explain net neutrality to the layperson. Unfortunately, some technical glitch is preventing me from so doing and thus, I'll address it here and maybe open up the discussion.

My take on this is that the key - in best Geek Marketing 101 tradition - is to couch your explanation in non-technical terms (as when I talked of RSS as TiVo for blogs).

One can talk of digital apartheid but to me that doesn't quite capture the idea that economic power plays a crucial role in the discrimination. So, the best I can do is to describe a non-neutral net as a supermarket or museum or library in which particular sponsored aisles are wider, better lit and better stocked than others. Does that work for you?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Wozniak Manifesto.

Guy Kawasaki changed his blog name. Thus, there were no additions to it in that location in my RSS list where I expected to see him and, thus, I inadvertently stopped reading for a number of weeks (thereby proving my J train minifesto point that you cannot afford to ask your users to change their behaviour very much).

For that reason, I came belatedly to this fantastic interview with Apple founder Steve Wozniak in which Woz, despite his protestations to the contrary, revealed himself to be an utterly intuitive marketer as these two quotes will show.

"Don't focus on designing technology, but look at the thing that people do in their life - that is what you have to simplify the most."

"Modify technology to the way that humans work - don't make technology that causes humans to modify their behaviour."

That's the perfect expression of product as marketing.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Head In The Clouds.

Since a lot of readers will have been flying in the past days, it seems appropriate to recount the comments of a former airline executive that I heard this week.

When asked to discuss the online practice of budget airlines which advertise very low prices that bear little relation to the price one would pay at the end of the purchase process, he said that they did so because they could get away with it and because it allowed them "to take a powerful message to the marketplace."

More accurately, it's a powerful, untrue message, But, it's undeniably a powerful message because its impacts include:

  • Wasted time for customers during the purchasing process.

  • Increased distrust of all airline advertising and pricing.

  • Customers feeling ripped-off and unappreciated.

  • Negative word of mouth.

  • Not to mention the realisation that executives see the false promise of low price as a legitimate excuse for poor customer service.

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Blog Or Blag?

    Is allowing advertising on your blog an example of making money with what you do rather than because of what you do?

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    The Evolution Of Podcasts And Videoblogs?

    An interview with his sponsor and a post in which he guided me to a third party videoblog would not seem to have much in common, but together these two recent Scoble posts have got me thinking.

    The sponsor's motivation that derives from his interest "in reaching (the younger, more tech hip generation) who will watch Internet video" is entirely logical and yet, isn't this the generation that's notorious for that attention deficit that also afflicted me when I started to watch the second videoblog? I'm sure there was interesting content therein, but the lack of structure and focus infuriated me (as with so many videoblogging and podcast experiences before) and I quit within thirty seconds.

    Now, none of this is (nor should be seen as) an attack on any individual involved or any specific videoblog or podcast - this is an evolving medium and people are feeling their way. But I believe a degree of marketing insight might prove helpful. In classical marketing terms, I wonder if there is a confusion as to what the product is here? A lot of emphasis is rightly placed upon the accessibility of videoblogging and podcasts but for me this is very much the P of place (distribution) rather than the P of product, albeit a factor which yields a great potential advantage to the producers of these programmes.

    The real product should be seen as the content because it is that which uses up the viewing/listening resource of the time-poor consumer and there is, as many have said, a need for editing here. But, in my mind, that editing should be occurring pre rather than post production. The real difference between web 2.0 interviews and those on radio and TV interview shows is that the former seem like rambling chats or musings while the latter are better structured due to greater pre-production preparation.

    The focus moving forward should not be on improving technical quality for reproduction on HDTV screens or wherever, but on improving the content quality (Geek Marketing 101 pt 4: "Think what, not how"). As YouTube shows so strongly, the "folksiness" that comes with technical deficiencies and limitations is an attraction not a problem. It engages. But boring or rambling content disengages - as YouTube also shows us.

    Narrowcasting is not an excuse for lesser quality. If you think that way, the significant number of viewers or listeners that you may currently have will quickly experience diminishing returns to their minutes of engagement and your potential untapped audience will remain immune to your messages. The future of videoblogging and podcasting lies in sharply-defined, bite-sized nuggets that are incisive and insightful but avoid the slickness of spin. Discuss?

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    It Happens.

    My email was inaccessible this morning and I was greeted with this message.

