It’s time to truthfully rename BIG DATA to what it is: “just lots more data – mostly useless”…


, , ,

Or maybe; “I know 90% of the data I capture is useless, I just don’t know which 90%”

On January 28, this year, Tim Cook, CEO, Apple delivered a presentation at a Data Privacy Day event.

Here is some of his most insightful words about the use of data:

Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it. And we’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.

At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better. And all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.

If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.

As I’ve been saying for more than a decade, “Most companies aren’t correctly managing their small data, let alone getting BIG DATA right.” And it’s costing them dearly. Small data such as a customer’s name, address, phone number, email address or previous purchase are regularly incorrect, or not even stored. Marketers appear to be focusing on the least valuable data.

For all the investment in BIG DATA this century (and marketing automation software that functions from that data) there has been almost no significant change in marketing results or performance of campaigns. The majority of sales in every category occur without any help from big data.

Ask any senior marketing executive “how has the investment in bigger data helped their sales?” If they’re like those I talk with, they’ll say “I have no idea” or “it hasn’t“. But hey, they do know how many people bounced off page three of their website and who liked a Tweet.

The 90/10 Rule applies to data
90% of the value from using data comes from 10% of the data. Yet most marketers are playing at the margins where the incremental value of lots more data doesn’t cover the cost of investing in gathering it.

I declare my hand here – I am a firm believer in the power of relevant data. I also understand the delusion of productivity created by capturing lots of data for no other reason than it can be done. In 1988 I opened Australia’s first data consultancy and database management service while running Ogilvy & Mather Direct – called Ogilvy DataConsult. Three years later I opened my own data marketing service as part of my agency – MAD. And have worked with data ever since, even publishing a magazine called Database Marketing.

It may come as a surprise to some, but marketing data wasn’t invented yesterday – there is just lots more data now, most of it useless.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
Just because we can track every digital contact doesn’t mean we should. It’s the equivalent of recording the fact a shopper walks into a grocer, looks at the bananas, walks towards them, maybe even picks up a hand, then puts them down before deciding not to buy – possibly because they remembered they had some in the fruit bowl at home? What is the value in tracking this action? So why do we chase non-qualified consumers around the web with irrelevant messages just because they visited our website?

Stop trying to sell me breast pumps
This happened to a friend of mine who was in her early sixties at the time, as well as me when I tested her experience. After searching for baby gifts online, the insanely stupid marketers started following us around the internet trying to flog us breast pumps. Each time we visited a site, up popped breast pump advertisements.

Even worse are the B2B marketers – particularly those flogging marketing automation software – who follow you around after you’ve visited their site. When browsing a website for personal relaxation, that has nothing to do with business, I get ads asking me to trial their marketing automation software. Or they promote an offer to download a “definitive guide” which at best is nowhere near definitive, rather it’s a sales pitch for the software the marketer is flogging. Here is why most definitive guides aren’t – definitive that is. All this does is damage their credibility.

How ignoring small data resulted in abuse of senior citizens
My 80-year old neighbour shared his story with me last month, he was shaking as he told it. His bank mailed him a letter telling him the email address on his account was incorrect and he needed to fix it. Obviously this was a data-driven message as no human in their right mind would have sent the letter. He logged into his account and checked his email – it was correct. It’s the only email address he has ever owned.

He then received another letter threatening to charge him fees if he didn’t fix the email address. So he rang the bank. They told him he had to go to his branch – which has been closed – so they gave him a new branch to attend. When he arrived he didn’t have the 100 points needed to prove his identity, despite having his bank cards. He had to drive home and then drive back to the bank.

Upon returning, the clerk checked the account and realised the email address was being used in my neighbour’s joint account with his wife. So the clerk demanded to speak to my neighbour’s wife. He told her she was in a dementia hospital. The clerk asked to speak to her there. My neighbour explained it was impossible, as she cannot converse and he was her legal guardian. The clerk then demanded proof.

So my neighbour had to go home and contact his lawyer to get legal documentation to prove his status as legal guardian of his wife who is living in a dementia hospital, because the bank’s data-driven systems believed his email address was incorrect. He ended up driving to the bank branch three times to accommodate their requests.

The clerk finally admitted that the email address was correct and the whole saga was a complete data-driven waste of time. You can imagine how my 80-year old neighbour felt? This bank makes $Billions in profit every year and spends $Millions on BIG DATA capture.

