At last, CMO’s dominate the news, but it’s the wrong C-Word…

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As you well-know dear reader the marketing industry loves its flashy job titles. Though when I first started working in marketing, the most senior roles were Marketing Director, National Marketing Manager, VP Marketing, or a mashup depending upon geography. For example, APAC Regional Marketing Director.

But we’re a funny lot we marketers. We weren’t happy because we believed we weren’t taken seriously at Board level. We took umbrage that very few Board Directors were marketers. Boards generally included finance and general management, HR, but rarely were there any marketing honchos.

So, to alleviate this perceived problem of status, we created a new marketing job title. One that reflected how we saw ourselves – one that elevated us to the C-Suite (wherever that is located). We became Chief Marketing Officers.

With a C-Word title, we had to get a seat on the Board – after all, we were now “Chiefs” just like the CEO, CFO, CIO etc. I declare a hand here. I’ve been a National Marketing Manager, Marketing Director and a Chief Marketing Officer among other titles – all ordained, not designed.

But even with the C-Word title, marketers are still thin on the ground in Boardrooms. So I was surprised recently when I was reviewing the popular media, because right there in headlines around the world were CMO’s.

CMO’s are all over the media…

Everywhere I looked; “The UK CMO says…” or “Deputy CMO states…How important are CMOs now – they even have a deputy? The acronym CMO appears constantly on the ticker tape across the bottom of news screens – CMO has almost entered the vernacular.

There are now Deputy CMO’s…

But there’s a small problem. In marketing parlance, the CMO being referred to is the wrong C-Word. In the current COVID-Crisis, CMO stands for Chief Medical Officer, not Chief Marketing Officer.

They can even point to charts like Chief Marketing Officers can…

“Holy Handles Batman what will they call themselves now?” I hear you ask. Years of lobbying to be taken seriously and the most senior marketing job title has been usurped by the medical fraternity.

Damn and blast – we’ll have to design a new descriptor for our fabulousness. Something that describes our importance to society and businesses at large. But what will we use?

It needs to reflect the humble nature of our industry, titles like:

  • BCMO – Big Chief Marketing Officer?
  • CML – Chief Marketing Legend?
  • SCMO – Super-Chief Marketing Officer?
  • DDMAO – Data Driven Marketing & Advertising Officer?
  • DDCEDNEMG – Data-Driven Customer Experience Digitally Native Engagement Marketing God?
  • DFM – Damn-Fine Marketer?
  • LCP – Lords of the Coloured Pencils
  • TMB – That Marketing Bloke  (maybe that’s not politically correct).

But what is clear, is we can no longer be called CMO’s. It’s too confusing, as people naturally assume CMO describes a medical title.

This is not unusual for acronyms to create confusion among the executive ranks. I was asked to pitch for a major tourism account and to provide examples of my direct marketing expertise in the category. I presented a direct response TVC for a 5-star resort, direct response press ads and inserts for hotels and destinations, then was promptly asked by the CMO to stop my presentation.

The CMO said he wanted me to present Direct Mail (which I had yet to get to). I explained that mail was but one media in which you conduct direct marketing. His staff asked me to step outside, while they ‘discussed’ the definition of direct marketing with the hapless CMO. I returned to complete my presentation and was eventually awarded the business.

My mate Drayton Bird once got caught up in the acronym problem. He flew from London to NY to talk to Board members about CRM (not sure if a CMO was there). He was stopped 20 minutes into his presentation and asked what the hell he was talking about. He said Customer Relationship Management. They said they wanted a presentation about Cause Related Marketing. Go figure?

This is a weighty topic folks, and given that our very own C-Word now risks getting lost in translation – your suggestions are welcome please…

A simple phone call goes a long way in good and bad times…

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As most of you readers already know, in tough times the marketing rule of thumb is to keep investing in your marketing. Though it’s easier said than done if your business is closed and your customers don’t have jobs.

But that being said – there has never been a better time for real contact, as against digital contact. As I’ve shared previously, there is a heap of COVID-CRAP in our inboxes, most of it is a complete waste of effort and completely ignored.

So I ask you folks, “How many of you have rung your customers recently to have a real conversation?” Just put in a call to check in and see how your customers are and if you can help them – with anything?

If not, may I suggest you consider a phone or video call – sooner rather than later. The reason is simple: if you’re not, your competitors are probably doing so. If you are claiming as you read “I cannot afford to call my customers” – you may want to revise your business model. If you can’t afford to call or mail a letter to your customers, you will lose quite a substantial amount of business – in good and bad times.

Why didn’t you call?

Most SaaS companies lose huge volumes of clients because they never call them – they rely on marketing technology (martech for the buzzword lovers) to deliver their personal communications, immediately de-personalising the experience for their customers.

