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…

Deconstructing “Why David Ogilvy must die” – a lesson for the fake marketers…


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An appalling piece of digital drivel appeared in The Drum last week. It is typical of the fake news constantly conjured by the fake marketers, those who call themselves digital marketers.

The horrible truth is that the digital marketing clerks have been manufacturing fake news since the internet was invented. They have claimed outrageously that everything has changed; there are new rules of marketing and PR; new business blueprints; and everything that has always worked in marketing, no longer does – even though it still does.

These pixel pushers provide no evidence to support their arguments, apart from platitudes about the number of people using some new social platforms. Sales and revenue are words banned from their lexicon.

In a desperate bid to try to differentiate themselves, because the majority are not experienced marketers (and deep down they know that nothing has changed, apart from technology), they have bullshitted their way into the psych of the marketing industry.

But as I wrote recently, the digital chooks are coming home to roost. Or read anything from Bob Hoffman, Mark Ritson or Drayton Bird to get a common sense perspective of the digital marketing truth.

The Drum article, which has been derided by marketers around the planet, is typical of the posturing by marketers trying to differentiate themselves in a sea of sameness. So I thought I’d deconstruct it, as it’s a great demonstration of the bollocks passing for digital marketing intelligence. My notes in blue.

Here it is:

David Ogilvy reigned as one of advertising’s kings for a chunk of the 20th century. In his time, he was probably probably the most famous copywriter in the world with copy that was at once clever and straightforward, and above all, crafted to sell products. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the advertising industry, Ogilvy’s face would be immortalized upon it. I remain in awe of his talent and a big fan. I love David Ogilvy.

That said, “David Ogilvy” must die.

I know, the king’s physical being departed this world in 1999, but the advertising principles of his era — some might call them iron clad rules — continue to drive how we practice our craft. “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.”

The role of marketing is to acquire and keep customers profitably. The only way to do this is to sell stuff. The sole outcome of your marketing activity is one of these three things:

  • To acquire a new customer
  • To get them to spend more with you more often
  • To keep them spending with you as long as possible

If your marketing messages aren’t doing any of these, you’re wasting your money.

Many of these applications and concepts of this legendary time in our business have little place in 21st-century advertising and marketing. Often during my career, which began in 1985, I heard the words from clients, “I don’t care if it’s good work, I just want it to sell my product.”

Firstly – it’s not good work if it doesn’t sell. Period. Am sure there isn’t an agency in town who’d prefer a new business prospect say “good work” and never get in touch, than respond directly to the agency’s advertisement to drum up new business.

All the applications of David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Rosser Reeves, Howard Gossage, Bernbach, Burnett and more, have every place in 21st century marketing. Scientific Advertising has just about everything you need to know about online marketing and it was first published in 1923.

The new paradigm is to sell more relevantly. Here are some reasons the old ways must change:

There is no new paradigm – it’s a bullshit statement. Successful marketers have always sold with relevance, otherwise they wouldn’t get a sale. There isn’t a business on the planet that can exist without sales. Technology changes, people don’t. We still buy emotionally and justify rationally. How else can you explain Jimmy Choos!

“Selling” at all costs isn’t enough anymore. Ogilvy had one goal above all others: Sell, sell, and sell some more, his principles widely adopted across the advertising world. It’s time for brands to disconnect from the old ways and learn how to connect with people through a set of clearly communicated core beliefs and values.

People do not want to be connected with their toilet paper brand through a set of clearly communicated core beliefs and values. Well maybe this is an exception:

Ogilvy himself never had to create for the Internet, mobile devices, apps, video games or social media feeds. Because media has become so much more personal, advertising must be more nuanced. People — not consumers — want products to match their core values and beliefs. The game has changed.

David admitted both publicly and privately, that the secret weapon in his success to grow Ogilvy & Mather was direct mail. It is one of the most personal and powerful channels. I chatted with him on this topic in two different meetings. He would have loved modern digital channels because he could use his 20th century skills to great effect.

Purpose, not just products. We live in what I call, The Belief Economy, driven mainly by millennials and iGen, which demands that brands have a defined, authentic belief system and act accordingly.

The economy is not driven by millennials and iGen – they have bugger all disposable income. The single largest group influencing the economy in the western world is still those known as baby boomers. No labelled segment gives a toss about a brand’s defined, authentic belief system. They wouldn’t even pass a test if asked to explain it.