My (even older) father is a lifetime customer of one of the other ‘Big 4 Banks’ in Australia. He used a travel card in 2004 and cancelled it in 2005 after using all the funds. Every year since, he gets a data-driven bank statement telling him he has no funds on his travel card. He has spoken to the bank more than a dozen times and rung them more times than he cares to remember to advise them he no longer has the travel card account. They finally admitted they have no idea where his account is in the database, nor do they have any idea how to stop the statements being issued. This bank also makes $Billions in profit every year and spends $Millions on BIG DATA capture.

My father is also a customer of the largest telco in Australia. He was asked to provide an emergency email address in his account in case of, well, an emergency. With my permission he used my email address. Immediately I started to get his monthly statements emailed to me, while he didn’t get any statements. Over a period of six months he wrote numerous letters and emails to the telco requesting the mistake be corrected, and also rang the offshore customer support a few times. I forwarded the email to some customer service address to try to sort it out, but just got a useless auto-reply. Hours of my father’s and my time were wasted because the telco’s data-driven systems.

And not only that, the statements incorrectly spelt my name. I’ve given up asking the telco to fix it. The data-driven system automatically combines my first and middle names into a single word. Go figure?


Rather than waste money on gathering terabytes of useless data just because you can, and then relying on computer software to do your customer service, my advice is to invest your marketing funds in human beings who can talk personally to your customers. They’ll have far more success than any automated data-driven programs and ensure the relevant small data is correct. You’ll make more money and have happier customers. You’ll also inject more money into the economy by employing humans.

Only then, once your small data is correct, should you consider an investment in BIG DATA. And then, only if there is proof the marginal returns are worth the financial investment and effort – not to mention improve, not reduce, your customer service and bottom line.

Gotta go now – I have my monthly three-step data verification to complete, so I can get permission to access my own email account. Where is my passport for proof of identity…

How manufacturers use QR codes to steal sales from retailers who sell their brands…

In my first book on email marketing published in 1998, titled “They laughed when I sat down at the keyboard, but when I began to email…” I made a couple of predictions.

One was that manufacturers would use their packaging to direct customers to the manufacturer’s website to build a database of customer data. These manufacturers would then use email to take their websites directly to the customers and use embedded e-commerce to sell directly to them. The second prediction was that the manufacturers would redirect their advertising funds from mass media to email marketing and database management.

Unfortunately, the technology we were pioneering – streaming video emails with embedded e-commerce links – became vulnerable as vehicles for introducing viruses, and only lasted a short time before being eliminated forever. But manufacturers have developed databases and now use email to sell directly to consumers. Wisely though, they continue to use mass media to build and maintain brand value.

This leads me to the recent rise in ubiquity of QR Codes that I wrote about in my previous article. It seems my last-century prediction has come true but with a sinister twist – at least in the cosmetics category. I’ve yet to research other categories and welcome any examples you may have dear reader.

Here is how manufacturers are using QR codes to steal customers from a retailer distributing their product, and push the sale to a competitor or to the manufacturer’s own online store.

This case in point is a highly successful Australian retail pharmacy that stocks brands such as Revlon, L’Oreal and nudebynature, yet is having sales stolen directly at Point Of Sale.

The brands have introduced QR codes at the counter to promote virtual mirrors or look-books so retail customers can inspect the products in use, or learn more. But here’s what’s really happening:

Here is Revlon’s QR Code to try the virtual mirror:

Scan the QR code to download the virtual mirror

Here is the landing page:

And here is where you can link to from the landing page – directly to an offer from a competitor:

Her is the L’Oreal QR Code at Point Of Sale:

It links to a tool to trial the lipstick shades. Here is the landing page:

Here is the page after the ‘Tap & Try” link disappears:

And here is where the ‘Buy Online” link takes you – again directly to a competitor:

This is obviously good business if you’re Chemist Warehouse, but not if you’re the incumbent pharmacy paying to stock and promote the cosmetics in your retail store.

Here is the nudebynature QR code:

This opens a look-book:

Click on the logo and you link to the nudebynature website:

Clicking on the “Shop Sale” button links to the e-commerce page where the customer can buy direct at a special sale price:

I have no idea if this is planned surreptitiously, but it certainly smells on the nose. Using QR codes to stealthily switch customers from the retail store in which they are standing, to buy online at a competitor, or directly from the manufacturer, does not pass the pub test.

It feels dishonest and certainly not in the spirit of a good partnership between manufacturer and retailer. If this continues I suspect retailers will simply refuse to allow QR codes at POS, unless the codes link to the website of the retailer in which the customer is physically shopping. This is a shame as QR codes can add value to the shopping experience.

If you have any thoughts or examples please share them. I’m curious to learn if this practice is widespread or just getting started.

