The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing?
Some time ago I set out to write a list of “397 Marketing Mistakes Most Companies Make” as a promotional piece for my consultancy and got to 84 before collapsing from exhaustion. Rather than letting the list rust in my files, I offer it to you as a health check for your marketing. Who knows, there might be one or two mistakes you make.

[ ] Advertising without capturing leads. You buy the airtime or adspace – why not maximise ROI and capture sales leads by making an offer and including a response device. It is not uncool to sell stuff.

[ ] Not mentioning the name of the product until the end of the TVC. The big reveal. Dramatic. And forgettable. You’ve got 30 seconds to make people aware of who is paying for the time and what they sell. “Big reveal” commercials have the highest ‘wrong attribution’ score – ie. they are often recalled as ads for the competition.

[ ] Renting mailing lists. This might be controvercial for a direct marketing practitioner to say, but most lists aren’t worth the disk space they occupy. Some are. Can you tell the difference? Renting lists is gambling, so stack the odds in your favour by sampling the list for accuracy by calling a number of people on the list
Saturday, January 28, 2006
  Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them

A company in the USA has grown to US$100m turnover selling T-shirts with anti-boys slogans like "Boys tell lies, poke them in the eyes!" and "The stupid factory, where boys are made." Todd Goldman started David and Goliath Inc. in 1999 to sell "Boys are Smelly" T-shirts. The "Boys are stupid..." merchandise, includes clothes, mugs, key chains, posters, and a book with the same title. A campaign by men's rights activists boosted sales. Los Angeles radio host Glenn Sacks - a men's rights activist - launched a campaign against the shirts two years ago, claiming they are part of a mood in society to victimize boys. The T-shirts have been described as "hate speech". Several retailers, covering 3000 retail outlets, have removed the shirts. Womens' rights activists do not support the campaign against the T-shirts, agreeing with Mr Goldman that they are merely humorous. THE LESSON: Try to get an activist group to seek to have your product or service banned.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
  How to grind your customer's face in the dust

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face - forever." Thus said George Orwell in his book 1984. He was predicting that totalitarian governments would wear the boots. instead it turns out it's the banks who are grinding their boots in the faces of customers. Not content with acting as a cartel to introduce higher fees while reducing services - all in the name of user pays, not in the cause of the obscene profits they have reported for the past 10 years - they remind us we are powerless in the face of their bastardry by jacking up fees remorselessly. The banks say they care about customers, a farce given the way we are treated.
Westpac has intoduces a punitive fee for customers who access their Westpac accounts through ATMs of other organisations. They will skim $2 off your account everytime you use the most convenient ATM. "We're trying t affect the behaviour of our customers," said the mealy mouthed weasel, er... spokesperson, who was given the job of defending the indefensible. Obviously customer convenience does not matter when compared with corporate profits. "Go off looking for a WESTPAC ATM, if you can," says Westpac. "We don't care if it screws up your plans," says the Bank. "After all, we're a bank. What do you expect?" Westpac is confident to make this move because it knows its competitors will follow suit"
If the government cared about its citizens it would call a royal commission into the banks. If I remember rightly, it was a federal government that established the Commonwealth Bank because the other banks were preying on citizens like a pack of wolves. We citizens owned that bank, until a federal government sold it to a bunch of opportunists called shareholders (Marx called them capitalists). Another federal government is selling off the telecommunicaitons carrier we own to a bunch of opportunists. It is effectively delivering the citizenry - especially those in rural and regional Australia - into the hands of another pack of wolves. I didn't vote for it. I don't remember being asked. Maybe the boot is a government's and the face is your and mine.
Chifley was right. Nationalise the banks.
  Are Indian marketers liars? (Or just comedians?)
I came across this ad for Indian tourism and thought someone was committing a hoax. What do you notice about this image of India? That's right. The water is blue and so clean near the Taj Mahal. Anyone who has been to India will tell you the place stinks like an open sewer (especially around the Taj Mahal) and the water, wherever you go, looks like it comes from an open sewer (with turds added for effect). India is beautiful in many ways, but it is disgraceful for the way its land has been polluted, especially with plastic bags and crap. And the solution is so easy. If every Indian person picked up one piece of plastic a day for a week they'd clean the place up in 7 days. Get the "Clean Up Australia" guys over there. Then get the "Do The Right Thing" guys over there. India is pointed to as the perfect example of what happens when you let population run rampant. But it needn't be that way. If they had respect for the land, India would become a powerhouse of ecological purity. As it is they haven't even started flexing their muscles as polluters yet. If the emerging middle class in the two most populous countries in the world - India and China - demand the same wasteful consumer society privileges that we westerners enjoy now, greenhouse gases will burn the skies and the earth will choke on its own vomit. But we westerners face a dilemma: what right have we to deny them the same opportunity to pollute that we enjoy? That's what Kyoto Protocol is about and why the US and Australia - the self appointed ethical leaders of the white race on the globe - object to the way it allows developing countries to pollute while advanced countries must reign in their demand for polluting energy sources like coal.

