Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sustainable Social Object Advantage.

When Jyri expanded the work of Bourdieu and Hyde amongst others and started to talk about object centred sociality, he used Flickr as an example. The photos were the object while sharing and commenting were the social gestures (or verbs as he would put it). The sociality was a source of competitive advantage.

An observation on her own behaviour made by Elizabeth Churchill in a recent talk prompted me to wonder about an unexpected side-effect of continuous improvement. What if your service develops in a way that changes your users behaviour and reduces their sociality?

Elizabeth spoke of how her former behaviour of being a frequent browser and commenter on Flickr had stemmed fom downtime while she waited for her pictures to upload. It is "former behaviour" because mobile upload has now been perfected. She uploads on the move and thus now uses Flickr solely as an archive and neither browses nor comments.

Yet again, improving a service towards seamlessness shows that seamfulness has its benefits. The formal raison d'etre may be improved, but is the overall user experience denuded? Perhaps social objects need to be in some sense "physical" (be that tactile or time-consuming) in order for the sociality to be sustained.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Marketing Isn't Just Promotion.

Proof, if ever it were needed, that the world hasn't changed that much and that the 4 Ps of marketing still prevail comes from the story of Stow Away Storage set up by two guys who noted an absence of storage facilities for sailors in their local harbour.

Obviously they'd need to attract customers and so they decided on a marketing budget of £10,000. But that didn't pan out.

In fact, they only managed to spend £3 and for that princely sum placed a postcard-sized ad in the window of their local post office for 6 weeks. They got orders worth £250,000. They'd spotted an unfulfilled need and met it.

The only aspect of the story that has any resonance with the world of new paradigms is their equivalent of the death of mainstream media. They can no longer advertise in the post-office window. It's been shut down.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Guaranteed Quality?

My washing machine guarantee has recently expired. I know this because the manufacturer sent me a letter to to try to sell me repair insurance. Now, the selling of extended warranties at the time of purchase is big business, but I hardly think that those of us who refused in the first place are going to have a change of heart a year or two down the line.

The direct marketing spreadsheets will, presumably, indicate a positive cashflow on the excercise, but for the huge majority of customers who don't bite on this offer, the only message we've received is this. Your great product (replete with wonderful features and reliability) is now, in your opinion, a little bit dodgy and prone to expensive collapse.

I'm not sure about the ROI on that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chess-Boxing And Segmentation.

Just as brand extensions seek overlaps in imagined psychographic groupings, chess-boxing aims to bring together the number one "thinking" sport and the number one "fighting" sport. You win via checkmate or a knock-out.

This is not just transmedia planning, this is trans-sports marketing and about as sensible as much of the demographic targetting that masquerades as insight these days.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


My current reading. Full of revelations about what people do rather than what they say or think they do. Full of thoughts that seem applicable to all sorts of human interactions. Out next month. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Marketing Communication Breakdown.

Jargon often develops as a kind of short-hand designed to speed up communication about frequently discussed ideas. It is inclusive - a signifier of one having passed some rite of passage and developed a level of expertise that binds you to the gang. Trouble is, that also excludes those who are new to the game.

Some people contend that jargon is good exactly because it binds people to the world of the product/service. They have a point. Inclusivity is a great goal. But does it have to be so excluding?

It's worth thinking of better ways to welcome engagement with your business and to reward customer achivement and user effort without putting up pscyhological barriers to entry? The best jargon is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive - that which resonates with your distinctive voice but is couched in self-explanatory language.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Self Awareness And The Long Tail.

The diagram comes from Seth Godin's blogpost about the long tail which he illustrated with movie examples. It's a nice device but he missed out the classic example, Snakes On A Plane.

If this had been a foreign language horror movie, it would have had very little but cult appeal and been buried in the low profit anonymity of pocket 3 where the aggregators hang out. But it wasn't. It was clearly a genre movie destined for the profitable, popular cult status of pocket 2.

However, this very fact and the noise that potential fans made on the internet caused its producers/distributers to conclude that it was, in fact, a mainstream movie with the industry holy grail of pocket 1 at its mercy. It wasn't and, as I've written before, this led to bad reactions from the first view mainstream audience, arguably a lesser box-office performance and cetainly a less profitable one in light of the increased marketing spend that was wasted.

The lessons are as follows.

1) Know and be what you are and act consistently and coherently in relation to that.

2) Don't be what you're not because you'll be found out quickly and negative word of mouth will follow.

3) Let the customers decide what you are to them. They may decide you're more than you initially thought and that will be a nice surprise.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Under Old Management.

People like change. They like dynamism. They don't want boring, but they also like reassurance that what they're getting is different but the same.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Houston, We Have A Problem.

Apple turned the launch of the iPhone 3G into an event, but the first day was marred by the fact that credit checks are individual and don't benefit from economies of scale. There was lots of publicity but also considerable unhappiness.