    Server Error

    We're sorry, but Google Mail is temporarily unavailable. We're currently working to fix the problem -- please try logging in to your account in a few minutes.

    That's an apology, an acknowledgement and an implied promise of swift action - all in a couple of lines.

    It's a good template for customer service don't you think?

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Old Dog, New Tricks.

    Clive Davis is a very smart and successful man. At 74, he's not the new kid on the block but as Lefsetz (again) reports, he has the ears for new marketing as well as new music.

    "Clive dressed Whitney up and had her sing at private events. He’s staging a comeback, not a desperate one, but an elegant one. No new material is needed, just her appearance, with the voice and class she used to have. Clive’s priming the PUMP! He’s getting the media ready. He’s not asking for mainstream press, but the ever-present reporters are leaking the story. Making the public feel like insiders. The orchestration is so low level, it’s not exposed for the manipulation it is. Then, after a year, or even two, after going through HUNDREDS of tracks, maybe THOUSANDS, and recording an album with hits, Clive is gonna spend a fortune on hair and makeup and photographers and video directors and the sleek package that emerges will make you want to take Whitney home with you once again."

    Doesn't that sound like an ideavirus, doesn't that sound like marketing 2.0 and doesn't that prove that you don't have to be young to market pop culture?

    When Marketing Eclipses Quality.

    Having worked in various consumer media industries where shelf-life is incredibly finite, I quickly learned that the customer is hard to fool and that getting the product right is job one.

    Catching up with my RSS feeds over the weekend, I found that Bob Lefsetz had been in great form about the perils of over-marketing in the media world some weeks ago. It applies everywhere.

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Does Payment In Kind Scale?

    Where I lead, The Sunday Times apparently follows!

    In a piece entitled Social Climbing in Cyberspace, the writer discovers that when it comes to social networking "The reality of what they deliver can never match the fantasy of what they seem to promise" as I recounted many months ago in respect of my famous friends.

    In particular, the area of social networking that has been populated by overt marketing is not that social. Truly, "It’s all a bit one-way with them MySpace stars."

    You know the shark has been well and truly jumped when, of all people, the head of a record company admits “You can no longer trust what you see on sites like YouTube and MySpace,” a quote that comes from an article about the social networking launch of singer Terra Naomi that you can read here.

    Parsing these two articles, I am struck by the quintessential marketing 2.0 conundrum which is this.

    In generating communities of interest, we establish the levels of engagement that are our holy grail. Thus, if you choose to read the Social Climbing In Cyberspace piece, you will see this quote,

    “You’ll be privy to all sorts of random acts of kindness in your community,” .. “The spirit is very much winning by sharing, and that comes around incredibly quickly online.”

    All completely true of course, but within the Terra Naomi story in her reaction to the intial success of her video on YouTube, you will encounter the other side of the equation.

    “Two days later, I came home to 10,000 messages from fans. I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t speak for three weeks. That’s the downside of internet success. You deal with the craziness alone. There’s no buffer between you and this avalanche of interest. It’s scary"

    In horrible business-speak, the question at the heart of this is can you scale genuine acts of kindness?

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    Limping Down Madison.

    While a healthy dose of cynicism is not to be discouraged, it does amaze me how many marketing "professionals" still question or are just ignorant of the real impact that blogs can have in the marketing of a product or service.

    It serves as a reminder of how slow the take-up of new ideas can be, but I hope this recognition of Hugh and co's success with Stormhoek makes them sit up and take notice. This thing will certainly evolve but it's not going away.

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Everything To Do With Marketing.

    When I first saw this work of genius, I was going to post it as a piece of Friday fun under the heading "Nothing To Do With Marketing." But, of course, it has everything to do with marketing because it puts before our eyes a visual representation of how frequently worldviews change and reminds us that some our fleeting and some more deeply held.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006


    Many people have said kind words and provided links to the J train minifesto for which I am most grateful. This coverage has also provided a great reminder of the visual assumptions we all make. I've never understood why but, throughout my life, my five letter surname has been reproduced as Dobb, Dodd or Dobbs among other variants and all these have seen the light in recent days. Moreover, many commenters understandably assumed that it was a manifesto rather than a MINIfesto.

    The marketing lesson in all this is that people will see what they expect to see. If you're trying to get them to see something different, then make sure that difference is apparent.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Zuney Tunes?

