Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Strangers On A Train 2.

Overhead on another train.

"That's what's good about taking a client out for a game of golf. You've got their undivided attention for four hours."

Well you better be telling them a good story or those hours will really drag for them. Attention is not what you want - if you've got a good story you'll attract attention.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

There's A Rat In Me Kitchen.

What am (insert fast-food company name here) gonna do?

You'll have seen the news coverage and it's clear that KFC/Taco Bell might have an image problem, but what about their competition?

Do people see this as a KFC problem, a New York problem, a fast-food problem and/or an urban problem? Only time will tell, but it's revealed a fascinating worldview that means people will not be returning to the restaurant because of the health threat of rats where they previously had not worried about the health threat associated with consuming fast food.

But once their mind has been changed, it's going to stay changed until something else remarkable happens. That's the marketing lesson here.

However, before those not living near the Village get too smug, let me leave you with this quote from the most excellent History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants.

"Male and female rats may have sex twenty times a day. A female can produce up to twelve litters of twenty rats a year: one pair of rats has the potential for 15,000 descendants in a year."

Food for thought.

Customer Careless (A Whole Bowl Of Wrong).

So (for argument's sake) you want a customer to renew their car breakdown insurance. You probably think it's a good idea to publish a freephone number in your reminder letter that will connect them "directly to one of your renewal experts". Don't you?

Undeniably so. But it would be an even better idea if that number always connected your "valued customer" to a renewal expert. It would be a very bad idea if it connected to a telephone menu which ran them through three or four cascades of choices so that they could indicate to you that they wished to speak to a renewal expert! Wouldn't it?

You wouldn't be so dumb as to allow that would you? You wouldn't be so dumb as to insist that the returned bank debit form not be folded, yet supply a pre-paid envelope smaller than that form? Would you?

Of course you wouldn't, because doing such things would reveal that your attention to customer care hadn't even stretched to the simple test of enacting what it's like to be an actual customer. Wouldn't it?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Greener Than A Speeding Prius.

Marketing's bad reputation often stems from corporate defence of the indefencible, so how would you expect a motor racing team to stress its green credentials?

Well Honda are doing so by ditching all on-car sponsorship, replacing racing livery with an image of the world and seeking to offset the $100 million of lost sponsorship by way of a licensing website.

Owing just a little to the million dollar webpage, it goes live on February 27 and will be the hub where Honda and its partners can promote their association with this new approach and where anyone can sponsor a pixel.

Greenwash or sincere initiative? Who knows? But since I've never been a fan of the mobile billboard school of sponsorship, I can't criticise them for being different.

The Three Faces Of YouTube.

Some people achieved fame by miming to mainstream hits and being posted on YouTube.

Some people achieved fame by doing odd things and being posted on YouTube.

Some people then appear miming and doing odd things in order to facilitate a mainstream hit via a video posted on YouTube.

The three faces of YouTube - imitation, originality and synthesis. But which has the most infectious energy?

Saturday, February 24, 2007


On a train the other day, I witnessed a teenage girl saying her goodbyes to what I assumed to be her grandma with whom she'd seemingly been visiting. Just before the doors, closed a small banknote was thrust into her hand. A warmness emanated from that girl for the rest of the journey and I would suggest that anyone who witnessed the scene was similarly warmed. Customer satisfaction - it's all about spreading warmness.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Magnificent Seven.

More evidence of the miscomprehension of marketing can be seen in this outstanding video (courtesy of moderator Guy Kawasaki) of a panel of highly successful online community entrepereneurs.

Yet again, we see people rightly criticising "marketing" and yet, they're all great marketers without realising. They focus on the user experience, listen to the feedback and have built businesses fom passions. It's a fabulously insightful hour and has supplanted anything I was going to post today.

This is as far from a dry podcast as you could hope to get and is filled with the essence of marketing, community-buidling and entrepreneurship (and at around minute 41 validates my take on research). Watch, learn and laugh.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

False Economy Marketing.

Yesterday, I popped into another trade show/conference full of people not marketing to potential customers and was, yet again, given an ID badge without a lanyard/cord.

At least, the clothing-damaging safety pin had been replaced with a magnetic device, but it transpired that this failed to work on anything but the thinnest of materials. My ID went in my pocket.

By chance, some of the exhibitors were suppliers of such lanyards, so I ascertained that the cost of a fully-corded ID runs to about 18p (40 cents) - a sum far less than the cost of the various mail-outs I'd received and binned in the weeks running-up to the show.