It's ironic that the term "wog" was coined to describe people of different colours who came to our shores, including Indian and Chinese people. It is an acronym of "westernised oriental gentleman" and referred to those immigrants who sought to assimilate. Now the word 'westernised' bears a new and dangerous meaning. And you can't help thinking that God's a joker.

Blog posted on The Spirit in the Soil (, The Absolute Truth About Marketing (, and qwerty business (
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
  Is Microsoft evil?
Like Imperial Storm Troopers invading the Green Planet, Microsoft's probes continue to crawl around in cyberspace, seeking to crash through our defences and invade our computers, spying and eavesdropping. It's not enough to be the richest man on the planet. Bill wants to be Emperor. Chief Dalek. Like robber baron monopolists before him (Carnegie, etc.) he wants absolute control, absolute power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It reminds me of the Apple Macintosh tv commercial called '1984' in which Big Brother harangued an audience of prisoners until a woman with a mallet runs in and smashes the screen. In 1984, Big Blue was the evil empire. Now it's Big Bill. Do people like him suffer from a obsessive-compulsive disorder, a control syndrome?
Monday, January 23, 2006
  Is Marketing evil?
Thank you to the anonymous visitor who left the following comment on the blog "Turning human beings into revenue streams":

Anonymous said...
If you're lying on your deathbed thinking about work - at all - you're fucked anyway.
Yes, it would be nice to look back and feel that you didn't waste your time selling crap to people.
But, if you're in marketing, that's exactly what you're doing. Whether you're selling Happy Meals or the Bible. It's part of the gig.
You think religous guys aren't in marketing? If you're getting paid, you're guilty.
Do it from the heart (and for no payment) and you may get a seat at the good table.

My response to that is:

But if no one's getting paid, Anonymous Visitor, how can there be anything on the table? Is it only people in marketing who should not be paid for what they do? What makes marketing 'selling crap to people'? Is a Harley Davidson crap? A Martin guitar? What about a decsion to stop smoking? A decision to stop using highly toxic chemicals in a water catchment area? A decision to stop supporting wars in foreign countries? You think political and environmental activists aren't in marketing? And they're getting paid. Are they guilty too? So is it the process we call marketing that is so evil, or is it the particular products and services some people sell that offend you? My point about the death bed realisation was that spending your life accumulating money is a pretty empty way to live when it means you see other people solely as sources of revenue. But when you look at people and respond to them as individuals seeking fulfilment, you can connect with them in a more satisfying way. The process called 'marketing' is used to compete for a person's attention and custom. It is value neutral. The content - the products and services it is used to promote - is not value neutral. From my values I could not actively promote alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, polluting manufacturers' products, products derived from mistreating people or animals, products that cause people to neglect their families (gambling), and organisations that support socially regressive behaviour like gun ownership and wife beating and child abuse. But that's just me. I also object to organisations which bullshit people about the state of the world for political ends - and by these I mean the modern equivalent of Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome and similarly irresponsible environmental organisations who predict that the world will run out of (here insert the commodity of the moment) food, fuel, oxygen, water, etc. sometime soon, that some environmental catastrophe is about to befall us... and when it doesn't are nowhere to be found, replaced by the next set of environmental jeremias touting their chicken little scary scenarios. And the scientists who distort the facts to support these ideologues (it is always the free enterprise system and corporations at fault, always corporations, a curious common thread). Paul Ehrlich, who made a career out of predicting that the world would run out of oil in the 1970s, shamelessly denies today that he was making predictions. The Club of Rome was a self-appointed bunch of self-described experts who scared us all into thinking we'd be living in caves (those that were left after global environmental holocaust) by 1985. Every generation spawns its own crop of chicken littles. Now do these people get a seat at the good table, I wonder? But again, that's just me.