    I'm not a technical expert and have not set eyes or hands on Microsoft's answer to the iPod, but I've picked up two bemusing "facts" online.

    Firstly, the Zune is not yet compatible with their much-trumpeted Vista operating system and secondly the benefit of being able to receive tunes wirelessly from your friend's Zune is temporary - after three plays or part plays these tunes are deleted.

    It's entirely understandable why both these situations have occurred and as an ardent defender of copyright I fully support the latter, but it seems to me that both offer the potential for disappointment among certain prospective purchasers.

    While the ultimate impact that this may or may not have on the success of the product depends upon the numbers involved, I wonder if it would have been preferable to avoid them? Predicting and eliminating sources of negative word of mouth is a vital part of product development.

    Design Matters.

    Since I covered design issues yesterday, it seems the right time to address the issue of this blog's "design" which occassionally receives mildly derogatory comments. Having just extolled the marketing impact of design, it would be hypocritical if I didn't address them.

    My original template choice was a faux parchment style that appealed to my ironic sensibility though ultimately had to go because of its overly sombre colours. The current embodiment is brighter but frankly if my html skills were superior, I'd be tempted to replace the bubbles/dots (that some see as overly lightweight) with a muted single background colour.

    The key though is that very few templates meet the usability requirements to which I have alluded before. My perspective is that people graciously consent to read my ramblings and so I want as simple as presentation as possible. The single usability proviso is that there is a left hand column for links and the right hand column remains blank so as to avoid F effects and have nothing distracting at the right-hand end of each line.

    But I'm not a geek and this is a basic sub-optimal template, so I would welcome your coding tips and general design comments for or against the status quo. In the old days this would be called a plea for help but I think it's now called co-creation.

    ADDENDUM: This has probably been asked before but I wonder if websites and blogs written in languages that read from right to left have adwords in the left hand column and and whether the F effect is reversed? And how ironic is it that Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognise the word "blog"?

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Packaged Goods?

    Good packaging represents an opportunity to entice and attract the customer in that three-second window of potential aisle attention; to differentiate your range; and to enhance the customer experience by saving their time and reducing any confusion.

    But packaging that looks like this

    fails on all counts as this account explains.

    We've all been here, haven't we? The problem of picking up the wrong item from the shelf or, as I call it, the apricot/orange yoghurt interface conundrum. The point is that similar products must be visually differentiated and the real mystery is that Petcetera could have done so at no extra cost. It's not about radical design. Why not just move the varietal fish image to the top of the package since that's where the customer's eyes alight?

    Further pictures here show just how unenticing a wall of these beauties looks and emphasises the lack of differentiation. As for the customer experience? Well, as the disgruntled pescaphile explained to me via email "I'm neurotic at the best of times, and I was in a blind panic, thinking I'd somehow walk out again with goldfish food.." and that's not at all the desired engagement.

    Moreover, a side effect of forcing a closer inspection of the details of the packaging was the revelation that the contents don't seem to vary hugely. That's a real double whammy - a customer now feeling (rightly or wrongly) that as well as being inconvenienced, they've also been duped.

    All of this is so easily avoidable. Packaging gives you the ability to exert control over your message and for that reason alone it's worth the extra effort. Petcetera's mission statement makes the usual allusions to "superior levels of customer service" and I have no doubt that they strive to achieve this, but they must appreciate that customer service isn't just about the way you smile at and talk to your customers!

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    The J Train (A Marketing 2.0 Minifesto).

    All Markets Are Up For Grabs.

    It's no longer possible to control the conversation. While incumbents spend their time trying to cling to that belief, you have the opportunity to step in, reframe the discussion and win a new argument.

    Difference Not Differentiation.

    Customers have either too much stuff or not enough time and value current choices over substitutes. Minimise the behavioural change you demand of them, but give them a real reason or reasons to love your product/service.

    Don't Disappoint.

    Ensuring that everything works and instantly reacting to any problems is a given. Bad news travels much faster and wider than it did before. An informed customer is your best promotion but potentially your worst nightmare.

    Make Your Marketing Sociable.

    You can't control the conversation, but you can facilitate and, to some extent, host it in a way that allows you to build genuine relationships with potential customers rather than white-noise relationships with anyone you can bombard.

    Interaction Requires Iteration.