WTF planet do you live on? More than 90% of all sales never involve the internet, they happen in store with almost no consideration whatsoever. They are mainly packaged goods and fresh food. Here’s a typical customer thought process when shopping in store or online “I need toilet paper. Do they have my favourite brand (created via TV ads selling the brand) or is another brand on sale? Oh I’ll grab that packet.”

Sustainable clothing company Patagonia has a devoted customer base, in large part because it does not adhere to the old system of advertising. In 2011, the company ran a campaign around Christmas, urging customers not to buy a specific jacket. The idea behind the “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign was to urge people to buy a new jacket only if they needed it. Additionally, they offered to repair people’s current jackets rather than have them thrown out. They’re still doing things like this today as evidenced by their latest campaign, “The President Stole Your Land.”

Good on Patagonia – they used a tactic and it worked. Whooppeee. Next year it will be a new tactic. Because the average tenure of a marketing manager is less than 18 months and the new manager always does something different to the previous manager. After all, that’s why they were hired.

Collaboration over consumption. The term “consumer” dehumanizes people, reducing them to faceless entities that represent nothing more than dollar signs. But today’s tools allow brands to motivate and inspire and provide an opportunity for co-creation which creates something more valuable than selling, buy-in.

Collaboration over consumption? Does anyone know what this means? Do customers call Unilever to discuss the scent additives of the soap powder they plan to buy? Ever gone shopping with kids? There’s no collaboration there. I don’t know of any tools that motivate and inspire or provide opportunity for blah, blah… buy-in.

Though come to think of it, since they were invented, ice cream parlours have let customers collaborate by choosing their own flavours. My local barista lets me tell him how I want my coffee. Even the sandwich shop lets me nominate my fillings. But this is a decades-old process. Nothing new to see here folks when it comes to collaboration or consumption.

I’d like to collaborate for vanilla thanks

What impact do brands have beyond the advertising and sale of a product? What does the brand stand for? All of these questions require careful consideration, and brands should not run from them because they can’t afford to. It’s time to lean in and give a damn.

Yes, brands do need to stand for something that resonates with their customers. Brands won’t sell otherwise. And remember in every category in the world, the number one brand is always the brand with the most customers. That is, the brand that makes the most sales.

Ogilvy famously said, “The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife.” He was trying to instill a sense of the person in the ad industry at a time when wives and moms were the gatekeepers of products that entered the household. Wives are no longer the gatekeepers. Now, everyone shops for everything all the time.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and the same-sex revolution is changing everything up and down society. The very idea of shopping has changed. It can be done online in between completing reports at work. Or people shop in-store with online mobile comparison help — a medium that did not exist robustly even ten years ago.

Yes, Ogilvy wrote for the times. He was spot-on when he wrote it. Though he did say he would have written that phrase differently had he written the book later in his career.

Brands without a communicated set of values will be left behind as the economic buying power of Millennials and iGen continues to grow over the next 40 years. A brand’s values and impact are even more critical to iGen, and research strongly indicates both generations’ purchasing decisions are influenced by knowing what a brand stands for.

Only fake marketers think customers care about brands as much as fake marketers do. Every generation has bought brands based on what the brand stood for in terms of its positioning. It’s not something new.

Centuries before the digital revolution, Confucius said “Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.” The observation is still relevant. Technology changes, people don’t. Read The Marketer Stripped Bare, by John Hancock.

The old rules aren’t right or wrong, but some of them are growing outdated, and advertising needs to evolve alongside Millennials and iGen.

The “old rules” (read truth) apply today more than ever, as the skills of communication have been desperately lost in the age of digital marketing. The OECD Adult Literacy Study revealed roughly 82% of people struggle to comprehend basic English, so we need persuasive writing skills like never before.

After all, your marketing activity, particularly direct marketing, now known as digital marketing, is trying to get your customers to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. And that’s not easy. It also has no relation to technology.

“David Ogilvy” must die because the world David Ogilvy inhabited no longer exists sociologically or physically.

Never before have we needed to study the past if we want to succeed going forward. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

And if the fake marketers continue on their dishonest path, they will continue to fail the industry and themselves.

BTW, here’s an article I wrote in 2015 explaining why we still need David Ogilvy’s thinking in the digital world.

