Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Paying A Premium For Convenience?

Love the name (which combines zipcode with purpose), but I'm not sure if this isn't a case of money down the erm...drain.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Convenience Shopping?

In a local supermarket, there are some dedicated tills for the service of shoppers using a basket rather than a trolley. People become conditioned that this is the best choice for time-efficient shopping. Perhaps they even come to see the other tills as trolley-only?

Who knows? But there must be some reason why today eight people stood in that line when three of the other tills in their line of sight were totally unencumbered by any shoppers. As Tara says counterintuitiveness is the new black.

Friday, December 29, 2006

User Generated Devices.

Between meals, Fred Wilson's camera problems in Italy have prompted an interesting post on the idea of user generated devices. It speaks directly to the marketing P of product.

While we certainly now possess the connectivity with which to gauge user reaction and product improvement suggestions in unprecedented depth and while any business that fails to acknowledge this is dead in the water, I think some other conditions need to prevail if we are to avoid the perils of design by committee.

1) Companies need to be convinced that the 90/9/1 rule doesn't mean that the opinions offered are not just those of the vocal minority. As I've often cited before, Jakob Nielsen has shown that the opinions of the minority can pick up the majority of software bugs, so I don't see why this should not hold for hardware.

2) Suggestions and modules will have to be compatible with overall design parameters and production technologies. How often do you hear people say - "in the twenty first century, they must be able to do this"? The reality is not quite so simple.

3) People need to know what they want - and this I think is a tougher problem. Time and again the fallibility of research has shown that people don't know what they want until they're given it.

So I'm with Fred on the desirability of the idea of modular products, but there are real problems in getting there. The new collective voice is a great development, but the wisdom of crowds is an often misconstrued concept. Surowecki's thesis is predicated upon the interaction of a large group of differently minded people, not merely a large group of people and so I'm not convinced that the users of a device are necessarily sufficiently diverse a group for the wisdom to prevail.

Focussing on what they don't want is easier and might yield some progress but ultimately someone has to make a decision/take a risk. That's what they're paid for. Just as the most interesting bloggers (like Fred) take a view, so too must businesses. After listening, digesting and absorbing all sources of feedback, they ultimately have to decide what users will want and, in reality, the functional personalisation of devices isn't what the majority want. They simply want something that works.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Marketing Resolutions.

You will acknowledge in 2007 that marketing 2.0 is a reaction to new market circumstances but not to altered marketing fundamentals and thus,

1) You will not market anything that doesn't warrant it.

2) You will eschew mantras and mission statements.

3) You will not say or think we always do it this way.

4) You will question everything.

5) You will not utter the phrase "sales & marketing."

6) You will survey with your eyes and ears and not with questionnaires.

7) You will not speak of demographics, psychographics or flash graphics.

8) You will appreciate that a Google search does not automatically imply a desire to purchase.

9) You will not over-promise, but you will over-deliver.

10) You will accept that all advertising is interruptive.

11) You will not deny the negative impacts of your business.

12) You will market in a style predicated on honest information and conversation enhancement rather than selling and hype.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Think Should, Not Can.

“We know we can make significant dollars in mobile Web advertising in 2007,” said John Harrobin, vice president of marketing and digital media for Verizon Wireless quoted in the New York Times announcement that Verizon will be accepting advertising on its mobile internet services.

I refer Mr. Harrobian to point 5 of my Geek Marketing 101 by way of crystallising the doubts that caused him to add.

“That said, we likely will not — we want to take it carefully and methodically, and enable the right experience.” More generally, he added, “Mobile advertising is going to take off in 2007.”

Maybe. But maybe people don't want an interruptive experience crafted by a financially-motivated intermediary?

Grasping The Social Responsibility Nettle.

So what should Mr. Fast Food have done? Yesterday's subject came across as a classical marketing guy - one who knows how to run campaigns and departments but who doesn't realise that marketing is neither a process nor a department.

To declare that "the time is right and the public mood has changed" is just retrospective rationality for the fact that the game is up. It is far better to be pro-active and lead the market; to show concern and be genuinely socially aware; and to acknowledge that "retaining our customers trust" is far easier to achieve when you deal with the negative aspects of your business head on.

