Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Make Marketing Unexploitative.



These are Maite Rodriguez's green high-top Converse. The ones she customized with a heart drawn on the toe. The ones she was wearing when she was murdered in the Uvalde school shooting. And, most shockingly of all, the ones that were the only way her ten-year-old body could be identified.

Subsequently there has been a surge in demand for the shoes. People are sending them to their political representatives. People are wearing them to protest. People are also noticing that Converse will be making a lot of money from this demand and are suggesting that they donate some or all of the profits to victim support or to gun control causes (perhaps not realising that their parent company has provided funding to NRA-supporting politicians in the past). People are suggesting that they be renamed after Maite and that they be produced with a heart on the toe.

Converse are faced with an opportunity. And a dilemma.  What do they do? Do they act and risk being accused of commercial exploitation of a tragedy? Or do they wait and risk being accused of indifference?

Maybe the best they can do is to avoid looking exploitative while not remaining indifferent. Acknowledging  the increased demand and guaranteeing  they will meet it as quickly as possible seems to me to be the obvious starting point. As does announcing they will be giving the profits to an appropriate charity to be agreed with Maite's parents when they are willing and able to contemplate such decisions.

It's very easy for the people to say what Converse should do as if it's obvious. It's not. This is not a product recall. It's so much more than that.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Delusional Marketing.

 Some years ago, various supermarkets began to install automated check-out tills. There were grumbles about lack of service and concerns about machines replacing humans. Time passed and people got used to them. Some of us preferred the speed

A couple of weeks ago, the tills at Marks & Spencer suddenly started yelling at users. The first time I encountered this, I actually stepped back in surprise. A human voice screamed out at me in a manner some marketing whizz no doubt thought would enthuse me and make me excited by the interaction.

I did not recognise the voice  (or what it was saying), but over the following days there were media reports about general customer dissatisfaction. The idiocy of trying to humanise an interaction that I'd chosen over the possibility of going to a human till was daft enough, but I was astonished to learn that they'd paid substantial sums to celebrities to animate the machines.

Tonight, I was heading home and dropped into their mini-store at a railway station. I scanned my carton of milk and was assailed by Ant & Dec in hideous unison. I swore at them and a nearby staff member jumped in and hit a mute button that I'd not previously noticed.

I thanked him, then decided to do some research and asked him if he had to do that often. I learned that over 80% of customers complain. Over 80% - surely A/B testing would have picked that up? If they'd done any.

Sherry Crammond, their director of food marketing put a positive slant on the promotion,

"It was supposed to be fun and engaging and supposed to get  customers talking"

"Our customers are enjoying the check-out takeover and are loving being told what to do at the till by their favourite celebrities."

"We're expecting the voiceovers to be heard over 1 million times and would love to know who is proving the most popular with our customers!"

There's a lot of things I'd love to know about this whole thing, but that is most certainly not one of them.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Make Marketing Human (B2B version).

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a small marketing seminar and listened to a series of presentations by Les Binet, Peter Field and Mark Ritson. The host introduced them as contrarians, but I think that says more about the mainstream than it does about them.

Binet and Field were making their first presentation of their findings of effectiveness studies in the B2B sector and revealed that these tend to mirror their B2C findings. That might come as a surprise to the mainstream who traditionally view B2B as being very different from B2C, but it shouldn't because whether you're selling to a business or to a consumer, the purchase decision is made by a human.

We're always selling to humans.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


"I was surrounded by people who for some reason found my very presence a threat. And had I not been able to stand up to them on their terms, I' would be somewhere back on the east coast, my tail between my legs. But it was more than that. For many outback people, the effect of almost total isolation coupled with that all-encompassing battle with the earth is so great that, when the prizes are won, they feel the need to build a psychological fortress around the knowledge and possessions they have broken their backs to obtain. That fiercely independent individualism was something akin to what I was feeling now - the inability to incorporate new people who hadn't shared the same experience. I understood a facet of Alice Springs, and softened towards it, at that moment."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


"Before that moment, I had always supposed that loneliness was my enemy. I had seemed not to exist without people around me. But now I understood that I had always been a loner, and that this condition was a gift rather than someting to be feared. Alone, in my castle, I could see more clearly what loneliness was. For the first time it flashed on me that the way I had conducted my life was to allow myself that remoteness, always protect that high, clear place that could not be shared without risking its destruction. I had paid for this over and over with periods of neurotic despair, but it had been worth it. I had somehow always countered my desire for a knight in shining armour by forming bonds with men I didn't like, or with men who were so off the air there was no hope of a permanent relationship. I could not deny this. It lay, crystal clear, beneath the feelings of inadequacy and defeat, the clever self-directed plan that had been working towards this realization for years. I believe the subconscious always knows what is best. It is our conditioned, vastly overrated rational mind which screws everything up."

Monday, December 31, 2018

Make Marketing Less Glib.

It's not just offensive, it's an offence. They think they're being clever, but they're not. There is nothing wrong with being offensive, that way lies freedom of speech. There is everything wrong with committing an offence, that way lies the breaking of societal laws.

Conflating the two is problematic because it allows the offenders falsely to justify their behaviour on the grounds of free speech. Marketers deal in communication and they, more than most, need to choose their words carefully.

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.