The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Thursday, March 30, 2006
  I couldn't believe my ears
When I heard it on the radio news, I thought i'd slipped through a tear in the fabric of the universe and arrived back at 1986.
"The Commonwealth Bank expects its share price to rise rapidly as a result of its new strategic direction focussed on customer service."
Customer service? What's that? This is 2006, when companies - especially telcos and banks - treat people like s---, as though the customer service revolution had never happened.
It goes like this: there was this guy called Pareto who worked out that 20% of your customers give you 80% of your business.
You could work out who they were by looking st your books This came as a revelation to many companies, who used the 80:20 principle as a means of allocating resources.
For the fortunate 20%, times got better, but for the 80%, things got worse. Prices and fees went up, service levels fell.
So now these companies are working on a principle that it is good business to p--- off the majority of your customers.
S----- f----- i-----!
The bank admits it has monstered custmers if you read between the lines in the press release: "The Commonwealth Bank today released details of its ongoing strategy with a refreshed determination to excel in customer service... a fresh emphasis on delivering to our customers the standard of service they appreciate."
That's spin code for 'we failed'...
Monday, March 27, 2006
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 11
[ ] Changing marketing personnel too often – Some companies allow corporate memory to walk out the door when they churn their marketing staff for whatever reason. It can take 12 months to learn an organisation’s capabilities. What is the average lifetime of a marketing manager these days? 30 months? They leave for opportunistic reasons or because the role is unfulfilling. A good marketing chief has the corporate DNA embedded in their genes and knows where the bodies are buried. Marketing is one role that needs stability. Otherwise your customer facing operations take on the stop-start, knee jerk personality of an organization that is unsure of whjich way to go.

[ ] No metrics in marketing plans – Nothing meaningful can be done in marketing unless it is measured. How can anyone be held accountable for their decisions without metrics? How can ROI be calculated? How can a marketing manager assess the value of an activity and apportion budget? Everything a marketing department does can be measured one way or another. Even dodgy metrics are better than none at all.

[ ] No plan (nothing meaningful written) – Some organizations believe that simply having a marketing function is enough. But a meaningful written plan is essential – so everyone can know the direction and where the goal posts are. The word ‘meaningful’ is meaningful in itself. See the next entry.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
  Brand loyalty is bullshit, love
I sit in meetings. I hear people talking about loyalty. Ugh!
Brand loyalty is a figment of the imagination of marketers – a wet dream. It starts in the mind of the young marketing executive who falls in love with their brand. And why not? They live it 24 hours a day. It means more to them than a football follower’s favourite team. Because it is their livelihood, their future, their identity … and they become dislocated in their thinking. They can’t understand how anyone could not love their brand. They can’t understand what sort of evil gets into those who choose their competitors’ brands. And they believe those who choose their brand think the same way they do. Brand loyalty, brand passion, brand love. But they are like young German troops invading France in WWII and seeing the normally passionately-free French giving the Nazi salute as they marched on by and not seeing the guns behind their backs. Deluded.

Brand loyalty is a behaviour. Consumers can be brand loyal for many reasons other than love. (Some idiot calls brands “love marks” – only an adman could be so foolish.) Fear is a stronger motivator than love. Habit and inertia drive more buying decisions than love. But it is easy to delude marketing executives that their brand loyals love their brand. They might hate it, but there is nowhere else to go.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
  Coke's agency f**ks-up big time
There's a special kind of unreality that exists in an agency. They are places where the laws of gravity and physics don't apply. Take the Coke Zero debacle. Aimed at the most ad-savvy, cynical market of them all - young males - the agency thought it could get away with a fake blog site that pretended it was a authentic expression of young-male-on-the-street opinion and angst. The efforts at creating verisimilitude (the appearance of truth) included fake dates on blogs and fake comments by fake visitors.
One problem: the target audience is also the most net savvy segment in the market. They saw through the bullshit, and blasted it, setting up counter-blogs - - and anti-web sites - - all of which created a viral anti-zerocoke movement.
The first mistake - revealing Coke's lack of authenticity - wasn't as revealing of the agency's stupidity as its second mistake - not registering all the anti-coke URLs imaginable to block the humiliation the brand now enjoys.
Monday, March 20, 2006
  Get out of your own way
Given the number of mistakes marketers make it is amazing anything gets sold at all. Think of this: if half the retail outlets closed tonight and did not re-open, the same amount of goods would be sold tomorrow. If half the competitors is any category were de-listed do you think your job would become easier? No. Because the greatest competitor any marketing company has is itself. Get out of your own way and you’ll succeed. Surrender to the consumer and you surrender to success. Sounds like fun.
  More marketing mistakes to avoid
[ ] Product focus vs customer focus: You don’t believe me? This still happens. It is easy to believe in products. They sit there, like a stone, saying “I am your product. Love me or die.”
Customers come and go and leave no trace. They disguise themselves. And besides that, they’re scary. They might say something baaad about our product. And we love our product. How many of you meet customers, spend time with them, listen in on the call centre calls, read the letters that come in. Admit it. None of you do. But how many of you spend your time getting to know and then talking about your product? All of you? Case closed.

