The definitive reason why definitive guides aren’t really definitive…


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Let me share a personal secret with you dear reader. I’ll whisper it to you:

I collect definitive guides

It’s true. I download each one that arrives in my inbox and save them into a folder. And that’s where they stay, because I rarely read them. They’re usually so subjective and full of fluff, it takes too long to find any worthwhile stuff.

I use a false name and an email address I reserve just for subscriptions. It helps to redirect the inevitable automated follow-up by a computer, and in very few cases, by a human.

Nobody ever calls though. Last year, after using the “Premium” LinkedIn service without getting any benefit, I didn’t renew my subscription. Nobody called to ask why, or to re-sell it to me. Seems LinkedIn believes people don’t need to deal with people in B2B marketing.

Strangely, while I had the subscription, each time I opened my account, I was made an offer to subscribe to the Premium service to which I was already subscribed. One has to question LinkedIn’s marketing automation.

But back to definitive guides.

The following is typical of the opening paragraphs in many of these guides.

“With new marketing channels and technologies popping up every day, marketers must adapt and evolve their analytics strategies, skills, and solutions to survive. As big data becomes increasingly critical for informed decision-making, marketers and their organizations will find themselves along a spectrum of analytical maturity.”

That’s a concern. Nobody I know wants to find themselves on a spectrum of analytical maturity. Most, like me, have no idea what it even means.

But, given that everyone in the industry agrees we live in constantly changing times, with new marketing channels and technologies popping up every day, how can any guide be definitive? By definition, it’s out of date the day it’s published.

If you claim the reason for publishing a definitive guide is constant change, then the guide is only as current as the most recent change? By the publisher’s own reasoning, the guide cannot be definitive, except at a very small moment in time, or to justify the publisher’s self-serving purpose.

Maybe the name of these guides should be changed to reflect the truth? Here’s a suggestion:

Title: An Indefinitive Guide To <insert marketing topic>

Subhead: A self-serving opinion about <insert marketing topic> designed to convince you to buy our marketing stuff. Best before <insert date>

This is an honest description and puts a timeframe to indicate the guide’s currency, given it will be out of date pretty quickly and by definition, no longer definitive.

Hmmm. There could be an opportunity here. Maybe I could publish the definitive guide to publishing indefinitive guides?

Where’s my definitive guide on how to write…

The simple reason digital marketing fails so badly – it’s not what you think…


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Who’d call themselves a digital marketer these days? As the evidence continues to grow about the lies, deceit, appalling ROI, as well as agency bias towards digital at the expense of better performing channels, it’s become embarrassing to claim you only have digital marketing skills.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Lone voices in the wilderness have been warning for more than a decade that the digital chooks would come home to roost. Though their voices have largely been ignored.

The real reason so much digital marketing fails is simple – the people working in it don’t have the right marketing skills.

The evidence is plain to see in the online advertising space. Most online ads are brand ads not direct response ads, yet the internet is a pure direct response channel.

Fact – the internet is primarily a direct response channel. Online marketing is just direct marketing, albeit at a much faster pace than analogue channels.

You wouldn’t run a brand ad in a newspaper or on TV, then measure its success using direct marketing metrics. So why run brand ads online and expect direct responses? But this is exactly what the brand marketers do every day.

FYI direct marketers are making money online – have been since day one. But they are not running brand advertising to do so. They have tested the different emerging channels and ads. They avoid those channels that don’t work. In most cases these are the social channels.

They rarely use programmatic buying. They deal direct with the publishers. This is how they’ve always worked with analogue channels, so they already have the expertise to succeed in online channels – evolution, not revolution.

But the marketers who dominate online advertising are mostly brand marketers and that digital peculiarity, the fake marketer. They were lured by the magic of its measurability.

The magic of measurability

Unlike direct marketers, they had no prior experience of direct response measurement. The “response drug” in the form of open-rates, click-through rates, time on page, downloads and (occasionally) sales, hooked them like teenagers having their first drink. This measurability stuff was the secret marketing hooch they craved.

And just because measurability was new to them, they assumed it was new to the world.

So they rushed headlong into the online advertising world completely ill-equipped for success. To cover up this lack of expertise, they created new buzzwords to describe alleged new marketing tactics – despite these tactics being centuries-old.