LinkedIn is guilty as charged. I tried the “Premium” service and after a year of not enjoying any premium service, I didn’t renew. All I got from LinkedIn was email to remind me to pay my renewal. Now, because LinkedIn is not very good at its “small data” I keep getting offers to trial the Premium service.

How hard is it for LinkedIn to pick up the phone and ask why I left them, or to block advertising a service I cancelled, so as not to irritate me? But hey – maybe they don’t understand lifetime value?

Here’s a simple example of the value of talking to your customers:
My elderly father is a member at his local licensed sports club – he no longer competes, but visits for dinner or lunch regularly. He isn’t known, he’s just one of thousands of members. Last week his phone rang – it’s a landline. The club’s welfare officer was checking in to see how my father was doing and if he needed anything. They were checking on all members aged over 70 – a  simple use of small data that made a big impact.

Nobody from the club has ever rung my father in his life. But he thought it was wonderful that the club would consider calling him – he’s told everyone and can’t wait for it to reopen so he can enjoy a meal with a glass or three of wine.

Can’t wait to get back to the club to splurge on a Schnitty…

Imagine what your customers might say if you called them?
Here’s another example – I’ve written about this previously. A major office supplies company in Australia was keen to migrate its customers to online ordering to reduce the call centre workload – and cut some costs. They company mails annual catalogues to customers and research shows the catalogue stays on file until the next edition is mailed. Customers usually order with the catalogue on their desk.

It didn’t take them long to discover a problem with sales. The customers who moved to online ordering were ordering less per order than those who rang the call centre. They weren’t shopping more frequently either. So sales dropped as business moved online.

They company launched a new strategy – before they shipped the online orders, they called the customers (by phone) and advised the order was about to be dispatched, asking if the customer wanted to add anything to the order. Inevitably, using historical order data, the customer service representative up-sold the customer and increased the order value. The company has increased its call centre to accommodate both types of online ordering – telephone and data lines.

And by how much can I increase your order today?

So, if you’re considering migrating your business to online-only because of the pandemic, consider accompanying the service with real people on the telephone if you really want to succeed.

Receptionist is marketing genius
Another former client of mine takes orders by email and website. Each time an order arrives the company receptionist calls the customer to confirm the order. She started doing this because she thought it was good manners – you know, the right thing to do.

I suggested that during the call she agree a delivery date that was later than the earliest her company could deliver. The company now delivers each order before the agreed delivery date. The clients love the service as it exceeds their expectations and there is rarely any dispute over paying on time.

Thank you for your order it will be delivered on…

How $2 helped make $millions
Speaking of paying on time, a very successful cousin of mine sold his business for a premium, partly due to his excellent cash flow and a simple phone call. Geoff (his real name) would ring the accounts payable department of each of his debtors and confirm who was responsible for the processing of his invoices – most were small to medium size companies.

Each month he would mail his invoice in a personally addressed envelope to the accounts payable clerk – complete with a $2 scratch lottery ticket attached. His debtors loved getting his mail – and they paid his invoices ahead, or on time, every month. His cash position added enormous value to his business when he sold it.

Thank you for paying my invoice on time…

So, regardless of whether you are able to sell anything or not to your customers, due to lock-down or delivery issues, make and keep real contact with them. They’ll appreciate your effort and the investment will pay off – either immediately or in the “new-normal”.

It also allows you to gain some knowledge about each customer. Because the old adage still applies:

One thing you know about your customer is worth more than anything you know about your product or service.

That ‘one thing’, gives you a reason for a conversation – and that conversation can turn into business for you.

The other reason you should keep talking with your customers is also very simple:

If your customers don’t make you rich…who will?

Gotta go – the phone’s ringing, I wonder who it is…

To tie or not to tie, that will be the question…

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I declare some self-interest here folks. I haven’t bought or worn a tie in more than 20 years. Can’t stand the things. But I suspect my opinion on this subject will divide you dear readers – and I’m speaking strictly from a male point of view for those politically-correct types.

I’ve always thought ties revealed that most blokes were either colour-blind or they lacked any fashion sense. I’ve yet to meet a male who says “the best part of the day is putting on a tie“. Nor have I experienced any water cooler conversations where blokes admire colleagues’ ties, paying compliments such as, “nice throat choker Ted, it really sets off your eyes – and goes well with those new brogues.

I just luv wearing a tie with a suit, particularly in a Sydney summer…

It always seems to me, the people who most like men wearing ties are their female counterparts. A tie can make a suit look sharper, but that’s the point. How it looks might appeal, but how it feels is another story.

