Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Foresight Of The Amateur.

May 16, 2006 (Some Blog)

On reading of ITV's proposal, I switched on ITV and there, like manna from heaven, I find the British equivalent of the Jerry Springer show being sponsored by Learn Direct a government organisation tasked with increasing literacy and adult education by reaching 'those with few or no skills and qualifications who are unlikely to participate in traditional forms of learning". Some bright spark no doubt suggested that the audience for this freak show might be the under-educated (though the time slot shouts sleepy students to me) but, even if they are the target audience, they're not going to be in a self-improvement frame of mind while watching "My Mum's teenage lovers embarass me!"

Is that really a sponsorhip model that chimes with the key parameters of involvement, emotion and shared values?

September 29, 2007 (The Guardian)

The sponsors of The Jeremy Kyle Show have pulled the plug on the £500,000-a-year deal in the wake of the controversy over its content.

UFI, which runs learndirect, the Government's adult education service, said continued sponsorship of the show "would not protect and enhance the strength and reputation of learndirect".

The move comes after the popular ITV show was described as "a form of human bear-baiting" by a judge sentencing a guest who headbutted another.

It just takes time.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Difference Makes The Heart Grow Stronger.

It's crucial to keep reinvigorating your thinking - that doesn't mean changing it wholesale necessarily, but it does mean changing perspective.

So, feeling myself drifting this week, I went along to a performance by the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain. I came away reminded of the power of brilliant technical skills, passion and wit; I came away marvelling at how reinterpreting the familiar can produce something familiar yet startlingly different; and I came away realising that inspiration can come from any field and that excellence begets excellence.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Have An Attitude Not An Ad.

Last year I told you about the local couple who built a clothing chain with a turnover in excess of £100 million while having no marketing department and never running an advertisement.

Today Ray Kelvin founder of clothes retailer Ted Baker (market capitalisation £250 million) declares a similar approach in a very rare interview.

..we don’t do valuations and market research; we have an attitude rather than a target market and we don’t advertise. We have a Ted Baker culture instead; people come into the shop and get Ted-ucated. If customers feel like they have discovered a brand themselves, they become much more loyal.

Is this uniquely applicable to the UK clothes retail market? I don't think so.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Marketing Nonsense.

What would you use as the new name for an obscure digital TV channel (previously known as UKTV G2) now that it is being redesignated as "the home of witty banter" and aimed at males 16-34?

Well obviously you'd call it Dave TV because “everybody knows a bloke called Dave”.

And marketing people wonder why they're ridiculed!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Art Or Craft?

In modern cinema, the names that have connoted prolonged quality are Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Aardman and Pixar. You see those names in the dark and you are fairly sure of what you're going to get.

The corporate logos of Warner Brothers, Paramount and MGM (despite the hopes of their management) don't offer the same assurance, while movie franchises usually provide diminishing returns and rarely extend beyond a threequel.

The reason is that these cartoons, rightly or wrongly, are perceived to be works of great craft and the product of single-minded artistic vision. If your product/service is imbued with a similar sense of craft and/or vision, how ever you achieve that, then it will be seen in a very different light.

Friday, September 21, 2007

18th Century Open Source.

Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, a catalogue of his furniture designs was published in 1754 and as Johnnie Moore points out was an early example of open source. It was also an example of what I wrote about yesterday - about standing for something - in this case excellence.

Chippendale gave customers a straight choice - you can have my furniture or someone's imitation of it. He effectively said this is what I do, maybe it will inspire you, maybe it will show competitors what can be achieved. Anyone is welcome to copy me and implicitly and most important of all, anyone is free to try to do better than me, but I'm confident they won't succeed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stand Up And Be Counted.

Wearing pink shirts to express solidarity with a bullied schoolmate was the way these students encouraged people to stand up and be counted. You either wore pink or you didn't - there was no choice. As Seth Godin's outstanding post explains, the key is to make sure you don't allow your users to choose the indifference option.

Just as the don't know/average answer in a research question is the kiss of death, so too is resembling your competition. You have two choices.

1) Stand out by being functionally better than them - something which I contend, as my regular reader knows, is not as hard as you might think.