I’m off to sort out another service hassle at the Telstra store and consider buying a new phone – I wonder if there are QR codes on their displays???

QR codes are dead, long live QR codes…


As you know dear reader, more often than not, the latest shiny widget hailed as the new-new-thing in the digital marketing world, dies a rapid death and is soon forgotten as the next new-new-thing takes its place. Google glasses being an example.

And so it was with QR codes. Relegated to the digital dustbin, they had a short life mainly due to the hassle of downloading an app for scanning the code. Not all apps scanned all codes. Some were proprietary to certain code types – for example those used by magazine publishers to link you to more of the story on a website.

Sometimes they just didn’t scan easily, and not all phones worked with the apps as the phones weren’t so smart back in the day – mid-90’s to early 2000’s. So inevitably, frustration and impatience eventually killed off the humble QR code.

Then along came a global pandemic. Who’d have thought hey?

Thanks to smart phones and contact tracing, QR codes are now ubiquitous in our lives. Every retail store, cinema, theatre, restaurant et al, requires the humble punter to scan the QR code upon entry. Right now we cannot live in society without QR codes, so it’s only natural marketers tap into this new habit.

Publishers, religious organisations, real estate agents, packaged goods manufacturers and more have jumped at the opportunity to use QR codes as a response device – or should that be ‘engagement device’ for those limited to marketing to digital channels.

Ironically, in a digital world, QR codes are helping to lead an already resurging interest in direct mail – the codes appear on the envelope, letters and brochures as the response device that takes you to customised landing pages. A seamless measurable link between the real and the virtual worlds.

The smartest B2Bmarketers know, direct mail is by far the best performing media channel to generate hot leads – always beats LinkedIn, email and online advertising hands-down. Until QR codes, the mailings linked to PURLs (Personalised URLS) – but you had to enter the PURL into your keyboard. But who wants to type when it’s much easier and faster to scan and link to the PURL on your phone?

Here is an example from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for an Easter mailing that arrived in my letterbox this week:

The QR code in the letter links to landing page…
The QR code in the brochure also links to the landing page

Here is the landing page:

Here is a real estate sign in my neighbourhood – though why you would restrict your marketing to just social media is beyond me:

Why limit your marketing to a single channel?

My local Mayor uses a QR in his letters to the constituents:

A modern mayor…

This is a mailing I did two years ago to promote an event on how to use direct mail. The QR code linked to a landing page to buy tickets.

Everywhere you look there is a QR code being used to encourage consumers to scan and link to a landing page, website, app or shopping cart. Or even to start a bit of virtual reality – though the VR experience is still a tad frustrating.

Just as the barcode changed retail as we know it, the QR code is here to stay and I suspect all brand advertising will start to include QR codes to encourage response.

However, there is also a seedier side to QR codes that I will reveal in the next article. I’ll share how some brands are using the codes to steal customers from their existing retailers. Retail is going to get nasty.

As they say in adland “Watch this space“…

I’m not a ballerina, so stop asking me to pivot…

This ridiculous email arrived in my inbox this morning from Dropbox – the highly successful digital equivalent of the storage sheds you rent to store your excess junk.

The sender is <> – this is a cardinal sin when sending emails for marketing purposes. If you are communicating personally and directly to an individual, then you need to identify yourself and give the recipient an option to reply. It also creates distrust for the sender’s brand.

In email marketing the rule of thumb is simple: The “From Line” gets your email opened, while the “Subject Line” gets your email deleted.

Your recipients ask themselves “do I know the sender?” If they do they look to the Subject Line to see if the message is relevant and worth opening. If the Subject Line is relevant and persuasive, they will open the message. If they don’t know who is sending the message, or if the Subject Line is irrelevant, they delete without a second thought.

The Subject Line from <> reads “are you ready to pivot?“. This message is wrong in so many ways.

Firstly, a headline should never ask a question where the answer can be yes/no – because so many of the recipients will answer “no” and delete your message without further thought. If you are going to ask a question, ask a rhetorical question – just as any good salesperson would when selling face-to-face.

Secondly, I’m not a ballerina. Why do I want to pivot? This is one of those buzzwords created by the cyber-hustlers who use a jargoniser to create fake words/meanings to try and position themselves as having some special secret sauce for marketing success.

Here is the Websters Dictionary definition of pivot:

When someone uses the word “pivot” in a business context, what they mean is you should continue to do what businesses have done since the invention of business. Adjust and refine your business according to market conditions. This is not new – it is common sense. Businesses have always created new products/services to grow their businesses, otherwise they don’t stay in business.

