Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Maxmise Your Recommendation Stream.

The Scenario: Two people meeting for a coffee around three o'clock, both having had lunch nearby. They opt for an old haunt, the cafe at Bibendum where they have enjoyed coffees, snacks, dinners and lunches at various times in the past.

The Promise: The website says the cafe "is a wonderful spot to watch the world go by while enjoying a coffee and croissant" and the adjacent oyster bar allows for "A quick glass of wine with or without a nibble".

The Reality: The courteous manager regrets that head-office has instituted a new policy - lunch now continues till 5 p.m. and you can only have coffee in the open-air section. The "protection from the elements means that it’s a perfect all-year-round venue" no longer applies.

The Logic: Head-office presumably saw a fall in revenue per table between 3 and 5 p.m. on their spreadsheet and instituted a policy designed to increase those average revenues.

The Flaw: Revenue figures on a spreadsheet aggregate individual transactions but don't aggregate the overall expenditure of those individuals. Numbers are not human. Customers are not numbers.

The Outcome: Available tables remain empty, revenue not increased one penny and customers disgruntled. Worse still, revenue may actually fall because my companion's lunch partner (on hearing of her plan to go to the cafe) had remarked "oh yes, now the weather's improved we must start having lunch there again".

The Moral: Deciding who you want as customers is crucial, but you need to do it right. If you only see business in terms of your revenue streams and forget about your recommendation stream, you may well run aground.

(photo courtesy of kexi's flickr)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Knowing What You Don't Like.

I heard it suggested that women like Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex & The City all the more because men cannot fathom why. I don't know if that's true or not but my immediate reaction was to suggest flippantly that it was a default position resulting from the fact that they didn't want to be identified via the other characters as primarily either overtly promiscuous, frigid or subservient.

Perhaps that's nonsense. I'm not a woman after all. But just as great marketing is all about removing the reasons not to buy your product/service, perhaps it's worth thinking how your product/service allows customers to defines themselves in terms of what they are not.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Look Before You Leap.

We are all aware, I believe, of the nature of canine congress. Thus, should we ever muse on the mechanics of creating a cross-breed, we might have a notion of what is practical and what goes where, so to speak. But, unless I'm just peculiarly ignorant on this matter, I would suggest that we might well have a faulty vision.

It turns out that breeders cross a male of a smaller breed with a female of a larger breed and not vice versa as I might have guessed. The reason is not simply to make the union more visually comical, but rather to ensure that the puppy is of a size that is manageable during birth.

Obvious, isn't it? But all too often, we focus on the creation of something and not the consequences of what we have to deal with down the line. Your latest marketing initiative may seem like a great idea, but it only is if you've ensured it doesn't cause you pain in the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You Think I'm Cynical?

"Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist."

George Carlin (1937-2008)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Getting To No.

I received Barry Moltz's book Bounce through the mail a few weeks ago. It's a timely reminder (from someone who had a number of entrepreneurial failures before successfully selling an online business) about the need to have a practical perspective about failure and success, their symbiotic relationship and their proximity.

He writes from a business owner perspective, but his sales background gives a number of his ideas great resonance for marketing.

When making sales calls, I believe that to get to yes, I have to first get to no with the prospect to find out whether they represent a real opportunity.....a no is useful, it tells me the prospect is not in enough pain or doesn't see enough benefit in my product to purchase it now

That's all about resilience and pragmatism and it leads him to the conclusion that

in the sales process, most of us don't lose to a competitor; rather we lose to "no decision" or to "no response" - in other words, not hearing back from the prospect. Recognize that the absence of a decision is really a no.

It's a great lesson. Too many marketers are scared of no and delude themselves that their prospects are not saying no when they effectively are. But if you face up to no, then you can focus on those who are more likely to say yes (and will do so repeatedly) or, in their absence, you can focus on what it is about your product/service that is at odds with the needs of the market and thus inspires indifference.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Negative Marketing.

Marketing is everything that connects a provider of products and services to the meeting of specific customer needs. It's usually all about helping and/or persuading people actively to do something. In contrast, governmental marketing is often about persuading citizens not to do something. It's an intriguing mind-shift. Do you lecture, humour or shock or do you reframe the negative as a positive. And which works best?

