Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's Your Influence Span?

"Fast trends get all the attention; slow trends have all the influence."
(via Dan Pink)

Especially true if attention spans are diminishing don't you think?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Products You Didn't Know You Needed.

Many customers are buying one for both sides of the bed! (via Ze Frank).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rarefication Is The New Decommodification.

Decommodification is an awkward word to say and simply not assertive enough to describe the underlying differentiation problem.

To avoid being a commodity in a fast-moving world of shared technologies and replicable ideas, you need to be actively different, noticeably remarkable and consequently scarce and of value. After all, you're seeking to charge a significant and sustainable premium.

It's not enough just to try to not be a commodity. That way lies mid-level mediocrity and trivial distinctions supported by white-washing advertising.

You don't need to decommodify - you need to rarefy.

- to make more complex, intricate, or richer.
- to refine a design or pattern.

Yes it has elitist overtones, but isn't that what true differentiation is all about? And it's certainly easier to say.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wake Up And Smell The UGC.

Four weeks ago, an 18 year old English student in his first year at Leeds University put a video on YouTube.

Three weeks ago, the second person to leave a comment wrote "wow you should send that to apple. you can make so much money if they air that!!!"

Tomorrow, a professionally produced version will be shown during NFL games, Desperate Housewives and the World Series.

Do you still think user-generated content is a joke?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Plasticine Rabbits And Drumming Gorillas.

When I read Scamp's riposte to the claims of plagiarism in the Cadbury ad, I was inclined to agree with him. But then I saw the Kozyndan rabbits and today this shot from a 1999 Michel Gondry video leapt out at me.

It certainly made me pause (which was irritating as I was on a cycling machine at the time).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One World Everybody Eats.

An intriguing combination of the "pay what you will" pricing of the new Radiohead album and the general desire to eliminate waste is to be found at the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City where everybody chooses how much they want to eat and pays according to how much they think the meal was worth. But it's not that simple.

By encouraging people to savor the meal, Ms. Cerreta is attempting to help people see the value of food as more than a mere consumable but rather, as a glue and a catalyst for healthy people, relationships and communities.

There are lessons here for much larger businesses in terms of focussing on customer value, building loyalty around social activities and about standing for something. This is about much more than just serving food.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Social Activities Beget Social Objects.

It may be because I'm struggling to think of anything to write today but, having just read Hugh's latest offering, I was struck how I unusually couldn't agree with one of the points he made.

2. Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act as "nodes". The nodes appear before the network does.

I think there is an intermediate element and would contend that social networks are actually built around social activities.

The activity exists before the network does (as I suggested when I wrote recently that you can't fake community) and before the social object. Indeed, those social activities may or may not actually involve one or a number of social objects.

What you should focus on is identifying those existing activities that you can facilitate and/or enhance by introducing your social object into them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reading Between The Lines.

The Tube is plastered with posters preclaiming 24/7 365. An internet banking company emphasising the convenience of online access. But that's not a differentiating position - all your online competitors offer that. If that's all you've got to offer, then you've got nothing.

If you brag about something, it better be worth bragging about. But 24/7 365 won't tempt me online, whereas a position on online security might. The fact that it's not mentioned suggests to this sceptic that you're not as sure about that parameter.

Reading between the lines is what media literate people do and what's not said is often more important than what is said.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Academic Analysis.

An academic expert featured on the panels at two debates I recently attended - the first to do with teen rage, the second with childhood illiteracy. Neither was dispassionate (as I believe they should be) but worse than that they, unlike many other speakers and audience members at both events, proved to be passionate only about their research/meta-analysis and not the end results.

Calling for the return of family values while kids with no family turn to violent criminality or for extra research into teaching methods while illiterate youngsters are condemned to a life without potential did not endear them to anyone and any valid points they might have contributed were thereafter doomed to be ignored.

The business parallels are obvious. If something works, keep doing it. Try to understand it but, above all, keep doing it. The world changes too fast to miss an opportunity through over-analysis.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marketing To Women.

Marketing to women in the 21st century demands an acknowledgement and celebration of the reality of the modern woman's life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Community Can't Be Faked.

Amid all the talk about communities and great examples like NIke +, there's a groundswell developing around the idea that you can build communities. I'm not sure you can. Running clubs, after all, are not new.

People are social animals and thus communities will form naturally around many products and services. The trick is to recognise this fact and concentrate on facilitating that natural formation rather than trying to artificially change behaviour.

Find the areas around your product/service where communication (the root of community) already exists. Focus on reducing any barriers to entry that are based upon elitism, fear and ignorance. Enhance inclusivity. Simplify and guide. But don't lead and control.

If somebody asked you to join a community that you'd hadn't previously coveted, wouldn't your reaction be the same as Groucho who famously refused to join any club that would have me as a member?