There is no need for a jargoniser to create a new word for an existing business practice. Here is an example of an extraordinary business response by a pie purveyor to the current pandemic. He didn’t need a buzzword to act.

But back to the email from <>. I opened it to see what to do if I was ready to pivot.

The headline is a glib generalisation about the bleeding obvious: “The best teams know how to work together, does yours?” What business continues in business if its staff don’t cooperate? Why assume my team may not be working together?

Then this gem is offered: “With the right mindset — and the right tools — any team can thrive in this new digital world

Am not sure how a team has a mindset, but I thought in any world, individuals with the right mindset and right tools would thrive. After all, who would try to thrive with the wrong mindset and wrong tools?

Now I’ve only been working in digital marketing since 1995 (it’s 26 years this year since I ran my first online marketing seminar). At what stage does this “new digital world” stop becoming new?

And why would I believe a digital storage shed could help me? By the way, the response button “Explore Dropbox Plans” is a link to the fees charged by Dropbox to store stuff. There is no “reason why” I should use Dropbox – What’s In It For Me?

Given I am already a customer, there is nothing to explain why I should consider upgrading or changing my contract with Dropbox.

Sadly, these types of emails invade inboxes daily – usually written by a digital or content marketer who has typing skills, not copywriting skills, because hey “everyone can write” right?

In case you’re wondering, there was no signature file in the message, but given the email came from <> that’s not really surprising.

Even more frustrating is the fact that email marketing has been around for more than two decades, yet these fundamental errors continue to be made. There really is no excuse for such amateurism, particularly from a successful organisation like Dropbox.

Gotta go now. I have to see my chiropractor after I injured myself practicing my office pivots…


A phone call with pictures won’t cut it for events/conferences/seminars in 2021…

Like many of you in 2020, I attended virtual versions of events originally designed for conference venues. The worst part of this forced process was enduring the events on conference call technology that was not designed for running events online – Zoom, Teams, Skype et al.

I also had to teach university classes using Zoom and Teams – these are definitely not media designed for teaching, let alone learning. Talking to screens with cameras switched off is painfully difficult.

Definitely not the most efficient way to run events…

These stop-gap measures were forced upon us due to the pandemic. Companies scrambled to keep scheduled events going (and not lose revenue) by migrating them to conference call technology – known affectionately as a phone call with pictures. It became immediately obvious the video conference technologies were no substitute for the real thing – a conference centre with staging, speakers, catering, exhibitors and delegates you could mingle with face-to-face over a drink.

But if you’re considering a repeat performance for your annual event in 2020, using a phone call with pictures, you’d better rethink your plans. The forced 2020 solution will not cut it in 2021.

Organisations have no excuse to force delegates to attend an online event using conference call technology. They’ve had 12 months to move on from the emergency option and must now invest in professional event platforms designed for engaging your audience, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors.

I’ve trialed a couple of technologies, there are many and varied suppliers. e:volve by Synergy Effect offers all sorts of options for fully online virtual events or hybrid ones simultaneously combining delegates at a venue and with those attending online.

The immediate benefits will make you reconsider what’s possible with online events:

  • Unlimited options for virtual stages and backgrounds
  • Whatever you can imagine can be created
  • Stream speakers live from anywhere in the world
  • Integrate face-to-face audience with virtual audience
  • Conduct live Q&A between delegates and speakers wherever they are located
  • Checkout the demonstration video below

You can even run a live online Awards Event linking presenters and award winners in real time:

I’ve also attended a webinar using the ON24 platform, which is a much better webinar experience than the standard technologies.

So, if you want to do the right thing by your delegates, guests, speakers, sponsors and other stakeholders, invest in a decent online event service. You might just surprise yourself at the results.

And you’ll be pleased to note I didn’t use the jargoniser and mention “the new normal“.

But I have to go now – I have a Zoom meeting to attend…

Irrefutable evidence the fake marketers and cyber-hustlers are destroying the joint…

Today, I conducted a small experiment on two social media channels – Facebook and Instagram. I simply scrolled for a couple of minutes on each, capturing screen shots of the advertisements posted in my feed.

I work in and teach marketing, do research on marketing stuff and speak about marketing near my smartphone, so the advertisements in my feed are mostly about marketing services or similar – sad but true. As you know dear reader, both these social channels are owned by the same organisation, so a number of advertisements appeared in both channels.

If ever there was irrefutable evidence of the destruction of marketing industry’s credibility, you need look no further than what appears in my feed. The advertisements are brought to me by those who come from the digital school that preaches “How to get rich online, by telling others how to get rich online“. There were so many, this story could be a three-part series.

