Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Make Your Sex Life More Different.

Now that's what I call a catchy spam title!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Obviously Right.

With its weird numbering arrangements and honeycomb of streets, London is not always the easiest city in which to find places. Often people on the street you're seeking can't direct you to the exact address. It's not helped by a fashion for discreet corporate signage.

Thus a couple of weeks ago (when delivering a T shirt for the Interesting 2007 treatment), I was delighted to note that the Design Conspiracy leave nothing to chance. They proudly announce their presence with a banner that must be ten feet high. No wasted time, no missed appointments, no lost opportunities.

If you don't promote your presence, nobody else will.

Obviously Wrong.

If you don't promote your presence, nobody else will but it's long past the time when unqualified boosterism was justified. Waiting for a Tube yesterday, I read a poster which proclaimed the arrival of the "outstanding" new album from Beverley Knight. As if, I'm going to believe that just because I read it on a poster. Why does the music industry still market so badly and why does it still use poster campaigns for an aural product? Because they always have. That's why.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Canapes Of The Amateur.

Last night, I went to the ICA to hear Andrew Keen interviewed by Bryan Appleyard.

By his own admission he wanted to annoy the libertarians of both the left and right - those of the left who were the utopian and the Hayekian free marketers of the right who would leave everything to Adam Smith's "invisible hand. That's fine by me - the intellectual property arguments of the left are nonsensical while the extreme free marketers are similarly deluding themselves. But while there's much one can agree with in the book and in what Keen said last night, he does have a tendency to ruin his impact with a sneering aside or by seeming to imply that only the educated/published have valid, fact-checked arguments.

Many of the things he rightly worries about have little to do with the internet or Web 2.0 - although connectivity clearly accelerates trends. Media companies were imploding long before the impact of file sharing and indeed only have themsleves to balme for an ostrich reaction to an emrging technology, while the real villain of the piece in my eyes is a lack of critical thinking generated by falling overall education standards.

Where he would argue that the internet is undermining societal cohesiveness by fragmenting mainstream media, anyone reading this knows that blogging equally generates new social networks that are both challenging and rewarding and stretch into real life. I disagree with him but I'm glad he's put his head above the parapet because as a contrarian myself I think it's always good to question the received wisdom of our various echo chambers.

Addendum: He spoke of hostile receptions at previous talks, but I think he's in for a peach of one on Wednesday when he speaks at a conference where I note both Hugh Macleod and Mark Earls are also speakers. I look forward to reports from there.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It Couldn't Get Worse.

Tales of telephonic abysses are common. Annoying recorded messages, dreadful muzak, endless ringing phones. All very irksome. Now imagine combining the three!

When you ring a hospital (yes hospital) to confirm a relative's attendance for surgery - you get the usual tiresome preamble about my call being important to them. Then you get the ringing tone AND the muzak simultaneously - a cacophony of mindbending irritation which is then punctuated by intermittent repetitions of "you are in a queue but your call is important to us" over the top of the other two irritants.

What planet are these people on?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Premium Pricing.

Having started the week at a London Business School seminar about low-cost competition, I end it at the latest Damien Hirst exhibition that includes the much hyped skull supposedly encrusted with £12 million worth of diamonds and open to viewing amidst much "security rigmarole".

I don't know what £12 million worth of diamonds looks like, but the skull was far from the most exciting piece in the show and perhaps that's the point. Diamonds, after all, are artificially priced in a skewed market. And wouldn't it be even more interesting if these weren't in fact diamonds?

If you compete on price alone, you're saying that your offering has nothing for your customers to care about save its cheapness. But if you make it, in some sense, special, then you can charge a premium which people will pay for any number of reasons icluding, but not limited to, ostentation, convenience, vanity and paranoia.

Perhaps life imitates art?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Partial Social Attention.

Further to my early acquirer post and having watched with interest at the different way people use Twitter, I am still finding the raison d'etre of a single focus for one's social networking to be somewhat elusive.

Convenience is an understandable goal, but the people in my address book are there for very different reasons, sometimes multiple reasons. So lumping together these different market segments of my social life is not entirely logical to me. It reeks of partial social attention - not wanting to miss out on anything because you wrongly believe technology will allow this.

No, Grant McCracken is right when he suggest that we will all require a number of social networks. Technology may facilitate the diary management aspect of networking but it can't replace the increasingly vital human component.

Technical Addendum: Is the fact that I can't click through on links in a Twitter window that appears on a publically accessible blog merely a technical glitch or an accidental form of social exclusion/elitism?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We're Very Busy.

Passing a new recruitment consultancy this morning, I saw a printed sign on the door.

"We're very busy so we don't have time to help you with directions."

Of course, the people inside didn't look very busy. But that was irrelevant because if I were a job seeker, an employer or even a tourist staying with an employer, there's no way I would cross their threshold.