At the launch of the latest anti-binge drinking campaign, the windows of an empty building in Covent Garden were filled with tableaux illustrating the various TV ads that have been created. It's looking at the problem from a different angle (as I do with these photos from behind the shop window) and seems to take the reframing route. They show people the downside of binge-drinking and suggest that "you wouldn't start the evening like this, so why would you end it like this?"

Even in the daylight when the windows were suffering from sun glare, it was evident that people were being stopped in their tracks and laughing at the tableaux. But is laughter the right route and how long before someone posts an online image of their replicating the actions against the respective windows?

Are soiled home furnishings really the key impact of binge drinking? Or is it damage to your health and personal reputation? If you dont want to shock by showing twenty-something cirrosshis patients (of which there is a growing epidemic), then why not focus on how unattractive it makes you by showing the reaction of members of the opposite sex to drunken antics? Though, of course, the secret to making smoking socially unacceptable was the focus on its health consequences.

At the launch, there was talk of drunkeness as a cultural norm, but that's the consequence not the cause and leads to the "cheap alcohol" red-herring. To my eyes, binge-drinking is much more about lowering one's social inhibitions and it occurs also in Scandanavia and Japan where alcohol is far from cheap but emotions are also repressed. If you want to change behaviour, then perhaps it's fruitful to investigate the reasons for the behaviour as well as the consequences. But politicians and civil servants do that even more rarely than marketing directors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When Creativity Gets In The Way.

Why does a sign on a phone that's promoting reverse (collect) calls need to be difficult to read? Presumably, because somebody thought that "creativity" was more important than communication.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Does This Water Dilute Innocent?

This Water was until recently a part of Innocent. They then decided that it wasn't consistent with their core business and sold it to the employees who had been running it. Everything was very amicable.

But I wonder if it was too amicable because this ad makes me think that it's still part of Innocent and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Given that customers at their recent AGM voiced real possessiveness towards Innocent's packaging, I have to wonder if it would have been too harsh to have insisted that they move away from the Innocent tone of voice?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shopping Trolley Marketing.

Fresh&Easy (Tesco's chain of low-price US supermarkets) provides another reminder that marketing is everything you do in the customer's gaze, and that it's the customer not the company who rationalises it.

Amongst a number of tweaks they have made during a three month hiatus in new store openings, they decided to replace their original small trolleys with regular size ones. The thinking had presumably been to supply trolleys that matched the expected average purchase (Fresh & Easy being bigger than convenience stores but smaller than regular supermarkets).

However, as the chief executive explained, this was interpreted in an entirely different way.

"If you have dinky little carts they think you are a dinky little business. Full carts are a sign of a full shop." (source

I'm not sure he's exactly right. It's the absence of full-sized trolleys, not the presence of small ones that makes people think that way.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Under-Promise, Over-Deliver.

Only make promises you intend to keep. If people see you failing to do so, they won't believe the next promise and they'll act accordingly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Egocentric Design Ignores The Customer.

The Times recently launched its latest new design. Good design is about improving customer satisfaction and this revamp was, no doubt, distilled from lots of research (albeit coupled with new technological possibilities). Hence there are different fonts, new arrangements and amalgamations of sections and due to the technology, lots of coloured photos and charts!

Now, I'm not sure about the new look and could nitpick, but I noticed that they are not sure about it either. It's definitely in beta because this week the review page format changed from this

to this

You may or may not notice the slight changes, but can you see the big problem? In both versions, the name of the reviewer has prominence over what ever is being reviewed and that is wrong. I might well value the opinions of a certain reviewer over those of another, but my first-level filter as a reader is surely the specific subject of the review. Never mind the reviewer, if that doesn't interest me (or I can't easily see it), I won't be reading the piece and your focus on reader-friendly fonts, layout and space will have been fruitless.

Ego, even subconsciously, should have no place in design. If it does, then you're not truly committed to focussing on your customer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sticking The Boots In To Loyalty.