Having a tie tied tightly around one’s neck is probably the most uncomfortable experiences of working in the commercial world. But thanks to the COVID-CRISIS most blokes have enjoyed the liberty of a tie-free neck.

I have noticed some males wearing a tie in their video calls and assume it’s because of they believe a tie reflects a certain image that they perceive they must project. This of course, is nothing but conditioning. Given the choice – the vast majority of males would rather go about their work unencumbered by a throat choker.

I’m also curious that the females of our species are the ones who say a tie looks good on a bloke, but I see almost zero evidence of ties in female work attire. I wonder how many would wear a tie if they assumed it was expected of them?

I don’t even own a black bow-tie. For formal occasions I wear a mandarin collar, so I dress formally but sans-tie.

Dapper and sans-tie…

So, to join the marketing hustlers and their post-COVID predictions, I’m going to predict the wearing of ties to work will decline rapidly, once we stop working from home. I certainly won’t be investing in any shares for companies making ties.

I also suspect there will be an increase in shoe sales, as people will no longer fit their current shoes having spent months working barefoot in their homes.

Please line up to disagree with me. I’m happy to tie one on with you if you’d like to discuss the subject further…

FREE Book reveals the COVID Snake-Oil marketing cures are nothing new…

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I have a Kiwi mate dear reader, Henry Newrick, who decided to put the current lock-down to some good use. Mind you, New Zealand (like Australia) is a good place to be if you’re trying to avoid COVID-19.

Henry is a long time publisher and entrepreneur. He’s worked for more than 50 years in New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the USA, so he’s seen his share of crises.

He has put together a small publication (72 pages) consisting of advertisements, cartoons, comic strips and headlines – all about the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918/1919.

For example here’s the ad that probably prompted the Trumpster to recommend disinfectant as a cure for COVID-19:

Maybe we could inject a disinfectant – The Trumpster

Most people think that the Spanish Flu originated in Spain. This was not so and the first recorded case was on March 11, 1918 a long way from Spain. This was exactly 8 months to the day before the end of World War 1 on November 11. Henry provides the details in his book.

Of course in 1918 there were not the communications that we have today, nor the medical facilities to treat the very ill. As a result the final death toll was somewhere between 50-100 million – a figure much greater than all the dead and wounded in the War. The exact numbers killed by the Spanish Flu will never be known.

Today’s snowflakes would not have coped in this quarantine…

The current whinging by seemingly sane adults about the struggles with lock-down makes you wonder about their capacity for work. I’ve seen posts for motivational podcasts, tips for “surviving’ the lock-down, guides for success and a stream of COVID-CRAP – how would today’s snowflake executives have survived the Spanish Flu?

And just as the COVID-CYBER-HUSTLERS have flooded our inboxes with digital snake-oil, so to the Spanish Flu was a great time for the snake-oil salesmen to come out in force with all sorts of treatments to either ward off getting the flu or to cure it if already afflicted.  Here are just a few of the products whose advertisements can be found in Henry’s book.

  • Eat more Onions (one of the best preventatives for influenza)
  • Veno’s Cough Mixture (prevents Spanish Flu deaths!)
  • Jeye’s Fluid (the ideal disinfectant – guards against influenza)
  • Wampole’s Paraformic Lozenges (guard against Spanish Influenza)
  • Eat More Candy, Have less Flu
  • Milton Kills the Influenza Germs
  • Escape the Flu with a New Edison
  • Gin Pills to beat the flu
  • Dr Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets (cleans your mouth, skin and bowels)
  • Foley’s Honey and Tar (spreads warmth)
  • Drink Bovril (liquid life that prevents influenza and colds)
  • Take Cascara Quinine (at the first sign of influenza)

You’ll also recognise that BIG DATA is nothing new – it’s just new to marketers who didn’t use data prior to the internet. Mind you, most cannot get their small data right, let alone the BIG stuff.

BIG DATA showing curve flattening in 1918-19

To get your FREE copy of “Classic Ads, Cartoons, Comics & Headlines – The Spanish Flu” just click on this link.

You don’t fill in any forms, no data is kept by me. But you will notice Henry’s also published the 6 volume set of Classic Ads (www.ClassicAds.org) which runs to more than 3,300 pages. You can buy that from Henry if you like.

And once again I’m reminded of George Santayana, the Spanish Philosopher who is famously quoted as saying:

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it

And Henry Newrick proves him right again.

Study your marketing history folks and you’ll be way more successful…

Cut COVID-Capers, focus fully on the fundamentals you must…

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I’m no die-hard Star Wars fan, but was just told that International Star Wars Day is next week, so thought I’d say what Yoda would probably say in this crazy marketing world we are living in.