Chemist Warehouse goes radical to promote annual sale…


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As the summer holidays (yes my mates in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer down under) draw to a close, another annual ritual is also winding up.

It’s the annual post-Christmas retail sales. Although many stores started their sales prior to Christmas. This is the busiest time of year for retailers, as they clear stock to get ready for the new season and year ahead.

The major channels used by retailers to generate sales are:

  • Unaddressed mail
  • Direct mail
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Email

You’ll notice digital doesn’t rate, apart from email. Broadcast channels aside though, the dominant channel is the letterbox. Unaddressed catalogues and leaflets abound.

One of my favourite catalogues is the Chemist Warehouse custom newspaper. This is a 16-page tabloid newspaper called The House of Wellness. It’s chock-full of information, advertising and promotions, including third party offers.

These types of publications were created in the 1980’s by mail-order marketers. As the publications were a cross between a catalogue and a magazine, they were called a magalogue. Luckily that buzzword didn’t last, though I think I once went to a seminar on how to create successful magalogues?

It’s a very good read. Here are some pages:

Front cover

Double-page spread

Third party offers

Back cover

Chemist Warehouse also uses television and email to promote its brand and sales. Consumers can buy in-store or in the online store. Amazing stuff.

These radical marketing tactics are summed-up simply by the term; common sense. This is known as a multi-channel approach. It’s branding. It’s selling, and it’s adding value to customers.

It’s not omnichannel. It’s not content marketing. It’s not data-driven marketing. It’s not customer engagement. There’s not even a customer journey – apart from driving to the store.

In a nutshell, it’s just plain old common sense marketing – and it works.

So why not start your year with a radical dose of common sense? Avoid the mandatory digital BS and buzzwords. Don’t chase the latest shiny silver digital bullet. Focus on your customers and do the simple things well. You’ll be surprised how successful you’ll be.

P.S. Today’s letterbox has a fabulous bunch of retailers making lots of offers. And there’s also a leaflet from Salmat, looking for people to deliver the catalogues into letterboxes in my street.

I might just take them up on it. Getting paid for a brisk early morning walk plus the opportunity to read marketing messages – it’s a marketer’s dream!

When will marketers and agencies call ‘transparency’ for what it really is…


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There is no other industry in the world more hooked on the drug of jargon, than the marketing industry.

We are constantly inventing meaningless new terms for the same old thing. For example, earned media = publicity. Omni-channel = multi-channel. And so on…

One reason for this, is that people new to marketing (digital marketers) believe marketing was only invented five days ago and everything new to them is new to the world. My friend Drayton Bird demonstrated this in NZ recently.

Another example of our jargon-based mentality is the word the industry has recently manufactured for “dishonesty“. Its use reflects appallingly on the whole marketing industry. Rather than admitting that the industry, particularly the digital marketing segment, is chock-full of cyber-hustlers, liars and money-grabbing spivs, we’ve avoided stating the truth and instead, created a buzzword.

In the marketing industry “dishonesty” is now known as “transparency“. And this buzzword is being flogged to death in talkfests as the amazing solution to dishonesty, even though dishonesty is never mentioned.

In his weekly newsletter, Bob Hoffman recently wrote that Transparency is the phoney flavour of the month. He highlighted how talking about transparency, rather than transparency itself, is all that the industry is doing, giving these examples:

As Bob asked – Was there a parade? Did you have a Transparency Eve party?

As we all now know folks, the major publisher platforms and sellers of digital advertising have been lying for years. And now they’ve been caught with their hands in the till. But instead of admitting they are dishonest, conducting mass sackings of the people involved and cleaning up the system, they’ve created a buzzword – transparency.

Now everyone in the industry must worship at the altar of transparency, using the George Costanza belief system- it’s not a lie if you believe it.

And the industry prophets deem we must have even more transparency. A whole transparency industry is spawning. An Institute of Transparency will be created. Seminars, white papers, thought leadership and books will be published about transparency.

Explainer videos and transparency personas will abound. And like the cyber-hustlers who call themselves Linkfluencers or Socialfluencers, there will now be Transparinfluencers to guide you on your transparency journey.

Once enough noise is made to completely blur the truth, transparency will transform into the goddess of honesty. All the negative publicity will disappear. (or should that be, all negative earned media will disappear?).

Reminds me of the mindless followers of The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem in The Life of Brian.

Hallelujah – it’s a transparency miracle!