Small things make big differences and big things get ignored.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Marketing 3.00.

You see a trailer or poster, read or hear reviews and thus decide (on the basis of one or other snapshot) whether or not you want to see a movie. In this vein, I saw the trailer for the upcoming Warner Brothers' movie 300. It was clearly the story of Sparta derived from a graphic novel, it looked ferocious and visually extraordinary, but it didn't seem like my kind of fare and I wasn't hugely inclined to pay to see it.

By chance, I didn't have to because, a few days later, I was invited to a private screening where I watched a much more nuanced movie than I'd expected and then heard director Zack Snyder participate in an extended and fascinating Q & A session. Fascinating because this, more than any other marketing effort, transmitted to me the dedication, effort and enthusiasm that is invested in the years it takes to bring a movie to fruition.

The combination of a personable, unpretentious and funny director and informed and passionate questioners (comprising graphic novel fans and bloggers) made it much more authentic than the endless, tired interviews of the promotion circus in which a series of hacks ask the same hackneyed questions of the same tired actors/directors as a preamble to a clip being shown on some broadcast media outlet. Purely on the basis of that, I will be in the queue for any Zack Snyder movie in the future.

It's the sort of sociable media that should be intrinsic to the marketing of the movie and not just be destined to be a DVD extra and this time it won't be because, as the Warner executives with whom I drank afterwards explained, they are trying to facilitate the needs of bloggers by providing access to a media website from which they could freely extract clips, trailers and official images. The film of the Q and A will be added to it (and I will append it here when it is).

Now, as yet, this process is not (to this blogger at least) as simple as embedding a Youtube video and there is a superfluous requirement for copyright messages to be appended, but it is clearly the way forward. In the future, the heads of agents, actors and producers need to be banged together in order to create a cache of "copyright-free" materials relating to a movie that can be given away so that bloggers, fans or whoever can use it as they choose.

There really isn't a downside because, as Samuel Goldwyn once said, "If people don't want to go to the picture, nobody can stop them."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Help Or Hindrance.

I'm not one of the people predicting the demise of Microsoft anytime soon, but the amount of discussion that has surrounded the elimination of the hated Clippy from the latest incarnation seems to me to to be symptomatic of what irritates their detractors. The perception that they (like so many other companies) believe they know what's best for the user.

Where they saw a proactive user-friendly pop-up, many users saw an annoying imposition and one that was exacerbated by the fact that, until XP came along, it was up to the user to switch it off. Every time you make a wrong guess about your user, you're in trouble and you're sapping enthusiasm. Sadly, this is repeated in the advertising for the Vista launch.

In addition to being an irritating phrase that's imposed on my life far too often by home improvement and makeover shows, the "wow factor" is subjective to the user, so declaring that your product will wow me can only lead to irritation and/or disappointment.

Real proactive attention to the user experience should never result in unwanted interruption. The key is to make it easy for your user to access solutions when and how they want. This does not mean imposed FAQs, but it does mean intuitive, searchable help options; it does not mean expensive, automated and unresponsive help desks, but it does mean easily accessible human reactions (as the user-created sites and show); and it most certainly doesn't mean you telling them what it is they want. That's for them to tell you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Arcade Fire Equation.


"We decided to try and get a couple of songs out to people before the record leaks (which is inevitable…), but keep in mind that the record is very much meant to be heard as a whole. That is why we leaked over 100 songs on as fake band names over the last year and then made a compilation of the 11 most popular songs and called it Neon Bible!"

plus Sociability

"From the shadows, I recognised a face: it was the lead-singer, Win. He tip-toed onto the pavement. He was most definitely up to something. No one noticed him: I didn't say anything, but gave him a little smile. .. He waved back and whispered up the street, in a hushed Canadian voice, "Do you have a ticket?" I said, "No." Then, suddenly he looked very conspiratorial, and he said louder, with conviction and urgency, "Then follow me."

plus Being Remarkable

Equals Breakthrough

"Not that they've exactly hit the mainstream now. One girl who travelled from Manchester lamented her proud schoolyard boast of scoring tickets for last night's show was met with blank faces from her companions. All that is about to change."

Personal Note: If you don't get The Arcade Fire I'd be alarmed. If you can get me tickets for their London gigs, I'd be delighted.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Marketing Myopia.

A Bain & Company survey revealed that executives of 80% of the 362 firms involved believed they delivered a 'superior experience' to their customers. Sadly the customers assigned such a rating to only 8%.

