Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Are You Marketing Or Are You Selling?

This week, I went to this place to attend a meeting held under the banner of "taking videogames seriously". Gamers, media types and government ministers were in attendance and the discussion was wide-ranging.

I was disappointed that the importance of play as both a learned skill and a creativity stimulant was not touched upon, but it was interesting to hear one insider talk of the "childishness" inherent in the industry's marketing.

He was referring specifically to Call Of Duty, the fastest-selling videogame of all time and, in his words, a title that was guaranteed to sell. A title that nevertheless was promoted in a way that successfully pandered to controversy by the inclusion of an airport shoot-out that apparently has nothing to do with the game's narrative.

These things happen because selling is simultaneously a sub-set of marketing and also the ultimate goal of all marketing and all business. In an ideal world, you should strive to ensure that your short-term sales targets align with your longer term strategic goals.

There's clearly an up-side in the short-term approach whereby you face the longer term pain in the hope that short-term hypocrisy is forgotten. But ultimately, you have to decide whether you're marketing or selling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Marketing Wisdom Of Brian Eno.

"Don't shoot at other people's targets.
Make your own target around where your arrow lands."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Uncommon Knowledge.

I'd guess that most people who read this blog know about Seth Godin. I'd also guess that they'd assume that most people in their field would know too. But if you ask around, you'd be surprised how many people don't. Try it this weekend.

It's always good to challenge assumptions and it's also good to realise that achieving great marketing success does not involve the ubiquity for which you're striving and which seems so out of reach. It may be a numbers game, but the numbers aren't as daunting as you might think.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Second That Emotion.

Yesterday, I was invited to a London Business School marketing seminar at which Professor Leonard Lee presented a paper he's co-authored with On Amir and Dan Ariely (of Predictably Irrational fame).

There was a lot of arcane discussion about statistical error and its constituent parts (an hour in, we were still debating the introductory slides). But the upshot was further confirmation that people make more consistent choices when they are emotionally rather than cognitively stimulated.

In marketing terms, that means you will invoke greater loyalty if you can engage your customers emotionally. In turn, that has led to companies trying to evoke warm emotional reactions while barely mentioning their product/service and potential customers gawping incomprehendingly.

The really difficult part is generating an emotional reaction that is irrevocably tied to your product/service. It can't be an afterthought. It has to be intrinsic to everything you do.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Yesterday's Jon Stewart Show did a nice send-up of following the newest trends in trendspotting. They nailed it with the term Nowcasting - the act of presenting as about to happen, something that is already happening.

Trends are important of course, but too many people pay too much attention to the predictions for this year. They may happen, they may not but, even if they do, it's too late for you to catch that particular ship.

Far better to look at what's predicted to happen in five or ten years time and incrementally future-proof your business for all eventualities.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Glanceable Marketing.

Just before Christmas, I was shown some tree decorations. They were the physical representations of the recipients’ use of doppler, and flickr.

They were lovely and widely appreciated, but I was also very aware that I couldn’t easily decode them. A few weeks later, in Ben’s write-up of them, he mentioned Matt Jones’s assertion that data visualisations need to be “glanceable”, i.e. comprehended at a glance.

That’s a great description and one that deserves further investigation. How does something become glanceable? Three elements immediately spring to mind.

For something to be truly glanceable, the viewer must intuitively have an understanding of:

1) the context (what is being presented)

2) what the data means (how it's being presented), and arguably

3) how it relates to other data (why it's being presented).

The central role of intuitiveness in data visualisation is obvious but, I think, it should also be applied to the design of all your products/services. After all, if time and attention are scarce then it is crucial that your product/service embodies as much glanceability as possible.

Put another way, it should be immediately apparent to your user what it is you offer, how it helps them achieve what they want, and why your version is superior to others on offer.

It’s not enough to be noticed, you have to be understood. At a glance.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Back To Basics: Robert Campbell.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Next up in the back to basics series, I'm delighted to present the birkenstock-clad Robert Campbell - a man who makes up in original thinking and humanity for what he may lack in urbane dress-sense.

Robert is co-creator of the cynic advertising empire, a provocative irritant to the rest of that industry and runs a new venture called Sunshine in Hong Kong. He swears a lot, has won many awards and, as with Seth, he's someone whom I initially met and shared ideas with online, but came to know in real life too. His terrific answers approach the questions not only from the perspective of someone who runs his own business but also as someone who solves marketing problems for others. Here they are.