I welcome vigorous debate in this blog. Thank you, Anonymous Visitor #1. (I'll call you AV#1 until you supply a different pseudonym. Are you the guy who left a comment about McBadExperience, about McDonalds being evil? I detect a similarity in your writing style.)
Sunday, January 22, 2006
  How to tell customers you don't care, by an Apple Dealer
I got a letter from NextByte Apple Centre where I have bought, in the last 21 months, 2 Powerbook G4's and an iPod, carry cases, accessories, etc. and whatever else. Probably $10,000+ worth of stuff. The letter wants to sell me extended warrany for $500 on the first G4.
Why do I feel they don't care about my business, or about me, or if I am happy?
Just tiny details:
1. "We trust it has performed well..." They don't know.
2. "complete the attached form and fax or post it back to our Adelaide office"!!! This is Apple. I am in Sydney. The outlet is in Pymble. And they want me to wrtie on a piece of paper and send it snail mail to another State?
3. The order form has a range of products with tick boxes beside them. It seems I have to tlel them which one I own, although thaey show its serial number on the covering letter. They pretend they don't know just tomake it easy for Adelaide.
Richard Chapman, Service Manager, addresses me as "Dear Michael..." It's Mr Kiely to you, Chapman, until we get acquainted.

Oh Apple, don't let them do this to your brand, to your loyal customers......