Both Dove's Campaign for Natural Beauty and Persil's Dirt is Good do just. They face up to the collateral damage to which their actions have contributed and which are or should be major concerns for their customers. In doing so, they stand out from their crowd of competitors. The first fast-food company to show a genuine passion for child health (and no, low calorie menus do not cut it) will truly stamp themselves as different and reap a great reward.

Social responsibility is increasingly at the centre of business differentiation for a variety of reasons. But from a marketing perspective, it's not about hugging a tree, it's about being seen as a company that does the right thing - because that's how your customers expect you to treat them. It's not smart business to engage in the moral equivalent of carbon trading once the public clamour becomes too loud to ignore. Far better to focus on any social problems to which you contribute with the same laser-like concentration you devote to the positive aspects of your business.

And focus does not mean distilling it all into a simplistic mantra. Thats just patronising and does nothing to address the £100 million in lost revenues that the company is warning the advertising ban will cost them!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Marketing By Mantra.

Just before Christmas, I listened to a fast-food marketing honcho justifying his company's decision to pre-empt the forthcoming advertising ban.

Rather than address the child obesity problem that underpins it and thereby portray his company in a socially responsible light, he engaged in repetition of the PR line - "retaining the trust of our customers" - which in true "marketing" style had been determined to be the message to be delivered.

It sounded mawkishly contrived the first time and latterly became listener short-hand for "this guy is saying nothing and thinking less".

Marketing by mantra may reassure the marketer, but it ignores the fact that it is the recipient of a message who interprets it. Moreover, it blinkers your thinking - so much so in this case, that he didn't once challenge the interviewer's continued description of his product as junk-food!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Marketing Myopia.

I keep imploring you to cast where the fish are, but I awaken today on a national holiday to find that all the retailers have closed. Clearly, my work here is far from done. Or am I missing something?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jeff Jarvis - Marketing Maven.

A tally of eighty-eight unread posts in my RSS feed from Jeff Jarvis's blog is indicative of my love-hate reaction to his opinions/style, but for some reason on this sleepy Sunday afternoon, I chose to view his talk about the future of television given at some conference recently.

I recommend it as a primer on his general outlook on media (as ever with these things, the Q and A is particularly interesting), but I was also surprised to discover an underlying marketing view that I'd failed to perceive in his blog and which chimes with my own. Statements like "your brand is the people who use you" and "If the conversation goes "off-message", then maybe your message was off" mean that I might not wait another eighty-eight posts till I read again.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Something For The Holidays.

Bored with wrapping paper, bloated with calories and totally sick of your loved ones? Then why not contribute to the death of the overpaid advertising creative here?

I believe this is known as UGC (usurping genius cheaply).

Friday, December 22, 2006

Don't Ask!

My view of the UK as an essentially secular country was confirmed by the startling revelation earlier this week that only 2.6 million people (6% of the adult population) attend Church of England services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Yet, today, a statistically significant poll reported that 47% of people said, when asked that they would probably do so this year!

Have you finalised your research budgets for next year?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Presumption Of Imperfection.

The phrase comes from a Fast Company report about Toyota manufacturing techniques.

"You can't solve problems unless you admit them. At Toyota, there is a presumption of imperfection. Perfection is a fine goal, but improvement is much more realistic, much more human. Not a 15% improvement by the end of the quarter, a 1% improvement by the end of the month."

It ties in with my philosophy of accentuating the negative and, in our fast-moving times, seems to me to be much wiser than searching for the step-change because the step-change may, in an increasingly quick time, prove to have been a step in the wrong direction.

The article also provides a good example of truly effective internal marketing predicated on the appreciation that various groups of workers are themselves the customers of their colleagues.

"So a team of assembly employees made a real decision. Don't make the worker pick the parts; let him focus on installing them. The idea seems obvious in retrospect: Deliver a kit of presorted visors and seat belts--one kit per car, each containing exactly the right parts"

What follows is obvious - the workers feel appreciated and realise that the management doesn't do dumb things and a culture becomes inculcated by a process of a thousand cuts rather than by some consultant-driven initiative with a name that no-one understands.