[ ] No proactive PR plan – A big mistake, this one, because you have public relations, whether you manage it or not. The media and observers are spreading stories about you unchecked. You have no power to stop them. All you can do is try to direct the content of those stories towards the positive side. Your most powerful public relations is generated by the actions of your organization everyday in contact with stakeholder groups. A truly ethical, customer-centric company would rarely find itself the subject of bad PR.

[ ] No contact management strategy – How much money is wasted because client-facing staff do not collect and make available or do not have at their fingertips the essential data about the individuals they hope to impress? Data is flying past you every moment of the day, especially the soft, personal data a good sales person remembers, like the client’s favourite entertainment, family background, etc. Tactfully used, this data can build and seal relationships forever. And gathered and managed through a tidy piece of software, it can empower one representative to have deep relations with a large number of individuals.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
  Can you smell the money?
There is a pig in the python, a lump in the demographic chart, and it's coming your way. Too late! It's arrived. It's called the Baby Boomers. They are the biggest, most self-indulgent group of free spenders the planet has ever known. And their parents are conveniently popping off and leaving these spendthrifts the family home and a small parcel of shares - all of which they convert into cash and spend spend spend. It is the largest intergenerational shift of wealth known to mankind.
And just how are marketers responding? Are they pursuing these plump pidgeons, designing products for them, redesigning packaging for their failing eyesight, targetting campaigns at them?
No. That would be too much like intelligent.
In fact, many big brands, frightened by the aging of their customer base, are aiming at hip young things, although they are a small market and can only watch as their partners spend the family loot.
They are spending spending spending, but not with you you you.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
  Lessons from OzJet's crash

How to lose an eight-figure sum in only 4 months of trading as a new business:

1. Launch a budget airline into a market in which two big budget operators are cutting each other's throats on pricing already.

2. Launch an all-business class airline into a market where less than 5% of travellers fly business.

3. Try to build a business-class brand with an economy positioning and daggy, budget-barrel name.

4. Ignore the real reason people fly business class: so they can feel superior to the rest of us who have to walk past them sitting up front as we make our way down the back of the plane. No economy passengers to sneer at, no fun.
Friday, March 10, 2006
  Like a tired whore calling from a doorway
There was a time when radio was the coolest thing in town. Not any more.

Commercial radio is a creative wasteland.
When was the last time you heard a good commercial on radio? You can't remember? It's because you haven't heard one.
I know commercial radio. I conducted a brand audit for the Australian industry several years ago.
I graduated from the Radio Marketing Bureau's Radio Copywriting School more than several years ago.
I know radio and I know good creative when I hear it. But I never hear it.
No self respecting copywriter in an advertising agency wants to write radio.
So it's left to the hacks at the stations. The same people write all the commercials you hear on your favourite station.
That's why they all sound the same. Like a tired whore calling out from a doorway to anyone passing by.
The creative content in radio is confined to the big-mouthed smart-arses (I think they're actually professional comedians) employed as DJs on the 'hip' (vs the 'hip-replacement') stations.These idiots feel the need to fill every second of air time with some asinine remark that could only be construed as funny if you are braindead or have an IQ of 15 (like half the listeners who call talkback radio).
The fact they can make a living talking such shit says more about the average moron than about themselves. In fact, radio's greatest contribution to man's knowledge of mankind is that it reveals how petty and stupid and small we are. The most creative thing the ad copywriters from the right wing shock jock stations can think of is a live read by one of their "stars" - appalling people you wouldn't talk to at all if it wasn't for their great power with the rabble. As it is, one takes their calls and one laughs at their jokes when one is in their company because one knows how vindictive they are and how prone to using their soapbox for personal ends.
There was once a time when radio was a creative medium - The Goons, Stan Freiberg, Jack Davey.
There was a time when radio was the no.1 medium.
It was creative then.
I wonder if there is a connection?
Thursday, March 09, 2006
  If you want my feedback, pay me!