Or don't you care either?
Friday, January 20, 2006
  Turning human beings into revenue streams
Recently I have been talking to groups of marketing people about issues that run a little deeper than the latest mail marketing gimmick or sponsorship opportunity. Issues that go to the heart of what we are doing as individuals when we are “marketing”. Issues that drill down to our personal ‘philosophy’ of life as it applies to marketing activity. And the response has been significant, astounding even.
The phrase that resonates most powerfully with people is “turning human beings into revenue streams.” That is my definition of the objective of marketing most of us follow. It is the clear intent of loyalty and CRM programs. Since Day 1, Marketing has been the same top down, linear, one way, self-centred, ego-driven, male, mining-mentality, exploitative, dehumanising process of shoving things down consumers throats. It reduces human beings to revenue streams. How could it be otherwise when our definition of the purpose of marketing is ‘to move product’ in order to achieve our chosen definition of the purpose of a business: ‘to make profits’. Consumers in this process are the passive recipients of whatever we decide to send them or sell them. Consumers are “outside the circle of trust” (from Meet the Fockers.) The fact that we call them consumers should be proof enough of our attitude towards them.
But once we describe the dominant paradigm, weautomatically reveal another alternative: a bottom up, lateral, omnidirectional, other-focussed model. This may take some thinking about, but the place to start is – as always – with the customer. Bring them inside the Circle of Trust and see what happens. Look what happened to Harley-Davidson when the company chose to follow product design innovations introduced by customers, such as the Hell’s Angels who first ‘chopped’ the bike and attached extended front forks, creating the Easy Rider look that is so much of the bike’s brand.
Harley-Davidson was, for a period of its history, in the hands of professional managers, not the bike enthusiasts who started and built the company. Naturally during this period the brand became irrelevant to ardent followers because they knew these guys in suits didn’t get it. The company went broke and was bought by the sons of the founders, who returned to the good old neighbourly ways. And profits returned. Not that profit is the company’s most dominant motive. The individuals who work there love the bikes just like the customers do. They are enthusiasts making and selling bikes to enthusiasts.
Which leads me to an 18th century Hasidic saying I think holds the answer: “When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you – and then they are purified and become and holy fire in you.” This may have several meanings, but what it means for me is that we are not separate individuals, like atoms, making our lonely orbit around some centre of gravity. We are living parts of a living organism called the human race and an organism called Planet Earth. What we do as individuals affects everyone.
How can you 'do' marketing in a way that synchs with this reality. How can you plan for marketing ina way that brings the consumer inside the Circle of Trust? There is a way. it's called Holistic Resource Management – a radical methodology invented by Zimbabwe’s Allan Savory* for managing farm enterprises. It brings all stakeholders inside the circle by getting them to contribute to an “Holistic” Goal – a vision of the enterprise and the community it lives within and serves as they will be after a period of time. It is a shared goal, not something dashed off in a minute. Everyone must contribute and sign off on the Goal which is consulted each time a major decision is made, and is revisited as time passes to ensure it remains relevant and resonant within the hearts and minds of stakeholders.
The Hasidic saying contains the powerful truth for people in business today. What you carry in your heart determines that value and validity of what you do. The same action, done for exploitative and non-exploitative motives will have significantly different outcomes, if only in the heart and the soul. If you think of your customers as so many sheep to be sheared or suckers to be fleeced, eventually that attitude can’t remain concealed. But if you ‘love’ your customers and genuinely want to serve them, the feeling shows.
Richard Branson strikes me as someone who genuinely wants to help people, and does it by doing business and offering them services. That old bastard Henry Ford had a genuine feeling for the people he was serving by inventing the modern production line which gave him the power to make cars the ordinary family could afford. Both men appear to want to make a contribution more than to make a name for themselves. (The latter is impossible to avoid when you do good things for people.)
Bringing the customer inside the circle means relinquishing power to them. Letting them dictate company policy. Most companies are too scared for their future to try something different. After all, managers have to manage, don’t they? Managers make decisions, not customers (except whether to buy or not – pretty much the most important decision taken by anyone.
Again the deathbed story: while lying on your death bed, dying, will you look back on your life and say,”I sold a lot of people a lot of crap.” Or “I made a difference in many people’s lives for the better. I helped a lot of people.”

FOOTNOTE: *ALLAN SAVORY, a former national parks ranger, fought beside Robert Mugabwe to liberate Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) from the British. He became a politician, but, disillusioned, left to pursue his vision of global redemption via saving the soil, the productive base on which all complex civilisations stand. His "Holistic Resource Management" has grown into a worldwide movement of farmers who manage to regenerate the biosphere. The management principles are also applicable to non-farming enterprises.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
  The Philosophy of Marketing, Part 2: All you need is love
Recently I spoke at the Marketing Week conference in Adelaide. The theme of the conference was “Convergence”. What does it mean? I asked the organisers, the attendees, and marketing professionals I met in the weeks prior to the event. No one could tell me with any certainty. I suspect it is the next hot buzz term. It will have its day in the sun – books will be written about it, conferences will be held, sales organizations such as advertising agencies will use it to put a new spin on the same old stuff they sell… until the next buzz term arrives.

Convergence joins a long list of terms - including CRM, integrated marketing, relationship marketing, database marketing, niche marketing, interactive marketing, digital marketing, loyalty marketing, segmentation, customer service, direct marketing, the 4 Ps, brand marketing, even the term ‘marketing’ itself, advertising, channel management, incentives marketing, public relations, sponsorship, etc. etc. – that claim to have an independent life in the ‘field of marketing’. But they are merely new labels for the same old stuff and, as such, they obscure the nature of marketing rather than teach us something new about it.

What do I mean? These terms – like ‘convergence’ - all refer to the same top down, linear, one way, self-centred, ego-driven, male, mining-mentality, exploitative, dehumanising process of shoving things down consumers throats. It reduces human beings to revenue streams. How could it be otherwise when our definition of the purpose of marketing is ‘to move product’ in order to achieve our chosen definition of the purpose of a business: ‘to make profits’. Consumers in this process are the passive recipients of communications which beguile them into buying what we choose to sell them.