Addendum: Adriana tells of a real-life example that shows the perils of interfering in communities.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Chimpanzees Are The Future.

You may think this is here merely to support my previously stated distaste of research and focus groups. But, in fact, it's my belated recognition of what Fallon and Cadbury were getting at. If, as the guy says, Joe Public is "a big fan of anything with a chimpanzee in it" then why not go big?

More serious insights are to be found here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Actions Change The World.

The aim of Blog Action Day is "to get everyone talking towards a better future." That's all well and good and might lead me to reiterate my Green Marketing 101 but pontification spread over 15,000 blogs is more likely to get everyone a better headache than a better future.

So stop reading and do something from this list; get your kids involved in this competition; and buy this book. It will only cost you a fiver (which I believe is about $50 at current exchange rates) and should inspire you more than I can. Actions speak louder than words.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

21st Century Marketing.

“We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive. We’re in the business of connecting with consumers." Trevor Edwards: Nike.

"In a sat-nav world where nothing exists that isn't in the Tom-Tom, the find-it-for-yourself world is liberating" Jeannette Winterson: author.

People are interested in themeselves, their friends and sometimes other people. They are not interested in your product/service, so you'd better focus on befriending them.

"Befriend: transitive verb, to act as a friend; to help" OED.

Long Road Out Of Eden.

Weaving down the American highway
Through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk
Bloated with entitlement; loaded on propaganda
And now we’re driving dazed and drunk
Been down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay
Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way
He said, ‘It’s hard to stop this bingeing, once you get a taste’
‘But the road to empire is a bloody, stupid waste’
Behold the bitten apple - the power of the tools
But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools
And it’s a long road out of Eden

Friday, October 12, 2007

New PR. Same As The Old PR?

Having discovered that watching a conference booth is only slightly less stultifying than having to be there, I checked out more elements of the Forrester conference.

I found a revealing summary of his keynote speech by Richard Edelman who I've applauded in the past for his long-term efforts to reappraise the role of his industry.

My central thesis is that corporations can’t buy reputation or brand loyalty any more. These are earned through performance over the long-term.

No argument with that - except that it seems to me to have been the case since the arrival of multi-channel television which has been well over a decade in most countries. But he goes on to say,

We should start at the end point--to dream about where we would like our client to be—and then create a dialogue-based communications program to get them there.

That smacks to me of the old PR he's just vilified. Your client is where your client is. They are there by dint of how they behave. PR cannot alter that location and initiatives such as getting clients to co-opt social issues reeks of greenwashing. Co-opting is easy and actually doing something is much, much harder and often conflicts with corporate strategy.

Any attempt to stamp an alternate image on the outside of a business runs the risk of not reflecting that which actually runs through it. It is a tattoo rather than DNA and, as such, can appear unattractive to the populace, is liable to date rather quickly and will be painful to remove.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

To Twitter Or To Blog?

Twittering is interruptive.
Blogging is a destination.
Both users should remember that.

Twittering is often too short to say enough.
Blogging is often too long to keep one's attention.
Both reward skillful writing and thoughtful argument.

Twittering is easy and thus sometimes ill-considered.
Blogging is hard and seems more substantial.
Both can contradict this.

Twittering is less likely to involve click-through.
Blogging is all about the click-through.
Both are abused for this reason.

Twittering is prone to devolve to one to one exchanges.
Blogging is more likely to generate multi-partite conversation.
Both are ultimately a "one to many" medium.

Twittering is read once and forgotten.
Blogging is read often and forgotten.
Both are still worthwhile.

Twittering is personal revelation.
Blogging is personal reputation.
Both will flourish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Madness Of The Middleman.

If you're the middleman, your job is to know your customers. That's all. But many don't, so it was no surprise when I saw that Hallam Foe had won top prize at the Dinard film festival at a time when it doesn't actually have a distribution deal in France. Clearly industry insiders do not see with the same eyes as the people on the jury.

Maybe this (from explains why.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Yes, But Moments.

Lately, there's an increasing amount of "yes, but" moments - those occassions when change is almost acknowledged and yet not really accepted.

For example, Russell recently twittered from a conference at which he spoke that he was "watching the advertising industry failing to understand its own demise". I've also seen a lot of them on both sides of the Blue Monster comments where entrenched views react in knee-jerk fashion without reading between the lines.

But the one event that keeps coming back to me was Danah Boyd's recent talk in London. Now, Danah has been studying online social networks for almost as long as the things have existed and was billed as the high-priestess of the subject. She explained that the behavioural characteristics that drive social networks are not obviously compatible with the behaviour of mobile phone users.