2) Accept that you've allowed yourself to drift into the commodified zone and that the best way out is to stand for something so that customers (otherwise inured to any functional excellence you may claim) will think of you as like-minded people and want to do business with you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sony: Instructions Like No Other.

Having criticised the Cocoon phone for its lack of instruction manuals, I belatedly spotted the converse as highlighted by Dan Germain. No doubt, it's simpler and cheaper to include a copy of every language version rather than prepare each package for its country of sale, but it's a staggering disregard of the green zeitgeist.

Having been praised for creating a corporate blog, it would be nice if this was the sort of issue they discussed, but so far I've yet to see a post that doesn't feature the word Sony in its heading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

10 Questions About Your Customer Service Approach.

Do you focus on fulfilling all your customers’ actual needs or do you have one eye on cross-selling opportunities?

Do you acknowledge and listen to your customers or do you harass and broadcast to them?

Do you provide clear, expert guidance or do you obfuscate and confuse?

Do you concentrate on perfecting a great product/service or do you focus on fancy packaging and added extras (as defined by you)?

Do you offer the opportunity for conversation or do you insist on one?

Do you cut the superfluous or do you cut costs?

Do you truly value what you’re offering or do you emphasise price?

Do you admit errors and recognise changing behaviours or do you do things like you always have?

Do you answer the phone quickly or do you submit customers to a lengthy and generic filtering quiz at their expense?

Do you think long-term relationship or do you take the money and run?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Speaking Your Customers' Language.

A television spot designed to entice UK buyers to invest in Spanish property has bemused me for some time now because it so resembles the mattress wholesaler advertisements that are the staple of local US television. That is, it reeks of economy while seeking to entice high ticket purchases. The company president speaks directly to the viewer telling us that it "was easy to make good investments in Spanish property five years ago" and urging us to "make sure you pay for your property a fair price."

Is the language poorly translated or is it deliberately done to make it memorable? I don't know and was unable to find the Polaris ad on Youtube so that you could judge, but I tend to think it's the former and proves that speaking your customers' language is less about language and all about idiom. Even if you're marketing within your own country, you would do well to remember that, if you're marketing outside your home country (or usual demographic), you cannot afford to forget it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just One More Thing Too Many.

Historically, the television production business model involved selling enough seasons of a show to a network that would broadcast it on a weekly basis (and cover your production costs) so that you could make hay by taking it to syndication where secondary networks would show it daily. Roughly speaking, this required about one hundred episodes or five series.

The twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers are often held up as the exception to this rule but listening to a programme about Columbo this week, I discovered that in thirty years of production they have only produced an output equivalent to three seasons-worth. Further proof that customers don't need diversity via product and line extensions but will remain loyal to something that meets their needs over and over again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Follow Your Own Advice.

In the past couple of days, I've encountered a number of smart people who have been confused about what to do next in respect of some aspect of their business life, yet would be able to provide perfect strategic or tactical advice to someone else in their situation. We're all guilty of this. The solution is often to follow your own advice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who You Know And What They Share.

Last night, at NESTA, I attended the Mass Collaboration discussion to hear Mark Earls bring his Herd ideas to life and Howard Rheingold pointing us to examples of collaboration blurring competitive boundaries.

While the aversion of some of the audience to the idea that we humans are not rational beings was palpable, I have no problem with that thought - no doubt due to my having endured an economics degree filled with theory that was predicated upon that falsehood and which produced results that bore no relation to the world in which I lived.

Indeed my big takeaway was the reminder that the future is about social interaction rather than technology. This of course means that we should all worry less about modelling those irrational consumers on our computers and spend more time looking at what they and we actually do.

Similarly for collaborative purposes, we should continue to strive to enrich our online connections by taking them offline and, in that vein, it was great to finally and completely unexpectedly meet both JP and Doc Searls. Just goes to show I must get out more.

Bonus links: Another slant on taking the online world offline can be found in Lauren's fabulous reports from Ars Electronica.

Last night's talks can be heard here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Default Defence.

Unexpected iPhone bills, Facebook privacy controversies and ongoing wifi security issues. All caused by ill-conceived default positions. Default positions that have technical manifestations but which, at heart, are attitudinal problems.