Here is but a small sample:

This fake marketer is using a paid advertisement (excuse my tautology) to con suckers that they don’t need to pay for advertising to land clients. I suppose he is also a fisherman, hence the use of ‘land’, instead of ‘acquire’ or “get new”? It seems he’s out of his mind – and it definitely needs changing. Please leave the industry now.

Here’s another one. An advertisement on Instagram claiming you can sell products on Instagram without ads. And not only do you not need ads, you don’t need an audience to sell to or any marketing experience. Making money requires no skills apart from, well, nothing but replying to this ad. Mind you, this ad costs the advertiser money to advertise their message about how to make money without spending money. Bloody hell.

Do they really believe people are completely stupid? Or maybe they are happy with stupid customers, or random monkeys tapping keyboards, given their criteria for customers? Please leave the industry.

Jeff Bezos once famously said “Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service.” and yet Amazon is now the world’s largest advertiser ($11Billion PA) shunting P&G into second place.

A brand automation tool – amazing stuff. Just press a button and brands are automatically created? Does Coca Cola just hit the Brand Automation Button and go to lunch because the brand is now somehow automated and generating a profitable ROI? What does this headline mean? At least the subheading says “Join the Brand Automation revolution” not “Join the Brand Automation conversation”. But seriously folks – they want marketers to believe their brands can be automated – this defies all logic and demonstrates it was written by a digital typist not a copywriter. Leave the industry now.

Read this headline aloud – “The 2.0 100 viral content templates“. And they trademarked them!

I suppose if you’re selling templates you want those template messages to go viral, as by definition, you’ll sell more. But selling templates is a limited market and as most marketers know, there is very little linkage between “going viral” and sales. Most of what “goes viral” is simply chewing gum for the brain, with very little engagement or commerce involved in the process.

And usually it’s the content within the message that is the reason the message “goes viral” – if the template was the reason for virality, then every social media advertisement would “go viral”. That’s because all social media advertising is produced in a template – including this one. Advertisers are restricted to the same size image space, same character count and same location for the text and images.

This has created the unconscious habit known as banner blocking as the design of the advertisement signals to the viewer “this is an ad” so viewers unconsciously ignore them.

If I believe this “advertisement in a template” all I need to do is put content in one of the templates and it will “go viral” – whatever that means. So just dump a bunch of lorum ipsum into a template and sit back to witness the virality and the money appearing in my bank account?

Personally I’d rather know what type of content to put into a template to make it go viral – and I suspect this “advertisement in a template” has yet to reach pandemic-spread levels. Leave the industry now.

I have no idea why you would post such a distorted image, let alone lead with an irrelevant headline that doesn’t relate to the image. Readers expect headlines and images to relate to each other. The reason is simple – it’s how we’re taught to read.

For example, a picture of a dog, with the word ‘dog’ underneath it. A picture of a cat with the word ‘cat’ underneath it. It’s in our DNA to look at an image and link the caption or headline. But this advertisement does nothing of the sort.

Then the dead giveaways appear confirming this was written by a cyber-hustler. The first giveaway is the Use Of Capitals To Start Every Word In The Headline. The next is the use of the jargoniser to add buzzwords for alleged credibility – in this case it’s the buzzword hack – as if a hack is something special, for no other reason than it’s called a hack.

The other is the zero cost to do do something ‘secret’ that those who make $Billions don’t want you to know. It’s always $0 and only available through this special member of the “priesthood of marketing secrets” who out of sheer generosity wants to share it with you.

But there is a catch – you have to pay for the new $0 marketing hack if you want to use it. Please, please leave the industry now.

Once again, the first giveaway (Use Of Capitals To Start Every Word In The Headline) shows itself immediately. The ‘&’ is also a giveaway. I find this fascinating. How come no legitimate expert in the world of B2B sales and marketing has every written or run a training course on how to do what you are paid to do as a B2B salesperson – get some sales?

The sales training category must be bereft of education materials, so thank goodness for Hubspot – which I believe has one of the largest outbound telemarketing departments in the world of software marketing. Sorry, I meant to say “martech” – forgot to use the jargoniser. The company uses telemarketing to sell software that is supposed to automate the selling process, so you don’t need telemarketing – go figure.

For those who don’t know, Hubspot was made famous in Dan Lyon’s hilarious book Disrupted – Ludicrous misadventures in the tech start-up bubble. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the best book about Silicon Valley,” takes readers inside the maddening world of fad-chasing venture capitalists, sales bros, social climbers, and sociopaths at today’s tech startups. It’s a great read by the way.

