Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Grumpy Old Clubbers

In which I draw an analogy between nightclubs and marketing. Perhaps.

I know a lot of DJs - some famous, most just passionate music fans - and as a result of this and a commercial association with the business of show, I have spent a fair time in clubs. A decade and a half at least to be honest, and I’ve reached the stage where I don't understand the kids of today. I’m not talking socially or personally – on that level I find (as in any generation) some of them to be inane, some of them OK and some fun to be with. What I don't understand is their attitude on the dance floor. Let me be specific

1) Why don't they dance to whatever's being played - i.e. react to the underlying beats rather than pause, wait to recognise the tune, decide that it's one they know and then re-commence dancing. It didn't used to be that way. Why is the brand so important?

2) Why do they spend so much time sending and receiving texts rather than enjoying themselves in the here and now?

3) Why, in essence, are they so keen to be led and so unwilling to just enjoy?

I could opine sociologically on all that but truly I don’t know the answer to that. However, that's the way it is and from the DJ’s perspective he either accepts it or tries to change it. Now, the acceptance option is to accept the mass worldview and, I believe, there is validity to that. But I keep asking myself whether what I judge to be the vacuous worldview is the optimal path to take for DJs or marketers? I prefer to try to change things.

For in music (and indeed all entertainment), there is a subjective element that is stronger I believe than that which exists in most other categories. A passion that defines sub cultures and genres; a passion that defines who we are at a very profound level; and a passion that reflects our attitudes long into our senility. Once a punk, always a punk. Even if you later become a pillar of society, you recognise the fellow feeling in the similar youngsters of today and, for me, that is very powerful. I think it has resonance in all business sectors.

Thus, I say that the best DJ taps into the passion of some specific clubbers by playing music about which he is passionate and which brings the audience with him. He doesn’t pander to that audience, but rather builds a following, and then draws in the followers who wouldn’t dare lead.

What does this say to me? Well it says to me that Passion = CRM. Don't worry about building customer relationships through dry software seeking to build passion. Instead, start with real passion, cry it from the rooftops and proselytise it to the masses. Those who bite will bite long and hard. They are the equivalent of the older clubbers you occasionally see. The ones who dance serenely, un-self-consciously, and better than anyone else. The ones who draw the greatest number of admiring glances from the anonymous hordes. Someone hooked them in their early days with passionate music and they still react to that passion many years on. They always will.

We’re not all DJs (despite appearances to the contrary in recent years) but we all have the opportunity to spin our own tune to our own particular audience. Do we play what we think they want to hear or do we play something that grabs them viscerally? Something, that they will love and evangelise. I think we all know the answer to that.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Waiter Rule

There has been much publicity given to Raytheon's 33 Unwritten Rules and particular focus on The Waiter Rule.

As well as being common courtesy, it also reminds us all that we are all marketers (for ourselves, for our companies and for our products/services) and, most crucially, we are all marketers ALL THE TIME. One bad message can outweigh all the good crediblilty that has patiently been nurtured.

This means you have to live the message, not just pay lip-service to it and, by extension, that means you have to be passionate about what you do. For if you can't be passionate, then how can you expect your customers to share that passion?
And in case you're contemplating it, faked passion only fools those who want to be fooled.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What's So Special About Women?

Women make up slightly more than 50% of the population. But do marketers and male-dominated boardrooms draw as much inspiration from them as they could and should?

Last night, I was privileged to be one of about four men attending the London launch of a book More Than 85 Broads that tells the collective stories of 85 women united by some connection with Goldman Sachs. Oh great you may be thinking - boring, uptight bankers trying to out-macho men, but I'm here to tell you no that wasn't the case. Four of them plus the author spoke and I was uncharacteristically blown away; awed by their achievements, passion and drive; fascinated by their journeys from disparate backgrounds; and stunned by their extra curricular exploits.

It may be fashionable to refer to consumers as "she", but I've always felt that to be, at best, a sop and, at worst, a patronising pigeonholing of women as "people who shop" rather than people who have provocative and very different world-views that should be embraced. The world-views that is, not the women - he added with exemplary political correctness.

While I was bemused and a little irritated that all these remarkable speakers seemed so apologetic and prone to declare themselves unworthy of inclusion in the book - imposter syndrome writ large methinks - I adored the self-deprecation, compassion and true sense of solidarity that pervaded the evening (and this, remember, from a bunch of current and former bankers).