To help position themselves, they used virtue signals, to manufacture FOMO. Direct marketing was called old-fashioned, implying it was irrelevant. Some even made the stupid claim that DM no longer exists (really, some fools stated such crap). All it did was reflect their lack of marketing expertise.

For those who might be confused, direct marketing (or direct response advertising) is any marketing activity whereby you communicate directly to individual customers and prospects, or they respond directly to you, in any media channel. The outcome of the communication is that there is always a measured exchange, of either dollars or data, or both.

For example, the customer provides their credit card and in return they get a case of wine, or they provide their contact details, in exchange for an email newsletter.

Branding for branding’s sake, is a secondary priority with a direct response message.

But here’s the rub with direct marketing…

You are trying to get prospects who may or may not know your brand, to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it – take immediate action and respond.

That’s hard shit and requires some specialist skills, the least of which is the ability to write persuasively.

Yet the majority of people working in digital marketing have no direct marketing expertise. If they did, they wouldn’t have invented fake vanity metrics such as likes, and shares, to justify their credibility.

The brand and fake marketers have misunderstood the digital channels

Direct response is definitely not the way to sell fast moving consumer goods, in single unit sales. Why it took P&G until last year, at a cost of $Billions, to realise this fact, is a mystery.

The only reason to use direct response for packaged goods, is to sell a continuity programme or subscription. For example, that digital darling, the Dollar Shaver Club is a direct marketer and uses direct response advertising to sell subscriptions. Both analogue and digital wine clubs also sell wine by subscription.

The process is known as “negative-option” and I’ve written about it before. The marketer delivers products on a regular basis, say monthly, until the customer says “stop”. This is a way of marketing that is more than 100 years old and goes back to the days of mail-order. It’s not new just because we have an internet.

The more they failed the more they created spreadsheets of bullshit

These “digital marketers” tried to justify the poor branding results with vanity metrics. They even created jargon such as “customer engagement” to make the metrics appear genuine. When the vanity metrics failed, they just increased their tracking to create even more spreadsheets of bullshit. They attempted to confuse the world with useless data to convince us they were legitimate.

Sorry folks, but data without dollars is just doo-doo.

Steaming pile of data doo-doo

The tracking eventually became stalking as they desperately tried to get sales, from ads that didn’t sell, to people who didn’t want to buy. Have you ever seen a grocer chase a customer out the door shouting offers at them, just because the customer picked up a lemon then put it back without buying? Welcome to the world of remarketing – placing cigarette burns on your customers long after they’ve left you.

Read Bob Hoffman’s brilliant Badmen for the appalling truth of the tracking, stalking and the fake world of online metrics.

Playing in the fringes

Any direct marketer will tell you, when you are marketing to a mass audience and chasing a response, you are always playing in the fringes. You don’t know when people are going to buy. That’s why you need to give them as much information as possible, plus some incentive, to help them make a decision in your favour.

Here’s an example. If a product is only bought once-a-year, then on average, in any single week, only 2% of the annual market is buying – 50 weeks PA x 2% = 100%.

This means if you deliver say, a direct response insurance ad to 100 people (and you don’t know their renewal date) then on a good day, you could expect at best maybe 2 people to buy – assuming you capture 100% of the 2% of people in the market that week. You’ll be partying like its 1999 just because you made two sales. It’s pretty obvious to see why trying to sell single bottles of shampoo via digital channels won’t be profitable.

Given this market reality and the complete lack of involvement in online ads by website visitors, marketers should not be surprised that online ads rarely get one tenth of sweet FA worth of clicks. Any direct marketer worth their salt could have told them these ads wouldn’t pay off.

If you’re a mass marketer, in most situations, you’re generally better off not running ads online.

But if you must, here’s a simpleton’s guide to use online advertising. It’s not thorough, but may help:

For brand advertising:

  • Build awareness by constantly dominating specific pages/sites of relevant publishers for days or even weeks, so your ad is seen numerous times by your prospects (not personas).
  • (Yes there are loads of other formats online – but too many to cover here)
  • Do not buy your media via programmatic platforms, deal direct with the publishers to negotiate the best real estate.
  • If you must use programmatic – test, test and test again.
  • Measure the ad performance in the same way you would any other mass media advertising.