And the hilarity is real. This advertisement uses the jargoniser to create a TLA for ABM. That’s a Three-Letter Acronym for Account-Based Marketing. Back in the dark ages of mid-last century, the term Account-Based Marketing or Account-Based Selling was invented. It was used to sell mainframe computers and other office and industrial equipment to major organisations and government. The sales teams were divided by market segment, or account type. For example, government or education.

So why use a jargoniser or TLAs to allege special skills are required for a business process that is about 70 years old? If you believe you need to reinvent the name of a process that has hardly ever changed – people selling to companies, assisted in some way by technology – then please leave the industry now.

Analogue tactics rule

The really interesting thing about the cyber-hustlers is how so many of them want you to buy or download a book to discover their secrets. That’s right folks – that old-fashioned analogue thing called a book. You can buy one and have it printed by a publisher and mailed to you, or you can download it and print it yourself.

Curiously, most downloaded books never get read online and even less are printed and read. The sheer act of downloading the book satisfies the respondent they are doing the right thing, then life gets in the way. Because the book isn’t physically sitting in front of them waiting to be read, the downloaded version gets ignored. But some SaaS expert will attribute value to your download and tick-off an achieved task on their KPIs.

The first 20 years of the 21st century are sadly being remembered as the decades that the cyber-hustlers and fake marketers destroyed any semblance of respect for the marketing industry. Even sadder is the glib acceptance of them by the industry. Why are we so intellectually and morally lazy?

After all, if Twitter will put fact-checking messages on Trump’s Tweets and Facecrook will remove fake content, why don’t these platforms protect us from fake marketers?

Have to go now, I’ve been asked by a young digital marketer for advice on how to become a thought leader without any expertise – now there’s an idea for a book…

Google MD writes hilarious job application to join Saturday Night Live…


, , , , , ,

Well folks, job applications take many forms, but this week the MD of Google in Australia obviously played her cards to pursue a career as a comedian.

How else can you explain this hilarious Open letter to Australians? It was written in response to the Australian Government deciding that Google must pay for news written by other publishers and journalists, rather than steal the news from them. Go figure – don’t be evil!

You must be aware of how this works dear reader. If you take something from someone or an organisation without their permission, then make money from what you’ve taken, you must pay that person or organisation for what you stole. It’s common sense, common courtesy and common law.

Sadly, Google appears to be just a common thief

The headline of this article was going to be: Common thief launches comedy channel, also known as Google…” but I changed my mind.

Even the most inexperienced marketing clerk knows that Google steals IP and content from legitimate publishers/journalists without paying for it, and offers it up within search results to make money from the associated advertising. It also manipulates search results for its economic benefit, so you cannot necessarily rely on organic results.

Bob Hoffman – The Ad Contrarian – has been calling out these and other unsavoury organisations/practices for years. Think Facecrook for example.

Yesterday, in what has been described as one of the funniest articles of all time, Google’s MD tried to threaten Australians with outlandish claims about loss of free search services. Google has been roundly condemned by marketers, consumers, media organisations, school children and most importantly, the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission). The story is on all TV news bulletins and online news channels.

In addition to the letter, Google is displaying this image on its homepage on Chrome – it’s not appearing on other search engines.

The ACCC’s response to Google is here.

The reason the Google letter makes you laugh out loud is the naivety of the author to assume anybody would believe the outrageous claims it makes. Who is advising this alleged leader?

The whole situation raises a number of issues.

The first is the quality of the staff that work at Google. Why do they work in such an unethical business? Where is their moral compass? Why aren’t they calling out the organisation and suggesting it change its way? It’s not like Google is struggling – it made $4Billion in the Australian market alone in 2019.

The second is the misguided delusion many executives live under because they work for a major brand. This is particularly true in marketing roles. They believe that because they work for an established global brand, they somehow have more talent, or are better than others.

Most marketing clerks are just process functionaries – pushing paper and pixels for profit. They’re not innovative, creative or inspiring. They don’t invent new products or services or distribution channels. They just spend the advertising budget – and that’s an important function.

You consistently see the evidence at seminars, where executives with flash job titles are invited to speak. The audience anticipates something brilliant because of the job title and brand. Then reality hits – they have no secret sauce, they don’t know much more than the audience and most are rather average presenters.

But the real kicker is how even the highest paid executives know the power a letter has over all other media. Whenever there is a crisis or a desperate bid for credibility, you’ll find executives, politicians, church leaders et al, writing “an open letter” and publishing it in newspapers or online – just as the MD of Google did.