The characterisation of their network as a safety net for "all those times when they felt afraid"; the assertion of risk-taking as the best way to identify one's true strengths; and the belief that feminine energy is the most creative energy because of women's nurturing imperative - these were some of the snippets that resonated with me. Far more so than the one snippet of male conversation I overheard - a hierarchical discussion of stereotypical irrelevance about who had been the best speaker.

The future looks feminine to me and businesses should take that far more seriously than they appear to now.

Advertising Isn't Dead

I don't like the tag-line but this is undeniably brilliant and has gone viral

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nothing Else Will Do?

"At the weekend indulge in First Class for only 18.80. Nothing else will do."

was the exhortation I noticed on a series of posters while waiting for a train today. I know the message they wanted me to receive, but I immediately came up with three alternate views.

1) Why is an allegedly premium product being sold to me on the basis of reduced cost?

2) You want me to sample the product at the weekend? Are you suggesting that, even when the trains are less crowded, the regular customers are still receiving an inferior experience that I'd want to avoid?

3) What about during the week? Are you not interested in me being a first class customer then?

Today's lesson? Make sure the message you want to deliver is credible (in reality, the first class seating was essentially differentiated solely by signage), accentuates the positive and is delivered in a way that is not open to cynical interpretation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oxymoronic Corporate Generosity

There will be many reactions to the New York Times article Hey, Bud, Let's Mingle describing Anheuser-Busch's promotion of their product as a mixer in beer-based cocktails.

Some may reel in reaction to the terms "beertail" and "beertini" that feature therein.

Others may regard the now implictly repositioned "lager and lime" as more than just a "girl's drink".

But me! Well, I was taken by the sheer largesse of the move. "We're letting customers personalize and individualize their beer," said Pat McGauley, vice president for innovation.

So, at a stroke, we say farewell to the rigorous licensing agreement that we apparently used to commit to when buying a beer. Free at last, free at last. I'm not just a consumer, I'm an individual! How much more patronising than asking their customers to provide the recipes of the concoctions with which they've no doubt already expressed their individuality!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Web 2.0 Hype Unravelling

I've always been very suspicious about many of the claims made about Web 2.0 changing paradigms and got into a spat some time back with a number of bloggers who were just regurgitating stories that chimed with their personal spin without daring to look into them. The specifics related to the alleged role of in the rise of new Britpop sensation The Arctic Monkeys.

My instinct borne of working on the peripheries of that industry in the past was that they broke through because they are a good band and that any myspace presence came after they'd built up critical mass elsewhere. I'd seen the queues outside their gigs long before the mainstream media seized on the myspace angle. For me, myspace is just too big for anyone to emerge from it organically and that will be all the more true now that every band in the world has its account.

Thus I was interested to read PR director Julian Henry airing his doubts in today's Media Guardian. Registration may be required to read all of his extensive conspiracy theories but it was this paragraph that chimed with my views.

"Legend has it that the site is somehow responsible not only for breaking the Arctic Monkeys but is also the force behind the upheavals taking place in the music industry. This all sounds logical. But if you quiz music journalists and fans of the band on the chronology of its development you quickly discover that they had built up a large and vibrant following amongst spotty northern teenagers some time before their music found its way on to myspace. Their trick was to ignore the usual paranoia many new bands feel about copyright and theft of original material and to give away their songs to their fans, firstly on free CDs at gigs, and secondly on any swap or file sharing website that would have them."

Old school promotion and hard work then - albeit cleverly leveraged via new media. But for me that's an evolving paradigm not a new business model.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is This Post A Landing Page?

Seth Godin recently posted on landing pages and when he discussed it at a whiteboard session that I attended last year, the impact on the website effectiveness of one attendee (a real estate developer from Florida) was dramatic. If a potential customer searches on a key word, then they are giving you permission to have a conversation with them based on that keyword and that keyword alone. It's a no brainer of course. But, equally obviously, it shows you how many brainless people there are out there.

His revisiting of the subject made me wonder about its application to blogs. Now I'm far from 100 days of blogging and I'm making loads of heinous errors, but it's clear to me that to some extent you're only as good as your last post. Even if people come to your blog via a link to an old post, it is to be hoped that they peruse your blog from the latest post thereafter as indeed will anyone inclined to subscribe to your blog. That's quite a pressure - though no more than applies to a business - if you're putting yourself out there, you've got to bring your A game every time.