For direct response advertising:

  • Run direct response ads aimed at either making an immediate sale, or capturing data so you can build your own database and communicate directly with your customers via email (and other channels) linked to customised landing pages.
  • Invest in testing, by working with publishers to get the maximum ROI.
  • Test programmatic buying until the law of diminishing marginal returns kicks in.

Social media:

  • Sadly, unless all prospects search only by your brand name, you must have a social presence, just so you appease the Google Gods.
  • Test social channels to determine their value and only use those that work
  • If social channels aren’t profitable, only invest as much as is necessary for SEO purposes. Your customers won’t stop buying just because you don’t have a Facecrook page.
  • It’s OK not to have a big social media presence. Sales (or your brand) rarely suffer.
  • In the majority of cases, the number of people “following” or “engaging” with you on social media is statistically (and economically) insignificant. Your customers can contact you through other personal channels.

(This of course doesn’t apply if you are a bikini model flogging tooth whitener, as this type of product/audience is one of the few categories that can make social channels pay)

So if you’re a mass marketer, don’t waste your money advertising in digital channels, unless your aim is to build a database. If you really want to do brand advertising, change the way you buy media and dominate web pages for long periods to create awareness. Do not simply run an online brand ad and measure it by impressions or click-through rates. Measure it as you would the ads in other channels. And never rate vanity metrics such as likes or shares or customer engagement. You’ll just waste your money.

Once you build your database you can then encourage your customers and prospects to download your app. Then you can gradually reduce how much you spend with online advertising, as more of your audience migrates to your app. You’ll still need to advertise though – read Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” to learn why.

To get your customers and prospects to switch to your app, you’ll obviously need an incentive.

Where are those steak knives?

The most powerful word in marketing, it’s not a keyword, nor an AdWord…


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You’ll have probably noticed dear reader, the cancerous spread of fake marketers promoting their thought leadership, has resulted in an increase in the use of adjectives, particularly in headlines.

You see them everywhere. For example, you no longer need normal marketing tools, you need “killer” marketing tools. Or you can download “mind-blowing” secrets for your online success. Don’t you love how these aren’t just secrets, they’re mind-blowing secrets? How mind-blowing is it to sell something to someone who wants to buy it?

The problem with much of this digital dross, is that it rarely focuses on you, the customer – except the spurious claim about blowing your mind. The content is nearly always about the self-centred thought-leading internationally-published super-effluencing, fake marketer and their miracle secret sauce for digital success.

It’s never about you.

And “you” is the most powerful word you can use in your marketing messages.

The You Rule is simple. Always use more of you, your, yours, you’re, you’ve than I, our, ours, us, we, we’re, we’ve, my and mine. People are only interested in one thing – themselves, so write from their point of view, not from yours.

There has always been some debate about whether “you” or “FREE‘ is more powerful.

When I was National Marketing Manager at TNT back in the dim dark 1980’s I ran a split-run test. I wanted to see which was the more powerful word for helping to generate a response.

This was the time in life when fancy digital calculators and branded business card holders, were all the rage as corporate gifts. I’m sure anthropologists in future centuries will just look at marketing incentives to determine a specific time in history. Digital calculators & Business Card Holders = 1980’s. iPods = 2000. USB sticks = 2005. iPads = 2010. Fidget spinners = 2015 and so on.

The test was in a direct mailpack, flogging the first-ever payroll software for desktop computers. It was in the heady days of disruption – when mainframe computers were being replaced by desktop computers. Sorry, that can’t be true – disruption was only invented by cyber hustlers and fake marketers in the last decade.

But I digress.

Heady days they were folks. The mailing had an insert. It promoted the incentive you would be given if you responded for a demonstration of this innovative and disruptive software.

The test was in the headline. We tested two different headlines, but kept the image and copy the same on both inserts.



My experience told me the first headline should get a better result. However, you guessed it, the second headline generated the higher response.

It addresses the reader and implies they’re smart. They’re taking an initiative, not just responding.

Then we combined the headlines for greater impact:

Subhead: Complete the enclosed envelope and return it today for your FREE EXECUTIVE BUSINESS CARD HOLDER

I dug it out of the archives:

What an offer dear readers – how could you resist?