I’ve been asked to republish a popular article I wrote last year, mainly due to the embarrassing plethora of fake COVID marketing experts pushing their ‘expertise”  since the pandemic started. So many people are complaining about these bandwagon-jumpers.

Ever since we were placed in lock down we’ve been inundated with COVID-CRAP by ‘experts’ espousing the miracles required for marketing in a Corona virus world. In some cases in markets where people have no income and the retails stores are closed and do not provide online services, so commercial activity has stopped.

Yes, the world has temporarily changed, but if you stick to the fundamentals of marketing and do them well – which many marketers don’t do in the good times – you’ll get through this difficult time.

You might have to reconsider how you deliver or configure your product or service, or even create new products – as I explained last week. Even better, why not review all your marketing activity and start to plan for the inevitable reopening of society.

Regardless, just remember these simple rules of thumb and you’ll do OK:

The three goals of your marketing communications – and there are only three…

  • Acquire new customers
  • Get customers to spend more money with you more often
  • Get customers to keep spending with you for as long as possible.

If your marketing communications are not helping you achieve one or more of these goals, you’re probably wasting your money, regardless of the media channels or vanity metrics you use.

The two ways of marketing – and there are only two…

  • Mass marketing
  • Direct marketing

Mass Marketing – you communicate with as many consumers* as possible for the lowest media cost, to position your brand in the mind of the consumer, so they consider it when they are in the market to buy – online or offline. Generally used in broadcast, print, outdoor and some online channels. Messages are aimed at generating either a think, feel or do response.

Direct Marketing – any marketing communication delivered directly to individual consumers* or to which they respond directly to you. All responses are measured and there is always an exchange of either data or dollars – online or offline. Generally used in broadcast, mail, email, telephone, print, events, social, search, mobile and online channels. For example, give me your email address (data) and I’ll give you a newsletter, or give me your credit card details (dollars) and I’ll sell you some wine.

*Consumers is generic for both prospects and customers

The two reasons people use the internet – and there are only two…

  • To save time
  • To waste time

That’s it. You need to design your website, landing page, email, social channels, apps etc to make it easy for your customers and prospects to either save time, or to waste time, depending upon their reason for visiting.

Saving or wasting time?

There’s no such thing as a customer journey – just two contact strategies…

People don’t go on customer journeys. This is a marketing buzzword designed to make the user sound sophisticated – it’s complete bollocks. There are only two contact strategies to use, and they’re linked to the most relevant touch-points. After all, a prospect isn’t a customer until they buy something:

  • Prospect contact strategy – to generate new customers
  • Customer contact strategy – to keep profitable customers and generate referrals

Marketers determine the most appropriate touch-points to reach prospects and customers, then communicate as necessary in the most effective channels for those touch-points. These touch-points can be mapped for easier visual interpretation. This mapping is why folks mistakenly call it a journey. Map-journey, get it?

For example, a prospect may identify themselves by responding to an advertisement by telephone, downloading a white paper from a website, or at a trade show. This is the beginning of the prospect contact strategy designed to get them to either request a presentation (if required), to trial the product/service, or to buy. This can involve lots of channels, some of which can be automated.

Once the prospect becomes a customer, they join the customer contact strategy. This involves communicating with personal messages designed to create a positive customer experience, encourage loyalty, obtain referrals and generate further sales.

The customer contact strategy can also be divided into two separate executions. One execution is linked to the date the product or service is bought and includes messaging around warranty, service, renewal, upgrade and the like.

The other execution is linked to time of year and includes messaging such as monthly newsletter, seasonal offers, event invitations and more.

Obviously, the customer contact strategy uses more personal media channels including; face-to-face meetings, mail, telephone, email and social channels. And all the while, there is the 24/7 continual flow of marketing content on blogs, websites and social channels, as well as advertising.

People DON’T go on customer journeys…

The numbers that matter when budgeting…

There are a few key numbers to understand when budgeting your marketing activity:

  • Lifetime value – how much revenue you customer is worth over their lifetime of buying from you
  • Cost per lead – how much you can afford to spend to generate a qualified lead
  • Cost per sale – how much you can afford to spend to generate a sale
  • The advertising allowable – what you can afford to spend to generate a sale at either break-even or a pre-determined profit percentage

When you know how much a customer is worth, you can determine how much to spend to generate a qualified lead and therefore how much you can afford to spend to get a sale – based on conversion rates. This helps you determine the most appropriate media channels to use, as they are defined by your advertising allowable.

Remember:

Marketing creates the need, while sales fulfills the need…

Your marketing activity helps to create the need for your brand by building desire for it and reinforcing your decision after you’ve bought. Your sales people use selling techniques to fulfill the need and complete the sale.

Your direct marketing activity can both create and fulfill your prospect’s needs in a single execution. It also integrates your marketing and sales teams to ensure they both work together successfully.

