The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
  Truth has many faces
Here is the last 2 weeks of "Michael's Marketing Thought-A-Day" email ezine ethingy. If you like what you see, sign up at

Confucious, when asked for a blessing that could contain a curse, hidden within its folds like a dagger, responded: "May you live in interesting times." We live in such times. Old securities are swept away. Living conditions are shifting. The world is in crisis at so many levels. But Confucious would tell you that the Chinese script for the word "crisis" is made of two characters, one representing 'danger' and one representing 'opportunity'. Instability creates opportunity. Every silver lining has to have a black cloud. The Industrial Revolution, which made our modern consumer society possible, was itself made possible by the Black Death, the plague which killed a third of the population of Europe. This disaster in turn made possible the agricultural surpluses which were converted into capital and invested in steam engine technology and factory production models. Shakespeare wrote: "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." The lesson: look for the silver lining, and patent it, secure distribution for it, promote it and sell truckloads of it.


This is not about politics. This is about marketing. The Australian public prefer as their leader a PM who they believe tells lies over his deputy who they believe tells the truth, according to a recent survey reported in the media. (Uh-oh...) Forty percent of Australian journalists say they can’t report the truth, according to a recent survey published on They have to shape their reports to suit their media company’s interests. The only organizations required by law to tell the truth are marketing companies. “Marketing” is a synonym for ‘rip off’, ‘rort’ and ‘con job’ in Australia. Yet if politicians and journalists were subject to the same regulatory regime, they’d have little to say. The Lesson: each one of us decides the price of truth and either pays it or is paid it.


I go through an interesting process coming up with these 'Thoughts". Occasionally something will come up in my daily work with agencies and clients. Yesterday an agency asked me to help them formulate a "Mission Statement". I think the statement that came out of the process should be adopted by all agencies:

"Our mission is to make our clients famous."

That's it. All other statements to this effect are merely derivative. What does the individual marketing executive want, in the final analysis? Not just successful campaigns and high ROI and profits. They want to be recognised as the author of that success. They ultimately want to be heroes and rewarded as such. Career progress, esteem of colleagues, industry profile, and a feeling of having achieved a new level of personal growth - arriving at a new self-image, breathing the pure exhilarating air of success. The agency shouldn't try to take all the glory. (But they all do. Fools.) Reflected glory is all any agency can afford or deserves.


There was a book written in the 1970s called 'The War of The Flea' about guerilla warfare of the type waged by the Vietnamese against the Americans and by the Iraqis and the Afghans and the Palestinians and the list goes on. Why the flea? Because there's and old story about a flea that could drive an elephant insane and send it packing. The little guy uses unconventional tactics to disrupt and eventually deter a much larger opponent. This is the strategy Richard Branson employs. Pick on a big, lumbering, self-indulgent market leader and harass his columns, set fire to his tents and destroy his baggage while his main force is arrayed in its splendor on the main battlefield. The guerilla decides where and when to engage the enemy, usually when they least expect it. He uses low cost weaponry. Branson's use of publicity stunts is a means of creating his own low cost media (eg. His law suits against British Airways, his round the world balloon flights, Sherman tanks down NY's Broadway announcing Virgin Cola's attack on Coke, etc.). Guerilla warriors use brain against brawn.


Who is your best prospect? Can you describe them? Can you say, without looking, what shoes they are likely to wear? Most companies don't know this fundamentally important piece of information. So you cannot afford expensive market research. There are alternatives. One is "marketing by walking around." At DJs, Brian Walsh - the man who ushered in "there's no other store like David Jones" - insisted that senior management man the tills for several hours per week, serving customers. American Express have been known to use senior management as telephonists when contacting large numbers of cardmembers by phone. Brian Walsh was able to spot a DJ's shopper walking down the street. Can you spot your prospects at 100 yards?


10 years ago Brandweek magazine offered the following seven tell-tale signs that a company is not marketing:

1. Sales are driven by price.
2. There is no other way of differentiating the offering from the competition.
3. A steady stream of disconnected sales gimmicks is used.
4. There is no unified plan for communicating the company's message to customers, the trade and the public.
5. Most sales leads come from the sale staff. Marketing exists to create a selling environment and generate prospects.
6. Longtime customers say "I didn't know you did that."
7. There is no customer or prospect database which can be used for marketing.

Now, are you in marketing? The key is having a plan and a program which aims to build equity in your business via growing customer relationships. Every tactic you employ should in some way promote your move in that direction.


The earliest form of ambient advertising was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. A prostitute had 'stamps' made of the soles of her sandles which pressed into the dust of the streets of the city the words "Follow Me, Boys" wherever she went. The fresher the message, the nearer she was to be found. Lesson: Guerilla marketing makes a lot out of a little. Where are your sandals?


Choosing a name for a baby or a brand is a left brain/right brain thing. Emotion and Intellect. On the one hand it's a little bit practical - we first developed names for each other so we could tell each other apart from the others and talk about you behind your back (literally). Otherwise conversations would be cumbersome. "Go and tell that caveman with the beard and the club to come and help us kill the sabre tooth tiger." "Which one?" "The one who smells like he needs a bath." "But we all smell like that..." SO a name is for differentiation. (If you want a little differentiation - to say 'we're in the category, but we're the same as everyone else' - choose a name like all the others - the way pharmaceutical companies do: Zanadec,Zabadec, Zordec, Zordex, etc. If you want a lot of differentiation, call your son Sue and your airline Virgin.) On the other hand, choosing a name is a little bit creative - the name expresses some of the emotion and colour and personality of the child or brand. When it is to have emotional associations you have to think of the following: what are they? Do they fit the tone and manner statement attached to the Brand Positioning Strategy? (What? You don't have one? Better get one quick!) The name... What does it sound like when you say it? What does it look like on paper? On a business card? Does everything about it fit the image you want to portray? Because a name is forever...


I always wanted to call one of my kids "Fantastic". Fantastic Kiely. Now there's a name to live up to. Everyday they'd have to be Fantastic. "And who might you be, sonny?" "I'm Fantastic, Sir." A name is something you have to live up to.

Other babies' names I'll never get to assign to my children: Fabulous, Special, Loveable, Always Right, and Wow!
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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