And yet, the audience of mobile communication industry exes listened but did not hear. Yes, but (they said) we know about "networks" too and will obviously be able to change people's behaviours so that social networks will work on phones.

"Yes, but" moments are not devil's advocacy aimed at improving an idea. They're denial in disguise - a way of talking the talk without walking the walk. Watch out for them and when you see them, move in the opposite direction.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Something For The Weekend.

A geo-political analysis of the corporate anthem. Compare and contrast the approaches of the European, the Japanese and the American organisation - as illustrated by these examples which are unworthy of the Blogovision Song Contest but neverthless bear a listen.

Europe: The Home Of Eurovision

Japan: East Meets Western

USA: Friday Night's Alright For Fighting?

A Marketing Footnote: I initially laughed at the lyrical desperation of "Even Friday Night's Alright" which emphasies the difficulty of trying to fit ideas into pat phrases. Yet beneath the glibness, there is an insight. Rather than use the modern cliche of 24/7 security, they highlight Friday night (that traditional time of unwinding) as being the specific moment that they are there. In doing so they capture, maybe inadvertantly, exactly what ever-readiness means to the average person in the street and that concison is what all marketers are after. It's still ghastly though.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Embrace Your New Geek.

I am not a number, I am (according to Microtrends) a category.

New Geeks may use the internet to meet people online but they also meet them in real life. They are twice as likely as reluctant users of new technology to regard “hitting the town” as enjoyable entertainment and 60 per cent of them describe themselves as extrovert, compared with 49 per cent of US adults

Contrary to the opining of a fool I met last week, bloggers do not write personal diaries and communicate solely online - they actually go out and meet like-minded and challenging people in a way that cannot be replicated by the conference route. Not at all sure that I'm a geek (as the technical and design state of this blog attests) but the other characteristics sound OK to me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Corporate Body Language.

So the guy at the supermarket checkout has told me how his boyfriend was deported from the US after twenty three years and that was why I was being served by him as opposed to the usual uncommunicative "drone" to whom, given my normal reticent persona, I would have barely uttered a word.

Now this information was not foisted upon me. I was not spammed in a "listen to my story" way. It just emerged in a three minute exchange that was completely out of the ordinary supermarket experience. And I had known as I approached the till that there would be a conversation.

Clearly, there's a cultural element to this - one that was evident at the Mocollywood conference I attended earlier this week. There, despite the discussions of cutting-edge busines and applications, it was only americans (notably Danah Boyd and a jet-lagged guy from MySpace that were totally engaging and approachable. In contrast, all the Europeans were leaden and closed and caused Danah later to twitter that they had seemed the most unegaged audience she'd experienced in a long time.

I've lived in the US and I like Americans and their ease of communication but there is more to it than this - I had not known the supermarket worker was american and yet felt at ease before I even got to the checkout. There is something in a person's demeanour - a subconscious reflection of an inner attitude of being willing to engage and to to be engaged. It's not about platitudes or stock "have a nice day" phrases - it runs much deeper than that.

So when we talk about businesses needing to focus on conversational skills in this changing environment, it is good to be reminded that this is not just about systems and processes. In order to facilitate the conversation you have first and foremost to give off the right non verbal cues - your corporate body language has to be right.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Knowing Unknowns.

Nick Hornby is following up About A Boy with a novel for and about teenagers. It sprang from a moment when,

“I saw a very young couple around here pushing a pram and I thought, I know something about you – the girl – because a lot has been written about teenage mothers, but I’m not too sure about the boy. And that started something.”

There are so many opportunities in those things we see daily but do not know much about. If we bother to find out something new, rather than tweak or rehash the old, then the chances are we'll be way ahead of the pack.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Strategy And Marketing - Two Sides Of The Same Coin.

So eBay overpaid for Skype - well that's a revelation and yet I'm reading that this was a failure of marketing - a 1.0 mentality failing to come to terms with a 2.0 world (as if that actually means anything).

Just as marketing cannot save a product/service that doesn't meet the customer's needs, neither cannot it save a flawed strategy. Did a company that disrupted and simplified the auction business by taking it online actually need a phone system to enhance something that was working superbly already or did it see a potential capital gain and seek to justify it in strategic terms?

Marketing is and should be at the heart of any business because it combines the strategic and the tactical but it's important to remember that the strategic element starts right back at the product and not as a grandiose embellishment to tactics like advertising or PR.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Courtesy of The Kaiser, it's good to know that some people have less clue about marketing than you do. Listen and learn about "global competence." A good mood stimulant indeed.

UPDATE: The Eurovision Corporate Song Contest is gaining momentum - prospective entries here please though you'll be hard pressed to better the Castrol one. And I'm sure this can lead to a Ryder Cup can't it Kaiser?