Immediately, you can see, simply by describing the dominant paradigm, we almost automatically reveal another alternative: a bottom up, lateral, omnidirectional, other-focussed model. This is what makes the study of Philosophy useful. It reveals schools of thought and therefore alternative ways of seeing the same old stuff.

What is your purpose of marketing? Why are you doing it? What do you hope to achieve? When you are lying on your death bed, will you look back and say, “I sold a lot of widgets for XYZ company! I made the shareholders happy.” This is not a stupid question because what is a company? It is the sum total of the personal ambitions and values of the individual people who make it up. Companies are created new everyday by the humans that live and work in them. People. Humans. Not business concepts.

Furphies that the dominant model has perpetrated on the industry include the following: People have relationships with brands. The high point of farce was achieved with this concept by the author of Love Marks, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts. Naturally it had to be an ad agency. Flash as a rat with a gold tooth. People do not have emotional human relationships with brands. The assertion that they do can only be made if you mistakenly deduce attitudes from behaviour. Clearly people can hate brands and yet appear to be in love with them by their continued choice. Another furphy perpetrated by the same shallow thinking is this: brands have a life of their own. They don’t. A brand is simply an agreement between a group of people to act in a similar way. A logo then becomes a standard that they march behind. No people, no logo display. No brand.

Marketing, therefore, is people doing things to and for people. What are people? What do they need that we in marketing can do for them? People are complex bundles of emotions and intellect whose greatest need is self respect and whose dirty little secret is that they don’t like themselves. Super models do not like what they see in the mirror. Do you? Given this analysis, an incident of bad customer service does not offend because it causes inconvenience. It deeply offends because it confirms the individual’s own self assessment of worth. “You are worthless” says our action of poor service. “You are right, and I hate you for reminding me,” says the victim.

Do people feel ‘bigger’ after dealing with you? Or do you reduce people to dwarf size? In other columns I have covered the highest level of human need on Maslow’s hierarchy: self actualisation. Growing into a bigger, better human being. “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier,” said Mother Teresa.

If marketing is about people, not brands, let’s go one step backwards and ask: why are people born? What is the purpose of people? I believe we have three reasons for being here: 1. To learn who we are. 2. To fulfil our potential. 3. To learn to love and be loved. Christ said our task is to “Love one another as I have loved you.” The story in the Bible says He sacrificed his life for people. Was he asking us to do the same? In another place he says, “The greatest among you shall be the servant to all.”

Where will a consumer’s patronage and contribution to profit go? Toward those whose purpose is to reduce them to a revenue stream? Or towards those who genuinely feel love for them and express that love in a spirit of self-sacrifice and service of the type Mother Teresa described? As a race, people aren’t happy; they are haunted by existential angst and fear of being alone. How much will they cling to someone who proves by their behaviour that they are not alone?

NEXT: Bringing the consumer inside The Circle of Trust.
  What is your Philosophy of Marketing?
Would you buy a used philosophy from this man? My next 3 blogs will introduce the concept of Philosophy of Marketing. The first is a gentle introduction. The second should disturb you. And the third should send you running out of the room.


In another incarnation I taught at university an obscure subject called ‘the philosophy of history’. The philosophy of anything is the study of what it is, why you do it, how you do it, etc. Pretty academic, you’d say. Curriculum filler for keeping academics in their comfortable ivory towers, I can hear you thinking.

But studying the philosophy of some practical activity can have profound impact on the people in the field. For instance, it can reveal what your basic assumptions are, what schools of thought there are in the field that are based on these assumptions, and which camp you fall into. There are at present two warring camps in marketing thought: Globalists and Granularists (see “The Tribes of Marketing: where do you belong?” in Marketing*, December 2003). Globalists are mass marketing warriors who see the world from above the line and Granularists are data-driven individuals who live below it. Each operate on the same consumer but with vastly different beliefs about who and what that consumer is. Knowing what camp you are in, that you are governed by assumptions, that you have made a choice that affects the outcome of your work and knowing what camp your new boss comes from, can be critical.