"Toyota's competitiveness is quiet, internal and self-critical."

Just like marketing should be.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unexpected Marketing.

I know biology and complexity are being shoehorned into econometrics but Pam Slim's lichen as business model may be stretching the envelope a tad. However, it gloriously reaffirms the engagement possibilities of unexpected marketing.

Marketing your wares in places where the customer wouldn't expect them and/or in terms of benefits not usually attributed with your category are two methods. Thus, Pam encounters balloon animals in a location that is neither street corner nor children's party (but is similar to both) and marketed not as toys, but as social suicide avoidance facilitators.

Stay mindful of the increased risk (within an alien environment) of being viewed as interruptive marketing and, chances are, you're going to stand out in a good way and as long as you stand out you've got a hope of getting some positive attention.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Perfume: The Story Of Product Development.

For their own personal edification, two perfumiers created fifteen perfume essences to replicate the aromas of their favourite book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. These recreate such odours as "a beautiful virgin pitting plums" and "the scent of supernatural charisma" not to mention "the sordid stench of Parisian alleys" but only two of them bore any relation to existing commercial scents.

However, product development rooted in passion is a powerful thing. So, with the book headed for the screen and the fragrances being sold through Thierry Mugler in a very limited edition of 400 coffrets (£380 in UK, $700 in US), the reaction from the public has been so great that two of the more unconventional creations are rumoured to be in line for a commercial incarnation.

In the words of creator Christophe Laudamiel "People are scared of their sense of smell, not used to using it." Or maybe, as in so many businesses, the incumbents prefer an easy life to one of educating and enlivening their customers.

Update: Coincidentally, Seth and Hugh make related points.

Monday, December 18, 2006

If The Shirt Fits.

Kathy Sierra has been getting something off her chest and it's been fascinating to see the volume of passionate comments and related blogposts stimulated by her discussion of "T-shirts". It just confirms that:

  • People don't like being taken for granted.

  • They will notice when you don't do so.

  • The tiniest thing (or T shirt) can engender passionate evangelism.

  • Kathy Sierra has great..........opinions.

  • Sunday, December 17, 2006

    The More You Think About Marketing.

    The more you think about marketing, the less you're taken in by it. It's a good thing, therefore, that most of your customers don't.

    But will that always be the case?

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    Danah Boyd's Reality Check.

    I hold back on commenting too much about Second Life because I risk descending into sarcastic sniping, so I was delighted to read Danah Boyd's seminal destruction of the hype.

    "If you look at the rise of social tech amongst young people, it's not about divorcing the physical to live digitally. MySpace has more to do with offline structures of sociality than it has to do with virtuality. People are modeling their offline social network; the digital is complementing (and complicating) the physical. In an environment where anyone _could_ socialize with anyone, they don't."

    Focus on the probable not the possible - it saves so much time.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Redefining Customer Value.

    Electrolux CEO Hans Stråberg gives an insightful interview to McKinsey this month. He was faced with a polarised market, one in which low-cost manufacturing enhanced the quality of the value end of the industry and in which increased wealth boosted the premium end while squeezing the middle market where they had previously operated. The market had become a number of fast-moving targets and his strategic reaction echoes a number of the points I have made before.

    Segment based on customer needs rather than demographics.

    Move away from segmentation based on hierarchical offerings and price points. Customers aren't that homogenous - they have different value systems and different needs and you need to relate directly to those lifestyle and purchasing patterns.

    Avoid Analysis Paralysis.

    Rigorously determine these lifestyle patterns, but do so via observation and intuition rather than from direct questioning.

    Adapt every aspect of the business model to the segment.

    Each segment has different expectations of the 4 Ps and Electrolux chose to attack both ends of their market simultaneously by utilising two separately incentivised salesforces and different retail and post-sale experiences.

    Difference not differentiation.