How do you get new business?

In my experience, the ad industry tends to lose about 30% of its revenue annually so they need to continually fight for new business just to stand still.

When we started cynic, we thought this was a mad situation to be in so rather than simply chase money, we decided on a strict criteria regarding new business, they must be either [1] run by an entrepreneur [as we are more likely to be attractive to them] [2] be 3rd or 4th in their respective category with ambitions for disproportionate growth and/or [3] trying to understand culture outside of their core category [either for NPD/business development/research purposes]

We also try to deal with people who sit beyond just a marketing role – or at the very least – hold a senior board position. We do this because we believe we can only show our value if we address fundamental business issues rather than simply discuss marketing and advertising – which is why we incorporate a royalty scheme within our remuneration proposals as this helps demonstrate we’re happy to put our money where our mouth is.

Of course there are exceptions to this – but all in all, we have stuck to these rules and it has enabled us to build a fairly solid foundation of business that has allowed us to grow and expand into a variety of areas – often in conjunction with our clients.

How would you advise others to do so?

Don’t fall for the trap of only evaluating a new business prospect by the money, the creative opportunity or the chance to get a bigger slice of their marketing spend down the line. Those elements play a part, but it shouldn’t be the only part.

How has this changed in recent years and why?

Adland loves to go on about how they’ve lost their seat at the ‘big table’ … but that’s because more often than not, they talk about things that the ‘big table’ doesn’t give a flying **** about, ie: ads. {I told you he swears.}

The sad truth is that in a lot of cases, companies don’t value their marketing director nearly as much as they once did – which is why the emphasis is on driving business, not driving advertising – which is why those who can think creatively without the need to link it to an advertising channel [established or new] have great potential for future growth.

How would your advice differ for someone who is just starting up?

Deal with the top and deal with what they are focused on achieving.

Be knowledgeable about their company, their category and society as a whole. [Including how political, economical and social change is affecting the attitudes and approaches of society in relation to their business]

Create interesting, energised and executable ideas that can quantifiably fulfil their commercial [and emotional ambitions]

Remember turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.

How do you balance this with keeping existing customers satisfied and coming back?

We treat all clients like they’re new clients – it’s the lifeblood of our survival.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Back To Basics: Seth Godin.

Back in 2000, I downloaded the two hundred pages that constituted Seth Godin's brilliant Permission Marketing. Since then I've had the pleasure of attending his seminars and talks, and when I started blogging he generously warned his readers of that fact.

He writes shorter books these day and his new one Linchpin is published this month. It's about answering the crucial question of how you make yourself the linchpin of your market and/or your company. That ties in directly with the ethos of my "back to basics" questionnaire and I'm thrilled that he agreed to answer these five questions as well.

How do you get new business?

New business gets me.

This sounded unattainable to me for decades as I scrambled, often one check away from bankruptcy, to build a business, a product, an organization... but then, after a while, I discovered that people would contact me asking for this or that. The hard work isn't getting them to call, the hard work is breaking away from whatever pack I'm in, whatever ice floe I'm on and create an event or a product or an idea that people actually want to be a part of.

How would you advise others to do so?

Find 1,000 true fans. Earn the right to coordinate the actions of 1,000 people in a tribe. Connect and lead. Create ideas that spread, and find a niche small enough to be important in (but big enough to matter).

Do this while you're doing your day job (not easy). But if you do it a little, every day, for years and years, you'll find it. Which is a lot better than doing the hustle, every day, for years and years and not finding it.

How has this changed in recent years and why?

I think it's now clear that the internet makes this sort of connection and leadership significantly easier than it used to be. It brings with it more copycats and more competition, but it's still clearly a win.

How would your advice differ for someone who is just starting up?

I think now you get to skip a lot of steps that others used to have to take. Tickets that had to be punched. Now, you can start out fast, without paying as many dues. There's a big if. The if: you must have great stuff. Great ideas. Amazing art. Connections that work. Insights that people can't help but embrace. That's not easy, but in just about every segment, someone is doing just that.

Don't try to be the "next" of any successful person. That person is already occupying the slot. Be the next you.

How do you balance this with keeping existing customers satisfied and coming back?

People don't come back merely because you met spec. Lots of people meet spec. They come back because they got more than they paid for, more than they bargained for, and they're motivated to get even more of that.