Unless you know what assumptions you are making and how they a ffect your outcomes, you are a sitting duck for a good case of “future shock”. For instance, there are many answers to the question “what is marketing?” that reveal the assumptions of the holder of each answer. For some, marketing is a process of demand management that aims to soak up manufacturing capacity. For others, it is a system for transforming an organisation’s output into shareholder value. Yet another answer would define marketing as the function of identifying and satisfying consumer wants and needs. An even wackier definition is that marketing is the practice of creating communities of common interest, ie. enabling people to share a passion for, say, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and lifestyle. An even more extra-terrestrial version would say marketing is a means of making the world a better place to live in.

The basic orientation of the ‘demand management’ people is product focus – the engineers rule the roost. “Sell what we make,” is their credo. Consumers are targets to be hit, suckers to be sold to, sources of revenue to be controlled, etc. “Push marketing”, relying heavily on promotion to even out poorly-aligned supply chains, is the dominant technique used by these people. These companies often make unattractive products and sometimes make a profit.

The ‘shareholder value’ operators will make a buck by following the ‘spread’ or the size of the gap between the cost of making a buck and the size of the buck. Marketing includes new product development (product innovation). Marketing is the means of harvesting or making hay while the sun shines, entering markets as they become explosive or at least differentiatable. They live by ROI. They make and sell hot items and what they think will be the next hot item. To them consumers are fickle maniacs who can make or break you overnight.

Those who believe in ‘satisfying consumer needs and wants’ often slavishly follow consumers and, as a result, are rarely innovative, because consumers have no means of imagining what they would like if it existed before it exists. Consumers do know one thing: they like low prices. The consumer is king. The price is cut.

‘Community builders’ see consumers as fellow consumers and share their view of life. Dream the same dreams. For them, marketing is not an arm-wrestle with an unwilling buyer, but a love-in. Price is often not an issue. These people are enthusiasts. The brand is a tribal totem.

Those who want to ‘make the world a better place’ are disrupters. Consumers are not in control, but they are the beneficiaries of the ingenuity of these operators. Disrupters innovate around consumer needs – inventors, people who take risks on new technologies or processes or management systems. They provide new solutions for old problems or give access to previously unobtainable experiences.

Few companies are purists – ie. totally dominated by one camp or philosophy of marketing. There is also a bit of crossover between camps, especially among the consumer-focussed types.

But this rough thumbnail depiction of the schools of thought and the operational implications that arise from their basic assumptions reveals how important it is to be aware of your prejudices (that you inherited from whoever taught you first principles). I guess this is a plea for The Philosophy of Marketing to be taught in our academies of learning and churning out marketing operatives. (Once they catch up to the needs of Granularists for training in direct and database and CRM issues.)

The choice of marketing as a profession is not the end of the game. You’ve got to choose your school of thought (or have it chosen for you by the job market). You also have to choose which ethical base you will build your career or company upon. (This involves the ‘dharma’ and the ‘karma’ of marketing – which I will have a go at in a future column.)

PS. I am a Granularist with Globalist sympathies, and I have a foot in the following camps: ‘better place’, ‘community builders’, and ‘shareholder value’.