    "it’s very difficult to win people over just because your products are known. What makes innovation particularly challenging is that the functional improvements that set products apart in the 1970s and 1980s... are no longer effective differentiators. But differentiation can take many forms."

    Internal marketing is as crucial as external marketing.

    A switch from multi-label branding to a global master brand acknowledged the trend in other industries where consumers were prepared to pay a premium for master-branded products, but also served internally to generate a global corporate culture.

    In today's fast-moving marketplaces, changing one's approach to marketing isn't just an online thing.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Great Name, Shame About...

    You will be surprised to learn that Smittens is not the collective noun for my female blogging admirers. It is, in fact, a very good name for this product.
    Well, it is a great name IF you understand what the product is and IF it's something people would want. The former isn't obvious from the above image on the front page of their website, while the latter would be more apparent to people if this "serving suggestion" were adorning the front page rather than being hidden a less-than-obvious click away.

    The marketing mix is just that and a great name is but a small part of it.


    More Klosterman Wisdom.

    I first encountered Chuck Klosterman on a bookstand at Cincinnati airport where his collection of pop culture analysis "Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs" jumped out at me. He makes me laugh, he makes me think and he sometimes endorses my own thinking. Which is nice.

    In a blistering attack on the open-source aspect of Snakes On A Plane he wrote,

    "I worked in newspapers for eight years, right when that industry was starting to disintegrate. As such, we spent a lot of time talking with focus groups, forever trying to figure out what readers wanted. And here is what they wanted: everything. They wanted shorter stories, but also longer stories. They wanted more international news, but also more local news. And more in-depth reporting. And more playful arts coverage. And less sports. And more sports. And maybe some sports on the front page.

    When it comes to mass media, it's useless to ask people what they want; nobody knows what they want until they have it"

    Wise words which personally I think apply to every non-essential product and service.

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    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Too Many Tunes Spoil The Sloth?

    Whether or not the story about iTunes sales having fallen dramatically is true or not, it did remind me of one of the differences of the digital age.

    We all know (or indeed may admit to be or having been) an amasser of vinyl and latterly CDs whose collection exceeds a volume to which we could ever listen. However, we did have something tangible to show for it and, in the absence of a real life, to catalogue. In contrast, a full iPod or hard-drive doesn't have the same quality, so maybe there comes a point when its convenience and portability is taken for granted and the purchase of another tune does not add to the overall benefit in the way that a physical purchase did.

    Maybe we're seeing signs that the providers of digitised entertainment will have to consider how to enhance their product so that the user gets more than the mere content?

    ADDENDUM: Or perhaps, everybody's bought all the hit album tracks for their back catalogue and now they're only buying a small proportion of any artist's new work.

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    Marketing Is Not.

    1) Just For Christmas.

    2) False Promises.

    3) An Expense.

    4) A Branding Paint Job.

    5) Just Slogans.

    6) A Head Office Function.

    7) Glossy And Glamorous.

    8) The New Black.

    9) Just Promotion.

    10) A Department.

    Addendum: Rob reminds me that I should have named this post "Good Marketing Is Not".

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Vive La Difference?

    Les Vins de Bordeaux offers a ready-made nationalistic debate for all those bloggers at Le Web 3 in Paris.

    In the face of falling demand in an oversupplied market that is being shaken up by new marketing approaches, the burghers of Bordeaux offer us this incisive customer-focussed poster campaign.

    Some Offer You Just A Drink.

    Others Offer You A Chateau.

    Nice to know, but I can't drink a chateau!

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    When Is A Brand Not A Brand?

    Buzzwords permeate language faster than ever. With their spread, there often comes a misconception as to their original meaning and underlying logic. In the technical realm, people often add the disclaimer that they don't really understand them, but people believe they understand what marketing is and thus the dispersal of false assumptions is much more rapid in our field.

    I don't know what killed Front Page but this Scoble post allows me to focus on some terminology usages that have entered public parlance in recent years.

    When Microsoft asked developers about Front Page, I would argue that their reaction was not to a "brand" but to a product - specifically some publishing software that I've never used but which apparently was seen to be associated with code changes and lack of awareness of user needs.