So that's easy enough. Post only when you have something remarkable to say.

But it's not that simple - part of the conventional wisdom is that one needs to post regulalry and often or your audience will lose interest. Thus even an aspirant essayist blogger like Guy Kawasaki has been posting at a prodigious rate. He has the advantage over most of us of being really interesting and, as he generously admits, having eight books to draw upon. But what if you have nothing to say? Is a glib throw away entry better than a blank day? I'm not sure.

For me, one of the big blogging turn-offs is the motormouth - the uberlinker - akin to Guy's human newsbot characterisation. In an allegedly time-poor world, we are all seeking filters for information and ideas and if I subscribe to your blog I don't want to click on bloglines after a couple of days and find you've made 30 posts because I won't click through and the next time it'll be up to 50 and before long youre blog is off my radar. So self-filtering is, I think, a key blogging discipline.

I've posted almost daily so far in order to build up a critical mass of reading for anyone who might have come my way since April 1, but I think I may slow down from now on in order to ensure that every landing page is a good one. Thereby, I may get people's long-term permisison to write to them when I have something to say that I think will interest them. Let's see if I keep my nerve.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Remarkable But Not In A Good Way

The inertia of banking customers is astonishing. I have been with my bank for over 20 years and never really contemplated switching despite occassional frustrations. Banks know that I'm displaying the archetypal customer behaviour and thus don't offer very much different from their competition. It increasingly resembles a commodity business albeit one with premium product profits.

But now, in the interest of offering me more choice (have you heard that line before?), they're actually making my experience worse. Every time I use an ATM, I monitor my balances by printing out a slip - a simple task that was, logically enough, a one step process. Until very recently that is. My bank that I shall not name initially has suddenly imposed an extra screen on me. So now I have to use twice as many button presses to obtain that slip. Usability halved in one fell swoop. And this for what I imagine to be one of the major needs of ATM users.

Ironically, this comes at a time when banks are starting to make claims about theirs being a retail environment and marketing themselves that way via additional offers and gimmicks such as half-price sales days! So, I wrote to the head of marketing to question this diminution of the customer experience. In the interim, I noticed a newspaper columnist complaining of a similar over-complication at the same bank, so I was wondering if the feedback message was getting through to head office. Clearly not, the response I received this morning was breathtaking.

"To accomodate the new charity donations and mobile phone top-up functions, we have re-arranged the initial menu screens, with the balance enquiry function now spread over two steps.

Whilst we are continually looking to improve on the automated services that we be bring to you through cash machines, changes such as these are NECESSARY (my capitals) to allow for new services to be introduced."

Imposed services in a customer-focussed busines. Yet another Paradox of Choice.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sales and Marketing?

Is it just me who views as highly suspect any company with job titles along the lines of Sales AND Marketing Director?

I've always imagined a promoted sales executive holding such a role and while I bow to no-one in my admiration of great sales people, it seems to me that sales is a highly-skilled subset of marketing. The conflation is to me an indicator of a misunderstanding of and diminuation of the marketing function within that organisation.

Everyone in an organisation should be a marketer - implicitly and explicitly generating sales opportunities, but is it too rigid of me to suggests that not everyone could or should be fulfilling the sales role of cultivating and maintaining relationships? Marketing creates the means of meeting a customer need (starting right back at product development). Sales people do something very different. Or am I wrong?

The Architecture Of Happiness

Philosopher Alain de Botton has just produced a book of this name in which he argues that our physical surroundings are crucial contributors to our happiness or sadness, shaping our moods, anxieties and how we feel about ourselves. The TV series has the dumbed-down title The Perfect Home.

No argument there. I think we all see the gap between good and bad architecture and are increasingly aware that visual and sensory factors are far from superficial. Now if we could just take that lesson and apply it to our products/services, are we not likely to engender a happier reaction from our audience? A reaction intrinsic to the experience of our product/service rather than one fabricated by marketing efforts.

Postscript: Kathy Sierra has coined the phrase cognitive seduction with just that in mind and has produced an excelent and extensive list of the various drivers of user experience.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fact and Fiction

Further to my comments about how blogging might distort fact and fiction, Charles Arthur of The Guardian points us to a fascinating piece about Web 2.0.

I think it should be compulsory reading for all bloggers.

The People Get What the People Want?

