Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trusting Me, Trusting You.

So yesterday a buffoon sends out a mass email cc'ing rather than bcc'ing everyone in his mailing list. There were understandable complaints in some quarters, but quickly the tone changed as in-boxes filled with emails from various social media experts offering parodic investment opportunities in Nigeria, deals on pharmaceuticals and announcements that the email list had been sold to spammers.

Perhaps the context of a lazy Friday or the overlapping of the recipients' networks contributed to this interesting example of community forming around a shared sense of implicit (albeit most definitely not explicit or universal) permission. But, the sixty-odd contributions so far have crucially not expanded the distribution beyond the original list and there is a sense of trust that they are all sufficiently web-savvy to limit any damage that has already been done.

If you can engender that trust amongst your potential customers, it seems that people's human-ness shines through even when you screw up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Measure For Measure.

Measurable results are all the rage as cost-cutting management regimes seek thorough justifications for expenditures.

The subject came up twice yesterday in very different contexts. First I heard James Lovelock of GAIA fame extolling the need for more measurement of climate change but declare that "All things that really matter are intuitive." It's a great point. Projected numbers, in business especially, can usefully be as much about trends and tendencies as about pinpoint accuracy and we know that the great mathematicians all speak of seeing patterns and shapes in numbers rather than calculate them like mere mortals and finance directors do.

Then, in a meeting with an agency, the subject of convincing clients of the ROI on digital initiatives when they were quite happy to pay large sums for traditional advertising. It reminded me of a post that I wrote years ago in which I remarked upon the dubious calculations of financiers and suggested that imputed justifications of marketing expenditures were no less valid. Quite prescient really.

If you measure where you can and combine that with a rigorous inspection of your internal logic, any marketer should be able to generate a solid ROI justification, particularly now that the bean-counters have been shown not to be the master mathemeticians they thought they were.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Passion Is No Ordinary Word.

Last week, at the Free Agents screening, I heard a producer eulogising about how the show had been a great "job" with which to be involved. This week I heard someone praising an advertising campaign as great "work".

My reaction to both is the same as to those people who spoke of shifting "units" and marketing "product" when I worked in the entertainment industry. If you want customers to care about what you're selling, then think and speak about it in terms of something you care about.

If your language commoditises it, you're half the way to actually commoditising it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pattern Recognition.

Changed behaviour gets noticed. It disrupts the status quo. It can be a positive diffentiator. A lot of marketing is based upon claims that we do things differently and this is better for you.

But changed behaviour can also occur for defensive reasons and that also gets noticed (as Facebook have been reminded this week).

It is noticed when a credit card company starts sending monthly bills about two weeks later than before. It is then noticed that this wasn't due to the holiday season postal glut but was apparently a policy change.

The changed behaviour has certainly got the customer's attention, but that customer is now wondering if they're trying to increase the chance of his making a late payment. Customers don't like sneakiness - peceived or actual. They notice it. Don't do it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Keep Your Copy Clear.

Snappy way of saying "our showrooms are offering good deals" isn't it? I had to drive past this billboard (yes, a billboard designed for instant impact) quite a few times to work it out.

Add in the looming storm clouds and a racing driver who, for sure, won the world championship but was also beaten in many of the races and you have to wonder what the thinking was. If you haven't got much time to say something, make it simply comprehensible and make it undebateable.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Art Of The Tease.

"Publicity is selling what you have: the film’s stars and sometimes its director. Marketing, very often, is selling what you don’t have; it’s the art of the tease."

No, marketing is the art of making sure that what you have is easy to sell.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let Your Product Do The Talking.

Tonight, because I know a friend who works for the production company, I was invited to a preview screening of a new television series, Free Agents, followed by drinks and canapes. I wasn't going to blog about it here - it takes more than canapes and good company to buy me - but the more I reflected upon it, the more I was impelled to write.

Not because I had the pleasure of watching two episodes of a remarkably tightly scripted show that was uniformly well acted and filmed and which I would recommend unreservedly, but because I had been led to believe I was going to see a comedy. That "branding" made me focus on how often I and the rest of the audience were laughing and the answer was not that often. Don't get me wrong, I laughed outwardly and inwardly on many occasions, so did the rest of the audience, but no-one did so perhaps as often as one would expect of a comedy.

There's a simple reason for that - this is so much more than just a comedy (and I write that as a huge fan of comedy). The point is that categorisation can be bad marketing and by labelling this a comedy rather than just a really intelligent piece of entertainment, a dissonance was created for me and, to a lesser extent, for some other audience members with whom I compared notes over canapes.

The message is not a new one. It's the audience/customer who decides what something means to them. Good marketing is categorically not about telling them what to think. You don't use short-hand to create your product/service, so why sell it short with lowest common denominators when you come to market it? If you believe the world is increasingly media literate, then why not treat it as such?

If you live in the UK, I urge you to watch Free Agents on Channel 4 on Friday at 10 p.m. and while I guarantee you will laugh, I'll be really interested to know if you would describe it as a comedy when you recommend it to your friends.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Sale Is Not Just The Transaction.

Don't know who is more at fault here. The media owner/train company for daring to sell advertising space that is not a clean slate. Or the media buyer for not assuming to check exactly what they're buying.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What Customers Really Think (NSFW).

Just count the number of marketing mistakes that The Onion nails in two minutes. But only if you can tolerate Christian Bale-esque language. Headphones advised.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Collaboration Costs.

Since technology has made it easier than ever for people to talk about your product/service, it’s important for marketers to consider how best to facilitate this. Not so much in terms of organised incentives or seeding schemes, but in terms of the mechanics of shareability. This was emphasized to me when Angus highlighted this Barclaycard competition derived from their TV advertisement.

Not knowing what it was, I enjoyed it – until the final shot revealed that, as so often online, I’d not been watching remarkable amateurs but professionals with a budget. The idea is good one, but is it something that people would try to imitate and thereby spread?

There’s a trade-off between impact and achievability, between shareability and the participation that leads to shareability. You want to make the impact notable enough to pique people's interest, but not so overwhelming that nobody feels able to match it. If you set the standard too high, will people be dissuaded, challenged or choose to satirise? I'll be intrigued to see what sort of entries they get.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Event Surplus.

Oh look! An advertisement that utilises a busy station as the canvas for an event. How long is it since we saw that? Yes, as regular advertisements are increasingly ignored, there will be a rise in "event" marketing. But one thing is being overlooked.

Event [ i vént ] noun


1. important incident: an occurrence, especially one that is particularly significant, interesting, exciting, or unusual

The more "events" marketers create, the less eventful they become. People are already struggling with cognitive surplus. They're going to recognise and zone out "event surplus" very quickly.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Elevator Pitch 2.0.

Late Tuesday night, about 10.30, Stephen Fry gets stuck in a lift in London. He informs the Twittersphere with a tweet and this photo. In the half hour before engineers release him and his fellow captives, #frylift becomes the top item on Twitter with something like 500 separate comments posted. The two photos he uploads are viewed over 15,000 times in 15 minutes and the national press harvest the feeds for their early editions. A very successful comedy writer even manages to contribute his own spoof.

A trivial event. Yes. A geeky obsession. Yes. Irrelevant to the rest of us. No way. Technology has changed the rules and if any marketer out there thinks they can get away with the slightest distortion of the truth, exaggeration of a claim or defence of the indefensible, they better start looking for a new career. It's not about hiding the truth any more. It never really was. But, these days, there's nowhere left to hide.