Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dynamic Incompetence.

"A disaster happens to many, many of our best scientists. They become administrators. And the day thay do that, they're lost to science. So you never want to become an administrator. You have to guard against that. Be a dynamic incompetent. Do at least three outrageous acts a year. Then noone will want you to be an administrator."

Hans Suess 1957

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fix The Unrecognised Problem.

Regardless of whether this is a spoof or not, it emphasises that the oft-stated maxim of "meeting a customer need that they didn't know they had" is only part of the story. You also have to do it in a way that is obviously practical, hard to improve upon and about which the users will be openly and convincingly passionate. Obtaining that traction is difficult and that's why so many product launches fail.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Make Poverty History.

Shameless is a successful TV series featuring what is colloquially termed an underclass family. So it was interesting to hear its writer Paul Abbott talk about poverty recently.

He asserted that it was increasingly not just a matter of lack of material possessions and it's well accepted that people can be materially better off, but still suffer the stigma of poverty in terms of aspiration and opportunity.

But his most thought-provoking idea was that the first thing they do when they have any money is to buy clothes and accoutrements (he cited Burberry) in an attempt to appear not to be in poverty. The irony of this, in his words, is that this has the reverse effect.

The glib lesson is that people see through the superficial, but I think there is something much more significant here. As yet, however, I'm not sure what it is.

Photo courtesy of

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eyebrows Might Be Raised.

Jane McGonigal made a great comment on my T-mobile post suggesting the increasing need for an advertising strategy to have

clearly better design for actual participation and less spectacle. it's only good to provoke awe and wonder if you then give people the means to produce it themselves.

So here's one I found earlier that's clearly easy for people to imitate and recreate. I wonder if any agency will utilise it. Tonight perhaps?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tools Of The Trade.

The arrival of every new social media tool, be it Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed or whatever, is inevitably followed by conversations about the best way to use it for marketing purposes. Ideas are floated, advice is offered and someone creates a best practice guide.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Except that it's putting the cart before the horse. It's fine, indeed imperative, to know what the new tools do. But before you use any of them, you have to be certain of the context in which you're marketing and the goals which you're seeking to achieve.

Only then should you look at the tools available so as to decide which of them, if any, are best suited to meeting those goals. Tactics follow strategy - not the other way round.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Price Competition.

Premium is the price for continuous performance. For both you and your customers, it's worth it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Recognise Your Own Bubble.

Last April when this rickrolling flashmob took place in London, there were rumours of commercial sponsorship and friends told me there were as many spectators as participants. The words jumping shark came to mind.

So, last week when I read some press coverage about how the ad below had been shot guerilla-style the day before and was to debut on Friday night, my immediate reaction was one of shrugging disenchantment. The usual suspects of plagiarism, bandwagons and unimaginative creatives raised their heads. But maybe that's unfair.

While I don't know if it's a good ad or contrived nonsense, it's reminded me that we all have to be very careful not to assume that our experience/worldview is that of the majority. Most people probably don't know the term flashmob, the YouTube views are not high, and real life does not revolve around online memes. If everybody knew what you knew, then you wouldn't have much to talk about would you?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Interesting Answers.

The most interesting answers are those responding to questions you hadn't thought of asking.

So, you can go to the usual conferences and hear the usual debates or you go to something like Bookcamp/Papercamp and be made simultaneously to feel dumb and truly inspired. Your choice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three Degrees Of Marketing Insights.

1) Insights That Aren’t. (The Not)

Also known as statements of the obvious, the untrue or the uninteresting.

A fast food company discovers they are selling a lot of milkshakes in the morning.

Not really interesting.

2) Insights That Reveal Unknown Behaviour (The What)

A fast food company discovers they are selling a lot of milkshakes in the morning to commuting adults.

Interesting as far as it goes. But, as Richard Huntington outlines here, an insight is not worth either that name or your time if it is not an astonishing disclosure.

3) Insights That Identify A new Market (The Why)

A fast food company discovers they are selling a lot of milkshakes to commuting adults who like that they can enjoy them for the duration of their car journey.

This awareness led to adaptations of the packaging and the utensils provided with it directly focused upon the needs of the commuting milkshake drinker.

The best insights are those that lead to new product development rather than just new promotion. They're hard to find but they're worth the search.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Boycott Is For Life Not Just For January.

When Mark Earls invited me to join his admirable campaign to make January "b-word"-free, I had to turn him down – not because I don’t believe in resolutions, but because I try never to use that word.

It refers to nothing more and nothing less than reputation, reputation you earn by your behaviour or, more realistically, reputation which other people (customers or not) confer on you because of that. It’s not something you impose on others.

If you ask people about those reputations, I’m convinced that largely you’ll get a media-literate response (one you increasingly see in focus groups) that reflects their impression of what the advertising has sought to portray. But that is not necessarily a reflection of what the b***** truly is, unless of course you’re asking about a business that doesn’t advertise. And isn't it interesting how often it is those b***** that are lauded by the experts?

If your differentiation is your advertising (rather than your advertising reflecting your differentiation), then you have a big problem. Moroever, using the b word leads to dubious concepts like b***** values, laughable b***** extensions and, worst of all, branding.

As I’ve written before, it should never have been a verb. It reeks of superficiality, a stamp you put on something to assert its provenance, rather than its indisputable DNA.

So Mark is on the right track, as ever, but I’ll sign up only if he agrees to make this a permanent thing – because this is not a short-term issue, but a long-term failing. When you think in terms of branding you’re explicitly focusing internally on your business, your product and/or your service. But you’re in real danger of not focusing on your customers.

(photo courtesy of

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Last Night A Rolex Saved My Life?

I don't really like contrived business acronyms. But the suggestion that successful businesses need to display the LATTE factor by being Local, Authentic, Traceable, Trusted and Ethical seems reasonable.

Especially when compared to the outlandish claim that, after attempting suicide,

the quality of a Rolex watch helped Owen (Wilson) realize and appreciate the quality of his own life.

More warped causality here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Phil Collins And Unintended Consequences.

CDs were promoted in terms of sound quality and digital compression. They were also smaller. But marketing expert, Phil Collins made the interesting point that it's also the first time music was one-sided. While this means that you don't have to turn it over, it also means that you don't need to be encouraged to turn it over.

Prior to this, albums were created so that the first and last track on each side were particularly strong. They focussed on keeping the listener excited/empassioned and wanting to turn over. On CDs, it's alleged that the first three or four tracks are the strong ones and the rest are filler because the assumption is that people will relisten to those and not go too deep into the album.

Whether or not that's true, it's clear how people would react. They would realise what was going on and, once the technology arrived, they would opt to download only those tracks they wanted and completely undermine an industry.

That's what happens if you don't bother to enthuse your users. They may not have to turn over anymore, but they will always have the option to turn off.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Now That's What I Call Differentiation.

With Sainsbury's offering anodised saucepans that are Twice As Stronger As Stainless Steel, it's clear that 2009 has started well.