The four essentials to developing brilliant creative ideas – and there are only four…


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I’ve lived in Melbourne twice in my life and visit most years. One thing I quickly learned was there are only four colours worn by the locals (apart from their AFL team’s). It doesn’t matter what time of year, it’s always the same four – they are:

  • Black
  • Black
  • Black
  • Black


I was reminded of this when teaching the Principles of Advertising at university recently. I used an example for the students I developed years ago when training young advertising executives on the job.

There are only four essential things you need to develop brilliant creative. Without these four you will fail dismally. Yet you’d be surprised how many digi-kids don’t use them. They just use hope as a strategy for producing ideas.

So here they are dear reader – the four essentials to brilliant creative work:

  • The brief
  • The brief
  • The brief
  • The brief


Without a clear brief you are groping in the dark. You cannot work on the theory of “you’ll know it when you see it” when it comes to recognising a good idea – and usually without any connection to long term strategy or brand direction.

The obvious benefit of a written brief is that it eliminates the danger of interpretation which occurs with a verbal or no brief.


Here’s another example I developed years ago for teaching briefing. I’m told it’s been used by others who also teach. Clear your mind for a few seconds. Now, what do you visualise when you read the word “rabbit?

You obviously have an image of a rabbit in your mind’s eye? Is it white, brown, grey or chocolate? Hopping or sitting still? Nibbling on food? Being cuddled or sitting in the cross hairs of a gun sight? Maybe you’re a Monty Python fan and visualise a killer rabbit? Whatever you’re imagining, it will be very different from other people’s interpretation.


A brief gives you direction. It’s your creative road map designed to save you wasting time going down dry gullies. Both David Ogilvy and his creative protege Norman Berry have been attributed to stating the creative ode: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.”  This has nothing to do with budgie smugglers BTW.


Give me the freedom of a tight brief…

The tighter the brief the more relevant creative options you can create. Whereas a woolly brief (or no brief) sends you in too many irrelevant directions and wastes time, money and resources. That’s why a written brief, accompanied by visual stimuli remove confusion caused by interpretation.

My old boss David Ogilvy stated “search the world and steal the best.” But he meant it for inspiration, not plagiarism. Yet so many digital marketers use search engines as their creative resource. They enter “best <insert category> advertising” into Google and then copy what they can. This is not a bad idea as the starting point for inspiration, but if you don’t have a brief, how will it fit your brand? And there are limits to how often an idea or execution can be copied.

Every agency has their own version of a briefing document – if you need one, contact me and I’ll send you an example.

Then again, you could just search Google for “world’s best creative brief”…

creative brief

Hint to Telstra – Australia wants your service to work properly, Australia is not interested in your rebranding….


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On Friday I received an email from a computer at Telstra. It was an announcement that mainly caused me to shake my head in dismay.

The subject line reads: See our new brand before Australia does

True dear reader. Apparently rebranding is the priority of the company that specialises in regular service outages, digitally disrupting businesses from functioning, preventing kids from doing homework and generally stopping people connecting in the connected world.

Someone needs to explain to Telstra what digital disruption really means.

The disruptions have happened so often that Telstra’s compensation offer of a free data day, now falls on deaf ears. Australia (to use Telstra’s collective noun for all people and businesses in this country) is fed up – we just want our internet and phones to work. After all that’s what we pay for. Well we pay more than that – if we want Telstra to mail monthly invoices to us, because we cannot rely on their internet to deliver it by email, we have to pay north of $3 an invoice. If this was a third world country there’d be riots in the streets.

film not video

The email content states:

There is nothing more important to us than our customers, so before we share the next chapter of our brand story with the world on Sunday night, we wanted to share it with you.

On what planet do these people live? What Telstra customers have bookmarked the Telstra brand story, anxiously awaiting the next chapter for their reading pleasure? Change hands please, we customers are begging you.

The message continues with a link to a video and a subtitle “Click to watch the film“. As they say, the devil is in the details and I suspect if you click you’ll watch a video not a film.

