Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hallam Foe.

About two years ago, I read a working film script that was posted online. Today Hallam Foe opens in the UK. You should see it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Death Of Built-In Obsolescence?

In keeping with the recycling zeitgeist, TV presenter and Red Dwarf actor Robert Llewellyn has spent 2007 Making Do - that is seeing he can live his life without buying any new stuff. His efforts are documented in his own Youtube channel and his first video can be seen below.

In the US, No Impact Man is doing something similar.

This may be the bonfire of the vanities of a few eccentrics but what if it represents an opportunity for the success of Geek Squad to be replicated across a whole range of industries? How will that change what you do? Is after-sales service the new killer app?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Problem With Marketing Directors.

Ben reports that

"The problem advertising agencies have got at the moment is that they keep getting asked to do things advertising agencies can't do."

The bigger problem is the marketing directors who keep asking them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How To Make A Presentation.

People worry about how much information they can get across in a presentation or whether they have too many or too few slides - in the recent past I've told them about a presentation that I saw at Interesting 2007. Now you can watch it here.

So these are the rules. You can use up to 210 slides in your presentation but you cannot use more than 20 minutes. That's it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pushmepullyou Marketing.

Forrester Research's declaration that the marketing funnel is dead is prompting a lot of blogposts that say that awareness is defunct and advocacy/engagement/loyalty is the new goal and all sorts of schematics are being offered up as visual representations of a new reality.

It's all very interesting but the talk of a marketing goal that isn't increased sales/profits worries me. That's not because there shouldn't be a purpose to one's marketing but because goals are, by definition, something you aim at and with that comes a push mentality that risks undermining the insight behind the funnel's obituary.

If the marketing environment has changed, then marketers have to change their approach. Replacing a push for awareness with a push for advocates isn't really that great of a change of mindset.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cutting The Crap.

Like some people's jaundiced perception of marketing, I am often accused of being cynical. Guilty as charged. But I don't plead guilty to nihilism because that's not what cynicism is. I plead guilty to despising mediocrity and looking for ways to improve the world.

People assume they know what marketing is. They also assume they know what cynicism is. But, in both cases, they're making assumptions based on popular misconceptions.

Diogenes latter day brand manager of cyncism, in fact, said

The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted.

Now there's a sentence that lays itself open to mockery and misinterpretation. But to do so would be just a little bit cynical, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Words Are Like Sheepdogs Herding Ideas.

An interesting article in The New York Times highlights how little of the nosie assailing the senses actually makes its way into awareness.

The magicians were as eager as the scientists when it came to discussing the cognitive illusions that masquerade as magic: disguising one action as another, implying data that isn’t there, taking advantage of how the brain fills in gaps.

“Allow people to make assumptions and they will come away absolutely convinced that assumption was correct and that it represents fact,” Mr. Randi said. “It’s not necessarily so.”

This could be seen as a reminder to marketers about the difficulty of their task, but I think it also has implications for how you view research.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Huge iPhone Bills.

I hadn't realised that US telcos itemised every text message on their bills. Indeed, I don't know if it's just a new development with the IPhone or specific to AT&T as reported here but in a world where people send tens if not hundreds of texts a day and where environmentalism is allegedly at the heart of every business's mission, it's crazy to do so on paper.

Watch this endgadget video from which the photos above are taken to see just how crazy.

As I said in my previous phone post, the product isn't the whole experience. The size of the bills surely was predictable so wouldn't AT&T have looked good if - in the stated interest of not wasting paper and other resources - they'd sent out summarised bills with links to detailed online bills?

They would have earned kudos for their initiative in a way that greenwash doesn't, saved money now and in the future and migrated huge numbers of customers over to online billing at a stroke. Now the most memorable thing they've done in recent times is seemingly to associate themselves with waste and stupidity.

Loyalties Not Royalties.

A blogpost regrets the fact that the cancellation of a new product idea means that the originater will not be earning "squillions in loyalties".

A typo yes, but what a great concept. Do you ensure that your customers earn "loyalties"? You certainly should.

Friday, August 17, 2007


The design process for the new Cocoon cellphone (that I was recently asked to assess) centred on the concept of simplexity - a new word to me which seems to sum up the role of modern marketing quite neatly.

Having passed the phone around amongst friends, it got good reviews for both the simplexity of its ergonomic design that allowed a large, tactile keypad within a relatively slimline phone and its various audiovisual features. The ability to read texts via an external LED is another example of simplifying the user experience though, in practice, it's something that will be perfected in the future.