There's a world of difference between declaring the customer to be king and actually giving them regal treatment.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Swap Your Talent.

Having always been an advocate of the concept of being a deep generalist rather than a super-specialist, I value the transferability of skills.

In order to broaden the range of sports over which the UK team excels at the 2012 Olympics, the development team are taking a similar view. They're writing to 1200 track and field athletes and suggesting that they allow themselves to be transferred to another discipline.

If the individual has more success in that new field, then clearly they will gain more from the experience and the country will climb higher in the medals' table. The parallels with your business are, I hope, obvious.

Spiting The Hand That Feeds You.

Yesterday, I was astonished to answer the door to a chugger. It's annoying enough when such "charity fundraisers" accost you in the street under the delusion that you might choose to give your banking details to a complete stranger, but to have them at your door is even more intrusive.

It can't only be me who refuses to have anything to do with them out of principle. Why would you want to annoy potential supporters with aggressive begging when your goal should be to develop a personal interaction with people that makes them feel good about your efforts?

I'm sure it's justified as a cost-effective method of fundraising but marketing ROI is about much more than short-term financial costs.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chocs Away!

Pricing is the most nebulous of the marketing Ps to me. The key is obviously to fill (in as unique a way as possible) a need that people are prepared to pay for without thinking much about the cost. In economics-speak, this is known as being a non-commodity product.

But the value to the user is ultimately dependent on their worldview and utterly subjective. So, in some sense, you should charge what you can. Too many businesses undervalue their expertise and thus limit their revenue when the willingness of people to pay for something is greater than they imagine (as I was forcefully reminded the other day when witnessing the eagerness of people to pay for the services of a psychic).

However, there is an upper limit to your mark-up - that point at which you move from valuing your expertise to implictly mocking your users. It's a highly profitable tactic, but one that has a limited shelf-life as the wonderful Noka expose recently revealed.

Branding may change your users view of you, but it won't help you if you're undercut by a disruptive competitor who would seem to offer something that's almost as good, but much better value for money.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Google Get Holiday Wrong?

Like Seth, I am bemused by Google's Christmasy Valentine logo. Why Christmasy? Well the angels said Noel of course.

But seriously folks - look how much attention you can get by being different.

Keeping It Up.

Robert Scoble asks how we keep up in the face of an information overload. It's clearly a question of prioritisation and one answer comes from the 3gsm world congress mobile phone conference.

Recognising that users are suffering from function fatigue and don't know what to buy when faced by a wall of similar complex phones, the differentiator is now going to be fashion.

Simultaneously, we have Sony marketing their Vaio laptop as a style accessory "like no other" with no mention of technical specifications.

I'm not sure how this fits with the other discernible trend of people seeking to express their individuality by ignoring the instructions of style pundits, but it's clear that excessive innovation is paradoxically not going to earn you the type of differentiation you imagine. Indeed, it may lay you open to a battle of trendiness.

Invention is good, but outrunning your mass market (and every product, how ever niche, has a mass market) is very bad marketing. Ensuring that your product/service meets and then marginally, but only marginally, surpasses your users' needs is the way to go.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thinking So You Don't Have To?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Valentine's Day Minifesto.

1) Attraction is not based upon analysis-friendly delineators like age and socio-economics.

2) Attraction is based upon shared passionate responses, attitudes and enthusiasms.

3) Courtship messages cannot therefore be imposed, but must be offered up for acceptance and confirmation.

4) They must come from the heart in order to ensure that the love is shared and genuine.

5) Real love is not symbolised by trinkets or commercially imposed time-scales or occasions.

6) True seduction does not take place in noisy pick-up joints where everybody is trying it on.

7) Intoxicated behaviour doesn't often lead to long term relationships.

8) True seduction takes place in arenas of shared commitment and involves listening as much as throwing out lines.

9) Consummation is only the beginning - but you still have to be worth it - you have to deliver and not leave any nasty surprises.

10) Creating real, lasting love requires effort, repeated seductions and fidelity, so don't develop bad habits like making short cuts, failing to evolve or taking things for granted.

Inspired by Hugh's tales from the front line and applicable in many areas of life.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Giving It All Away.

For some years, we've seen the graffiti and the sneaking of his exhibits into major galleries. Now, the unknown artist Banksy has parlayed free content into sales worth millions. If proof were needed that giving your stuff away for free does not jeapordise your financial future, then this is it.