This ignorance of small data is what Telstra is famous for, apart from digital disruptions. Here’s an email Telstra sent to me two days before Friday’s rebranding message.

The subject line reads: Malcolm, here’s a hot deal on a Samsung Galaxy S7 and Tab A 8.0

Samsung offer

Samsung 2

There’s even a free footy pass for the two codes I don’t follow – just another small data glitch…

Samsung 3

Note to Telstra: I am currently about six months into a two-year iPhone plan with you. Why would I even consider switching to a Samsung now?

The computers at Telstra must know what phone and plan I’m on – aren’t I one of those customers referred to in the rebranding message – who are supposedly more important than anything else?

This is the simplest and smallest of data – a customer’s record. How does Telstra continue to get things so wrong? Why is mediocrity such a respectable KPI at Telstra?

But hey, why get the small customer data correct when you’re doing a rebrand?

In case you are waiting with baited breath dear reader, the rebrand is all about the magic of technology. And I must say it does reflect Telstra’s technology – it magically disappears when you want to use it.

You can watch the magic of technology here, or maybe you can put the garbage out, you’re call.

As a shareholder I’m so pleased Telstra is focusing on rebranding, rather than providing a service that works when I need it to. That’s sure to keep the analysts and the customers happy.

Gotta go – need to put the garbage out.

17th century practices drive dynamic digital disruption dollars…


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Once again this week, I saw another media article about the amazing digital disruptor, the Dollar Shaver Club. By all accounts it is a very successful company. And so it should be. It has taken a 17th century publishing model and used 21st century technology to digitally disrupt an industry. Amazing stuff.

After all, who would have thought people would order a product remotely, rather than walk into a store, and get the company to deliver the product to them by mail? This type of innovative thinking is digital dynamite.

To think that a company can completely disrupt human behaviour by applying one of the most continually successful analogue business models to a digitally-based business, well it’s just business gold.

Let’s analyse this shall we…

ANALYZE THIS, Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, 1999. © Warner Bros.

The business model is called the subscription model and it uses a negative option offer.

A negative option purchase is one whereby the customer agrees to have goods or services provided automatically, and the customer must either pay for the service or specifically decline it in advance of invoicing.

And this may come as a surprise to some of you dear readers, but Dollar Shaver Club was not the first to offer a negative option. Strange but true.


Research indicates the subscription model first started in the publishing industry in the 17th century in the UK. Over time it expanded to the US in the 19th century when chapbooks (cheaply printed paper covered books) were sold door-to-door.

Regular readers will know that door-to-door selling is now one of the primary channels for digital distruptors like Uber, Hello Fresh, et al.

door to door

As markets grew and new technology disrupted society – automobiles, telephone, courier services, faster postal services – the subscription industry boomed. By the mid 20th century you could order books, magazines, vinyl records, plates, stamps, collectibles, vitamins, cosmetics and food – all delivered to your home, using a negative option payment method.

By the end of the 20th century in addition to the items above, I’d worked with clients selling wine, nappies, car washes, food, CDs, DVDs, education, tools, newsletters, coffee and more on a negative option subscription model.

In fact, any regularly consumed item is perfect for a subscription model – as long as the cost of delivery is not prohibitive. Many business software programmes are now sold on a subscription service – including this blog platform for example.

So let’s quickly look at Dollar Shaver Club.


In Australia they provide razors for either $4, $7 or $10 per month. They mainly promote their business using the digital medium of television. You select the offer you want from the website and then keep an eye on your letterbox. Your razors arrive by post and that’s one less item you need to worry about when you go shopping. Marvelous stuff.

These digital disruptors are bloody geniuses. Who’d have thought hey?

But congratulations to the lads who built the business. They understand that technology changes – human nature doesn’t. Humans all love a bargain and as the laziest species on the planet, we love things made easier for us. Tap into those two emotional triggers and you can make money.