*Australia, not Britain.
Friday, January 13, 2006
  McBadExperience Again
McDonald’s has lost that lovin’ feeling. Yesterday I had another typical ‘don’t care’ experience. Usually they forget to put either serviettes or sugar or milk sachet or tea bag – or all of the above - in with my drive-through order. When you drive though again to get them they don’t care. McDonalds Mudgee, Lithgow and the one on the M5 compete to out-“don’t care” each other. Yesterday in Lithgow I stopped for coffee and ordered a travel cup (an extra expense for me and profit for them). The surly, red-headed hardfacedbitch who served me at first said “I don’t think we’ve got any left,” in a tone that accused me of stupidity for asking. There were lots left. Then I waited and waited and waited as others who had ordered from the McCafe after me were served. In the meantime a young girl walked past me with a travel cup which, it turns out was mine. The system – not signposted anywhere – was order at one end of the counter and stand around to collect your order at the other end. They simply left my order standing there until a young thief stole it. When I finally asked where it was, hardfacedbitch said “You must’ve left it there and someone has taken it.” That’s right folks. I caused McDonalds to lose a travel mug. In a sulk, she made me another cup of coffee. I was so enraged and full of bile for McDonald’s that as I left I forgot to pick up my muffin that I’d paid for. As a side experience I had stood in the slowest queue in history (at this allegedly fast food outlet) only to be told in an insulting way that fries weren’t available until 10.30am (Stupid, everyone knows that.) Well, the kind of droogs who live on the crap McDonald’s serves and who will tolerate these pitiful levels of customer service might know that. But I don’t make it a habit of studying the rules of modern grazing for the masses. Why can’t I get fries when I want fries? They were for my grandson to amuse him for a few kilometres. I sympathise with the character in Falling Down played by Michael Douglas and wished I had the freedom they have in America to deliver the same message.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
  Are you locking customers out?
Have you tried opening your packaging like a consumer does? I'm a little less dextrous since passing the 50 year mark 3 years ago. Either that or Packaging is getting harder to get into. Consumers want instant gratification. EVEN the time spent looking for a knife can be a major inconvenience.
Oh, and by the way, the Baby Boomers - remember them, the largest segment ever? They need help reading type. So why do the idiots who design packaging put instructions in the smallest san serif type face. Curse these idiots and the idiots who approve their work.
Monday, January 09, 2006
  Ford's agency in Australia should be fired!
If you watch a lot of cricket over the break (and I do) you are also forced to watch a lot of commercials. Id like to nominate three commercials for a special citation for causing the maximum discomfort for the largest number of viewers most often during the summer viewing season. (I'd like to hear yours...)
First we have coming in at third every commercial for the post Xmas sales. No one got any communication value from their investment in air time and cheap vomit bombs on screen because everyone was doing the same thing. So the viewer got the message: pretty well every outlet is having a mega-humungous sale. SO why advertise the fact if they can assume you're part of this frenzied orgy of discounting anyway? So next year don't waste your money. Just put up the sale signs and open the doors.
Second place goes to the federal government's "Every cigarette is toxic" campaign. Guys, when will you wake up to the fact that smokers will not be scared off by nanny state finger waggling. In fact smokers are in most cases intent on self harm due to their self loathing and lack of self love. You telling them it will kill them is just what they want to hear. Government advertising is uniformly stupid because governments are uniformly stupid. And by governments I mean ministers who dictate the message and the medium. If they would leave it to the experts surrounding them and not indulge in amateur advertising antics...
But our big winner for 2005/2006 is Henry Ford's crowd of bunglers, for their 2005 Runout Sale campaign. I single out for special mention the weaklings in Ford's agency who let them run this stupid, stupid campaign. It features a marlin fisherman jumping overboard just when he's hooked a big one and presumably swimming to shore then running into his nearest Ford dealership, trailing seaweed, to buy a crappy out of date Ford, while someone in a blue coat, presumably a Ford employee, is by turns applauding them and preening by stroking their lapels. A woman runs away from the delivry table having just given birth, and streaks in to a dealership. WHere's the afterbirth? That's what I was concerned about, not the bloody cars. Can you hear the mentally-deficient account director seling in the concept to his or her equally challenged client? "This script says, contrary to the real situation, that your crs are popular and you're not having trouble getting rid of them at all. Look, real people running into the dealership, just like they do every day... because Ford cars are so popular. Get it?" Now how hard is that to sell? No, because clients are so up themselves about their product that they'll buy any old shite that panders to their insecurities. And agencies know it.
If the Advertising Standards Authority were to live up to its name just once, it would ban our three winners or at least banish them to the regions where nobody cares what they watch. They think informercials for pimple creams and other snake oil is actually real programming out there. They have no self respect. They deserve what they get. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Let's watch some shite on tv...
Thursday, January 05, 2006
  How to really piss people off
Last night Louisa and I decided to see a movie at the "megaplex" at Castle Hill. We tried booking online and found it was easy. We wouldn't have to queue for tickets and we could pay for our snacks as well. When we got to the "megaplex" the queue to collect tickets booked online was empty - all good. They are running a "Jump the queue" campaign to encourage people to book and pay online. Why? Because it costs them a lot less when I transact online than when I transact with a live human being. But get this... they charged me a booking fee of $2. They rewarded me for reducing their costs by increasing mine! That really pissed me off. Then we get 30 minutes of cheesy ads before the show we came to see (honestly, local advertising in cinema is so badly made and poorly presented, I resolved never to use any of the companies I saw advertising there last night -their ads said they were cheap and nasty!) As if to remind me of the $2 insult, one of the advertisers - Rydges Hotels, owned by the same crowd that owns Greater Union - promised that I'd get the lowest available price when I booked online with them. That's more like it. Greater Union - your online strategy sucks! And why is it not possible to get anything vaguely edible or drinkable at the concession stand? Does everyone going to the movies have to be condemned to high fat, high sugar, high salt death? And having to fight the person next to me for the arm rest after paying $40+ seems a little primitive for 2006. I won't be rushing back to the movies after that experience. I guess I'm not in their target audience: people with low service expectations. (The movie - Rumour Has It - was great.)