However, simplexity should not be restricted to design and my feeling towards the phone has been tainted by the user instructions. It's not good enough to assume that you know how your users will act or, in this case, that they will play with the phone and work out how it works. Even the ultra intuitive Apple products are provided with good starter manuals that ensure enthusiasm never flags.

Here, the user is supplied with "A dinky little guide to starting up" which comprises 24 three inch square pages - far too much of which is about selling to the user and far too little about helping them get started. That might well be enough for the technophiles, while others may be prepared to slide a CD into their computer to access detailed information, but the whole point of instructions is that they exist to inform fully people who don't know or are not completely sure or who want to be told.

If you don't ensure that this happens, then it impacts the attitude to the product and the subsequent word of mouth so why risk it? It doesn't make sense. If you invest your skill and innovation in the design of a superior product then you should do the same in your instructions or all that effort has potentially been wasted. It's not just technological complexity that needs simplifying. A lot of thought has gone into creating this phone, more should have gone into what followed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sweat The Small Stuff.

If your competition didn't get the big stuff right (or at least make an effort at doing so) then you wouldn't see them as the competition. That's why it's the allegedly small stuff that really makes the difference.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Marketing Myopia 2.0.

Some time ago I wrote that it was the customer who ultimately decides what your values are. You can make all the claims you like, but you have to live up to them because you will increasingly be found out. If you don't realise that, you're even more myopic than Theo suggested.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pitching Your Price.

The cake stall In Borough Market was laden with goodies and my eyes were drawn to the succulent chocolate brownies - and then to the price. £1.50. Not cheap.

But wait - with two words the vendor totally changed my reaction to the price. For these brownies were not £1.50 each. These brownies were £1.50 per indulgence.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Presentation? Keep It Short, Stupid.

It's the time of the Edinburgh festival again and I'm struck by the lessons that the economics of stand-up comedy has for presentations, for customer attention and for communication in general. After all, there's no tougher audience than one that sits there and implores you to entertain them. Or else!

This article details how an hour on the Fringe used to feature three comedians delivering their best twenty minutes,

But then greed came knocking in the shape of the one-man show. I worked as a critic at the time, and I swear you can count on the fingers of one hand the people in the world who can do a full hour consistently on top form — and three of those are called Robin Williams.

In similar spirit, I recently twittered David Armano into believing that twenty minutes was not too short a slot for his excellent Fuzzy Tail presentation which he'd expected to last somewhat longer. Indeed I argued it would magnify its impact - not because he couldn't fill longer with the ideas, but because the restriction of time would focus both his and his audience's mind. Apparently, it turned out to be so.

I wasn't surprised - my love of brevity spawned a minifesto meme some months back which was filled with dense excellence. Similarly, the sheer quality of the Interesting 2007 experience where speakers were limited to 20 or 3 minutes slots (and Dave managed to present 220 slides in his 20 minutes with the skilled timing and delivery of the best stand-up ) is still being talked and written about around the world.

We can all argue about Robin Williams but the point is a good one. If you can't get your message across in 20 minutes then perhaps you don't really understand it well enough. Or perhaps you're being over-ambitious and should break it into chunks. This is categorically not about dumbing down for an attention-deficient audience, it's about serving and respecting their time and intelligence. It's about truly engaging them. A density of ideas; your command of the subject; and the lack of superfluity and filler all work to this end and best of all, they help you avoid being labelled as boring!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blogging CEO = Boosted Share Price?

Shares in seven of the ten firms with blogging chief executives are up since the blogging began apparently.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Supermarket 2.0

Thursday, August 09, 2007

If You're Not On The Shelf You're Not Coming In.

The corollary of my recent distribution post is that marketing is not a case of either B2B or B2C - the former has to involve a considerable amount of the latter.

Competing for customer attention is all well and good, but customer groundswell has rarely got product on the shelf. In reality you’re marketing to the retailer (and specifically a few buyers) as much as you are to your final customer.

And if you think the customer has a lot of clutter to cut through in your category, just imagine how much clutter and noise is assailing the distributors - the guys who get to filter down that noise to the cacophony confronting the customer.

This brings you back to differentiation - but a different sort of differentiation. You have to show the buyers that you're doing things differently and that you stand out from that crowd, be that in promotional activities, your approach to the business or in your personal demeanour. Ad spends are replicable, so too are promotional offers. All they ever see are guys like you. You have to convince them that they don't.