Of course, on a busy street, it's conceivable that the direction-seekin traffic might become tiresome, but their short-sighted solution just lays them open to even more problems.

Of course, at minimal cost, they could have avoided this negative impression by keeping a local atlas in the reception desk which even the busiest employee might find time to hand to an enquirer.

Of course, I could have offered them this marketing advice.

But they probably won't be in business long enough to ensure my invoice got paid.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Interesting 2007 Reviewed.

Ben delights in the fact that it wasn't a "PlannersphereWankFest" here and Grant explains what that was all about here.

A hall full of smart, funny, nice people was a very good place to spend a Saturday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover.

During yet another tortuous train journey today, a small genteel woman in her sixties sat down opposite me. She was travelling relatively light and I guessed she might be heading for London for a theatre trip. However, as the travel delays developed, it emerged that she was doing something very different.

In response to someone's moan that they were going to miss their connection, she responded that she was unworried as she was headed to the hedonistic Glastonbury Festival and had four days to get there!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Interesting 2007.

It was.

Starting with a three minute illustrated presentation on how to split a log through to the thoughts of a pun-based designer via knitted villages, a short history of knots and another six hours of misleading titles, this was something special. Much more later, but for now thanks to Russell Davies and everyone involved in making this happen.

Three hundred people paying £20 per head - that's another over-priced industry disrupted once and for all.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Happened To Hallam Foe?

Last night, I re-read a screenplay that I first read eighteen months ago. Back then it was the early draft of a film called Hallam Foe. The writer/director was a schoolfriend of Hugh MacLeod's and thus was prey to his persuasion to the extent that he posted the script online and asked for the opinion of amateurs like me. He and I swapped a couple of longish emails about the script and I followed the film's development via its production blog.

I often wondered how the experiment had impacted the creative process and tonight I had the opportunity to see the finished film (released in UK in August) and to ask those questions directly of the director. The film is all I had hoped for from that script and more. The dialogue that leapt from the page back then is utterly convincing coming from the mouths of the leading actors Jamie Bell and Sophia Myles who both deliver significant, nuanced performances while David Mackenzie's confident and imaginative use of the camera fills the screen memorably.

None of this was due to the notes I supplied eighteen months ago, and discussion of the "experiment" will have to wait for a more civilised hour, but one other thing I took away from tonight was a reminder that, contrary to received wisdom, talented people tend also to be very good company. I don't think that's a coincidence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Good, The Bad And The Geek Dinner.

The good thing about attending geek dinners is that you get to talk to and listen to high-powered conference speakers such as Jyri Engstrom, Dan Gillmor and Jason Calacanis without the atmosphere of a conference.

The bad thing is that geeks ironically seem very bad at getting their PA equipment to work properly.

The best thing last night was this from Jyri - "Social value is constituted within a community, but communities change."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Urban Spam.

One of the most annoying things about spam is that it works. The cost is so low that a minuscule conversion rate justifies the expenditure.

Similarly with direct marketing. I saw a couple of guys yesterday sticking restaurant flyers through letterboxes on a nearby estate and was reminded that on a monthly basis, I get similar stuff drop on my mat. It's mainly from a pizza joint not quarter of a mile away that I will never frequent - not because I know anything about it but because it's a quarter mile in the wrong direction for me.

But the business keeps sending out the flyers and presumably feels justified in doing so. Regardless of whether they track sales against flyer cycles (which I doubt), they're engaging in marketing and this is what business are meant to do. Or is it?

I am aware of the pizza joint not because of the flyers but because I've driven past the place a few times. The flyers have no effect on that and, for reasons previously stated and totally beyond their influence, will not change my behaviour. Does advertising your presence to people who will anyway become aware of your actual physical presence during their regular lives ever have a positive effect? Maybe, maybe not.

But, unlike spam, I'm sure that marketing spend could be better directed.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Early Adopters Are Overrated.

I've decided I'm not an early adopter, I'm an early acquirer. I've had a Twitter account for quite a long time, similarly with Facebook but I don't use either of them. My MySpace, Joost and Jaiku activity is similarly spartan. After a burst of investigation, I lose interest.

I've watched true early adopters flit from one to the next and create buzz, but does it really matter? Are the views of people with technical expertise far beyond that of the mainstream or those of people seeking to analyse the potential monetisation of said products really that relevant. If they're not the people who will constitute the bulk of your users, then I'd question how much one should be believing.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Happy Babies Make Happy Families.

Russell's latest post moves the B word debate on and is a must-read.

It also had the side effect of highlighting via the hugely insightful Emotional Headline Value Analyzer that my headlines have been lacking in emotional value - tending to score ratings of between 0% and 16.66%.

Clearly something had to be done and with this post I have succeeded in generating one that scores 100%. I hope it's appreciated.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Monetise The Theft.