Transparency – it’s a miracle…

And like many things digital, nothing will change. The industry will continue to remain dishonest, sorry, I mean transparent. And the digital publishers and sellers will go back to what they do best, making money at the expense of their advertisers.

I think I’ll go watch Brian again, just to cheer me up – where’s my VCR?

Transparently connect to me:

Retailers use innovative response to arrival of Amazon…


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The arrival of Amazon in Australia has created a bit of a media frenzy. Some of the over-reaction would have you think the world is coming to an end, as Chicken Little believed centuries ago.

Amazon is coming, the end of retail is nigh…

Yet a day after the announcement that Amazon was open for business, some media turned against Amazon. Apparently the prices Amazon is charging for many electronic goods are way more than competitors are offering both in-store and online. Amazon is not the cheapest in many categories.

This is a reflection of how online stores like Amazon are damaging brands by commoditising them and reducing them to compete mainly on price, rather than other differentiators. But that’s another discussion.

However, there is a group of retailers using innovative technology to combat Amazon. Though the cyber-hustlers would claim the retailers have lost their mind. After all, this is the digital world.

These retailers are using printed catalogues delivered directly into letterboxes to generate Christmas sales. Many of them are also advertising on television and radio, as well as in press (inserts and ads).

What are they thinking?

Here are the brands that have reached my family’s letterbox in the last two days:

  • Woolworths
  • Big W
  • Coles
  • IGA
  • Supercheap Auto
  • Repco
  • Priceline Pharmacy
  • Harvey Norman
  • Officeworks
  • Target
  • Bunnings
  • Bing Lee
  • Pillow Talk
  • Zamel’s Jewellers

Retail catalogues in my home…

I wonder, given the whole world has gone 150% digital, why retailers would use the technology that impacts all five senses (print), rather than the technology that only impacts three senses (digital)?

Maybe it’s because online sales in Australia will only be 7.3% of all retail sales this year? Or to put it another way, 92.7% of all retail sales will not be online this year. So digital marketing is the equivalent of playing in the kiddies pool in the big game of marketing.

Maybe it’s because they know that as a result of looking at printed catalogues, people shop online, as well as directly in-store.

Maybe it’s because they know catalogues and inserts work, as they are the secret weapon of digital start-ups.

Maybe it’s because they listen to customers rather than cyber-hustlers when it comes to running a profitable business?

Who knows?

But I gotta go now and do my Christmas shopping – where are my catalogues?

Amazing automated marketing message wows customers…


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I’ve recently returned from a trip to the USA, where among other things, my family and I rafted and hiked in the Grand Canyon for a week.

I first did the trip 30 years ago and I have to admit, the 10 mile hike to get up and out of the Canyon, was a tad more brutal this time round.


A tad tougher hike this time…

Within a couple of days of returning I received an email survey from OARS, the company with which we rafted – I highly recommend them by the way. I dutifully completed the survey and thought nothing more of it.

But yesterday, I received this automated marketing message.


It’s a hand-written thank-you card, personally signed by all the OARS crew who looked after us on our rafting adventure. It is automatically sent by the crew to each customer, after they complete their trip.


My kids thought it was wonderful to hear from them and read every word on the card. It immediately brought back some fabulous memories and we all started talking about the different characters on the trip. The kids also asked if they could send cards back to each of the crew too.

The card now sits in a prominent place in our kitchen, for all to see.

It reminded me of a local hairdresser in my suburb. She is a very smart businesswoman who regularly wins small business awards and drives a very flash Mercedes sports car.

Twice a year she gets each of her staff to send hand-written cards to their clients. Each card includes a personal comment based on what the staff knows about their client. The owner calls these cards “wow” cards, because when the clients get them, the first thing they say is “wow“. And the clients always talk about the cards when they return to the salon.

How many of your clients go “wow” when they receive your automated marketing messages? I suspect very few.

So if you’re wasting money on expensive marketing automation software to try and fake authenticity, maybe you should spend less on computers and more on your customers and staff?

Why not send genuine messages of thanks to the people who pay your salary? Cause I seriously doubt your customers ever get as excited by fake personalised computer-generated emails sent from a team, as they do to real messages.

Who’d have thought hey – old-fashioned automated mail, packs more “wow” than customised automated content delivered as pixels?

Gotta go now – am off to the newsagent to buy some postcards for the kids to send…