Seems the adage is becoming standard practice – the more things change, the more they stay the same…

So in summary, here’s the lesson: if you want to go forward in digital disruption, just look backwards…

I’m off to a meeting, better have a shower – where’s my razor?

Why most shared content has no impact on your brand…


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Any marketer, advertising agent, researcher or social scientist worth their salt, knows for any marketing content to resonate with, let alone influence, the typical punter, it must be consumed numerous times in a short space of time. Seeing something just once, rarely makes a serious impression (though it is rated as such in media terms – an impression that is).

Unless the message is designed as a direct response message, giving prospects all the information they need to ‘act now’, most marketing messages hardly penetrate our grey matter if only seen once.

Just look at the way we learn at school – through repetition. A message has to be repeatedly consumed for it to eventually make it through our distracted craniums and finally embed itself into our conscience. This is called learning. It’s a rare human indeed, who can read or view something only once and then remember the content.


Information retention comes through repetition not from glancing at content

So what does this mean in the world of digital chewing gum for the brain? This is the world where the people mostly share content in social channels, which requires less than a metaphorical chew to consume. The receivers of said content quickly scan it, dismiss it, then start to chew on the next piece of content, ad infinitum.

digital chewing gum

The majority of content shared by consumers is mostly images, video, memes, jokes, fundraising appeals and personal stories. People rarely share words or phrases, particularly lots of words like those populating ebooks, whitepapers, brochures and the like. Of course people communicate back and forth using words, but it’s not sharing in the content marketing sense.

The act of sharing has less to do with the content being shared and more to do with narcissism. “Look at me, I’m sharing this before anyone else” or “look at me I’m sharing something – how many likes did it get?” or “look at me, I liked something”.

The average adult attention span is now roughly 8 seconds (just less than a goldfish) and ASS Times keep getting shorter and shorter – less than 1 second for many image-based channels like Instagram. So the ability for any snack-size marketing content to resonate at all in the memory of consumers, is nigh impossible. Did you like that piece of digi-jargon – “snack-size”?

attention span

And what about all that thought leadership content floating in cyberspace? At best, much of it remains in the ‘download folder’ of computers, because we’re too busy to print it or consume it in any depth. It’s why good quality email messages to opt-in subscriber lists, along with blogs, are still the best performing content online.

Ironically the content marketing failure is being driven by the content itself and FOMO. I’ve talked about the infobesity problem before. The average punter is waterboarded with content from friends, strangers, government, institutions and brands every second of the day. Add to this deluge, the modern dilemma of FOMO forcing consumers to have minimal engagement with content, and you can see why brands gain almost zero benefit.

Consumers know there’s loads more content coming down the digital pipe and they don’t want to miss it. So they quickly and disengagingly ‘like’ something, or ignore it, before moving to the next set of pixels.

content hipster

Hipster training to consume marketing content…

Just as we chew gum without thinking and then spit it out, it’s the same with content. We consume it without thinking and with almost zero emotional engagement. We swipe, pause, swipe – in a constant process to churn through the non-stop current of content. And the pause is usually shorter than the time it takes to spell ‘pause’. And even if consumers do take a few seconds to read or view your content once, will it really make a lasting impression?

Hmmm that reminds me, I’d better check my emails. Oh look there’s a dog…


P.S. Please feel free to share this content with as many as you like:)

Youi’s awesome marketing automation is still failing awesomely – even for ex-customers…


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Regular readers of my musings may recall the appallingly mediocre service I received at the hands of Youi. I eventually rang them to ensure they had cancelled my policy, because they were still charging my credit card.

The lady who served me was wonderful and agreed I had received shocking service. She fully understood why I was leaving and was going to raise the issues with her supervisor. The supervisor was probably an awesome supervisor, most likely wearing lycra and a cape. After all, Youi constantly tell us how awesome they think they are.

awesome service

An awesome Youi supervisor?

At the end of the call, the customer service lady said I would receive an automated survey. I mentioned I was aware of the survey (see previous post). I explained it was designed by fools and didn’t allow me to rate individuals like her really well, as it wanted an overall rating for Youi.