So now you know, what you need to know, about you know, that thing that everyone thinks they know – marketing…even in a pandemic…

Let’s do a Skype call, and then along came Zoom…

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Of all the COVID-CAPERS dear reader, the choice of video conferencing tools has been one of the most fascinating. As are the skills of first-time home workers – here is the No.1 Rule for using video when working from home.

But, for as long as I can remember, Skype has been the go-to software for video calls, be they business conference or just to have a social chat – though FaceTime is popular for personal conversations. Skype has been the journalist’s friend on news channels forever. It has become so common, it isn’t regarded as unusual to watch and listen to a journalist in far-flung lands or war zones reporting via Skype on the nightly news.

But then along came COVID-19 and right behind it, along came Zoom.

You’re probably like me folks and have used Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Teams, Whatsapp and other tools to make video calls or for video conferences. But for the life of me, since the COVID-CRISIS emerged, I’ve not been involved in a single Skype video call.

My students are using Houseparty to keep in touch. I’m teaching via Zoom and Teams, and my family is connecting via Zoom and Whatsapp. Unfortunately, there are so many posts on social channels of Zoom screens filled with multiple faces, the images are working against their purpose. Many articles are being ignored because the image is a signal saying “nothing new here” and it turns people off.

Is it just me or has Skype missed the boat? Maybe I’m isolated (to use a current word) from lots of Skype users? What’s your technology of choice?

Though one thing’s for sure – Just as Xerox is the generic word for photocopying and Band-Aid is the generic word for medical adhesive bandage, so too Zoom will become the generic term for a video conference call.

Let’s set up a Zoom call” or “Let’s Zoom” will be the standard. And the brand that used to own the generic term – Skype – won’t ever get the high ground back again.

I wonder what Mazda is going to do now? Zoom Zoom…

And if you would like to chat: Skype: malcolm.auld1

Professional pie purveyor proudly pays people, poo-pooing PIVOT posers…

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There’s nothing like a global financial crisis, or new technology, even a pandemic to release the jargon-monkeys and cyber-hustlers from their lairs. Like a zombie invasion, they just appear from nowhere, spraying unsubstantiated platitudes and buzzwords-aplenty to position themselves as knowing not what we know, but more and better secret stuff.

And the COVID-CRISIS has them appearing in droves. Buzzwords are spreading like a… well you can guess how fast they’re spreading dear reader.

One of the most popular and unnecessary buzzwords you’re probably hearing is “PIVOT”. It is spoken in revered tones, as if it explains some miracle new COVID business strategy. The word gained notoriety in the book “The Lean Startup”. The premise is simple – it must be, as I teach a capstone subject at university based entirely on the book. It is good guide for inexperienced young entrepreneurs who don’t have much marketing expertise.

In jargonised terms, find a problem that needs to be solved, then start solving it with a (digital) Minimum Viable Product – known buzzwordingly as a MVP. (not Most Valuable Player as MVP has been known for decades in the sporting world). The MVP is partially developed and tested in the market. It is then reiterated (further developed) based on how customers/prospects in the market use the MVP. This technique, a common function of basic marketing, is labelled “Build, Measure, Learn”. True – it even has its own acronym – BML.

Eventually, after lots of testing and learning – sorry BML – when you have a well-developed MVP (Maximum Viable Product?) that appears to have commercial potential, you raise funds to develop it fully and launch the business to the market. Instagram started this way. The subtle difference in the start-up world is that you don’t start the business by creating the final product and launch it to the market.

Instead, you create a MVP, then BML, reiterate, test and learn some more, reiterate and BML again until the final product is in sight. In the real world this is the part of marketing called product development. For decades it was known as dry-testing. Marketers advertised different versions of products, with different features, then produced them based on customer feedback – known as sales and research.

We’re doing some BML on our MVP…

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people caused this practice to stop (sounds digitally-familiar) so you can no longer advertise a product that isn’t in stock, as a way of testing the market. Yet you can sell an incomplete digital product that may or may not deliver what it claims, as it’s still being reiterated using BML.

But here’s the big reveal. If the final solution you invent is different to the first solution for the problem you identified as needing to be solved, you are deemed to have “pivoted”. That’s right folks – if you change direction and develop a different product to your original intention, or create one that solves another problem, you say you’ve pivoted. You haven’t just developed a product as part of your product development. Instead, you use a jargoniser to explain this simple business function.

I’m sure the scientists at 3M screamed at the top of their lungs ‘we have pivoted‘ when they discovered they could apply one invention to another product, that was eventually branded as Post-it Notes.

So what has this to do with pies I hear you ask?