How else does one explain the existence of bad products and services? Is it herd mentality? Are a lot of people just too apathetic or dumb? I've always wanted to educate consumers, intially in terms of music and movies when I've worked in those industries and latterly in respect of any passionately conceived product or service.

That's why I can't sell anything I don't believe in and since, as you may have noticed, I'm incredibly critical that means that I don't recommend very much. But, sometimes, I wonder whether it actually makes a difference. Is there some immutable inertia that generally rebuffs such efforts and allows pervasive mediocrity to prevail?

Why does that happen? If we could answer that question, I am sure huge insights would follow. But the tough questions are tough for a reason.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

So Television Is Dying?

During 2005, the average American household watched eight hours and 11 minutes of TV per day — 2.7 per cent longer than the previous year, 12.5 per cent longer than ten years ago, and the longest reported since Nielsen Media Research began monitoring such things in the 1950s. That rather undermines the received "wisdom" that the internet is killing television and that the future of television will be slicecasting - niche channels catering for tiny audiences.

That's my problem with evangelists, be they religious or technologist. They have faith but they too often shape the facts to fit their faith rather than the other way round. In the world of blogging with all its connectivity and network effects, we should all remember that the circulation of a "fact" has become very easy, but it doesn't mean that accuracy has increased no matter how many times it's quoted.

I'm Passionate, So Why Are You Offering OK?

Stimulated, as ever, by a post from Seth Godin, I can reassert my believe that the product is the most important and disruptive P of marketing. I agree wholeheartedly with his implicit call to "launch products or services that are adored by part of your audience and not liked one bit by the rest", though I would have put it at number 1 in his list.

It reminded immediately of the story I heard some years ago about the leap of faith taken by the chairman of, I believe, Toyota. (Is it just me or is there a developing motif of half-remembered anecdotes in this blog?)

Anyway, the company’s management was faced with a new design for a SUV that had been market tested and was being recommended for rejection because something like 27% of the respondents had hated it - the worst reaction they'd ever had. There was a consensus in favour of following what the research seemed to be saying, but the chairman saw a different message by noting that something like 19% of respondents raved about the design. He ignored the visceral and numerically larger reaction of those who had hated it and realised that the proportion who really loved the design was actually greater than the proportion of the automobile market represented by the SUV segment. He insisted on going ahead and the product became the biggest selling vehicle in the sector.

People who love your product/service will adopt it; people who hate or don’t get it weren’t necessarily going to be customers in the first place. Moreover, they may actually come round to the idea of being customers as they hear the conversations of the highly satisfied customers as Malcolm Gladwell has recounted in respect of the Aeron chair and much more.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Disruptive Distribution

What's the highest grossing movie in US history? No not Titanic, no not Star Wars, no not even Gigli. Combining the Easter season with my general theme, I was fascinated to discover from a TV documentary The Passion - Films Faith and Fury that the success in question is a religious movie (I typically missed its title - possibly The Miracle Maker) that completely bypassed the regular theatrical distribution network.

When people think of the market disruption ideas of Clayton Christensen there is a tendency to think of new products and or new technology and indeed in the movie business Mark Cuban is trying to create just such a new business model. But to me this was a reminder that new thinking is the essence of market disruption and it can apply to any of the 4Ps.

Marketing is nothing if it's not about meeting customer needs - be it passionately; be it with new products; or how ever. That's what these Christian movie makers have been doing. They've targetted a market of 100 million americans who identify themselves as Christians and taken movies tailored to them and exhibited them where those people are. Namely at their churches - institutions to which those people apparently contribute over $60 billion (i.e. seven times more than the total US box office take).

For the churches, such movies provide an additional attraction for various demographics of their potential congregation and the cynic in me suggests that the movie makers cannot ignore the fact that they do not face revenue-sharing deals with commercial exhibitors. It's a win-win-win scenario and as good an example of disruptive distribution as I've come across.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Customer Reception

The inimitable Guy Kawasaki's recent posts on customer service reminded me of a brilliant piece of guerilla marketing that occurred in London before that term was even coined.

A few years ago, upon noticing that building maintenance had covered the exterior of Saatchi & Saatchi in scaffolding and boarding, a neighbouring agency hung a banner from the scaffolding overnight. It's multi-layered tag-line read

"You'll find a better reception round the corner at TBWA."


Assmosis is the process by which people absorb success and promotion by sucking up to the boss and not rocking the boat, rather than by thinking the unthinkable and working hard. And if it isn't, then it should be.