She agreed the survey was badly designed and wished me luck. And you guessed it folks – the survey never arrived.

I haven’t been a Youi customer for a couple of months now. So I ask you dear reader, what do you think arrived in my inbox yesterday? Yes, that’s right, another Youi email asking me to “share my winter warmers” – as if I was still a customer. There’s even a hashtag #winterwarmers to create digi-credibility.

Here’s the first screen:

Youi 2

Malcolm, do you have a winter warmer to share?

What is going on at Youi? Why is the marketing automation so appallingly bad? They have my complaint on record, in numerous blogs, social media posts, emails, phone calls and text messages. I’ve cancelled my policy. I am an ex-customer. As John Cleese stated in the famous Monty Python dead parrot sketch; “this is an ex-parrot, he’s ceased to be”.


And I’ve ceased to be a Youi customer – yet their marketing automation technology is still sending me customer communications – I bet their digital marketers call it content marketing? Why do they accept such marketing mediocrity?

Here’s the second screen:

Youi survey 2

Even if I was a Youi customer, how am I supposed to remember the name of the person who served me, so I can mention them in my winter warmer? Certainly their CRM system wouldn’t be able to identify anyone linked to my account – that would require a simple computer system that works. And it’s pretty obvious Youi’s doesn’t – work that is.

How is it possible that I cancel my policy, have a customer service person state they are raising the reason for my cancellation with their awesome supervisor, and Youi still gets it sooo wrong?

Youi’s ridiculous tag line is “we get you”. Well they (and their marketing automation) obviously get you riled, frustrated, upset and p***d-off at the time-wasting they cause and the lack of service. Not to mention the lack of faith they create in modern data-driven automated marketing.

Worse still, even if I was a customer, they want me to go to their Facebook page and help grow Zuckerberg’s bank account, as well as influence my social feed to Youi-oriented posts for the next month. What planet is the Youi marketing team living on?

So dear reader, should I give them a red hot winter warmer and share my awesome customer experience journey? (I had to get some marketing jargon into the post) If you have a minute, please let me know your thoughts thanks.


Here’s a winter warmer for you…

And if I am no longer a customer, does it mean Youi is in breach of the Privacy or Spam Act, by using my email address without my awesome permission?

Hmmm, maybe I should send an awesome complaint to the Privacy Commission – then Youi would really get me…


Uber and other startups starting to smell a lot like 1999 – again…


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I was working in New York just prior to the first dot.con collapse. I still recall the chancers and opportunists standing on street corners with suitcases full of business cards. They were literally handing them out to any random passer-by, as the primary way to get traffic to their websites. An early form of geo-targeting by the first generation of digital marketers.

business card

The activity reeked of desperation, but hey, they were heady times. Rich veins of gold were just waiting to be tapped by the dot.con zealots.

I’ve been reminded of those times again recently. It seems the street hustlers who harass you to support a charity, are now competing for sidewalk space with the latest cyber-hustlers selling online retail and App-based services.

Hello Fresh promoters are everywhere. I mentioned them in my last post – they are major users of print distributed by mail, letterbox, inserts and face-to-face (or hand-to-hand as some now call it).


Interestingly, in a few short months Hello Fresh has moved from $30 off your first order to $50 off your first order. That’s not a good trend and indicates a very competitive market with too many suppliers. Watch this space for brand consolidation in the near future. Like 1999, the predictions are that some of these home delivered food brands won’t last.

hello fresh 2

Hello Fresh

And sometimes fate steps in. Just as I was finishing editing this post there was a knock at my door and a charming lady selling Hello Fresh appeared. She even agreed to a photo for my blog. I didn’t become a customer as we are well-stocked for food. But what an innovative channel – knocking on doors to sell things. Did anyone see that digital disruption coming? Well it certainly disrupted dinner.