We then tested different headlines for some of the other divisions I was marketing. Here they are:

That’s the beauty of testing – you don’t have to decide, the market does it for you.

You have to love that, don’t you…

You think that’s too many you’s?

You’re right…

Why most shared content has virtually no impact on your brand…


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Originally published 2016…

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 on social media often 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”. Though sharing in business channels can have less selfish motivations.

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:)

The physical always outperforms the virtual…

A throwback for Friday, from 2013.

A while back in the post-dot-con days, I was leading an industry debate about email versus direct mail. My team had done an excellent job of positioning email as the future, at the expense of direct mail – only for the purpose of the debate. We never really believed it though:)

The summary speaker for direct mail was an attractive female, who when realising her team was losing the argument, pulled out a bright red lipstick, painted her lips and blew kisses to the audience.

She concluded her argument while distributing kisses with “after all, we all know that real sex is better than virtual sex” – implying direct mail (real) is better than email (virtual).


Her kisses blew us off the stage, so to speak. I had no come-back, particularly as red is just not my colour, and we lost the debate.

But little did my opponent know how correct her statement was, metaphorically speaking. All the recent neural research demonstrates clearly, that humans get more emotionally engaged with a physical item than they do with an image of that same item on a screen.

I’ve always believed one of the reasons mail is so powerful is because it is tactile. It can be explored, particularly 3D mail. And most people will at least look at the mail (or inserts) before discarding. We don’t throw anything away without first knowing what we are throwing away, if you get my drift.

Teachers will tell you that kids learn more through multi-sensory activities, than from a screen. The more kids can see, touch, smell, taste and explore an object, the more emotionally engaged they are with it and the more they understand about it.


So it comes as no surprise that research conducted by Millward Brown a couple of years ago revealed what our gut instincts always knew.

The physical is far more powerful than the virtual.

I won’t go into the scientific explanation, I can send it to you if you like. I’ll use my layman’s interpretation for you.

Millward Brown was commissioned to study the way the brain reacts to physical messages versus the same messages displayed on computer screens. They used MRI scans to determine how brands can better engage customers. Given how over-used the term “engage” is in the marketing world today, this study carries loads of weight.

The research was set up to examine whether consumers’ brains respond differently to material based on direct mail than to comparable information shown to them via a computer screen.

The brain measurements were taken by placing people in an fMRI scanner. In a highly controlled experiment, which stripped out the effects of content and purely sensory stimulation, clear differences emerged in the way the brain processes marketing messages in physical, compared with virtual formats.

Here are some of the findings:

Direct mail based-material makes the content more real to the brain – better connected to it. It appears that all other effects being equal, direct mail-based materials:

• are more concrete and ‘real’ for the brain
• are internalised more
• facilitate emotional processing
• result in more fluent decision making

This means direct mail-based materials are more likely to be retained and acted upon.

The tangibility of direct mail-based materials leaves a much deeper ‘footprint’ on the brain than digital images.

Direct mail-based material makes the content more real to the brain and better connected to memory by engaging with its spatial memory networks. The material generated more activity in the area of the brain associated with the integration of visual and spatial information (the left and right parietals) and the processing of information in relation to the body.

Oxygenated blood flow, red = direct mail, blue = screen image

Oxygenated blood flow, red = direct mail, blue = screen image

You can see in these images – the red indicates the oxygenated blood flow for direct mail, while the blue indicates it for the same image shown on screen. Not only is there less flow, but it’s not flowing in the emotional areas of the brain where it needs to do so for “engagement”.

Other summary points included:

• The multi-sensory nature of the material results in the content being seen as more ‘real’.
• Direct mail-based material produced more brain responses associated with internal feelings.
• Direct mail-based material makes the content more real to the brain and better connected to memory by engaging with its spatial memory networks.
• It is easier to focus attention on direct mail-based material than via a screen.
• Direct mail-based material provokes stronger emotional processing.

There is much more stuff, but I won’t bore you here. Though I’d hazard a guess there aren’t too many digi-spruikers who have a clue about any of this – they prefer opinions to facts.

Suffice to say, there is clear evidence that the media that have always worked well, such as direct mail, continue to do so. Those who limit their business and customer communications to digital and don’t have a mix of offline and online channels, are risking their businesses and missing enormous profit opportunities.

