Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year Of Thinking Dangerously.

And so we end the year as we started it, amazed that stuff like this gets made. Huge amounts of money spent on two of my pet hates - name changes and celebrity endorsement - tactics that pander to the egos of executives and agencies alike while doing little for genuine differentiation.

Worse still, this is happening in insurance, that most commodified of industries that has focussed on price competition, that suffers from many complaints and that could still be something very different. It's a service that makes a huge impact at a time of high emotion and peril.

What more could a business want in the way of attentive users and what better chance to make them passionate about you by acknowledging that insurance is, at heart, in the emergency service business? None of that will follow from unified group names or irrelevant celebrities and, as the You Tube comments show, people don't like the huge amount of money they're throwing at it in a time of economic downturn.

It's lazy, standard thinking and lazy thinking has got so many sectors in trouble in 2008. Lazy thinking is not going to work in 2009. 2009 has to be the year of thinking dangerously.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pick N Mix Is Not A Strategy.

When Woolworths finally went bankrupt, a lot of people nostalgically bemoaned the passing of an institution and recalled making personally important purchases there decades ago (usually records or pick n mix).

When Woolworths finally went bankrupt, a lot of people realised that they hadn't been there for years and recalled that they didn't really know what they sold.

When Woolworths finally went bankrupt, quite a lot of people who did shop there recalled how they sold the best value children's clothing on the high street. But who knew that? Could Woolworths' salvation have lain in becoming the best children's clothes store in town? We'll never know.

Because Woolworths used to stand for something in people's minds, but increasingly tried to stand for everything by selling a wide variety of unremarkable products and, inevitably, customers drifted away.

Ultimately, it didn't stand for anything and ultimately it no longer exists. Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Online Advertising Needs A Rationale. of the main reasons for this is that advertisers and publishers are not always using the right measures to analyze advertising effectiveness. With average click rates on display ads falling under 0.1%, the correct metric to use is clearly NOT the click.

The click may well not be the correct metric to use. But the fact that click rates have fallen so low is not the justification for such a statement. The online advertising business really has to get its act together.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Relatively Good Isn't Good Enough.

In 1817, David Ricardo wrote about comparative advantage and the mathematical proof that, regardless of your productive capacity, you could improve your community wealth by specialising and trading.

In basic terms, it tells even the most advanced producer to focus on that which they are best at producing and to exchange any surplus production for whatever else they need.

The corollary of this is that even the worst, most inept producers can exploit a comparative advantage by specialising in producing that which they are least bad at producing. They will improve their wealth (at least, marginally) by trading but, being inept, they are not going to get rich.

It was therefore surprising last night to hear Lord Mandelson (Britain's Minister for Business) give a speech outlining his ideas for a new policy of industrial activism in which he constantly referred to the need to identify those areas in which this country has a comparative advantage. Not once did he refer to sustainable competitive advantage.

The point is this - comparative advantage is all about looking at your competitors and trying to stay ahead of them via benchmarking and other unadventurous tactics. Competitive advantage is all about focusing on customers and being absolutely as good as you can be.

It is entirely possible to have a comparative advantage and still be the worst performer in a category. That is a lousy basis for an individual business, let alone a national industrial policy. Remarkable is not relative.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Frameworks For People.

Last week I heard Lord Rogers exude cultural and moral leadership in discussing his philosophy of architecture and urban design. His description of cities as "frameworks for people" seemed to me to be a good way to think about any product or service.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Downside Of Over-Delivering.

The mantra says under-promise and over-deliver. But over-delivery lies in the eye of the customer and not in yours.

For example, if you say your estimated delivery day is Thursday, delivering on Wednesday is not great service if your customer comes home to find a failed delivery note.

You may well have gone the extra mile in respect of your normal performance. However, if it's not something that the customer appreciated then you weren't just wasting your time, you were potentially wasting theirs and that's unforgiveable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How To Make Them Talk About You.

It’s simple and yet seemingly oh so difficult. Give people something that makes their life richer, that does this simply and intuitively and, most importantly of all, does it in a way that doesn’t frustrate.

Avoid feature creep, avoid taking up too much of their time (that scarcest of resources) and avoid causing irritation.

Do that and you find that people are hard-wired to talk about this thing that gives them pleasure.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Marketing Begins Upstairs.

In a recent Seth Godin post, he draws the distinction between making and taking statements. The latter are approaches aimed at stealing market share, the former are designed to create new markets and as he rightly points out are distinguished by a company taking a stance and standing for something.

I'd go further than that. I think it emphasises my often-stated belief of the synonymity of marketing and corporate strategy. You can't stand for something if you only consider it at the promotional stage - that way lies greenwash etc.

By any proper definition, marketing includes product development. But ideally that follows from strategy. Marketing is not a department. A true marketing perspective has to permeate every element of the boardroom. It doesn't and that's where so many problems start.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Creative Commons.

I've never bothered to fill out a social networking profile beyond the bare minimum but if I had, then Warren Zevon, Carl Hiaasen and David Letterman would all have featured. So I knew already that the three were intertwined in real life - even though I came to each of them individually and by unconnected routes.

But reading Zevon's biography, I was surprised to see how many other people I like were also part of his life at some time. In similar vein, I'm frequently discovering that people who've become friends turn out to have a read the same obscure business book as I did years before we met.

I don't know what this means or how it happens, but it's not coincidence.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Is Advertising Immortal?

There are a lot of advertising-funded business models around.

If we can just build a community, then advertisers will want to reach them. Will they?

If we undercut more expensive advertising media, we'll have a competitive advantage. Will you?

If we don't charge for this, our audience will accept that they have to watch some ads in lieu of payment. Even if they did, would an advertiser really be interested in reaching a bunch of freeloaders?

It's amazing how many people who talk of disrupted markets, new paradigms and constant change are so wedded to old-world solutions. Change does not discriminate. If your marketplace has changed, then all bets are off. Not just the ones you don't have to make.