Hello Fresh door knocker

Helpling also uses printed inserts, brochures in letterboxes and hand-to-hand via street walkers to grow its business. Like all online retailers, they use that amazing digi-breakthrough of giving away a discount with your first purchase. This is a disruptive technique used by marketers for, hmmm, since the beginning of time!

hello 2


And this week, outside a CBD train station in Sydney, an Uber street walker shoved this in my hand.

Uber 2

Uber 1

Now who in their right-digi-mind would have thought it possible?

The disruptive taxi booking service for the App generation, is resorting to handing out printed leaflets in the streets, with discount offers, to acquire new customers?

What’s really really really really old, is new again – again:)


And just to clarify other digital myths doing the rounds:

  • Uber is not the world’s biggest taxi service. It’s one of the world’s biggest taxi booking services.
  • Airbnb is not the world’s biggest hotel – it’s one of the biggest accommodation booking services.

But why let the truth get in the way of a good digi-story about the disruption industry? It seems to me, the old quote applies more and more these days – “the more things change, the more they stay the same…”

Though it is ironic that by using fashionable marketing jargon like “disruptive” and disruption” I sound sooo 2016, yet these alleged disruptive brands smell like, umm well, so 1999…

The essential media channel most successful digital start-ups can’t do without…


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Here’s a quick quiz for you digital marketing experts:

Question: What do all these online brands have in common?

Google, Uber, Kogan, Catch of the Day, Deals Direct, The Iconic, Hello Fresh, Helpling, styletread, carnextdoor, suppertime, Charles Tyrwhitt, Naked Wines, Virgin Wines, Marley Spoon and loads of other digital retailers…
(Hint: Direct marketers have an unfair advantage here)

Answer: they all rely on print as their most valuable media channel for acquiring new customers.

That’s right folks – print technology. You know, that ancient old-fashioned relic of a media channel, arrogantly ignored by so many naive digital marketers?


printed inserts are key to new customer acquisition

FYI a quick piece of digital advice – if you are an alleged digital marketing expert who advises clients to only use digital channels, or a digital marketer who only uses digital channels, you may need to rethink what you do. Because if you are not using the proven channels and only using the (often) unproven digital channels, you really should leave the industry. You’re giving it a bad name and costing marketers a sizeable fortune.

I’ve written previously about Google’s use of direct mail. You’ve probably received some of their mailings. So let me share the ParcelPush story with you.

Bjorn Behrendt is a successful German entrepreneur with a background in online direct marketing – also known as digital marketing. He launched styletread, an online shoe store, in Australia. He then sold it for loads of money. Now he’s launched another three digital start-ups in Australia to service digital retailers. And these start-ups are all print-based businesses.

Gotta love it when one of the fastest growing digital start-ups, which exists to service digital start-ups, is providing print services to those digital start-ups!

If you’ve worked in direct marketing, particularly online retail or mail order, you’ll probably already use printed inserts in fulfillment parcels to acquire customers. This channel is at least 50 years old.

But if you don’t have any DM experience this channel might be new to you. Bjorn discovered printed inserts when he owned styletread. Loads of other online retailers asked if they could put their inserts in styletread’s shoe boxes when they were delivered to customers – for a fee of course.

Long story short, Bjorn partnered with Australian Craig Morris and launched ParcelPush – a specialist business owning the rights to access online retailer’s fulfillment boxes/parcels. They pay to insert a branded envelope into them. Then they sell inserts into those envelopes to other online retailers. For example, in the Aussie Farmers Direct fulfillment box, they insert an envelope branded “Aussie Farmers Direct” and it is filled with third party offers and samples.


This has become one of the cheapest channels for online retailers to acquire new customers. After all, they are making offers to people who have already bought a product online, so these prospects don’t need to be educated to shop online. It’s the same process as mail-order companies that used inserts to convert existing mail-order customers to buy other products by mail-order. What’s old is new again – again.

More importantly they are using tactile media – the media that affects all five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Digital media only affect sight, sound and touch, so are relatively limited in their customer engagement ability. (I had to get customer engagement into a marketing blog to demonstrate my digi-credibleness). As I’ve said before the physical nearly always outperforms the virtual.