I recently bought a book through from another bookshop in the USA, Elephant Books. Way out here in Australia we use amazon a lot, and the freight usually negates any savings. But they can get anything for you, when the local bookstore idiots claim it's out of print. So I'm a fan of amazon, but I've got to bitch about this "Feedback" request I got. How satisfied was I with the transaction?
Now, they're asking for my time and I charge for my time. If the information is valuable, how valuable is it? Filling out customer satisfaction surveys is a tax on a customer's time. Nice to know they care, but if they really did care they'd offeree me a discount voucher or an entry in a sweepstakes.
But what capped the request off was the message that if I had any problems with the order, stay away from amazon and deal directly with the other bookseller.
SO they ask for a favour then tell me they won't do one for me. Some creep in the Customer Service Department OKed this.
Oh amazon, what a heatbreak old ebookseller you are.
  The customer is always wrong
This was the name of a talkback radio segment hosted by a left-liberal pussycat named James on a public broadcasting network in Australia. He attracted the usual queue of bellyachers and miseryguts complainers, the standard fare of those with too much time on their hands, who don't mind calling radio stations in the boss's time but scream blue murder when on occasion they're asked to work 15 minutes longer than the award stipulates.
By now you can tell whose side I'm on, unless you're as thick as they are.
Why are service levels down the crapper? Because you idiots want everything for free! You don't want to pay for anything. You let the seller cut their own throats, then you complain when they bleed on you.
Listen up. If there's no margin in the deal, there's no money to pay for service staff. You end up with a nice Indian man being paid a few rupees an hour in a call centre in Mumbai instead of a live human being somewhere within 1000 kms.
One of the callers complained of crap service from Dell. What did they expect? Ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances...
Customers rule. You'all created this mess by your greed and avarice.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 9
Continuing our series on new ways to shoot yourself in the foot, we have these three doozies:

[ ] Management by committee: Fear of taking a decision (because of a lack of knowledge) is often masked by a committee system. Marketing is like war. It requires generalship. The best generals take advice, then take decisions. The worst take cover behind their colleagues. A committee is the best way to kill a marketing initiative that can bring dramatic gains because it precluded boldness. A committee is as brave as its most fearful member. If you want action that causes dramatic change, appoint a person with courage to lead the marketing team. When some mealy-mouthed sycophant complained to President Lincoln that Ulysses S. Grant drank a bottle of whisky every night, Lincoln asked the complainer what brand of whisky it was. “Why do you want to know?” came the stunned reply. “Because I want to send a case to each of my generals.”

[ ] Investing time and resources in creative but rushing together offers and lists: This is standard practice. Everyone feels qualified to criticise creative (because they are consumers). But few know anything (or bother to learn) about the other dimensions of a direct marketing proposition (or any marketing for that matter). There are only 3 variables in a marketing campaign: the list or media, the offer or deal, and the creative. Direct marketing testing reveals that the list or media choice is 100% more influential than the offer which in turn is 100% more influential than the creative. Given this, the devotion of time and effort to creative is in inverse proportion to its importance. But it will always be thus. Go figure.

[ ] Failing to integrate campaigns: Oh, they say it’s integrated. Because they use the same images in the tv commercial in the mail piece, and the slogan is the same in the publicity sheet. But integration is more than that. A truly integrated campaign need not look like it came from the June Dally Watkins School of Deportment for Brands – so long as the spirit of the campaign, the passionate statement of belief that it reflects, is demonstrated at every level. So much “integration” is colouring by numbers by unimaginative, single dimension agencies who hanlker for the days when the tvc was all they needed to make. Media fragmentation is irreversible and human diversity is infinite, so a campaign should express itself in an infinite number of ways. Just as a person does.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
  When you're selling 'cool' you'd better be it

Quesiton: Why did VW fail with this car?
Answer: Because cool design might sell Apple Computers, but the shape has to do more than cover up same old same old.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 8
[ ] No crisis management plan. You’ll get one only after you need it. Like security bars on the windows, they are usually installed when the damage has been done. A crisis management plan is essential risk management discipline. Who speaks to the media when something catastrophic like a product tampering or major customer incident happens? Who is on the response team? What does an employee do if they uncover a potential public relations disaster? It’s in the plan. But where’s the plan?