If you ever wanted evidence of the credibility and power of direct mail, look no further. But that’s another article…

Yours sincerely,

Malcolm Auld

Before Coles stops using printed catalogues they should look to Domino’s for guidance…


, , , , ,

This week a marketing clerk at Coles made the ridiculous decision to stop using one of its most powerful media channels for retailers – printed catalogues. For international readers, unaddressed catalogues distributed via letterboxes, are one of the strongest generators of retail store and online traffic in Australia.

Coles catalogues

The reasons given by the clerk were ridiculous to say the least and naively woke – and Coles has rightly copped a backlash from both consumers and industry.

There is no basis to the Coles sustainability argument around paper usage, as explained by Kellie Northwood CEO of The Real Media Collective in her comments in Mumbrella. While Simon Lane, Country Manager at Ricoh, succinctly demonstrated how consumers are behaving, in this post yesterday.

The physical is always more powerful than the virtual as I explained here years ago. After all, would you prefer a real or a virtual kiss?

The science of the emotional power of paper over digital channels has been proven. It has to do with how direct mail for example, 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.

You can download Millward Brown’s research on this topic here.

Though, I’ve learned through testing, that the best results come from a combination of both print and digital channels. You need to continually test to work out the best combinations.

I suspect Coles has never run a split-run test to see what media channels work best. They’ve never isolated stores and distributed a catalogue in one catchment area and not distributed a catalogue around another store, to prove the best media usage. They certainly didn’t claim so in the announcement about their decision.

Once again the marketing clerks are letting opinions not facts govern their decisions – a sad reflection on the industry.

Which brings me to Domino’s…

Don Meij is the CEO and Managing Director of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises. He is also one of the most successful business executives in Australia and one of the highest paid. I had the privilege of interviewing him for my book a couple of years ago.

He revealed that Domino’s rushed to ‘save money’ by reducing the volume of its unaddressed letterbox marketing collateral. Domino’s distributes leaflets, booklets and other printed collateral to sell pizzas. Domino’s had launched its app and wanted to migrate customers to using the app for orders.

The result of this decision was an immediate drop in sales. So Domino’s reverted to using letterbox leaflets again. Over time, the Domino’s app has changed the way many customers place their order. Instead of using the phone to talk, they use the phone to tap. And once a customer downloads the app they use it more often to place home-delivered orders. But many still use the letterbox offers before ordering.

Domino’s realised the best marketing results come from testing and using a combination of media channels. Let the market prove the media you should use – not the marketing clerks.

Interestingly, my local pizza owner – he’s from Calabria –  had to close his dine-in service during lock-down. He doesn’t have a website. So he printed a letterbox leaflet and distributed it in his catchment area. He offered a discount for pick-up. I’ve used the offer almost weekly and love chatting with the husband and wife team as I await my order. We are after all, social creatures. He said the leaflet saved his business.

And only last month Coles biggest competitor Woolworths did a mass-distribution of its loyalty cards in a clear plastic envelope in suburban letterboxes, to attract new customers.

Woolies use letterbox distribution to sell loyalty cards

In the statement about the catalogue decision, the Coles marketer said, “we are living at a time of unprecedented societal change…” and it’s true. Consider what’s happened during the pandemic:

  • Record sales of books as people have more time to read
  • Record sales of jigsaw puzzles as families return to ‘traditional’ tactile activities
  • Record sales of vegetable seedlings and chickens as families grow their own food
  • Return to direct mail communications as the personal and physical media are more trusted during these troubled times
  • Record sales of home-delivered products – because there is no other way to buy them as stores are closed

Of course, the volume of mail and unaddressed catalogues is less than a few years ago, just as radio and TV audiences have declined and digital marketing channels struggle to be successful. As consumers, we have way too many channels to use, making it harder for marketers to instinctively know what works and what doesn’t. Hence we need to go back to basics and follow the rules.

There are two simple rules to success in marketing:

Rule 1 – Always Test

Rule 2 – See Rule 1

The pandemic has revealed some massive weaknesses in marketing – with poor quality decisions being made by unqualified marketing clerks.

Let’s hope the ‘new normal‘ brings back a semblance of commonsense and let the facts, not woke virtue signaling, drive marketing decisions…

Looks like people are lying in vital COVID-19 market research…


, ,

Forget the second wave of stupidity folks, the third wave of stupidity is gaining momentum in Australia. Suburbs with no recorded COVID-19 cases are rapidly running out of bog rolls again, as TPHS* spreads its deadly tentacles.