Well it’s Friday night and beer o’clock, so I’m off to have a glass or two and watch the football. I’m not going to the match, I’m watching it on TV, but even so it’s still exciting and engages me…

A man watching football on television

How the fake marketers used virtue signals to establish credibility…


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If you work in marketing you know that thanks to the internet and digital technology, the whole world has changed spectacularly. Human DNA has completely morphed. As consumers, we humans have suddenly stopped our centuries-old behaviour and now act entirely differently in every way, particularly when it comes to buying stuff.

Not only that, but everything that ever worked in marketing prior to last week, no longer works today. “Marketing has changed forever” is the gospel according to the fake marketers.

It’s the end of marketing as we know it…

And these fake marketers have successfully used virtue signals to con the marketing industry into believing this gospel. Every week they claim there are new rules for everything marketing. Apparently, these new rules are so “disruptive”, that only those in the secret priesthood of fake marketers, possess the unique knowledge to understand them. Like the weavers of the Emperor’s new clothes, they claim you’re unfit as a marketer if you can’t see what they can.

The virtue signallers play on FOMO and hide behind a bizzare myth that because this new marketing is done via computers, then “traditional marketers” have no idea how it works. Only the fake marketers masquerading as digital marketers can deliver the future of marketing. So roll up, roll up and get your digital snake oil, before you go out of business.

In case you’re curious, Virtue Signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group.

In the marketing world, virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of marketing myths and B.S. done primarily with the intent of faking marketing expertise to enhance standing within the marketing industry.

Look over here, a shiny new marketing widget

The virtue signals come in numerous forms, but mainly they are fake claims, silly buzzwords, fake economies and fabricated expertise. You hear the signals in meetings and seminars, and read them in blogs, articles and social channels. One common element among the virtue signallers is their complete lack of real marketing expertise. They just shovel virtue signals in the hope of manufacturing some credibility and fertilising their reputations.

Fertilising my reputation with virtue signals

These are typical of the fake claims:

  • There are new rules for marketing and PR
  • Customers want conversations with brands
  • Customers don’t want to be sold to
  • Selling is dead
  • Traditional media no longer work
  • Personas have replaced target audience
  • Brand advertising is dead and so are advertising agencies
  • Marketing automation is the future of all customer communications
  • QR codes, VR, AI, Pokemon Go, <insert latest fad> will change everything – forever
  • Content is king (and queen)
  • Every sale in the world begins with a search
  • 157% of all sales are online

The jargon monkeys love their buzzwords and acronyms. You’ll know many of them like these:

  • Customer engagement/experience/journey
  • Brand conversations
  • Disruptive technology
  • Reach out
  • Ideation
  • Transparency
  • Personas
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Contextual marketing
  • Omni-channel marketing
  • <insert label> marketing
  • Growth hacking
  • Owned, earned and paid media
  • OMG the list goes on, and on, and on…

Even more shady are the whole new economies that are allegedly revolutionising marketing:

  • the social economy
  • the engagement economy
  • the attention economy
  • the belief economy
  • the sharing economy
  • the purpose economy
  • the content economy
  • the influencer economy
  • the subscription economy

The only economies these support, are the financial economies of each author who manufactured the economic term and published a book to fake legitimacy. By playing on FOMO they charge a fortune for alleged insights into their secret economic sauce, while doing the rounds of the marketing industry and seminar circuit sprouting their virtue signals.

Then I told him the future of marketing is the virtue signalling economy…

Finally, there is the thought leader industry – because that’s what it is, an industry. There’s almost no legitimate thought leadership. Hire a virtual assistant/slave in a third-world country to ghost write a book, pay an SEO expert to own a few related keywords, and publish an article to stake your claim to expertise.

Some even label themselves some kind of influencer such as Linkfluencer, Socialfluencer and the like. I attended a fluencer’s webinar and couldn’t believe the dross being peddled. Apparently these are the 3 keys to success on LinkedIn:

  • Connect with lots of people
  • Connect with journalists
  • Publish stuff and send it to your contacts

The “fluencer” running the event thought it was an amazing achievement to be published in online business press – the machine that demands content to keep itself fresh. Any marketer worth their salt is regularly published in business press, thanks to their PR company, or the sheer fact they are a legitimate expert. Being in the media is standard operating procedure for marketers. So to get excited because your article gets a run, is at best sad and really quite naive.