Yet, I still worry about extending this argument to a denial of the validity of copyright and the demand for universally free content. The destruction of the link between creation and ownership can only end in tears for while it is better to give than to receive, receiving is very different from taking.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What Makes A Product Successful?

Confirmation for my prejudices comes from a McKinsey study entitled Driving Growth in Consumer Products. It reveals that product launches that achieved above average success featured genuinely innovative products or repositioned products (one example was a Yoplait product that was aerated and successfully relaunched as a dessert).

By contrast, product launches that were not so successful tended to be line extensions (i.e. new flavours/sizes of existing product ranges) or products that competed on price.

Product is the first P of marketing. If you don't have the right product, don't start promoting it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Seth Godin points everyone to this amusing site and people begin to realise that Venn diagrams are over-rated while line graphs can be very insightful.

Similarly, people like blogs but are less enamoured of lengthy podcasts or videoblogs.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Professional Small-Talk.

Returning from a chat with CEO blogger Tom Glocer last week, I took a Tube journey from the financial district to the centre of town and overheard an interesting conversation that juxtaposed with his desire to open up the culture of his company via internal communications.

A businesswomen was revealing to another that she would not be attending an intra-departmental social event later that night because she had no time for "professional small-talk" when on the day to day basis everyone in their department "has their own secrets". Knowledge is power was clearly the reigning department maxim, but shared knowledge is even more powerful.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Never Assume.

Assumptions are dangerous things. Like the assumption I'd always made that Absolut vodka's renowned marketing was the result of the crucible of entrepreneurial capitalism - an assumption itself based implicitly on the assumption that publically-owned organisations are inherently uncreative.

In fact, it's the product of a state-owned company that until 1995 had the additional "restraint" on creativity of being a monopoly.

Never assume that you can't be creative.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Size Matters?

During last night's Superbowl, the announcers proudly declared that the game was being transmitted to an audience of one billion people. Really? Given that the predicted audience for the 2006 World Cup final was only 300 million, I suspect they meant that the countries in which it was being broadcast had a TV population of one billion. Big difference. Saying you have a huge international audience is one thing, achieving it takes proper marketing.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Superbowl Supplementary.

Further to my post on the "amateur" advertisements that will be featured during the Superbowl, it occurred to me that they all focus on comedy which clearly tell us something about what makes marketing memorable. On the other hand, they weren't very radical. They all resemble mainstream spots and, as such, are merely user-generated interruptions.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Let The Music Play.

What do we marketing types talk about? Passion, Sociability, Authenticity. Nice watchwords, but difficult to achieve. Yet, sitting in a friend's living room yesterday, I experienced all this and more as a small group of maybe fifteen friends and neighbours enjoyed a live performance from an EMI recording artist.

Between periods of supporting established stars on UK tours, Louise Setara has set out on an intriguing piece of grass-roots marketing by playing a small set in a series of literal lounge concerts and free live gigs. In marketing speak, you could argue that she's showing how remarkable she is in co-created environments and achieving a connection that is tangible and long-lasting. It's more accurate to describe it as seeding a self-selected audience of music-lovers united by genuine social networks. But what really counts in marketing is not hype but the visceral impact.

What counts is being passionate enough to perform, without amplification, in someone's living money to a tiny audience for no money: being sociable enough to do it with grace, wit and charm (and thus be remembered as a nice person you'd want to support); and being authentic enough to be just so damn good.

Having seen her perform with her full band in December I knew what to expect, but those who'd never heard of her will remember her and talk about her. A world away from Pop Idol or the lip-synced personal appearances they may have experienced in the past - this was the real deal. At other houses the audience will be many times larger, but the result will be the same.

The younger people who got autographs will be telling everyone in school today and guiding them to her MySpace site, while others will mention it in passing or notice when she appears on TV in coming weeks. Because of the genuine experience, the word will spread organically rather than artificially. Because of the enthusiasm, the spread will be infectious. Because of her performances, Louise Setara's big voice may have a bigger future. And you heard it here first!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Death Of Madison Avenue Continued.

It costs $87,000 per second to run an ad during this Sunday's Superbowl and traditionally the ads themselves are multi-million dollar productions. These are astounding figures, but maybe more astounding is the impact user-generated content is having this year because several spots will be filled by "amateur" efforts.

Some submissions will have been given a "professional" make-over, but Doritos amongst others will air originals - in their case, the winner from these five finalists, one of which ("live the flavour") had the record-breaking budget of $12.79!

Who needs production values?