Well, an old school mate of mine owns a pie shop up the hill from my place. I dropped in last week to see how his business was coping in the pandemic. He greeted me with a big grin. Business was booming and he’s employing people.

The reason is simple. Thanks to the lock-down, he’s now selling lots more family pies and quiches than usual, so he displays more of them in the store. And, he has a chalk board outside his store advertising “Family Pies & Quiches”. “What a PIVOT!” I hear you shout dear reader.

He is also supplying family pies to a bunch of butchers, so they have additional products to sell. “What another brilliant PIVOT” I hear you shout again. You’re probably musing “he’s a marketing genius to PIVOT like that”.

My local craft brewer and gin distillery (you have one, don’t you?) is selling less beer during the pandemic, as pubs are closed. The market has temporarily shrunk. So it is using its equipment to do what it has always done – manufacture products to sell to consumers profitably.

Yes folks, there is a short-term demand for hand sanitizer, so like many breweries and distillers, the company is using ingredients in their equipment to make sanitizer and sell it to consumers. Hold yourself back dear reader, I know you just want to shout “What a PIVOT!” But it’s simply another day at the office.

Marketers either seize opportunities or solve problems – best if they can do both at the same time, as there is less sale/marketing cost. So these pie purveyors, brewers, distillers and many other manufacturers, are simply doing what they are supposed to do – create and sell stuff to customers profitably.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not a PIVOT. It doesn’t need a jargoniser to explain itself. It’s just the common sense business practice, known as “marketing”.

So if you hear some jargon-monkey use the word “PIVOT” in a meeting, please poo-poo them and save them from their follies. Ask them politely to stop using buzzwords. If you’re in a video conference and they refuse, maybe mute them or place a funny filter over their face. If they insist on preferring PIVOT, ask them to leave the industry – they are just not meant for it – and it’s for their own good.

When we return to face-to-face meetings (I can’t wait for a conference-room gathering) you might have a jargon-monkey in there with you. The best way to make them stop posing with PIVOT, is simple. Grab a copy of The Lean Startup, pivot in your chair, and clip them over the ear with the book. If they don’t get the message – just ask them to leave the industry – see previous paragraph.

The same goes for people who claim they have a side-hustle. If you’re a hustler, leave now! You’re not wanted in any industry. You’re just freelancing, nothing new. My former boss, David Ogilvy, used to encourage staff to freelance as it broadened their experience – as long as it didn’t interfere with their salaried job at O&M.

When I was a National Marketing Manager at TNT I freelanced as a copywriter and marketing consultant – more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t a side hustle – it was freelancing. Still is. Doesn’t need a buzzword to pretend it’s something special or different. When jargon-monkeys use such weasel words they expose themselves for the fakes they’re pretending not to be. So please help the poor sods and educate them.

Hmmm, gotta go as I’m getting hungry. Will grab some of last night’s leftovers. No I’ve changed my mind, I’ll have a pie. I’ll heat it up while doing some copywriting. Wow, a PIVOT and SIDE-HUSTLE in one move. Bloody genius…

When consumers panic, brands no longer matter…

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Now before you pile on dear readers, I am first and foremost a ‘brand man’. I’ve just written an article for a trade publication on how those who continue to advertise during tough times, come out of the downturn faster and more profitable than those who don’t advertise.

But the human nature demonstrated in these last few weeks, seems to support that old classic – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – and we’ve just added a lower foundation level.

There has not been one person anywhere in the world, who wanted to buy toilet paper, say “oh that’s not my brand – I’ll leave this pack here for someone else and wait until my brand is in stock.”

Oh, this isn’t my favourite brand I won’t buy it…

The same with hand sanitiser, pasta, canned food, paper towels, vegetable seedlings, home gyms, et al.

Get your pasta, any-brand-will-do pasta…

When it comes to the survival of the fittest and the satisfaction of the most basic needs – brands don’t matter. People treat every brand as a commodity.

Last week, I asked my university students what brands, they or their parents, were buying during this pandemic. “Anything we can get our hands on, it doesn’t matter what brand it is – we don’t want to run out of toilet paper.

The craziness will end though and when humans go back to the ‘new-normal’ and have time to shop at well-stocked stores with disposable income and job security – brands will matter.

So keep investing in your brand – you may have to find innovative ways to do so, such as the distillers making hand sanitiser. But don’t stand still – or you’ll be run over in the rush for essential commodities.

Gotta go, it’s lunchtime. Where’s that tin of no-frills beans…

Mmm no-frills beans…

The #1 Rule when working from home – trim your nasal hairs…

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To say the world has gone mad in the last couple of months is an understatement. People stabbing each other in supermarkets while fighting over toilet paper, food hoarding on a scale that assumes a ten-year apocalypse, and most recently, seemingly sensible intelligent adults struggling with the concept of working from home.

