The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Thursday, April 27, 2006
  An idea to wake up to (or wake you up)
Several months ago I started sending a small number of people a daily email containing a single marketing idea. Moving out to live on the farm, I didn’t want to lose touch with people. This was one way to stay connected to the intelligent conversations I enjoy when I am in the City. (Sheep have limited social horizons.)

The ideas I send are not new. They are the collection of principles and truisms I have collected in 25 years of marketing. I am dusting off the entire collection and making it available via email. Many of them are “Hits & Memories”, but they spark new perceptions when they are unwrapped.

I get many return emails with questions and additions to the original idea. It’s all part of the fun. And, let’s face it, many people get by with no ideas. So with one idea a day, you’re that far ahead.

Below I list the first series of “ideas” for you. If you want to join the list for a daily “idea”, visit and register.


In the beginning... was the END. Start with the end in mind. Express your intended outcome as though it had already materialised.

Then act.

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...

"Act boldly and mighty forces will come to your aid." I found this statement in Reader's Digest. Don't be put off by that. The statement is true. The difference between success and failure is not that you got beaten by someone else or circumstances. Most of the time we fail because we don't even get on the starting blocks. Woody Allen says 85% of success is simply turning up.
Look at the great brands. Not one of them has been built by meekness. Aggressive self-belief and dramatic action typifies success in marketing.
Zigging when the others zag. Risking ridicule. Almost inviting it.



This sounds like the bleeding obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many companies spend money talking to people who can't or won't buy their products. How does a television advertiser know there is anyone watching their ad? They don't. They are fed crap by television stations called TARPS (Target Audience Ratings Points) that are measured by some witchdoctor's formula that says it can tell if the lounge chair in front of the tv set is empty during the breaks. Ratings, schmatings. It's amazing how much faith some marketers have - truly religious zealots - in TARPS. I say show me the money. If I'm gonna spend a fortune keeping some zillionaire’s kids in a manner to which they've become accustomed, I want proof that Channel X actually sells something. I'll believe it when a viewer calls a telephone number on the screen and goes on to buy my product... Either right there and then or soon. "Real Response TV" is a great new idea of mine - invite people to call or email or dial up a web site and interact with the brand. D'uh!


Zag when they zig.

Imagine a room full of people shouting at a person standing on a stage, trying to get their attention. That's what it is like when you are trying to get your message across to a prospect in a market. The one who stops shouting and quietly peels off their clothes and stands naked (or does the equivalent) will stand out.


"Trying to run a business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark."

Now, try using that in a presentation these days...


When you look at a group photo that you are in, whose face do you search for first?

Your own? Don't be so surprised. We are obsessed about ourselves, by nature. How much can we hear about ourselves? Endless amounts?

So who does a prospect want to hear you talking about in a sales letter?
Themselves? And how much of the letter should you devote to them and how much to your company?

I'll let you decide...

If you want to hide in a forest, look like a tree.

If your advertisement looks like a tree in a forest you have failed the first test. It will pass like a ship in the night. Clients without courage force their agencies to produce wallpaper.Clients who refuse to maximise return on media dollar invested are committing the crime of negligence against their shareholders. Looking around you can see that the majority of clients should be fired.





The babyboomers are inheriting. Right now. You can hear the assets being transferred all around you.

We are in the middle of the greatest transfer of wealth know to mankind. Trillions of dollars are sluicing around - all of it unearned and most of it not ear marked for anything.

IS your organisation getting a slice of the action?

Is there a gap in the market?

You see that juicy big opportunity in the market? Quick! Let's move on it fast... Oh, no. Where did all our money go? Yes, there is a gap in the market. But is there a market in the gap? Why hasn't someone else seen it? Chances are they have. Proceed, but proceed with caution.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
  Beware the Bavarian Beer Cafe at Manly