    It's not enough to listen and a single return path does not constitute a dialogue. Meaningful long-term connection with prospective customers can only come from community, co-operation and co-creation.

    See The Wood For The Trees.

    Don't assume you're like the customers. You're much closer to your business than they are or care to be. Find out what they're like. The shared interest at the heart of your relationship will probably not to be the product itself.

    Relate, Renew and Reinvent.

    If you want them to keep coming back to you, then you must keep coming back to them. It's not about new campaigns that look different. The new focus is more on product and customer development and less on explicit promotion.

    Don't Forget To Sell.

    Engagement is great but it doesn't pay the bills, so remember to sell. Selling is responding to the customer's interest when they choose to make the move. It's not about cutting deals, it is about making it easy for them to buy or trial.

    Le ROI Est Mort.

    Marketing cannot be a measurement-free zone, but increasingly its overall impact is indirect and qualitative. However, as engagement methods are less expensive than advertising, ROI will almost certainly rise and, crucially, with no increase in spending, it will continue to rise as your engagement intensifies.

    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). It operates online and off and should inform and occupy every aspect and department of an organisation. More than ever before, it is everybody's job.

    The J train that I used to ride from lower Manhattan out to JFK is synonomous for me with expanding horizons and (with its echoes of those trains called clue and hugh) it seemed an aptly contrived title for my rough draft minifesto on this evolving thing we call marketing 2.0.

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    No Strings Attached.

    Defining the creativity that lies at the heart of all great marketing is a thankless task. But once you recognise it, the key, as this video illustrates, is not to stifle it. Thanks to Kaylen for bringing this to my attention.

    Saturday, November 11, 2006

    Bad Timing?

    The junk mail that I normally ignore happened to land just so on the mat and the price for cans of Campbell's soup was ridiculously low. So the next day, when in that neighbourhood, I swung by and ran the gauntlet of the discount store. Quelle surprise, total disarray, no Campbell's soup and staff with little awareness of what they stocked.

    I fired off an email via their website. The response that came within the day,was polite and well written but the explanation leaves me in a quandary. Apparently it says somewhere on this large flyer that the offers don't start till next Monday (five days after the flyer arrived). My marketing reaction is that you must, must, must avoid disappointing any potential customer and thus the date of the offer should have been clarified in unmissable fashion all over the flyer or the flyer should not have gone out until the stock was in-store.

    But I have a nagging doubt, am I asking too much?

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Supermarket Woman.

    A fascinating piece about music buyers in today's Times reveals a number of factors that can be applied across all markets.

    The rise in economic and demographic power of women over 30.

    The kidult behaviour of the baby boomers which is widening the purchasing demographic in many categories.

    The ability of images to dissuade as well as encourage purchase.

    The importance of not developing your offering too quickly lest your customers refuse to follow.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    The Results Are In.

    No not those results!

    I'm talking about box office returns. The figures are in and Scenes of A Sexual Nature an independent production with a budget of less than $1 million achieved a screen average last weekend of $2400 per screen on the same weekend that Borat was released.

    It's all very well to write about deviant marketing, but it's even better to report that it works. Excluding Bollywood films which always have exceptionally high screen averages, this was the seventh highest screen average at the UK box office last weekend and exceeded that of studio releases such as Sixty Six and Little Children.

    Bums on seats is one thing (and extended distribution will ensure more of them in coming weeks), but never forget that your end-users are not your only "customers". As a result of the profile generated by the marketing, Sony have picked up the UK DVD rights and plan to exploit its momentum in the new year.

    Dare to deviate.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Marketing Boobs.

    Put together a sports science department with a bra manufacturer and you get the undivided attention of the wrong gender. Or do you?

    At least, this explains why people choose academic careers.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Surreal Or Circumvention?

    Technology has always had an impact on creativity, but Marcus Brown has unearthed an ominous spin on this. Even if he's not right in respect of this particular example, you just know that it will be happening.

    So, the next time you see a seemingly surreal juxtaposition appear in the middle of an advert or a music video, perhaps you should question the artistic motivation.

    As John Lydon once said "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

    This Video Has Been Removed.

    A lot of people have suggested that YouTube didn't have a copyright problem because they were negotiating deals with content providers and/or were centred upon amateur video.

    But what about the impact that the removal of copyrighted material is having? We all know that disappointing service has a greater impact than adequate service, so I just wonder how many times will people tolerate a click-through that leads to a "This video has been removed due to copyright infringement" sign before the appeal of the site begins to wane?