So you're in a store that you visit infrequently and they ask you if you have a loyalty card. You say "yes, but not with me at the moment". They say that's ok, if you return to the store with the card and this receipt within fourteen days, we'll adjust your account accordingly. Straightforward. You reward loyalty rather than punishing forgetfulness.

But not Boots who ironically are praised for having a generous scheme. You return to their store with your card and your receipt and ask them to adjust your account. They say, we can't do that because your receipt (which clearly states that you would have received x loyalty points if you had presented your card at time of purchase) has not been validated. And by "validated" they mean it has not been reprinted to show that you expressed the intention to return to the store to collect the points.

You validate car-parking, you don't validate loyalty.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I Second That Emotion.

When I saw this last week, I wondered what the "emotion of the Ferrari world" might be. But, after this weekend's Grand Prix, I am informed that it is "unhappy, but not angry". Does that mean they'll be selling Ferrari hankies and chocolates? I'm guessing it'll be a red shop.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How Much?

Pricing is difficult. White Cube demonstrates the importance of identifying with your customer while relieving them of large sums of money.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Great Customer Service (Timbuk2 Style).

A small company's CEO adds a comment to a blogpost about the excellent customer service that the blogger had received in response to a complaint. You can and should read the full story here.

Real people treating customers as they would like to be treated and reaping a whole mess of word of mouth in the process. Give your staff the confidence to act like this and your customers will do your marketing for you. Break the rules that should be broken.

Addendum: In light of some linkage problems here is the complaint

and Timbuk2's response.

(Via Adriana's del.ici.ous)

Focussed Attention Is The Goal.

Having been underwhelmed by the in-store experience I described the other day, I actually had my attention grabbed by the window in which there was no "free live music".

It's equally dislocating to see a washing machine in a shoe-store window as it is to see a live musician, but it doesn't distract from what you want the customers to think about.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Retail Knows When Your Time Has Passed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Welcome To The Underwhelming Economy.

Walking past the Nokia Store, Regent Street - that inspiration for so many blogposts - I peeked in to check that I had not been unfair with my previous comments. But no, it was empty again and yet, as this picture shows, not devoid of activity.

I've no idea who the Bananarama tribute act are, but I do know that this is not what is meant by the experience economy. They danced and sang perfunctorily, the staff were as disconnected as before and customers remained a rarity. What were Nokia thinking? Who knows? But no-one seems to have remembered that for the "experience" to be worth the name, the customer must find it engaging and/or relevant.

And it's just Nokia's bad luck that they chose to do it today. I would have written the same post even if they hadn't because two hundred yards down the street, at the Timberland store, I'd already encountered this.

Now, Ashley Hicklin is a far more talented performer, but he too was being ignored (and in a shop window no less) while London's masses thronged past. As Iain Tait says of the online world, "When you’re doing distributed stuff, never forget the importance of clear signposts." It's just as true offline. Otherwise what you get is some insiders recording the event - no doubt so they can show how cool and innovative it had all been - and very little customer interest.

As I wandered around, admiring some very nice merchandising (of which more another time), someone who looked suspiciously like a marketing guy announced to me with total sincerity that "We have free live music instore today." WTF? Maybe someone had read that "free" was the new black or had signed up for Reboot? Maybe there's been some recent seminar that identified instore performance as retail's killer app? I really don't know. Can anyone explain it to me?

Welcome to the underwhelming economy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Should Advertising Lie?

Well, of course, there are regulations to prevent false claims, but the question came to mind when I saw an advertisement for the genealogy website that features film of a small group of elephants walking single-file through a dry river-bed. The voiceover informs the viewer that they are searching for the Elephants' Graveyard.

The trouble is that the Elephants' Graveyard is a mythical invention and furthermore I'm pretty sure that the footage (which frustratingly I cannot find online) has been taken from a recent documentary about desert elephants. Their hunt is not for ancestral grounds, but for new sources of water in the face of a severe drought.

Does that matter? I don't know, but in an age of ever-increasing transparency it makes much more sense to be completely sure that you're telling the truth because once you're caught in a lie (even an inadvertant one), everything else you say will be open to doubt.

The fact that is owned by the country's biggest commercial television network is just an added irony.