Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, May 28, 2010

This Is Not Just Sexism, This Is M&S Sexism?

Big or small. We like them all. At M&S you'll find beautiful bras to fit all sizes, at gorgeous prices. If nature has blessed you with more than your fair share, you certainly won't be charged extra for it. That big boob is all in the past. Bra £18. Knickers £8.

If you're going for "clever" it's better to be really knowing and consider what an impersonal body and double-entendres actually say to a customer who's also been exposed to ideas such as the campaign for real beauty and whom you're hoping to make feel good about themselves. Or perhaps I'm wrong and it's all good fun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unthinking Marketing.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Never more so than is exemplified by the recent trend for medical research to be condensed into simplified blurbs that are reprinted in mainstream media in an effort to drum up publicity. The supposed findings are recalled while the underlying research is ignored.

As marketing increasingly draws on neuroscience and other academic areas, there's a real danger of the same thing happening. Witness the recent tweetstorm about a study in the Journal of Consumer Research and the blogpost about it here. The headline thought that will get marketers overly excited is encapsulated in this statement from the actual paper.

"The participants were unable to recognize that a particular brand had been paired with either negative or positive images. Therefore, we were able to create an 'I like it, but I don't know why' effect,"

That's fine by me. It's another in a long line of academic studies trying to understand the way the brain processes rational and emotional inputs and I'm sure the authors make no more claims for it than that. My concern would be that marketers would leap on it as justification for all sorts of misjudged campaigns simply because they appeal to the emotions without looking at the methodology.

I'm not denying for a moment that low involvement processing hasn't been proven to exist. I just draw different implications from the study. Firstly, it seems to me that the implication is the biggest ad budget wins because it is that which buys you the greatest number of exposures of associations of your brand with goodness. That's hardly mould-breaking.

Secondly, the study comparison was between "good" brands and "bad" brands but in real life you're not going to see many direct associations of badness with brands - even given the possibility of negative advertising. The real life comparison that buyers make is one between an array of brands all claiming goodness. So, to be seeking the title of "most good" may not be much of a differentiator even if you attain it.

If a study could reproduce the results, while comparing paired brands that only had different degrees of good words associated with them (rather than good versus bad), then that would be really interesting.

It's the sort of next level study that will happen, but unthinking marketers won't be waiting for it. They'll already have shown their "scientific justification" presentation slide and be spending the budget in pursuit of this latest meme.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

1000 True Members.

It's strange how the online message of personalisation and focus has failed fully to permeate the offline world. Back in 2008, Kevin Kelly explained how to build a business on the back of 1000 True Fans and everyone knows the cost of acquiring a new customer to be greater than retaining an existing one.

And yet, we have bad health-clubs. Health-clubs that provide loss-leader offers to get you to join up and then rely on inertia-selling to keep you paying rather than nurturing you. Health-clubs that don't reduce their charges during hot, sweaty low-attendance summer months. Health-clubs that assume your loyalty until it's lost.

No wonder they have a churn business - they assume that's the business they're in and do nothing to rectify it. They don't reward loyalty, they don't keep in regular touch throughout membership and they don't offer new tailored services that might build that loyalty.

Recently, I happened to see a letter that my gym sends out a few weeks after a member has quit. It expresses disappointment at their absence and then lists a lot of amenities they are improving. Worst of all, the letter provides incentives to these leavers that are not offered to existing or renewing members whose loyalty gets them nothing. Though, only nosey ones like me know that. It's all about the gym and nothing about the ex-member.

That's inevitable because there has been no examination of why they left - no requirement in the quitting process to offer an explanation or provide an opportunity for remedy.

That's inevitable because there's no tracking of members whose attendance is diminishing and asking them why before they cut the knot.

That's inevitable because they believe that could alert the member to the money they're wasting as a high-profit, low-usage member.

It's all inevitable because it is company policy, the policy of a company with tens of thousands of members to track and analyse in the aggregate rather than think of them as discrete units.

It's a lesson that's not just applicable to gyms and membership. If you're lucky enough to have more than 1000 users, then just as Gore divide their employee groups into efficient maxima of 150, then surely you can divide your customers into subsets of 1000 fans and treat them like family? Or you can be in the churn business.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Elephants' Graveyard.

All over central London, 250 elephants are blending into their surroundings. This one is in Carnaby Street, the one below is in Golden Square. They surprise people. They delight people. Whenever you chance across one you see people staring, smiling and posing for photos.

Serendipity and joy combined. That's just what the marketing doctor ordered right? So I feel a little churlish noting that when my abiding reaction is that of a missed opportunity, of wondering why they didn't go the extra yard. But the point is that I noted the elephants, assumed they were connected to some sort of promotion and did exactly nothing. Yes there were notices, but I didn't take them in. I was more intrigued by the elephants themselves and people's reaction.