By the way, here's what the company says about its services on its website: "Traditionally, Greater Union Organisation was in the business of exhibiting films. Today we're in the entertainment business. "We're in the services industry," says Alan Rydge, Chairman of AHL and Greater Union Organisation. "Our company aims to make people have a good time while they are using our goods and services. We try to focus on what tomorrow's customers want and to provide it for them as soon as possible."

Wrong, Alan. Focus on today's customer today. How often do you have the Greater Union experience yourself, to know what it's like?
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
  All marketers are liars Part 2
There's an old joke in the ad biz: "You only need one thing to succeed in thed advertising business: sincerity. And when you learn to fake that you've got it made!" The truth is not so far from the exaggeration. Anyone who has (like me) been in the ad game for any amount of time (I've done 20 years hard labour) can tell you that not only are the ads insincere, the people are too. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon cosmetics said "In the factory we make cosmetics, but in the store we sell hope." That's all any markter can sell.. You can only hope what they sell you works as promised! "Promise, great promise is thr soul of an advertisement," said Dr Samuel Johnson. When he was auctioneer to sell a departed friend's brewery, he made the famous statement from the podium, "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice." Not quite the truth, not quite a lie. Advertising people aren't allowed to tell blatant lies, but they are allowed to gild the lily. Like the sales person in the clothing store telling you, "This makes you look slimmer..."
Advertising people aren't ethically challenged. They are rarely challenged by anything or anyone. Ask anyone who has been a client of an ad agency. Did they laugh so hard at your jokes when you ceased being a client? Did they fawn on you and buy you amazing gifts and take you to expensive restaurants once your hand no longer fondled the purse strings? Surely they weren't being insincere all that time?
Sunday, January 01, 2006
  How to reduce crowds at a rock festival
If the organisers of the 3-day rock festival on Phillip Island over New Year wanted to reduce the crowds coming to next year's event, they've done it. Make the punters wait in a queue of cars - stationary, in temperatures up to 40 degrees - for up to 7 hours to get in to the venue. How do you do it? You have security search every car for alcohol, creating a bottleneck. Fools! It created a traffic jam that lasted all day for holiday makers on the Island. It pissed everyone off, not just the punters. I can hear the idiots stammering now: "We had no choice... They made us do it..."

RULE #1: There is always an alternative to screwing up your customers and stakeholders. You just have to work at it...

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Make a big mistake and you learn the Absolute Truth. Mistakes are the only teachers. Why not rely on other people's mistakes to avoid making your own? Learn marketing secrets, tips, hints, insider information, strategies, tactics, ideas, plans decoded, and more... Search engine marketing, email marketing, Internet marketing will be added soon.

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