In the traditional marketing world, I've observed it from afar in the way some executives climb the greasy pole by dint of managing ever-larger product accounts. They get a new role on the basis of having demonstrated the ability to run the previous one; immediately demonstrate their dynamism by organising an advertising review and instigating a new beauty contest for agencies; and their ruthlessness by removing the contract from the incumbent. They then go through the machinations of preparing and launching a new campaign and, before any results are in, move on to another role with bigger budgets on the basis of having managed the previous one.

It's marketing viewed as an organisational function (rather than the key driver of all businesses) and a reflection of the domination of boardroms by finance departments. But in our changing world of advertising-aversion and quicker turnaround in marketing initiatives and their more easily-observed results, it is to be hoped that this pattern will change.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It's Permission Marketing not Permission to Market

In today's London Times magazine, there's an interesting piece on consumer-created ads. David Rowan writes "With all the amateur podcasts, bloggers and video mashers taking on the mainstream media, it was inevitable that marketers would spot an opportunity to harness customers' creativity."

He goes on to describe how companies are trying to draw people into the ad-making process and create mashed-up ads from a base supply of video clips and logoes or of their own volition. There are financial inducements for the best and the hope is of some of them going viral and reaching elusive demographic groups.

The hope was clearly to generate buzz, save ad budgets and get people to think about their products' attributes and in some cases it has apparently worked. Rowan cites Converse shoes monthly online sales as having doubled after one such ad was posted. However, he also points out that this is very much a double-edged sword with the danger of brands being portrayed off message.

Permission to Market which these companies are offering is very different from Pemission Marketing.

Friday, April 14, 2006

In Space No-one Can Hear You Scream

Having worked in various consumer media companies in the US and the UK, one of the things that has always amazed me is the inherent disconnect within the marketing.

Greenlighting occurs on the basis of pitch meetings in which it is always emphasised that potential producers reduce their movie to a pithy one-liner, yet that one-liner rarely if ever makes it through to the marketing materials. Posters increasingly feature longer and longer slogans in contrast to that of Alien above. If it's good enough for the money men to okay a multi-million dollar budget, why isn't it good enough for the potential audience?

What does that say about their respect for their customers?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Who Needs Storecards?

I remember reading Pine and Gilmore's "Welcome to the Experience Economy" in a Harvard Business Review in 1999 and thinking how does this relate to the real world. They seemed to me to be focussing on retail as entertainment which I thought was an idea of limited scope and in later years while wondering at the spectacle of Nike Town yet wandering out in reaction to the incredible delay in getting served, I was not convinced to change my opinion. Clearly design is crucial to the customer's experience, be it product design or envirionment design but I struggled to to identify a real world mainstream application for their idea. Today I came across one potentially significant one.

In a piece in February's Harvard Business Review entitled Unstick Your Customers, David Weinberger of Cluetrain fame considers why physical stores are designed to "trap" customers and asks "what if physical stores mirrored the Web's best practice for making information easily and always accessible? Customers would get out quickly with exactly what they needed, never forced to double back for forgotten items. The result would be increased loyalty."

We've all seen articles and programming extolling the amazing science of the retail sector, the tracking of consumer paths and the strategic placing of inviting products, artificial aromas and cunning lighting. Yet, as customers, we've all cursed the distant location of the staple products we popped into buy. Why not make it easy for the customer to do what they want? It's the basis of any good marketing. Do that and then who needs storecards?

16-34 – Holy Grail or Marketing’s Falaraki?

I wrote this in September 2002 but it still seems that marketers are slow to learn the lesson. Falaraki for the uninitiated is a greek resort town that decided to cater for the 16-34 age group and had its character desecrated and hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons back then.

In a world of allegedly increasing marketing sophistication and media literacy, the continued obsession with my 16-34 demographic - almost regardless of the product involved – seems a bizarre relic of outdated thinking. A myopic view that leads to inanities such as the concern which surrounded Big Brother 3’s unprecedentedly large and involved audiences – the very USP of television advertising - when the figures revealed a trend toward older downmarket viewers. Though in reality the actual number of 16-34 viewers had increased! The fact that ITV’s recently announced production schedule included dramas aimed at an older audience “who complain they have nothing to watch” is perhaps the first sign that some joined-up thinking is occurring. Or perhaps commisioning editors are just getting older!