The moment was lost or, at least, not maximally exploited. Yes, people will be talking about the elephants, but where was the call to immediate action? Where was the invitation to do something then and there via their ubiquitous digital devices? Perhaps theres a regulatory issue here - but I fear that it's just a lack of joined-up ambition that prevented there being an obvious opportunity for text-based donation (rather than the opaque "text to help") or some sort of QR-code education.

Googling reveals that this is the work of the elephant family charity and has been successful in other capitals before now. The purpose is to raise awareness of the imminent potential extinction of the Asian elephant and the immediate aim is "to raise a projected £2 million" (I assume via donations and the auctioning of the elephants in July) "by attracting an estimated audience of 25 million".

Those quotes reek of PR speak and old thinking to me and while they've been successful before and I surely hope they will be more than successful in reaching their targets this time, I just fear they could be underachieving given the impact their brilliant idea has attracted.

Awareness is one thing, awareness of a campaign gimmick is something less. In this fast-moving attention-poor world, if you do manage the difficult task of getting their attention you need to enrich it by making it easy and compelling for people to act. Then and there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Different Strokes.

This week I had the strange experience of being the only audience member I knew. This was at a lecture venue where, in the past, I have been concerned that I knew too many people and was therefore too close to the online echo-chamber.

Those often brilliant lectures have tended to be about neuroscience, social networks and anthropology. Marketing-related individuals know this to be the latest seam of official knowledge that must be mined for sound-bites and hence I've had no shortage of company in the bar afterwards.

The marketer-free lecture was a discussion of comedy and featured the writers and producers of some of the biggest TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic. I couldn't understand why I was alone. Sure, there was no mention of brain chemistry, but apart from being a fan, it seemed obvious to me that comedy can tell us so much about cultural landscapes, concise communication and connecting with people.

Confirmation came from Caryn Mandabach (producer of The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Third Rock From The Sun, Nurse Jackie etc) who was asked about her creative philosophy. Her response? Look around, see what's not there and then make that.

It's smart to follow an intelligent group, but discovery more often occurs when you don't follow the pack. You also get to talk to new people in the bar. Try it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Learning By Doing.

Successful marketing, they say, is dependent on understanding your customers. Implicit in that is the need to understand how people assimilate information, about how they come to decisions, and about how they learn.

One part of that is to submerge yourself in learning theory and the psychology of persuasion and behavioural change. Another, I've discovered by chance recently, is to learn something new. Something that has nothing to do with your work and which preferably you can learn with a group of strangers and a number of teachers.

It's a humbling experience and that's reason enough to do it. But you'll also come to appreciate the peaks and troughs of learning; the variety of teaching methods, personalities and vocabularies; the ones that work for you and maybe why they do and others don't; and you'll witness all of the above as it relates to a random group of people.

I won't labour the metaphor, but as well as learning what you went there to learn, you'll also learn a lot about communication and the absorption of information, not to mention your own intellectual prejudices. And, best of all, you'll be doing it in real life rather than in a focus group.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Robotic Marketing Is Artificially Intelligent.

So, the esteemed Bill Thompson complained about computer problems delaying his flight and that reminded me of a train debacle some years ago. SouthEastern trains, clearly knowing a thing or two about the internet, noted my comment and retweeted it and thereby amplified some bad publicity about themselves.

That and the fact that it was truncated suggests to me that this was an automated, "cost-efficient" communications initiative. Nobody read the comment. Nobody realised that it related to a hellish five hour stay trapped on a snow-bound train with no power, consequently flooding toilets and lamentable customer communication and service.

No, they just thought any mention of their name was good publicity and sought to have it reverberate across the air. There's a world of difference between monitoring what people are saying about you online and being part of the conversation - if that's what you really insist on being.

It can't be long before someone exploits this laziness by sending out all sorts of genuine complaints or, worse still, defamatory messages alongside a company name and waits for their bots to do the rest. I'm sure some company somewhere must already have suffered this fate so the first lesson is to get your bots to be triggered by a combination of your name and positive keywords rather than your name alone.

But the real lesson, of course, is not to outsource your marketing to machines. The internet isn't actually a computer network, it's a human network. Forget that at your peril.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Coloured Opinions.

The xkcd blog asked their readers to identify/name colours in a survey. I don't know why they did it and I'm not sure they anticipated getting over five million judgements, but that's what happened. The graphic above shows the result of some subsequent analysis into gender differences.

Are women more interested in colours, more visually astute or have they been over-educated in bogus terminology by fashion marketing? Are men more decisive, visually illiterate or are they just disinterested in colours?

Who knows? What I take away from this is a reminder that we all have different opinions and passions about the simplest things and that your customers' nuance is not going to be the same as yours.