No aplogies for quoting Bob Lefsetz again. My background in media industries has meant that I've never legitimised the rampant copyright infringement that exists in web 2.0, but nor have I overlooked the whining reaction of media businesses. As Bob rightly argues, their death is not inevitable.

How come we can’t sell tonnage anymore? Is it the splintering of the audience? The lack of attention to radio? The lack of music on MTV? The raw quality?

All of these.

But first and foremost it’s a refusal to monetize acquisition. Demand didn’t suddenly go down. NO ONE who’s released an album this year has hit this sales figure. Is ALL music suddenly crap? No, I’d say most people are getting their music via P2P, disc burning or hard drive swapping. Is putting DRM on the tracks of PAYING customers solving the problem? OF COURSE NOT! You don’t deal with the criminals by limiting the rights of those who are playing by the rules. It’s just that the rules must encompass everybody. Don’t make stealing harder, monetize the theft.

Celebrate Your Failures.

During his discussion of Penguin's marketing strategies at the PSFK conference last week, Jeremy Ettinghausen made the interesting aside, "I could have shown the ones that didn't work but prefer to focus on the positive".

I think he should have done. I think everyone should. It would highlight the erroneous thought processes, the strategic cul-de-sacs and the creative indulgences, but the reverse engineering would surely also reveal some insights that had evaded you before.

Of course, when I remarked that such a thing would make an entertaining presentation, the advertising luminary sitting next to me responded that he'd need two time-slots to cover all his failures.

But I stand by my reaction. Anyone want to try?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Know Logos.

The truly staggering press release that accompanied the London 2012 Olympics logo launch tried to tell people what to think.

They hadn't seen my old favourite - Joey Katzen's logo game which shows how little logos actually register.

They certainly hadn't anticipated the unfortunate epilepsy incidents when they wrote this,

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible reflecting a brand savvy world where people, especially young people, no longer relate to static logos but respond to a dynamic brand that works with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.

And they were surely tempting fate by adding

It will become London 2012's visual icon, instantly recognisable amongst all age groups, all around the world. It will establish the character and identity of the London 2012 Games and what the Games will symbolise nationally and internationally.

Seth Godin's terrific characterisation of a logo as "a placeholder, a label waiting to earn some meaning" is absolutely on the money. It also seems to me to be applicable to the underlying product/service itself.

You create something remarkable and, if it truly is remarkable, then your users and audience will ascribe a portfolio of values to it.

You make marketing history the old fashioned way. You earn it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why Advertising Should Be Getting Quieter.

When asked why music is getting louder, a producer yesterday suggested that "if you shout louder you get heard."

I think you can all see the hole in that argument. But, if not, try this experiment with a crying child (preferably one that is already doing so). Don't shout to be heard. Talk incredibly quietly, virtually inaudibly and watch the child stop crying in order to hear whatever they're missing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Let's Kill All The Branding Experts.

You will have noticed that I tend not to use the B word in this blog. I laboriously write "products/services" for a good reason and was delighted to hear Russell Davies on a panel at the PSFK conference declare that "most things aren't brands."

Hugh MacLeod who was also at PSFK picked up on the bankruptcy of the concept in an excellent post entitled The Cult Of The Brand RIP. I agree with both of them, but have an uneasy feeling that marketing as a whole will bear the brunt of the much overdue backlash.

Product line extensions are fine by me, but their promiscuous expansion in the 80s and 90s and beyond (as George E Parker reminded us, 80% of product launches fail) was less to do with marketing hubris and much more to do with the villain of the piece that I identified some time ago.

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

The branding myth has always been that it had something to do with real marketing. It didn't and that's why it's belatedly imploding.

UPDATE: A case in point. It's not a brand, it's a logo!

Won't Get Fooled Again.

The Zimmers - a group with a combined age of over 3000 was put together in a television documentary. The aim was to see if they could create a hit record just as, back in 1980, a similar programme The Big Time had launched Sheena Easton upon the world. (Yes, that is a hint about the quality of what follows).

In 1980 a televison programme could impose something on the audience. Today that is no longer the case. In contrast with the recent final of American Idol that received more viewer votes than were cast in the Presidential election, this exercise was totally lacking in social exchange.

Thus despite an inordinate amount of publicity surrounding this farrago, the song has mercifully only debuted at no 26 in the sales chart. Yet another example of how in terms of audiences, it's become a case of "meet the new gang, not the same as the old gang".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nobody Knows Anything.

I spent a fascinating Friday afternoon and evening at PSFK's trend and marketing conference and feel slightly overloaded as a result of it.

Two things that really stick were the prevailing philosophy that so much of the advertising model is just fallacious and the observation that many large marketing/advertising companies were absent despite the fact that they openly wonder about how to deal with the issues and inisghts were being discussed.

Events were filmed so maybe PSFK will be airing them in the future.