Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Beware Marketers Bearing fMRIs.


Magnetic resonance imaging scanners belong in hospitals where they can help medical pratitioners with their diagnoses. They do not belong in marketing publications where they only serve to delude gullible marketers.

If a neuroscientist is explaining what an fMRI means, then I'll listen because I know I might learn something. If a marketer has been using the machine then I'm immediately sceptical and quite often rude.

Thus it was that I got into a bit of a Twitter spat this week. The assertion at hand was that people don't want to have a relationship with brands. It's an assertion with which I completely agree. But I cannot agree with the suggestion that an academic marketer putting a bunch of people in a scanner and showing them images of people and of brands proves anything.

The fact that different parts of the brain (correction: different parts of an fMRI image) "light up" during this experiment does not prove that the brain thinks of people as people and thinks of brands as objects. It proves that different parts of the image light up and indicates increased blood-flow in those areas.

But let's be clear. No one has the slightest clue what it means for one part of a brain to light up in response to X while lighting up differently in response to Y, beyond the fact that we've found a difference maker. That's it, it's a difference maker. What that difference means, no one has any idea.

The findings can be real, as in robustly repeatable, but without having the faintest idea of how brains work, without having even a theory of how brains work, the meaning of the finding will be forever obscure.  No matter how much a neuromarketer might want you to believe otherwise.



Monday, July 30, 2018

The Difference Between Sales And Marketing.



No it's not - because I can read your sign perfectly well and your call to action isn't prompting a reason to act.

Now if you'd printed it in a blurry font, thereby demonstrating the job to be done and engaging me on an emotional level, then maybe I'd have responded differently.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Advertising By Committee.


It's as if you were in the banking security focus group yourself. Somebody made a "joke" about being asked for their dog's maiden name. Some people nodded. And it ended up in the creative brief.

And now it ends up on a big poster. A poster that is as amusing as the original "joke", as irrelevant as could be imagined and which tells us nothing about how this enhances the security they're advertising as a differentiator.

But that doesn't matter because when it comes to security, we all value simplicity above effectiveness. Don't we?


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Beware Marketers Bearing Neuroscience.

I like to learn about new things. It helps keep my brain active, it's interesting in and of itself and, most importantly, it gives me a better chance of knowing when other people are bluffing.

To that end, I have been trying to get my head around machine learning, support vector machines and "AI" for a number of years. I have done so not by reading presss articles but by meeting the practitioners and scratching the surface of practical courses. Consequently, I know how complicated and mathematically advanced it is and how ignorant I am. This stuff is hard. Really hard.

But today somebody, somewhere will mention AI or consciousness or neuromarketing to you and when they do, I'd like you to remember this guest post that I found on data scientist and activist Cathy O.Neill's blog a few years ago.  It's very sweary (as the best things often are) but if you're squeamish about that sort of thing, here's an extract that gets to the heart of the issue.

So, the next time you see a pretty 3D picture of many neurons being simulated, think “cargo cult brain”. That simulation isn’t gonna think any more than the cargo cult planes are gonna fly. The reason is the same in both cases: We have no clue about what principles allow the real machine to operate. We can only create pretty things that are superficially similar in the ways that we currently understand, which an enlightened being (who has some vague idea how the thing actually works) would just laugh at.






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Monday, March 05, 2018

Crisis Marketing Isn't Crisis Management.


Everybody (well everybody in the marketing world) got very excited by KFC's apology for running out of chicken at 900 of their stores last month.

Even Mark Ritson wrote about "KFC marketers turning a chicken crisis into a brand triumph". Whatever that is.

I disagree. The one thing that made it stand out was that it employed KFC's brand tone rather than the bland tone legalese that these things usually employ. Though there is quite a lot of that in there if you bother to read it and I bet FCK has been sitting in someone's drawer for as long as French Connection's FCUK had been winning awards.

The real issue is how did it make their customers feel? Has it mended their view of KFC's distribution incompetence? Is sorry enough? Shouldn't they have offered some sort of coupon compensation to disappointed customers?

 My immediate reaction was that they better be absolutely sure they had got to the bottom of their problems before they did this. And what has now happened - well this month they've apparently run out of gravy. Are they going to run another ad to apologise for that?

When Tylenol were hit by extortionists claiming to have poisoned some of their products in 1982, they didn't offer apologies, they acted decisively and removed every one of their products from the shelves of every store in the United States.

That's how you offer customer reassurance. By deeds not words. Because if your product fails, you have a product problem not an advertising one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?



It happens repeatedly. Twitter competitons and naming polls are hijacked, appeals to praise a brand yield the opposite result and city bike schemes suffer theft and vandalism.

And it's all all totally predictable.

This is not with the benefit of hindsight. This happens simply because marketers and executives rarely ask the obvious question. What could possibly go wrong? No doubt because it's seen as providing problems not solutions or some similarly glib inanity.

But it's not negative thinking, It's damage limitation. There's no cost in terms of product dilution and there's everything to gain in avoiding bad publicity that is genuinely bad.

In other realms, this is caused stress-testing.  So don't ask how fabulous potential customers are going to find your latest initiative. Ask what could possibly go wrong. Because the last thing you need is more stress.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Make Marketing Legible.


Iceland have a claim worth promoting.

Although perceived as a low-end purveyor of frozen goods, they apparently produce the best mince pies in the mass market. So I have no problem with the claim, but in the West we read from left to right and horizontally. Not vertically.

What you see first is a list of their competittors. No comparison, just their names.  I take Selfridges away from this ad as much as I do Iceland.

If you look longer you might eventually discern the Iceland name, but why make it so difficult? They spent a lot of time coming up with the word puzzle, but didn't think to flip the diagram. That would leave the competitors' names written vertically and Iceland highlighted as a horizontal name.

It would be easier to read and you'd have Iceland riding high at the top of the image. Why didn't anyone pick this up? What goes on in creative sign-offs? Given the recent Dove debacles, it's increasingly hard to comprehend.