The third wave of stupidity is here…

Yet, despite my recent vigorous research into what humans fear most, the fear of running out of bog rolls doesn’t appear anywhere – on any list in the world.

On this list, it’s public speaking – even more than the fear of dying.

On this list, the biggest fear of Americans is “corrupt government officials” – which doesn’t really need any commentary under current circumstances.

On this list, it’s social phobias people fear most.

Damn I dropped my last roll…

So if the fear of running out of bog rolls is not a stated fear in any research, yet the biggest fear as demonstrated by current human behaviour is running out of bog rolls, one has to ask the question:

Can you trust market research results?

If you’ve worked in market research you know the answer to the question is “yes“. But, the research adage of “what people say versus what people do” is applicable, more often than not. It’s why there is a skill to framing questions when doing market research, which I won’t go into today.

Though my old boss David Ogilvy, who was a big fan of research, said this: “I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.

Maybe the next omnibus survey will reveal some new pandemic-related fears?

Though I doubt the fear of running out of alcohol will be a problem – home delivery of alcohol is booming – and there is no shortage of production. It seems the populace is happily getting sloshed in lock down, without leaving the couch.

Which reminds me, I need some more red wine – better check local same-day delivery services – cheers…

*Toilet Paper Hoarding Syndrome

Last time we had unpolluted air it took less than 7 days to return to ‘new normal’…



The year 2000 was wonderful for Sydney-siders dear reader. We were hosting the ‘greatest games ever‘ and the city was party-central for this fabulous festival of sport. Even the weather obliged with sunshine for the most part.

And because trucks were off the roads, only delivering at night, and most of the city’s occupants were on holiday and using public transport, the lesser traffic ensured the blue skies above were as clear as they’d ever been.

Pollution-free clear blue skies…

But what was special during that two week party called The Olympic Games, was how polite and friendly people were to each other. The populace was smiling and manners came to the fore – “after you” in doorways, “thank you” for anything. When 10,000 fans were crammed onto the Olympic train station awaiting the next train, instead of getting angry at the crush, we sang songs together and enjoyed doing so.

Instead of complaining, the crowd sang songs…

I commented to my better half “I wish people were this nice all the time. I wonder how long it will last?

Less than 7 days is the answer.

In under a week from the Games finishing, I had an elevator door slammed in my face as I went to step in, a queue-jumper pushed in front of me to order a coffee and road rage returned with a vengeance, as the roads and traffic returned to normal.

Quick, close the door on that person running for the elevator…

I’m writing about this topic, because during the early days of the current COVID lock-down, people have behaved very politely and appeared a lot more friendly. The early-morning walkers who would normally ignore a friendly greeting, have happily chatted rather than avoid eye contact. Dog walkers have been bumping elbows – and dogs.

Even the fitness freaks, who would otherwise be in a gymnasium of some sort, say “hello” as they sweat past you, or while doing their routine publicly in the park as you walk by. These might seem like small things, but in the big scheme of urban communities, getting anyone to acknowledge a stranger’s greeting is usually nigh-impossible.

“Hi neighbour, hello puppies…”

And you’ve probably seen the images of nature returning to its healthiest condition, unseen in decades, as pollution disappears from our rivers, canals and skies.

So with all the COVID-Buzzwords being thrown around, I wonder how long before the alleged ‘new normal‘ appears? How long before we go back to being our old selves? How long before what’s old is new again, again?

Given the “second wave of stupidity” by the masses afflicted with TPHS (Toilet Paper Hoarding Syndrome) I suspect that across the board, there won’t be much of a ‘new normal.’ People and companies will return to existing habits and practices, though with some modifications – such as working from home more often than pre-pandemic.

It seems road rage is on the rise, while social distance queue-jumping is rife in retail stores. If you don’t immediately step to the next “X marks the spot” in the checkout queue, some low-life will jump on to the unmanned X and steal your place.

Police monitoring social-distance queue-jumpers and those with TPHS…

And let’s not mention the oxygen thieves who state they are not going to let a pandemic interfere with their lives. They are actively ignoring social distancing and continue to hug, kiss and gather in groups. When one young male was asked by a reporter “what if you give COVID to your grandmother?” he just shrugged and said ironically “that’s life“.

So my COVID-Forecast for public behaviour is that there won’t be a new normal, just the old one returning along with the easing of restrictions. Most of us care about one thing – ourselves – and we’ll do whatever we can to look after number one.

Speaking of number ones, that reminds me, I need to buy some paper for number twos. Better arm myself and prepare to take on those with TPHS at the retail store…