Addendum: Telling the story of your differentiation like this would be a smart move.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Marketing Parable.


They have cut down all the street lampposts along the A40(M) Westway and have erected a series of signs along the road which read "no street lighting". These road signs are pointless during daylight hours and cannot be seen at night, because there is no street lighting.

From the letters page of today's Times.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Distribution Matters.

There are many ways to look at distribution (the P of place in the classical 4Ps of marketing). Many involve trade-offs.

Rory Sutherland points out in this Cannes-based video that in online marketing the vast majority of effort is focussed on distribution and little is invested in the actual content.

In the entertainment industry, the content/distribution trade-off tends to favour content. The ownership of distribution guarantees an audience and thereby extra cashflow surplus to that which you'd garner if you were limited to selling your output via third parties. But ultimately good/popular content will always find distribution.

However, in most businesses, you don't have the freedom to contemplate the trade-off. If your content/product is not so good or, more realistically, if you're in an increasingly commodified industry, then it's clear that the importance of gaining distribution and the difficulty of so doing cannot be overstated. Furthermore, it seems to me that the disintermediation embodied in online encroachments into offline businesses is not quite as paradigm-shifting as some would have us believe.

Generally speaking, there is a physicality to distribution and the scarcity or otherwise of that distribution shifts the marketing dynamic entirely. It's not so much about where you choose to distribute your product/service in order to most conveniently serve your customers and gain market share. In a world of oversupply, it's much more about gaining distribution share.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Enriching Media.

From William Gibson's latest.

"But when you look at blogs, where you're most likely to find the real info is in the links. It's contextual, and not only who the blogs linked to, but who's linked to the blog."

It's that connection of like minds (rather than like backgrounds, like opinions or like interests) where the really interesting stuff happens. Blogs facilitate that, but you should ensure that it happens in your business and social life as well.

Addendum: The mad, the brilliant and the depraved who I've met because of this blog are proof of this. I would have provided the relevant links but you know who you are.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Facebook Losing UK Advertisers.

Listening to reports over here, it appears that a number of large companies (Vodafone, Virgin Media and First Direct amongst others) have witthdrawn all their advertising from Facebook. Some are "considering their advertising strategies" on social network sites because their spots have appeared on pages featuring groups with which they do not want to be associated - specifically right-wing nationalist groups.

Perhaps this will have an impact on the perception of the viability of the advertising model for social networking sites, perhaps not. But it's a reminder to all marketers about the danger of the increasing trend of outsourcing your activities to third parties and, in some cases, automated systems. Saving costs is one thing but losing control of your message is not a price worth paying.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Important Questions In A Transformed World.

They say: What are examples of brand communities that strike an appropriate and sincere tone, voice, and connection with consumers?

I say: Presumably those that are actually genuine in tone, voice and connection rather than ones that merely strike an appropriate and sincere tone, voice, and connection.

They say: How do companies monetize the value of a participatory brand experience?

I say: By holding conferences?

They say: Armed and empowered, consumers will increasingly disengage with disconnected companies and give new life and market share to niche firms that embrace brand participation.

I say: Doesn't a transformed world imply a need for transformed thinking and an end to such jargon?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The $700 Million Because Effect.

When people talked about social networking sites these past few months, did you think of Club Penguin? Probably not - because all the talk has been about the hows of social networking and not the whos.

But without the whos, there is no social networking. Without the whos, there is never a business.

Addendum: From the owners' announcement of their acquisition "In addition, we remain committed to our policy of allowing no advertising on the site." Merchandising, movies and more. That's the $700 million because effect.

Sexual Leanings.

Marian Salzman, a serial predictor of marketing trends, is busy promoting the successor to the metrosexual. Her sarong-wearing sweetie is being elbowed aside by the “über-sexual”, an uncompromisingly masculine type engaged in a relentless search for fine and stylish things.

Reading this yesterday, I was immediately struck that "uber-sexual" was faintly ridiculous with its suggestion of priapism and a one-track mind and wondered why she hadn't opted for "retrosexual" with its combined implication of retro chic and a return to an older version of masculinity.

But. of course, it turned out that retrosexual had been coined long ago as the slovenly fashion-phobic antithesis of metrosexual and my phonecall to the trademark lawyer was cancelled.

Yet another reminder that people interpret words in different ways and that what you do rather than what you're labelled determines how your business is perceived.