Most digital marketers struggle to make digital channels profitable for customer acquisition. The digital channels are much better for retention and repeat business.

Here are some samples of the inserts – all shapes and sizes:

Parcel Push 2

Parcel Push

In addition, and as a result of the success of ParcelPush, they’ve also launched two other print-based businesses: – this is a competitor to the Yellow Envelope and other distributors of catalogues and brochures into letterboxes. – this is an online print business. Who’d have thought we needed another printer? But the ParcelPush print volumes have made it possible to offer good value printing – and distribution.

So if you want to succeed with digital marketing, here’s some career advice. Find a grey-haired direct marketer and buy them a drink. Then sit back and listen. They’ve lived through and created more disruption in marketing than anyone else in history. And they continue to do so. You’ll be surprised how fast your career takes off.

But remember, just because digital marketing techniques are new to you, doesn’t mean they’re new to the world. Technology changes, but human’s emotional reasons for buying remain constant…

How would you treat a loyal customer of 26 years?


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When I was a National Marketing Manager at TNT, I had to fly Ansett domestically because TNT owned the airline. Consequently I only flew Qantas internationally. But in 1990, I joined the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme. Last year was the 25th anniversary of my custom and last month, my 26th came and went quietly.


I’ve flown with them every year since 1990 and spent six figures in airfares. Like many of you, I have been up and down the Qantas ladder of membership. At my peak, I was what’s known as a CIP and my membership status was something like Super Godzilla Platinum. For the uninitiated, a CIP is a Commercially Important Passenger. The CIP acronym is more valuable than VIP – it means you pay serious dollars for your seat, whereas VIPs may not pay at all for the privilege.

The reason I was a CIP, was because an over-indulgent ad agency paid me to travel the world’s busiest route – Sydney/Melbourne – on a weekly basis, sitting at the pointy end of the plane. Eventually I left that role and my travel action declined. I gradually dropped from Super Godzilla Platinum to Shiny Gold and eventually arrived at the humble Dull Silver level – though apparently it’s a Lifetime Membership. Woo Hoo.

During the time I slid down the Qantas eligibility pole for a free beer at the bar and a couple of party pies at the bain marie, I also became a Velocity member at Virgin.


Lifetime Silver means no more free party pies or beer on tap…

So I ask you dear marketer, why have I not heard one word from Qantas? If you had a customer who had done business continuously with you for 26 years, wouldn’t you like to know why they’d reduced the amount of business they did with you? Wouldn’t you pick up the phone and ask?

Wouldn’t you like to know if you still get 100% of their flying wallet – to use some marketing jargon? Has your service been the problem? Does your customer now fly with your competitor?


Have you left us for another?

I’m not sure how many customers you have who’ve spent continuously with you for 26 years, but I’m sure you don’t have too many. But if you did have such a customer, aren’t these the typical questions you would ask if they stopped doing business with you?

So why don’t Qantas marketers care about the people who pay their salaries? Is it because they make so much money flogging the personal data of members to FF partners, who in turn flog stuff back to said members? Is the airline business so lucrative and simple, they can afford to lose long term customers?

Is suspect the reason is simple – they rely on marketing automation. The computer tracks flight purchases and allocates ‘status’ based on transactions. And we all know how risky it is to hand over your customer service to computers. More often than not, marketing automation equates to marketing disaster.

Epic Marketing Fails Banner

There is no layer of human intelligence being applied to the BIG DATA at Qantas. Worse still they’re ignoring the small data that matters. Unless of course it’s a budgetary issue – but you’d have to be concerned if the margins in your business restrict you from calling your customers to talk with them?

I’m obviously not the most profitable customer for Qantas, but I have been a customer for more than two and a half decades. You’d think even the lamest marketer would acknowledge the fact? After all, the management could afford to pay a $90 million bonus to the staff last year? But hey, why feign interest in customers?