For this is not just an arcane question of whether a chronological demographic can be treated as a generic whole – we all know people who were born middle-aged; sad middle-aged types who refuse to grow up; and older people who are genuinely youthful in outlook, spirit and consumption patterns. Rather, it goes to the heart of the commercial sanity of TV companies seeking to capture the youth market for its advertisers when not all are marketing youth-oriented products; not all consumers of youth products are young; and at a time when the general demographic trend is against them anyway (the average age of the population will be 40 in 2008).

While it has long been accepted that it’s more realistic to talk in less generic categories – hence the move to all sorts of psychographic classifications - the rationale seemingly remains that we 16-34s are the trend setters, the most malleable and have the greatest disposable income. Catch us now and you’ve got us for life! This may have been true in the past, but today’s demographic dynamism is arguably unparalleled and poses some real questions. Do groupings like the 16-34s occupy the same social position as they did previously? Is it even sensible to think of them as behaving constantly? And do people’s habits and buying patterns change over time more or less than was the case in previous generations?

The biggest demographic trend, of course, is that of the ageing population precipitated by birth bubbles and greater life expectancy. It is beginning to have a huge impact on society in fiscal, sociological and cultural terms. Not only will this place demands on younger generations in terms of care costs and fiscal drag, it is also unleashing a generation of well-off early retirees into the economy with low expenses and secure incomes.

Intuitively, therefore, it is no longer the case that all early adopters are from the youth market and it is surely time to accept that the trendsetters are different for different ages and groups. Indeed, we already know that it is younger teenagers outside the 16-34 grouping who are the true early adopters of crazes like ring tones, but to attempt to migrate them to higher cost services is naïve (3G licence holders take note) because they don’t have the money and in any case there are strict ITC restrictions to surmount.

As for malleability, what is the media literacy debate about if not the increasing difficulty in targeting younger consumers with traditional marketing methods? They’re either gullible or they’re more sophisticated – I don’t think they can be both. And is this repeated across generations? Are older consumers more or less susceptible to TV advertising or are they just repelled by MTV style visuals?

And finally, what is happening to disposable income? As marriage, house purchase and childbirth are being increasingly delayed, different spending patterns will emerge for which there must be different marketing approaches. We now regularly read of the impact of student debts on the spending power of a large portion of twentysomethings and, given the government’s obsession with getting 50% of 18-21 year olds into university of some sort, this can only increase. Inevitably there must be a hiatus in their spending – and perhaps a psychological carryover that will effect it for years to come.

So the assumptions are not as solid as they seemed, but is that all there is to consider? I think not. If media owners slant their output towards this demographic, there must surely be a longer-term distortion of culture, media and media commerce. Some obviously discernible trends are the predominance of manufactured music which it could be argued is a contributory factor to falling CD sales; and the nothing to watch syndrome that ITV is seeking to address. Focussing on the 16-34s might actually be self-defeating because it alienates not only older audiences but also those you are seeking to attract!

As the audience figures show, we are increasingly seeking our entertainment elsewhere. The increasing prime time presence of what used to be post-pub TV in the UK and its evolution in the US into what has been dubbed cruelty TV is not perhaps the ideal way to attract the cosmopolitan mobile 16-34 year olds that you crave. Factor in the increasing questions as to the functional literacy of many educated in the 70s and 80s and the attractiveness of the grouping arguably palls even more. Just as Falaraki has become identified with all sorts of unsalubrious connotations, perhaps advertisers will begin to question whether TV is aligning their products with the right sort of consumer. Is marketing to the metaphorically pissed-up such a great idea – will we respect you in the morning?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Does Size Matter?

In my piece on the branding myth, I alluded to the impact of accountants on marketing and specifically the result of their trying to quantify intangible impacts. But that doesn't mean I despise metrics. Quite the opposite - I despise when advertising agencies make claims for their campaigns by creating a direct causality between the campaign and for example the stock valuation over the same period. A couple of years ago this led to the outlandish claim that the Jamie Oliver campaign alone had added billions to Sainsbury's value. It was very successful no doubt, but I tend to think the revamping of the supply chain, the opening of new stores and the general rise in the stockmarket also contributed.