Since you can never truly know what each individual customer wants in terms of the myriad options you offer; since you cannot be sure how they will perceive any action that conflicts with that; and because your primary objective must be to avoid annoying any customer, your default mindset should be obvious to you.

It must be the one that minimises nasty surprises and inconvenience and not the one that maximises what you perceive to be opportunities, be they for your customers or for your cashflow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Make Busking Historic.

The Dualers are buskers. They're not famous as far as I'm aware, but their professional set-up in terms of microphones and amplification had drawn a crowd. So far so normal. They also sold CDs. Less common but not out of the ordinary.

But what was unusual was the way they vociferously offered to sign the CDs. And it worked. To some people, they had made a run of the mill busking CD seem special. Now that's what I call marketing.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Getting The Horns.

So I'm channel-surfing. The old fashioned way. Flicking between a documentary about the changing face of porn stars and Mallrats (again) and I'm hearing this horn riff deep in the background - of the movie not the documentary (no music there, just serious analysis).

Suddenly nothing else matters, I need to identify it. I google and find the soundtrack album which is naturally no use because they're merchandising items and rarely bear any relation to the movie. But comes to the rescue by doing it right - they list all the music from the movie.

They get it right by understanding what David Weinberger highlights in his ironically opaquely-titled book Everything Is Miscellaneous. Namely that, in a world where everything is available, we need to be very thoughtful about how we label them.

Letting people know what it is you offer and being there for the "nothing else matters" moment. Those are sources of genuine competitive advantage because that's what users/customers want. They like it even more if it leads to something as remarkable as this.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Playing The Microtrends Percentages.

People don't understand numbers. They certainly don't understand percentages. Just as you can't give 200% effort, 1% is not necessarily a small number. It's not really a small proportion.

A gem from the Change This stable reminds us that if you focus solely on a few big trends, other microtrends that neverthless affect huge numbers of people will seep in and upset your expectations.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Subliminal Marketing And The Colour Purple.

I was surprised to see this much discussed ad run on TV last night, having assumed it was just an online viral effort.

It's interesting to read the theory behind it, however, my initial reaction had been that it was just a vaguely intriguing image designed to draw attention to the pack shot at the end. Yes it's a drumming gorilla but, having acknowledged that, I've looked away and my attention is lost. Especially on TV.

Smarter people will, I hope, tell me I'm missing the point, yet it seems to me that a static image is much more likely to engage the viewer and get them wondering "what's all about?" As was demonstrated two decades ago by another purple campaign which used the compulsory health warning as a clue to comprehension.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Wisdom Of Management Consultancies.

No, not a blank post. But, I have been struck recently how these advisers remain stuck in their old ways of pushing tactics rather than practices.

A piece I cannot find at the moment suggested that retailers should be trained to recognise their most loyal customers and to offer them better service in the certainty that this would lead to greater sales. No consideration given to how the less well-treated customers will react to this discrimination in terms of negative word of mouth. No consideration given to the impact on the loyal customers of seeing other customers being served badly. And certainly no consideration given to the thought of just providing the best customer experience possible to one and all and the positive returns that would accrue from that.

In similar vein, a german McKinsey report discussing how corporations can exploit web 2.0 opines that "These findings, consistent with our experience of participatory media in business settings, suggest that executives pursuing such projects should start by identifying and nurturing the small percentage of users who post quality content."

It's top-down nonsense. You can't control what other people do - you can merely try to control what you do (and that's hard enough) and focus on it producing something that is so good that people are drawn to it.

Jane Tomlinson.

Jane Tomlinson died today.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Michael Caining It?

You didn't think it was a world of surplus supply? Well what else could explain the release of a chill out compilation by Michael Caine?

The great man details the genesis of the project here. I feel sure it's the start of something but not a lot of people know exactly what.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What Business Is Rick Rubin In?

Twenty two years ago Rick Rubin was running Def Jam Records from his NYU dorm room. Today he is joint head of Columbia Records tasked with saving the industry.

His enthusiasm for proactive word of mouth marketing alarms me a little because although he clearly understands the risk of over promising, metrics-obsessed corporate departments tend not to be so savvy. But you can't argue with his underlying philosophy.

"I'm not sure they (Sony) realize that they are selling art. Right now they could be selling any product. That's why we have to move — we're in the art business."