We had the worst dining experience we can remember at Manly today at the Bavarian Beer Cafe. For out-of-towners, Manly is a famous beachside 'village' in Sydney, Australia. The Bavarian Beer Cafe is a tourist trap, situated just where you get off the Manly Ferry, the most popular way to reach Manly from the City.
What was so bad about it? The food. The beverages. The service. The hygene. Did I miss anything?
Louisa and I both ordered the beer-battered flathead, normally a succulent eating fish. What we were served may have been flathead, but it was heavily disguised as reconstituted fish-like material. The chef had managed to dry it out, either by buying it frozen or by overcooking it. It was tasteless and inedible.
The beer. I ordered a "Hell" and a German lager. The "Hell" was Ok but the lager, all half a litre, was warm. Premium prices charged for undrinkable beer.
The service. We asked the wait-person who took our order for an additional small plate to share my chips with the grandson. It did not arrive with the food, so we asked for it again. No action. We asked another wait person. Nothing. In the end I had to go to the bar and ask a waitress (whose command of the English language was such she couldn't understand me) to get me a plate. She did so, with a look of bemused contempt in her eyes.
By this stage I was starting to believe we had wandered onto the set of a new version of Faulty Towers being shot in Australia.
The hygene. My wife took our grandson to the toilet, lifted the lid and found either faeces or vomit all over the seat back.
She warned the staff.
And now I'm warning you.
Beware the Bavarian Beer Cafe in Manly if you like good food, cold beer, smart service, and clean toilets.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
  Two offices, One team!
I couldn't work it out. "Two offices working as one team!" said the real estate agent's sign... WHat offices? What's the big deal?
I asked someone what it meant, because it started to spread from agency group to agency group.
It means two separate franchised offices would cooperate to help sell your home.
I was astounded! Wouldn't a seller expect that when they are dealing with a branded organisation they had at their disposal the resources of that organisation?
No. Normally these officecs would compete with each other. It is a fundamental flaw in the franchise system, it is anti-consumer, and here they are making a big deal out of the fact that they are acting in a way most consumers would consider normal and fair.
It's like a bank telling you it is reducing its fees or American Express offering to discount its joining fee.
"Great news, long suffering customer! We are going to stop assaulting you for a short period of time!"
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
  Was Ogilvy wrong about reverse type?

Mel from Hamburg sent us a link to a site which reveals that Ogilvy may have been wrong.

"World-renowned for his contributions to the world of advertising, David Ogilvy was nothing if not generous with his opinions. That he loathed reverse type -- white letters on black background -- was one opinion Ogilvy vociferously made clear," it says. But it was more than an opinion. Ogilvy was relying on reading comprehension tests conducted by Colin Wheildon while he was publications manager at the National Roads and Motorists Association in Sydney Australia. Scientifically rigorous methodology was employed to demonstrate that readers find it hard to read text set in reverse and remember less of the content that they read in that format compared to conventional typography.

Now I knew Colin Wheildon and I knew David Ogilvy and to classify their views as mere 'opinion' is dangerous.

The website report is from Lighthouse International, a "leading resource worldwide on vision loss and vision impairment". Lighthouse research found that reverse type seems to make no apparent difference to people with normal vision. Bullshit, I say, until I see the report and the methodology used.

Aries Arditi, PhD, vision science expert, said: "Our research shows that for many older and partially sighted readers who have reduced visual image clarity, white letters on a dark or black background are easiest to read."

This may be true. Barbara Silverstone, DSW, President and CEO of Lighthouse International, makes the brash statement: "By denouncing the use of reverse type, Ogilvy overlooked a large and growing population of potential consumers -- people who, like theater-goers reading in the dark, benefit from the enhanced readability of white letters on a black background. Knock-out type helps communicate a message to a wider audience -- thus, its use can only serve to expand the reach of advertisements."

My advice to you: tread warily when setting type in reverse. If it is essential the reader read it, set it black on white in larger type. If it's not so important, set it anyway you like.
Monday, April 10, 2006
  DO you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 14
[ ] Wallpaper advertising – This kind is invisible because it’s too bland. Safe advertising, that makes you feel comfortable, won’t even be noticed. It will, as David Ogilvy put it, be like a ship passing in the night. Your advertising should make you sweat with fear if it has any chance at all. DO also said the purpose of your copy was to demoralise the copywriters working for your competitors' agencies. By the way, being noticed is only its first task. Being consumed and understood and finally acted upon (conveniently forgotten by many agencies) are equally essential.

[ ] Me-too offers – If the competition is doing it, we should too. Wrong! When they are zigging you should be zagging. Me-too offerings give the customer the opportunity to price shop you down to the ground. They reveal a lack of imagination. And they are boring for the staff involved. Inspire your people with originality and passion generated by the new - by innovation. You cannot bore people into buying.