Another fluencer shared their secret to becoming an influencer on LinkedIn. Before you post an article, invite all your contacts to like and share your article immediately it is posted. This will fool the algorithm into thinking your article is popular and help improve your influencer standing within LinkedIn. Sad but true. To be seen as an influencer you have to get colleagues to help you scam the system.

Why not just be bloody good at your job and share legitimate expertise, base on years of real experience? Or possibly just tell the truth?

Maybe they should be called “effluencers“?

Luckily there are still some of us living in the real world and we know the opposite of these virtue signals is true. Just look at the disgrace the digital media industry has become. The fake numbers supplied by Facecrook, Google, You Tube, Instagram and Twitter have stunned marketers who have spent valuable shareholder’s, or their own funds, in these channels.

So to save you from virtue signal confusion, here are some facts:

  • Technology has changed, people haven’t.
  • Technology means we have new order forms for buying stuff – on apps and websites.
  • We have been ordering goods remotely and having them delivered to our home or workplace, since the invention of mail-order in the 18th century. So remote ordering on a computer is simply evolution.
  • People buy emotionally and justify rationally. That’s why brand positioning is so important. Technology has almost zero influence on why/what people buy.
  • Advertising is alive and well and still one of the best ways to build brand value.
  • People love being sold to, it’s known as good customer service. But people hate lousy salespeople, so fire your bad salespeople and hire good ones.
  • Replacing humans with computers and bots can often hinder, not help the sales process or customer service experience. People prefer to deal with people.
  • Marketing automation only works if humans monitor it constantly.
  • Customers don’t care about brands like marketers do, they have more important things to do with their time.
  • People don’t plan a customer journey when they go shopping.
  • You cannot predict when people will buy, which is why you need to constantly be marketing to everyone in your market.
  • The traditional channels work excpetionally well. While some are declining in reach, their audiences are very dedicated.
  • There is a reason it’s called social media, not business media. And what media channel isn’t social? Ever heard of the social pages?
  • Likes, follows, shares et al are not measures of marketing success.
  • Digital-first can mean sales-last. You need to test digital channels and be brave enough to not use them if they don’t work. Don’t let FOMO and marketing fashion drive you.
  • If you call yourself a digital marketer, your only half a marketer (if that). You need to understand all the channels in the media spectrum to be called a marketer.

Curiously, not one consumer packaged goods brand has been launched successfully using digital media. All new brands, particularly online brands, rely heavily on old-fashioned advertising and public relations for sales, and to get third parties talking about them. Just watch any television show to view the plethora of ads for online travel, insurance and hotel aggregators, home delivery services, online financial services, Google, Apple, et al.

Unfortunately, just when the momentum to fix the problems created by the fake marketers is growing, it seems Google, P&G and Unilever’s management are becoming virtue signallers, rather than solving the problem. Check out Bob Hoffman’s expose here.

Though in a positive step, more companies are removing the word “digital” from marketing job titles. They’ve finally realised it’s all just marketing, regardless of channel or technology.

Here’s a signal to consider – spend your marketing budget as if it was your own money, promoting your business, so the profits feed your family. You’ll be amazed at how you start to ignore the virtue signals and focus your thinking on what really works in marketing.

Gotta go now. Am working on an AI blockchain cryptocurrency VR app. It’s going to revolutionise marketing forever…

The surprising thing Google learned about its employees – digital skills aren’t essential…


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I have teenage children, aged 14 and 15, so an emerging topic of conversation is what career they would like to pursue. I find this interesting, particularly given I still haven’t a clue what I want to do in my career, even after working four decades in marketing and advertising.

Most schools hold regular updates about “the jobs of the future” and the skills our kids will need to succeed in the digital world. You’re probably aware of the need for STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) that the career advisers and alleged experts believe are essential for a future success.

These skills are often quoted by the digital marketing virtue signallers, as part of their effort to position themselves as marketing experts (over marketers who really are marketing experts). They claim if you cannot code, you’re not a marketer.