    To these people, the name Front Page evokes thoughts of a software experience and seemingly a not very good one. Thus, it is entirely wise not to create other Front Page product variants as they would be tarred with the same brush of product associations.

    However when I read of "killing the brand" I immediately infer a worrying implication that the image is wrong while the product is passable. This "branding as paint job" school of thought is all too prevalent and leads to a mistrust of marketing on the part of both consumers and non-marketers within your business and a lack of user-focus on the part of marketers.

    A recycled version of the product would not suffer from the Front Page name but, unless dramatic changes were made, the user experience would presumably be similar and the new brand would go the same way as the previous one. Such changes have to be significant because even if the product is re-tooled to work very well, any vestiges of the feel of the old product will unfairly trigger the old reactions in users' minds.

    Not only does the product have to be different, the whole experience has to be distanced from the old one and this highlights the error of talking of branding. People buy the product to help them to publish so if you build them that, then almost regardless of what it's called or how it's packaged (as long as this doesn't impact the actual usage experience) then the product will get a following and a brand will grow around the emotions and experiences that it generates.

    The brand follows the user experience and not the other way round and it is the deficiencies in that experience (magnified perhaps by the rise of alternatives in the form of blogging software) that denuded Front Page. Microsoft did not kill the brand, they merely buried it.

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    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Cultivating Indifference?

    The wonderful Chuck Klosterman turns out to be a computer games fanatic. In an interview about this piece on games' analysis, he asks

    "So when does something become a critical element of the zeitgeist? It's when people who barely care are interested. It's when you can move beyond the person who is actively involved in the game."

    That seems as good a definition as any of the difference between niche and mainstream acceptance and the crux of the matter is whether you want to deal with customers who "barely care".

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Tossing Cookies.

    A friend in Calgary reported hearing that cookie-scented bus stickers were removed from the Calgary bus system, due to "old people complaining and because apparently it's cruel to remind homeless people they can't afford cookies."

    Having been unable to confirm this, I suspect this is a misreporting of this San Francisco story.

    The intention of the California Milk Processor Board was to get people thinking about cookies, and thus milk, but they met with complaints from anti-fragrance groups, anti-allergy groups and anti-obesity groups and the scent-strips were removed on Tuesday.

    Regardless of the odd logic of advertising an associated good (as opposed to an associated feeling or emotion) in the hope that it is twinned with your product in the consumer's mind, this just goes to show that how ever you dress it up interruptive advertising is interruptive. People don't like it.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Marketing ROI 2.0.

    For myself and some readers, the most contentious point of my J Train minifesto was Le ROI Est Mort in which I suggested that

    "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."

    Now, I didn't mean to suggest that marketing ROI could not be calculated.

    Indeed, I believe marketers should repeatedly measure everything that can be measured effectively. Measure the response to alternative advertisements, measure the effectiveness of various adwords and measure how users use your products and services. Improve and re-test. There is always potential for greater optimisation.

    But I did mean to suggest that we should not be beholden to this concept of a measurable ROI.

    The fundamental issue is that it is very difficult to enumerate an accurate "gain from investment" when it is clear that a lot of the new marketing has an almost osmotic effect and works indirectly. This may lead to questioning from finance types but it should be steadfastly defended.

    And the defence is this. If the "cost of investment" is low, as is clearly the case in much of the new marketing, then it is equally clear that only a small impact on revenues will generate an impressive ROI. Indeed, I'd go as far as to suggest that if the marketing is well founded, then the ROI must inevitably be high in comparison with old-style marketing.

    So, I was essentially making a point about the self-esteem of marketers. While marketing is a qualitative skill as much as it is a quantitative one, it is, I believe, the most crucial aspect of any business and yet its practitioners often exhibit an inferiority complex vis a vis financiers.

    Consequently marketers seek to measure the unmeasurable in an attempt to justify their actions using the same parameters as financiers but without knowing their tricks. As any VC, Board member or Guy Kawasaki will tell you, number-crunchers frequently reverse-engineer their business plan assumptions in order to generate a nominal ROI figure which they know to be the threshold for box-ticking approval. It will be a nice figure, but it may never come to fruition.