If you want further evidence, here’s what happened to a friend of mine. Her partner (also a friend of mine) died suddenly from DVT, following an international flight. While sorting out his estate, my grieving friend rang Qantas late on a Friday afternoon to ask what will happen to her partner’s FF points. (you need to plan this in your Will too, dear reader)

She was told to get back to them within 48 hours with the name of a relative to whom they could transfer the points. So after a discussion over the weekend, she rang Qantas on Monday, only to be told she had missed her 48 hour window! The points were to be forfeited.

Suffice to say, she gave them a piece of her mind and eventually coerced the customer service staff into allowing the points to be transferred, somewhat begrudgingly.

Gotta luv the Spirit of Oz.

So I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised about their attitude towards one customer of 26 years…

How the Connection Paradox and your A.S.S. Time ruin content marketing performance…


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A few years ago I coined the term “The Connection Paradox“. It refers to the conundrum whereby the more people you are connected to on social media, the less of their posts you see.

It is simple maths – the more connections you have, the more posts will be sent to you. But given there are still only 24 hours in the day, you have less time in which to see each post, so you miss most of them. Unless of course you have no life.

The truth is, just as most articles and classified ads in newspapers were never read, but they “reached” the audience, the majority of social posts and marketing content never gets seen, let alone read – even though it reaches your newsfeed.

Apparently, the maximum organic posts a FB user gets from their connections is between 3% and 6%, depending upon which expert you ask. So users miss the vast majority of posts unless they invest hours searching and scrolling. And now with Facebook and Instagram only serving posts based on user behaviour with previous posts, well it’s time to cue the banjo music.


The posts you get are related to previous posts – creates strange relations…








Both LinkedIn and Facebook batch updates for users. When you click on the updates button, the updates automatically download so fast you suffer a virtual waterboarding, as you cannot cope with the inundation of posts being digitally jammed down your throat.


Batching posts causes virtual waterboarding when you download them.









Most updates disappear below the fold, never to be seen. Worse still if you are reading them on a mobile device – you have to scroll even further to find what was just downloaded. While you’re doing that, another batch builds ready to waterboard you again at the tap of a button.

This led me to coin another term – Your A.S.S. Time. In case you’re wondering, I can generate the buzzwords as good as any of the cyber-hustlers.

Your A.S.S. Time is your Average Social Screen Time. On Instagram for example, it’s often less than one second. For LinkedIn it’s maybe 15 seconds before you move on. Thanks to scrolling technology on smart devices, people’s A.S.S. Time gets less and less, as more and more content is consciously ignored.

People have no choice – we are becoming time-poor, infobesity-ridden carbon-based life forms hooked by the dopamine effect of the next thing to appear on a screen.

Consequently the majority of content from content marketing, never ever gets seen, let alone read.

So this creates another paradox…

If you believe the content marketers, to practice influencer marketing, you must generate lots of followers and do lots of content marketing.

Following the obvious thread – if you have lots of followers and they are also posting, because they want to be thought leaders and do content marketing too, then by definition – nobody’s being influenced – because none of the content gets consumed, as we’re too busy creating thought leading marketing content for our influencer marketing.

And there’s still only 24 hours in the day to create and consume content.

Maybe “content marketing” should be renamed circumlocutious marketing?

Sadly the way we’re heading digitally, I suspect the whole marketing industry might get renamed the “mediocrity industry” – but that’s another blog…

More than ever before, customers want to be sold too…


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There is some serious B.S. being peddled claiming human DNA has miraculously changed in the last few years. The peddlers (known as content marketers) claim people don’t want to be sold anything anymore. They claim businesses that try to sell things to their customers and prospects will fail.

I’m not kidding, such absurd claims are being made at marketing seminars – if it wasn’t so sad it would be hilarious.

The claim of course, is complete rubbish and without supporting evidence.


content marketers shoveling content

The plain fact is this – people love to be sold to by good salespeople. And when they have a great sales experience they rave about it and call it “excellent customer service”. They tell friends at social functions and on social media. Some marketers even label them advocates.