Fisticuffs in aisle 3…

From some of the comments I’ve read, you’d think people have been asked to solve the vaccine for COVID-19 from their kitchen, rather than do what they do on a computer most days, except in their home, not their office.

I declare inside knowledge here. I’ve been working from a home office for most of this century. I said ‘most of this century’ because it sounds even longer than ‘the last two decades’. In fact, I have worked from 5 different home offices in that time. Though to call some of those offices a ‘home office’ is stretching the truth. In a couple of cases, they were just desks in the corner with my computer on them.

My current purpose-built home-office accommodates my bride and myself. We work in two entirely different businesses and are seated at a comfortable 6′ of social distance. We’ve been socially distancing from each other for years, so to speak. We hardly speak to one another during the day and neither of us wears noise-cancelling headphones. We just get on with our business, blithely ignoring one another.

So given my expertise in this matter of working from home, I thought I’d share some tips to the virgin home workers out there who have been caught on the hop by COVID-19.

The first rule is quite simple, and it will help when you start to use video calls more frequently: Trim your nose hair!

You can see evidence of home-based conference-call virgins making this mistake every day on TV. A news presenter crosses to someone talking into their Skype or whatever app they have on their laptop. Inevitably the ‘correspondent’ talks into their computer’s camera looking down into it and close up – just to make sure they can be seen. This results in everyone who is watching the program staring straight up into the dark reaches of the speaker’s nostrils – and it is not a good look at all, ever.

Don’t sit too close to the camera…

Organise your camera so you are talking directly at it or slightly up into it, particularly if you are talking at close range.

Start your day with a routine, as if you are going to work at your office. One executive I know starts his day the same as always. He showers, eats breakfast and dresses for work. He hops in his car, drives down to his local cafe and buys a takeaway coffee, then returns home and walks into his office as if he has arrived at work. Even hangs up his coat.

In my household, I do the drop-off to school or bus stop, while my bride takes the dog for a walk. On return, I grind the beans and make the coffee. We have a quick chat about what’s planned for the day and then go to our desk, or head off to meetings. We both dress smartly, as we have clients come to our home for meetings, as well as couriers delivering parcels.

We eat lunch separately as we have different dining habits. If one of us is heading out we check deadlines so we can manage the afternoon shift of teens arriving home. We shop daily rather than a big weekly shop, as it provides a social opportunity to get out of the house.

The teens are told not to enter the office during business hours as we are working. They generally stick to this rule unless they need to use the printer or have a homework question.

When our teens were toddlers we used a combination of tag-team parenting, day-care and for a short while an au pair. Curiously, the lady who managed my son’s day-care centre left to set-up a doggy day-care centre. She’s now much happier, wealthier and our pup even goes there on rare occasions – I’m obviously in the wrong business, as the doggy day-care has a waiting list.

My pup thinks she’s a big dog when she goes to doggy day-care…

One word of warning. Those friends who don’t work from home can assume that because you work from home, you are not working. They suspect you are free to do any favour they want, as they are working in an office, in a proper job. So you’ll get a call or text to pick up a child, mind a child til they get home, sign for a parcel, pick up some groceries when you go shopping for yourself, let in a tradie (and watch over them), put their garbage bins out and who knows what else?

You need to use all your diplomatic skills when these requests arrive. I call it on-the-job training and professional development in negotiation skills.

Be careful of your backdrop when doing video calls. Let’s assume you’re not sitting in your pyjamas and are dressed appropriately, then position yourself so you have a blank wall or maybe a bookshelf behind you. If you have pets or young children, lock them (safely) in another room while you’re on the call. And be wary of background noises that you may have become accustomed to, but a microphone amplifies when on a call.

As well as looking up my nose you can see my washing basket behind me…

If you don’t have a dedicated office, try to create a separate space you can leave alone, even if it’s a corner desk. You don’t want your work files overtaking the dining table and you need to have a way of shutting off at the end of the work day.

Try to keep your office space separate and tidy…

One bonus of working from home is you can generally find an hour in the day to exercise or go to the gym, or enjoy a lazy-person workout in the sauna or steam. Even better, you can go during the day when the gym is quieter, so you can be more productive with your exercise regime. Though in these current times, you may just go for a brisk walk, a run, or a surf if you live near the beach like I do.

Keep healthy snacks in reach and avoid trips to the fridge – just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to open it and devour the contents. And yes, it’s Wine-O’clock somewhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean you pop a cork at 4pm each day, just because nobody’s watching.