[ ] Locking your customers out by poor packaging design. How often as a consumer have you had trouble opening a “fast moving packaged good”? Some products are impenetrable without the aid of a sharp object. The type size is so small on the instructions only an ant could read it, and the ant market is limited. Packaging that ignores the average person (forget the baby boomers who have declining dexterity and eye sight) is a bad joke… How often does a failed product owe its demise to inhumane packaging? Some companies in overseas markets will film a family opening their packaging and trying to assemble and use the product, searching for barriers to satisfaction. Wise. How do you lock your customers out?

[ ] Failing to court your best customers; chasing new ones instead. You’d think this was a given in these days of CRM but marketing is still a male-dominated profession and the lust for the chase of fresh prey still throbs in the loins of the warriors. It is so much more satisfying to bag a new segment (at huge cost) than to consolidate and grow an existing profitable segment. Of course, the hunter usually doesn’t know the profit contribution from existing customers. He is looking for a new one night stand and it’s hard to turn a man away from the new to romance the familiar. Women should lead marketing organizations, if only in the interests of their financial health.
Friday, March 03, 2006
  I am gross and perverted

When Stan Zemanic appeared on my tv screen extolling the virtues of a weight loss drink on A Current Affair, the words of Frank Zappa's song "I'm The Slime" came to mind.

Zemanic admitted on camera he was being paid by the company making the diet drink to spruik for it on tv. What was A Current Affair doing running an ad disguised as a news report?

It's one of the unmentioned legacies of the late Mr Packer who had no concept of the public interest when it came to turning his publications and stations over to those who would pay the highest dollars.

You can't expect a radio shock jock to have any ethics when it comes to perverting the content of the media they use to enrich themselves - do you remember "cash for comment"? Laws, Jones, et. al. And you can't expect a PBL news outlet to have any either.

So why am I so angry about it? Because of the sick-making, forelock tugging to Packer as they 'buried' him a few weeks ago. His ghost haunts us. It was on A Current Advertisement last night. In the form of Stan Zemanic and his weight loss drink.

Does it matter? Yes, it matters. Every time the slime gets away with hoodwinking the public by perverting the independence of the spaces between the ads, they chip away at two important institutions: the credibility of the news media and the right of people to know what they are consuming as news is in fact news.

The PR industry preens itself and proudly boasts that 80% of what appears in the media starts as a press release paid for by some company. The brain dead Alan Jones listener doesn't want anyone to respect their intelligence. They simply have a need for "Daddy" to tell them what's what, like the German middle classes responsible for the rise of Hitler. These same moral folk will vote for John Howard no matter how often he lies to them. Research revealed in the press this week that the white bread Aussies who keep Howard in power believe he lied to them about children overboard and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the wheat board. But that won't stop them voting for him. Because he makes them feel secure. His word is worthless. He will say anything to slip and slide out of trouble. He's proved that he can't be trusted. But wait! They trust him.

My Mum would say "There's a special place in Hell for that person." If there's any justice, there's a few special places reserved down there for the gross and perverted.


I'm The Slime
by Frank Zappa

I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed 'n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I'm the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I'm the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I'm the slime oozin' out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That's right, folks . . .
Don't touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin' room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go

I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin' room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go
Thursday, March 02, 2006
  Then act!
Start with the end in mind (continued).

Visualise success.

If it is a new product concept, write the ad for it.

If it is a launch, write the news report.

If it is a presentation, picture shaking hands on the deal.

Then act...

With no attachment to the outcome.

This is the second daily MICHAEL'S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY. You can sign up for it on our NEW WEBSITE
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
  In the beginning...
... was the END.

Start with the end in mind.

Express your intended outcome as though it had already materialised.

Then act.


Michael Kiely
The Marketing Wizard


This is the first daily MICHAEL'S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY. You can sign up for it on our NEW WEBSITE

The introductory blurb goes something like this:

"The source of every solution lies in the field of infinite possibilities."

The answer you've been looking for is waiting for you here.
It's not in my head. It's not in yours. It's somewhere out there, in The Field of Infinite Possibilities; waiting for us to summon it.
You see, no one "has" an idea. Ideas choose us...when we are worthy of them and ready to receive. As the word suggests, you become 'inspired' when some "spirit" comes into you. Bob Dylan didn't write "Like A Rolling Stone". He said a voice in his head dictated it to him. is not a factory. It is a delivery room. I am merely a midwife. Some people I have worked with in multinational and local agencies believe firmly that clients cannot have ideas.
Some of my best ideas have been clients' ideas.
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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