Great sales technique doesn’t make the customer uncomfortable. It doesn’t sound “salesy” – to use an emerging piece of jargon. A good sales person is highly regarded by customers. And we all have our favourites, whether they be at our local cafe, clothing store, pub, hairdresser, mechanic, IT supplier, butcher, baker or grocer.

But when it comes to lousy salespeople or poor sales messages, people share a universal dislike. Since the beginning of time, people have disliked them – it is not a new sentiment just because of the internet or claims by content marketers.

How many times have you threatened to take your business elsewhere because a salesperson wasn’t available to serve you? We all love salespeople.

So to push a self-interest content marketing barrow and state all a marketer has to do is publish more and more non-sales information and the world will flock to your door, is pure fantasy. The content marketers may be smoking the wacky tobacky, but the punters aren’t having a bar of it.

wacky tobacky

Are content marketers smoking the wacky tobacky?

The common thread among modern consumers is they are time-poor and suffer from severe infobesity – much of this caused by useless content marketing messages that don’t give people a reason to act, or consider a brand. Content for content’s sake. Yet the last thing people want in their busy lives is more content.

Human beings are the laziest species on the planet – we always seek the path of least resistance. One of the key reasons apps are so popular for example, is their ease of use. So marketers have to make it as easy as possible for people to buy – which is why giving punters incentives, offers, propositions and reasons to “buy now” are key to getting sales.

To quote my old boss, David Ogilvy, “you cannot bore people into buying“. Yet content marketers are adamant you can. Waste more of people’s valuable time and you’re guaranteed to sell them more, they preach to the gullible.

Let’s examine some facts shall we:

The single biggest innovation in online shopping was an in-your-face sales tool. It was invented by Amazon – and customers love it! They call it customer service, because that’s what great selling is all about – serving customers and prospects well. The technique is now used on all major transaction websites.

Here’s an example with which you are all familiar – you visit Amazon and click on a book you are considering buying. The site then tells you “customers who bought this item also bought…”


Look out, Amazon is daring to “sell things”…

Even “Facebook with a necktie” (known as LinkedIn) uses this technique. When you view a person’s profile, you are prompted with a message “People also viewed” and there is a list of people’s mug shots linking to their profiles. This is a sales technique as old as retail selling – suggesting alternatives to get customers to buy at least one option. It’s a sales tool, not a non-sales tool.

Companies have always published non-sales information, it is not a new invention. And they made the information available at every point possible along the “customer journey”. Sorry, I had to drop the journey buzzword at least once. Some of you ancient marketers will remember such non-sales content as brochures, websites, booklets, newsletters, educational videos, signage, on-pack instructions, seminars, user manuals – the list goes on.

This is all designed to assist customers and prospects to make buying decisions, or as after sales service. Why would the punters want more ‘information’?

Yet the content marketers are claiming the whole world has changed just because people can do some online research before buying. This is stretching credibility beyond truth. Just because a marketer can reach a prospective customer in more places than ever before, does not automatically translate into “don’t sell to consumers, just post information as much as possible“.

used content marketing

wanna read content rather than buy a product?

By all means, help build your brand by publishing relevant content that cost-effectively drives people to a sale, or keeps them coming back after they’ve bought. But make it easy for the punters to buy – they are already inundated with infobesity and can’t be bothered doing all the work themselves.

So please, you self-interested content marketers, stop the lying about content marketing and making fake claims all a brand has to do to succeed, is publish non-sales content. It’s dishonest. Brands have always published non-sales content, as well as sales content – and it’s the sales content that has the biggest impact on the business and always will.

I’m going on a customer journey to get a drink of water from the kitchen. Better check some influencers to see what non-sales content they have, so I can make my buying decision – do I get cold water from the fridge, just run water from the tap, or maybe drink sparkling water from a bottle? After all, I want to ensure my water-drinking customer experience journey is the best it can be…