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Professional Service.

    Whenever there's a scandal or crisis you'll hear, as I did today, a spokesperson from some umbrella organsiation announcing how this is an aberration and that accountants or doctors or lawyers are conscientious members of their "profession."

    I don't doubt that is true, but such talk is all about status and separateness and too little about customers and service.

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Geek Defined.

    I don't see myself as a geek, but I always thought I had a handle on what it meant. Until, of course, last Wednesday when attending a geek dinner in London, a number of people asked me what a geek actually was? A hip nerd, a boffin or just a member of the digirati?

    Coincidentally, today, a piece by the tremendous James Gleick about the OED provides the answer.

    "Take geek. It was not till 2003 that O.E.D.3 caught up with the main modern sense: “a person who is extremely devoted to and knowledgeable about computers or related technology.” Internet chitchat provides the earliest known reference, a posting to a Usenet newsgroup, net.jokes, on Feb. 20, 1984."

    Or is it the answer? It's fine by me but I'm sure there will be some readers who disagree. People create understanding based on their own particular worldview and definitions are slippier than we imagine. If you can soldify one around your product/service, you've achieved something special.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    Rush Job Redux.

    When discussing the concept of hurried purchasing decisions before, I wondered if this hurry was a genuine phenomenon across all age groups.

    It clearly occurs to all of us some of the time and the New York Times piece that I quoted yesterday, coincidentally includes the opinion of a 42-year-old who, in reference to store design rather than burglary, says “We are all so busy that, unless I am buying milk, I need a window to get me inside.”

    But I wanted to get another view on this and exchanged emails with David Wolfe whose work on Ageless Marketing I've found to be provocatively insightful particularly in relation to the changing purchasing motivations that our changing brain chemistry produces throughout our lives. With his permission, I reproduce his take on Seth's thesis,

    "That is more the case with younger buyers, but not so much so among the New Customer Majority -- the 136 million adults over the age of 40. As many people continue to age after 40, more and more time ceases to be of the essence. Keep in mind that they typically have overflowing wardrobes, more "stuff" in their homes than they have space for storing it comfortably, have had the thrill of buying new cars numerous times and so on. In other words, as their materialistic appetites begin ebbing, less and less do they feel the kind of almost panicky need to buy something that Seth claims is the case."

    Addendum: David also points us to another example of flogging which shows that old style marketers still don't know how to CHAT to their customers.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Windowless Shopping.

    A fascinating piece in the New York Times real estate section re-raised the implicit question of whether you should design your offering to appeal to all or to actively dissuade those you don't want and thereby excite those that you do.

    The pronouncement of a design analyst that the Abercrombie "barrier" storefronts "are sending a message early in the conversation that says you belong or you don’t belong,” clearly alarms the retail analyst whose verdict is that "They are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to new customers, and new customers are so critical.”

    "All of which Abercrombie & Fitch freely admits. “We are not targeting middle-aged men,” said Mr. Lennox, the communications director. “To have them flee the store, that is fine with us.”

    It's all about having the nerve to filter out the window-shoppers who idly drift in but lack the passionate purchasing mindset. It's about freeing your time to dedicate your attention to those who search you out as a destination.

    Of course, this does not preclude the need for you to actively nurture that destination outlook. It's just that "window shopping" now involves different windows and has moved from the mall to high school corridors and online. Thus, making the interior of a store an object of desire is a smart move, because the impact of design can be literally life-affirming.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Conventional Wisdom.

    In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote of the stupidity of the ostrich that thrusts its head and neck into a bush, imagining "that the whole of the body is concealed."

    In the 21st century A.D., Ze the Frank said "Wikipedia - home of the C+ term paper."

    Pliny had never actually seen an ostrich and ostriches don't bury their heads in bushes or, indeed, sand. These facts are confirmed by Wikipedia.

    Be careful what you believe.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006


    I have always viewed the advertising-funded model for Web 2.0 businesses to be rather close to interruptive marketing for my liking (and yes I view adwords as quasi-interruptive as the tendency for people to ignore the right-hand column of websites would seem to suggest).

    Perhaps, Plinking or product placement linking is the answer. If linkable visual or text content allows the viewer/reader control of the click-through without impinging on their online experience, then we are getting much closer to true permission marketing.