    Thus marketers should have the confidence not to rush to generate spurious numbers simply to justify actions based upon their qualitative understanding of how consumers think and how markets are changing. If financiers can approve fees for "strategic" initiatives, you can justify much smaller expenditures in pursuit of more immediate cash-flow positive outcomes.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    The 1% Rules.

    The Citizen's Marketer book posits a 1% online activism rule that gells with Jakob Nielsen's 1-9-90 rule that I cited before.

    At the time, I argued that the implicit indifference of the silent majority was nothing to worry about and, of course, the Long Tail tells us that a 1% niche can be very profitable. So focussing on the 1% is a good thing.

    And then I read today that the richest 2% of people own more than half of the world's assets and I'm not so sure.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Learning Lessons.

    One of the horrors of the UK is the way that the justifiable application of private sector skills and practices to bloated and inefficient public sevices sometimes leads to the defence of the indefensible.

    Since private sector companies have marketing departements, it is now deemed essential that publically-funded hospitals in a socialised medical system should be allowed to market themselves to patients.

    As you can see the doctor's worldview that "The health service is not about making money, it is about delivering care for patients" differs markedly from that of the businessman who would have us believe that "This is a natural part of developing a competitive marketplace."

    There is much to be said for applying the lessons of best practice or innovative thinking from another sector to your own - not only can you learn from their experience, you are also more likely to stand out amongst your peers and competitors. The key is to ensure that the borrowing is appropriate to your business and meets with the approval of your staff and customers.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Ethical Ambulance Chasing.

    You know the ads. The ones that show how the knight in shining armour law firm won justice and a nice payout (minus their fee) for the accident victim. They began to get a bad reputation for unethical self-interest.

    Now I see they're getting savvy. As well as revealing the payout, they now highlight the fact that they also secured a change in the sued party's safety policies. Compensation plus, if you will.

    Does window-dressing change your opinion?

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Crying Over Spilt Wine?

    In in the past couple of days, a lot of media coverage has been devoted to the alleged miscalculation of an online promotion by Thresher's that has seen their 40% discount voucher go viral.

    I'm not convinced that the analysis is correct. Either Thresher's were being very dumb in light of previous online voucher debacles (notably Starbuck's decision to withdraw an offer once over 1 million people had downloaded their voucher); or we can assume they are not losing money on the sales and given that they were doing 3 for 2 offers on wine anyway (i.e. a 33% reduction) that seems reasonable.

    Then what are we left with?

    1) Huge new footfall for a chain of small drinks stores that are under massive pressure from the supermarket behemoths.

    2) Increased cashflow in the important holiday run-up.

    3) Increased market share because a large proportion of the sales that occur during this promotion are sales that are not now occurring in the supermarkets.

    4) Huge amounts of free publicity due to the media coverage of what is characterised as a fiasco.

    Now, even if it may not have been planned to happen like this, that would only mean it wasn't a clever marketing tactic. But from where I'm looking, it doesn't look like a catastrophe. It's not a long-term strategic move, but it's nicely disruptive at a crucial sales time and goes to show that people react to recommendations from their friends far more than to traditional promotional advertising.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics.

    On Wednesday, just before being assailed by the sight of Alan Cumming's purple ass, I was eavesdropping on some fellow theatre-goers complaining about the performance of their postal service. They intended to send this year's Christmas presents via a private carrier and were unwilling to make formal complaints because "they'd only get forwarded to our local office and we'd consequently risk retribution."

    Yesterday, the UK postal service announced its "best-ever" performance (since records began in 1988).

    Today, the media is full of questions as to whether the numbers have been manipulated by virtue of earlier collection and later delivery times just as our trains run more punctually because scheduled journey-times and definitions of lateness have been stretched.

    Measurement is not a PR exercise, it's meant to inform you how you're doing and where you can improve. The customer doesn't need to see the numbers, they intimately know their experience of your company and if you tell them otherwise, you're going to end up like Alan Cumming.