It’s always Wine O’clock somewhere in the world…

Make sure you have regular external appointments and spend time face-to-face with clients, prospects, suppliers or even a coffee with a friend. Humans are social creatures by nature and like to interact with other humans. But when working from home, you can quickly become comfortable with your own company and isolate yourself from the rest of the world – only communicating via email and social channels with emojis to express yourself.

Set aside time during the day to access social media, news sites and other non-essential online distractions – and stick to the schedule. It’s too easy to ‘check-in’ on these platforms every few minutes. Before you know it you’ve wasted an hour looking at the same news and social channels you looked at an hour earlier. And nothing has changed, except you’ll never get that hour back.

Depending upon your job function, you’ll generally find you can get more done in less time working from home – as long as you minimise the distractions. And every day is ‘bring your pet to work day’ so that’s a good thing too:)

Gotta go now. It’s almost 4 o’clock and well you know, time for a…

What do we want? “Bog Rolls!” When do we want them? “Now!”

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Well folks, just when you thought the world couldn’t get any stranger, along comes the Corona Virus, or COVID-19 as it’s technically known, to reveal an insight into humanity.

And while it is tragic that people are dying from this virus, the behaviour of humans during these early stages is curious to say the least. I promise to spare you from any puns in this story as I share examples.

Example A: Sales of Corona Beer are either declining rapidly or on the rise, depending which “news” you read. If sales are declining, one has to wonder how a significant mass of people assumed the virus was transmitted by Corona Beer? I thought beer drinkers were educated folk? The brewer has called on that famous beer connoisseur Snoop Dogg, to save the day and restore sales via a celebrity-driven campaign called “La Vida Mas Fina.”

Snoop Dogg selling Corona

Example B: In a complete act of madness, Australians have gone totally bonkers and are hoarding toilet paper, also known as bog rolls, bum fodder, poop mittens and other terms. The populace has also gone stupid for hand sanitizer, wipes of all varieties, paper towels, baked beans (maybe to fill the bog rolls?) and other dried foods.

Toilet paper madness…

This just goes to prove a couple of marketing adages:

1. People are firstly, and only, interested in themselves. WIIFM Rules OK!

When people see a marketing message they subconsciously ask “What’s In It For Me? It’s why your message must be clear and demonstrate in simple terms, what’s the benefit for the punters.

If you’re a fan of Maslow, this current behaviour fits right at the bottom of the pyramid – basic needs. In the case of the Corona Apocalypse, people have stocked up on basic food and sanitary items, without a care for others. Whole supermarket shelves have been decimated. Though I’m sure once people have stocked up and looked after themselves, they’ll have a square to spare. Unlike Elaine Benes who couldn’t get her cubical neighbour to share a square.

Can you spare a square?

2. People unquestionably follow crowds and group think

The mass stocking of bog rolls et al, was not something encouraged by government or news outlets. It occurred because people didn’t want to be left out – they wanted to follow the crowd and not get left behind. It’s one of our social needs – to be part of a group – and a major trigger behind tiered consumer products that give higher privileges, the higher up the tier you are eg Platinum or Black charge/credit cards. Never underestimate the power of FOMO.

Though the good thing about Doomsday behaviour, is that you only have to admit it if it suits the social situation. You don’t have to share your actions with anyone unless it gets you favourable comments.

This buying frenzy has caught manufacturers by surprise. These normally reliable bog roll producers are working around the clock to keep the paper rolls up to the public.

who gives a crap is working overtime…

Plenty of content, not enough rolls being produced…

But the weirdness does bring out the best in Australian humour.

Today the NT News – famous for its headlines, such as “Why I stuck a cracker up my clacker” and “They stole my dog while I was on the bog” – did a wonderful favour for the NT community. The newspaper printed an 8-page insert of single-ply toilet paper for readers. The pages come with a watermark map of Australia and perforations so you can tear individual squares. Bloody ingenious and very thoughtful given the current shortages.

NT News single-ply insert…

Am not sure which pub, but one is giving away a free bog roll with every Corona bought – solving two problems at once.

FREE toilet roll with every Corona

Meanwhile on Sydney radio – every caller who rang Jonesy and Amanda on WSFM this morning, and shared information about where to buy a bog roll, received a free roll and free hand sanitizer. #jonesyandamanda

Jonesy & Amanda doing their bit for the community…

My good mate The Brand Guy, Richard Sauerman got his staff bonus today…

A bog roll bonus…

While hopeful hustlers are trying to find the day’s sucker on eBay:

wanna pay more than $20 a roll?

And then there’s this bloke who is expanding his franchise:

Want to buy a franchise?

It often takes a crisis for innovation to arise and it’s good to see the Aussie intuition has risen to the occasion, despite the toilet humour:)

Gotta go now – so to speak. I wonder if we have any dunny paper???