I had intended to return to this later in my blog, but then Seth Godin (with whom I've discussed marketing on and off for years since downloading his seminal Permission Marketing in I think 1999) said everything I wanted to say and better.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Massaged Purple Cows

Massaged cows which have been fed on beer create something called wagyu beef that features in the £85.50 sandwich sold in Selfridges department store in London. They've only sold eleven apparently, but boy have they garnered a lot of publicity for a department store.

The meat will be flown in from Chile to Heathrow at 5.30am every day to ensure it is as fresh as possible but I wonder for how long.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Mediocre Guy and the Super-Genius

While reading an article about the Flaming Lips ' new album, I was taken by a quote from lead singer Wayne Coyne about their recording ethic.

"We're not thinking up ideas. Well, I hope we think of a few, but mostly it's just that we're in the mine, digging away. The mediocre guy who works his ass off every day will get a lot more done than the super-genius who sits in a glass castle, thinking."

While I'm not sure a mediocre guy would be that self-aware, I wholeheartedly agree with him. It's a fine mantra for business, for marketers and for bloggers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Truth in Advertising?

One of my key mantras is something of a back to basics cry - specifically the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, place and promotion). Old school thinking for sure but, I would argue, a good framework on which to hang one's marketing outlook. Most importantly of all, promotion the P which most people would think of as marketing is I believe the last one in the equation. The first one is to meet a real or perceived customer need by creating a remarkable product. When I see historically bad marketing, I find that an ignorance of that fact is not far behind.

Thus I read today that, having been rebuked by the British Advertising Standards Authority for repeatedly claiming that it leaves users 100% dandruff-free, Head & Shoulders (the leading brand with a 12% market share) is being relaunched as female-friendly.

It's defence, as reported in The Times, was just mind-boggling. It was that "100 per cent dandruff-free did not actually mean that all dandruff would disappear and that its slogan meant that regular use would eliminate the “visible flakes” — as seen by other people from a distance of two feet, chosen as the approximate gap between people when they are in conversation".

This sort of thing just undermines the whole marketing thrust in my eyes. "Anti-dandruff" is a vague but comprehensible claim but as soon as you claim 100% you can only be on a losing track so I think it's good news for P & G that they have had to ditch the claim but their new thrust still speaks of old style marketing jargon for want of a better word.

With the help of Kristin Davis as the “face of Head & Shoulders”, Procter & Gamble is trying to move the brand from being a “medicated proposition” to being a cosmetic product for the whole family. Whatever that means! Wouldn't it have been easier and less costly to better manage customer expectations and align their worldview with the realities of the product?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Branding Myth

What I mean by the inanities and insanities of marketing will emerge over time. While I don't have a manifesto, this piece I wrote in the Financial Times in 2004 is a good starting point and one with which I still largely concur. I called it The Branding Myth.

"The key point is that branding should never have become a verb! Indeed the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t recognise it as such. Brand was a collective term for a group of products produced by one company. Branding, on the other hand, emerged into broader business parlance as a result of the eighties’ obsession with putting intangible assets like brand equity onto the balance sheet for the purposes of financial engineering. Advertising practitioners saw a golden goose.

Therein lies the branding myth – it is not faux emotional associations that consumers want. It is whatever a product actually delivers that generates real emotional attachments. This originates not just from its functionality but also in terms of packaging, delivery and convenience. Despite what many gurus aver, it is not true to suggest that the vast majority of products/services are actually satisfactory and thus interchangeable.

Branding hype is not what people want. They want results. Furthermore, this is exacerbated by the frequent denuding of the alleged added value of premium brands by dint of

i) a slowness of premium companies to adapt to technical or style innovations;

ii) consumer cynicism towards irrelevant brand extension where companies sought to exploit their brand by stretching its "equity” into other areas; and

iii) the proliferation of premium products (or fake copies thereof) amongst individuals or societal groups that other consumers deem unworthy of respect.

Advertising/promotion – in whatever form it takes – is only a small albeit expensive part of marketing. Branding tried and continues to try to deny that. That’s why it’s dying."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools Day

This day of stretching credulity to breaking point seems the appropriate moment to start ranting about the inanities and insanities of marketing.

After all, we’re assailed today with innumerable attempts to fool us: most are blatantly lame; some clever yet still transparent; and once every few years there’ll be the historic hoax that really hits the target.

We’re all wise to the game and yet still they try to fool us. Why do they bother? Is it because some people nevertheless fall for it? Or is it because they don't know any better?

These and many other questions may or may not be answered in the coming posts.