You don’t need a marketing degree to be a digital marketer…

Well Google has done some research on its staff, as it was a STEM employer of choice. The results have been published in an article in The Washington Post and they are very surprising indeed.

The essence of Google’s research findings, and that of another piece of research conducted by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers (which includes both small firms and large ones like Chevron and IBM) is that STEM skills don’t count. Well not in the way they have been historically favoured.

The skills needed to succeed in the digital world are the soft skills, not the hard digital skills. These skills include being able to communicate and listen well; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.

And go figure, to succeed in marketing you need marketing skills, not computer skills. Who’d have thought hey? Maybe this is why companies are starting to eliminate the word “digital” from marketing job titles.

It’s surprising how long it has taken so many companies to realise what type of people they should hire for success in the digital world. I mean, all they had to do was watch The Intern.

I spend much of my time consulting with and mentoring young digital marketers. It’s almost a fulltime business – and might be soon. The main reason I do so, is these digital marketers don’t know very much about marketing and are worried they are out of their depth. They know how to post on social media and use Slack to “communicate” with their colleagues about when to play the next game of Foosball, but not much else. They fear they will fail as they don’t have the expertise.

So next time you’re in a meeting and an alleged digital marketing expert claims to have a new secret sauce for digital marketing magic, lean over and clip them behind the ear – twice. Just so they know you’re serious.

Stop your digital B.S. and get a marketing qualification…

Gotta go now – I have an appointment with a careers advisor…

A throwback to Bryce Courtney and a different time in advertising…


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Local ad industry legend and author, Bryce Courtney (deceased) used to write a weekly newspaper column called The Marketing Pitch.

In today’s buzzword-filled fake marketing industry, his articles would probably be labelled as “thought leadership delivered as part of a content marketing strategy, designed to increase customer engagement using earned media” – though I believe he was paid to write the opinion pieces, which would technically make it journalism.

In the real marketing world, his column is simply known as publicity.

I recently found this article titled “Today’s women are in a decidedly ugly mood“. It could never run today, but it shows how much the industry has changed in the last 25 years.

Imagine trying to publish this sentence today; “Hasn’t someone told a young woman that life is not a dress rehearsal and that you only get a few short years to be pretty and plenty of time after that to be plain looking?

It was a different time back then. Click on the image to read the full article:

Why delivering fast food by drones won’t get off the ground…


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Holy Hamburgers Batman, have you heard the rumour? Marketers claim drones will soon be delivering Kung Pao chicken, Meat-lovers family size, or a Whopper with fries, direct to our door. Well not the Bat Cave, but the front door of your mansion.

No I don’t want fries with that…

There’s nothing better than a technology prediction. Who knows if it will come true, it’s just fun making up the future. But this prediction may have some wings, so to speak, and with apologies to Red Bull.

We’ve all seen how drones have changed the way countries wage war. But drones are also changing the way lifesavers monitor and rescue people stranded in the surf. In India, hospitals are using drones to avoid the traffic and deliver vital organs for transplant. Similar organ deliveries are also being considered for the Australian outback. Even football teams use drones to record a match from overhead, so the video can be used for training purposes.

drone delivery of vital organs

Drones have become so popular, you can rarely go for a walk at night without spotting a pair of glowing green eyes floating nearby. I first thought they were owls on meth, but then realised it was just kids having fun, and not the government spying on the public…that wouldn’t happen, would it?

Companies like Amazon, Domino’s and others have started experimenting with home delivery by drone. Domino’s successfully made a home delivery of a pizza with a single trial in New Zealand. It has also trialed a robotic unit (DRU) in Australia. I reckon the unit should be named DRU2D2, in deference to Star Wars.

Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU)

While this is all very exciting and futuristic, I do suspect the drone delivery of fast food may not get off the ground. The reason is simple – teenage boys (and possibly their fathers). There is hardly a lad who wouldn’t love to knock a pizza-carrying drone out of the sky and claim the pizza for themselves. You could say that anyone who had the ability to do so, deserves their pizza reward.

I’ve had discussions with teenagers planning their own prototype drone gun. It will fire a small rotating net. The net hits the drone and jams the rotors. The drone plunges to earth (dangerously of course) and the lads recover the drone. They grab the pizza or Kung Pao and have themselves a take-away meal. Excuse the pun. Though I suspect any teenager who can use a decent slingshot could probably bring one down.