In an age of always in beta, it surprises me how many companies still focus on launch days and events and risk anti-climax as a result of being unable to service the instant demand they've generated.

Even if day one goes fabulously, you're going to have cumulatively more customers to deal with on day two and beyond, so why this obsession with hitting a home run on day one? It's not how you built your business, so why change a successful formula?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

10 Marketing Lessons From Conferences.

What started as a list of observations derived from recent experiences at conferences and speaking events has evolved into a somewhat contrived list of general marketing lessons designed to improve "customer satisfaction". As always, they can be extrapolated to other situations as well as making conferences more successful. For audience read customer, for speaker read product/service.

1) Know Your Subject.
The curator/organiser must be someone who really understands their subject - not some PR person focussed on selling, but someone who will craft an event that will have resonance and relevance to its audience.

2) Stay Focussed.
Keep it brief. Lectures like business books are too often padded out with extraneous examples and bogus rationalisation. Focus your speakers' minds by creating a time limit and you'll focus the minds of the audience.

3) Facilitate Interaction.
Ensure the speaker is visible to everyone at some stage so that even if sightlines are imperfect, the audience will know who to collar later when they want to follow up a point. Good talks stimulate conversations. Make sure you facilitate them.

4) Maintain Engagement.
Presentations are distilled and information-rich. They demand concentration of their audience. So don't bombard them late into the day. Inform them when they are likely to be receptive. Give them time to ruminate, relax and rehash when they are not.

5) Avoid Downtime.
Start when you said you would start. Ensure that your technology is double-teamed and flawless. Provide a seamless experience with no unexpected downtime that interrupts the flow.

6) Believe.
Trust your speaker. If you have say Sir Tim Berners-Lee in a room (not that I'm talking from recent experience), you don't need to put him on a panel. That only distracts attention from what brought you an audience in the first place and leaves your audience bemused and disgruntled.

7) Dialogue Not Monologue.
The audience is there to listen to the speaker not the egocentric ramblings of questioners, so when you open up the conversation, insist that questions are limited to one sentence and start with an interrogative. Maximise the exposure of the speaker, minimise distractions.

8) Disintermediate.
Discussion works best when one person speaks and another responds to them, so don't invoke the inefficient democratistion of taking groups of questions. The questions will be forgotten and/or unanswered and the whole process requires the unnecessary expansion of a chairman's role as intermediary. Speakers can hold their own conversations.

9) Ensure Relevance.
Ban speakers from dissipating their initial impact by laying out the structure of their talk. It's good they know where they're going but it's a creative aid not an insight. Audiences want to hear what speakers have to say, not what they are going to say.

10) Demand Passion.
The speaker must want to be there and want to tell the audience something. Speakers who dial in their talks, hate the experience or merely restate the obvious in an obvious way are anathema. If they don't care, then why should the audience care about what they're saying?

Image via planebuzz

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Blame The Education System.

As seen at the UK's premier design/art school graduation show. Click the image to see the problem.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Change Happens.

I recently heard an Australian resident of the UK interviewed on the radio. She was being asked about healthcare, but her comments apply to many other areas and many other organisations here and elsewhere.

This country is so wary of change. It seems to analyse everything to death and never do anything.

Analysis is good, doing something is better.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Is Improvement Something To Shout About?

Is improvement something to shout about or is it simply what your customers should and do expect? If you're going to boast about an award, shouldn't you ensure that it's an award that will impress? More importantly, won't it be the customers themselves who decide if it's been a significant improvement and give you their personal loyalty award?

But very appropriate that it's improvement number 2.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Commodification Epidemic.

There is a lot of talk about commodification around these days, but let's not forget what a commodity actually is. A commodity is defined as a product that can only be differentiated by price.

You don't have to have a remarkable innovation to avoid commodification. A me-too product does not necessarily have to be a commodity. It may be very similar to the competition, but you can still differentiate it by distributing it in a different way. You can decommodify its delivery and retail channels.

You can even decommodify it by focussing on another aspect of the product. I'm not talking about faux emotional differentiaton here, but an aspect that is common to all your competitors. An aspect which they've chosen not to emphasise because they've overlooked the fact that its customers who decide what it is that they like about a product. You surely don't see your product as uni-dimensional?

Technology and transparency certainly mean that commodification is more prevalent than before, but that's no reason to bow to it without a fight. As I've said before, if you compete on price, you are explicitly saying that you have no belief in the intrinsic value of your product. If that's true, you deserve to fail.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Power Of Discovery.

“If customers feel like they have discovered a brand themselves, they become much more loyal,”

Ray Kelvin - founder Ted Baker

That's because they haven't been on the end of broken promises or general disappointment. Loyalty is given by the customer. It's not captured by the business.