[ ] Failure to brief frontline staff (or involve them in planning and brainstorming) – Often you can be met with blank stares when you ask serving staff about advertised offers, especially in channels that aren’t well managed. Frontline staff are where the rubber meets the road – they are a useful source of ideas and they simply must feel part of the team for implementation. All your investment of time and money goes down the drain if they aren’t 100% behind the idea.
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 13
[ ] “Fill in the boxes” marketing plans – Many marketing graduates have learned the headings for a marketing plan by rote, but fail to understand what should go under them. For instance, in a SWOT analysis, you will invariably find under the heading “Opportunities” a list of tactics the organization can adopt. But in a SWOT analysis, Strengths and Weaknesses are attributes of the organisaiton and Opportunities and Threats are characteristics of the external environment. Opportunities are unfolding events that can be exploited to utilise the organization's Strengths or mitigate its Weaknesses. Most marketing plans do not have any strategic strength. There is no big idea behind them – no leap of intuitive brilliance that pulls all the strands together into an explosive whole. Most are ‘colouring by numbers’ exercises.

[ ] Poor graphic design – It is possible to design a piece of communication so that it is impossible to consume. Tiny type faces are favourites of art directors. The baby boomers all need reading glasses and would appreciate bigger type. Type reversed out of black or colours – there is research done in Australia which proves conclusively that reverse type is harder to read. Comprehension tests reveal san serif faces are tiring on the eyes. Headlines should appear above the copy because they eye has a habit of following a certain pattern around a page. There is an entire science based on the concept of ‘reading gravity’ – I defy you to produce a single art director who has heard about it.

PS. Since posting this, a valuable addition to our knowledge has arrived from Mel Schoen of Insight Driven Brand Consulting & Communication GmbH in Hamburg. "The research on typefaces ...also shows that older people who need a larger typeface can actually read it better when it is reversed out, say white on black. Apparently, the greater contrast helps where it used to get in the way."

Thanks to Mel and other members of our enchanted circle for pointing out my sloppy proof reading. This will be rectified forthwith. (Talk about mistakes in marketing. I'm an expert.)

PPS. How many of you noticed SWOT was spelled SWAT?
Saturday, April 08, 2006
  Politicians give marketers a bad name
"Don't tell my mother I'm in marketing. She thinks I am a prostitute." Old gag.
Why do advertising types, politicians and sales people wind up down the bottom of lists of trustworthy types when such surveys are conducted? Because we are seen as liars. Some people in marketing are liars. Many people in sales are liars. And everyone in politics is a liar.
Case in point: the Australian Government's "Work Choices" legisation. Sold to a gullible public as giving workers more choice and flexibility and as creating more job opportunities for them, the public sees now what it really means after the legislation came into effect.
It means more choices and greater flexibility for employers and fewer choices for workers.
The boss can now fire you because you didn't laugh at his joke. Or because he doesn't like your attitude. (Or because you won't have sex with him?) Bosses don't have to give a reason.
The lies told by Australian cabinent ministers and the Prime Minister about their knowledge of the Iraq food for oil scandal are now on the record... Australians don't care if their politicians lie. After all, what do you expect?
Levels of cynicism are high enough in our society without enshrining them in the public psyche as the ethical fabric of decent society.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
  Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 12
[ ] Letting your agency do your thinking for you. When all you hold in your hand is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Ad agencies are not capable of giving strategic advice about anything other than advertising. I’ve seen it time and again. They are consulted about a brand issue or marketing issue, and the solution is always a 30 second commercial.

[ ] Not capturing your corporate knowledge. Most organizations let their intellectual property walk out the door every night. Sometimes it doesn’t come back. Particularly if you are an ideas-based organization, you need to do the boring bits of recording projects and their results and building a corporate masterfile. Or you are like a leaky bucket.

[ ] Failing to turn over your marketing minds. It is not good for an organisation to allow the marketing director’s seat to be occupied by the same person for too long. I recently came across a case where the same guy had been in the job for 17 years. It’s not good for him – he is so busy defending the status quo (looking backwards) that he can’t move forward – and it’s obviously not good for the organization.
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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