One pizza coming up…

But these kids may not have to invent their own gun, as one has already been built for them. It’s called The DroneGun (obviously) and the website says:

The DroneGun Tactical was made to help keep the increasing number of flying robots in check. It weighs 15 pounds and sends jamming frequencies that cut a drone’s video-streaming at a range of up to 1,094 yards. The signal also sends the unwanted drone back to its starting point or forces it to land on the spot. And the new Drone Gun Tactical is smaller than previous models, so there’s no need to lug around a backpack full of gear.

The DroneGun (meal acquirer)

Apparently the gun is only available to the military, but I suspect versions will become available to the general public before long. There will definitely be a demand, as privacy is a major issue, not to mention the sheer fun of knocking a drone out of the sky. There could be unexpected health benefits too. These guns might get boys off their butts and away from the PS4 as they roam the streets in search of lunch.

In an ironic twist on military drone use, the Chinese miltary has also started using drone guns to shoot down drones in metropolitan areas:

It seems that while there are many valuable uses for drones, the old adage applies to using drones for home delivery – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Gotta go. I need to order some home-delivered pizzas, as a bunch of my son’s mates are staying over after football today. If only I had a…

Less than one third of 2017 Super Bowl advertisers return in 2018…


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Edited since posting on 5th February:

Longtime readers of this missive, will be aware I post annually about the longest hour of the year – the Super Bowl.

It’s one of the marketing industry’s favourite events, apart from award shows. The accompanying statistics are always interesting too. The tonnes of chicken wings and hot dogs consumed, along with lakes of beer guzzled, always makes fascinating reading.

But there is one statistic I find most interesting. It’s the percentage of repeat purchase by marketers that advertised the previous year. In simple terms, here are the numbers:

2017 – 54 advertisers

2018 – 42 advertisers

Two things to note. The first is the drop in number of brands advertising. The number fell from 54 in 2017 to 42 in 2018. This is a decline of roughly 22%.

Secondly, is the number of repeat advertisers from 2017 to 2018. Only 17 brands backed up again in 2018. This equates to roughly 31% of 2017’s advertisers.

Or in other words, almost 70% of last year’s advertisers, did not return this year.

I’m not sure about you dear reader, but if I was selling a media opportunity that only occurred once a year, and only 30% of my customers returned for a repeat purchase, I’d be a tad concerned. But that’s just me.

I suppose if they sell all the space at an increasing rate, who cares if customers don’t come back? There’s always another sucker ready to believe the sales pitch.

Though I also get a kick (excuse the football pun) out of the fact that marketers use good old-fashioned public relations to promote their Superbowl ads. For those who’ve only worked in marketing for five minutes, that’s what you may know as earned media. Go figure, a marketer uses publicity to promote its ads. What’s old is new again, again.

I’ve also just learned of another alarming statistic:

64% of Super Bowl viewers are unable to connect a memorable ad to the brand it was advertising.

Research consultancy Communicus has been tracking and trying to measure the success of Super Bowl advertising for a number of years. Their latest research revealed 64% of Super Bowl viewers are unable to connect a memorable ad to the brand it was advertising.

It also revealed less than 20% of Super Bowl ads produce significant impact on the brand.

If this is correct, the obvious conclusion for advertising in the Superbowl, is that entertainment alone is not enough. When measuring the sucess of their Super Bowl advertising, marketers should focus on mental availability. Byron Sharp popularised the concept of mental availability. It is “the probability that a buyer will notice, recognise and/or think of a brand in buying situations.”

I won’t go into it any further here, but check out Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow for more insights.

I’m also confident that again this year there will be the usual over-hyping of how many people watched the game on mobile devices. It will be more people than 2017. And am sure the numbers will be almost statistically insignificant in the scheme of things. Television has no reason to be concerned.

Besides, there are dangers to watching a small screen when going to the loo at half-time, after sucking back all those Budweisers…


I know I dropped it in here somewhere…

And just because he is always spot-on accurate with his cartoon interpretations, here are a few of The Marketoonist’s classics about Super Bowl advertising:

Gotta go, I can hear the delivery van backing up to drop off the 100-kilo family pack of buffalo wings and hot dogs…