FOMO, not social channel preference, drives social media usage on mobiles…


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Life used to be simpler. In the not-so-distant past you awoke, by whatever means, and depending upon your relationship might have had a cuddle or more intimate moment. Then you got out of bed and showered or had breakfast and prepared for the day.

Some of us were woken by radio, so we could listen to the news before, or as we started our day. Some even switched on a TV to catch the news – to see if any terrorist acts, wars, floods or famine occurred while you slept. It was a simple start to the day.

But things have become more complicated. Now it appears for many, the first thing we do when we awaken is “check our phones” – partners come a distant second on the priority list. And we’re not checking for missed phone calls, voicemail or even news.

No, we’re checking content on social media. Because as we all know, it’s the central repository for all things important. I’ve been fascinated by this behaviour and over the last four semesters teaching at university, I’ve discussed it with my students – tomorrow’s advertising and marketing legends.

We run a session in which we track ‘a day in the life of a consumer‘ in terms of the media they are exposed to throughout the day and how they interact (or ignore) with the various media channels. I’ve asked all my students “what is the first thing you do when you wake in the morning?

Almost 100% answer “check our phones“. Some will even do so before they relieve their full and bursting bladders.

But being the curious bugger I am – I probe deeper. “What do you check on your phones” I ask? “Social media” choruses the answer.

And deeper – “what channel do you check first“, I inquire?

And this is where it gets interesting. Many don’t know what channel they check. If that sounds strange, it’s not when you think about it.

Because they are not checking channels. They are checking notifications – and they check the channel with the most notifications first – after all, that’s the most activity they missed while asleep. Their FOMO drives the channel they check first.

wakey, wakey, rise n shine, get out of bed it’s FOMO time…

So, if a post on Instagram has lots of activity that triggers notifications, they check that channel first. Or if they are tagged in a Facebook exchange resulting in lots of notifications, Facebook is the first port of call.

Their choice of a channel has nothing to do with the preference for the channel and everything to do with their Fear Of Missing Out on something, such as their name being tagged in a photo. After all, this is way more important than any terrorist acts, wars, floods or famine – or intimacy with their partner.

You see, notifications present a dilemma. The more notifications they have, the further behind the social curve they are – and other people might notice. OMG! Emoji. Emoji. Emoji. Emoji. #hashtag

The implication of course, though not scientific, is they ignore any ads that appear in their feed, as they rush to get back to the head of their social position. It also means marketers cannot assume people scroll through their feeds in a linear fashion, taking in all the messages that appear from friends and marketers, casually accommodating notifications.

If the consumer you are trying to reach is highly popular, they may never see your advertising – as they have no interest in anything but processing their notifications. But there is an easy way to know – test.

I suspect a few of you wise readers have occasionally been guilty of FOMO created by your phone? It’s not really a good reflection on human nature, is it? But I’m not trying to make you feel guilty – rather, reflect.

It also appears from a marketing point of view, the more you can get your customers tagging and hashtagging your message, the more chance you have of maybe, possibly, being noticed on a social channel on a mobile – maybe.

Then again, you could just call customers on their phone – that’s such a rarity these days you’re bound to beat the FOMO barrier.

Gotta go – my phone just pinged and it’s obviously vitally important that I drop everything. WOW, it’s a meeting notification. Maybe I should screenshot it and share for everyone to see…

How your LinkedIn connections can lose you business…


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Prior to the invention of social media, your business card holder, Rolodex, or contact list was private property. Only you used the file and nobody else had access to it. Certainly, nobody could see who you were ‘connected’ to in your business life. It was your personal property and quite a valuable asset.

But then along came social media – and in the business world, LinkedIn.

Now, everyone you are connected to on LinkedIn is public property. You’re encouraged to make your contacts public knowledge, even praise them with ‘endorsements’ and promotion of their ‘skills’. The LinkedIn computers use algorithms to prompt you to connect with people, based on the profiles of your current connections.

Even worse, these machines suggest you wish your ‘connections’ happy birthday or happy anniversary – something most executives would never do if they didn’t have the online connection.

Almost everything you do on LinkedIn is public. Nothing is private any more. And that’s why you can lose business.

In my early days of creating a LinkedIn network, I decided to try a few of the ‘tools’. A client of mine (let’s call her Josie) with whom I’d worked a number of times in different roles in her career, asked me to recommend her on LinkedIn, as she was looking for a new role. I was a reference on her resume and had spoken with recruiters when she applied for previous roles. I thought “why not” – though I was a tad concerned about the public nature of my endorsement. But that’s just me.

So I wrote a glowing endorsement of her skills and expertise, and thought nothing more about it.

Once Josie started in a new role, she decided to review her agencies and invited my agency, along with others with whom she’d worked over the years, to present our credentials based on a real brief.

Obviously the incumbent agency wasn’t happy at the possibility of losing this piece of business. The principal of the agency, who I know well, checked Josie’s LinkedIn profile and noticed my recommendation.

He immediately contacted Josie’s boss and argued that the ‘pitch process’ was not a level playing field given the obvious relationship between Josie and myself. The boss agreed and Josie called me to say my agency was not allowed to pitch – despite the fact she has the upmost integrity and was reviewing more than one agency she had worked with previously. There was no guarantee my agency would get any business from her.

If I had simply remained a reference on her resume, this would never have happened. But because of the public nature of content on LinkedIn profiles, my endorsement had cost me a valuable business opportunity.

I’ve discussed this with others and they have had similar problems, where naive executives make decisions based on a few words in a LinkedIn profile. It’s why many of my C-Level contacts aren’t even on LinkedIn – they don’t need to be. And they don’t want others to know who is in their business network.

It’s why I no longer give public recommendations or endorsements to anyone on LinkedIn, though I do offer to be a reference as needed. For me, it’s not worth the loss of business or potential damage to my reputation.

This is certainly something none of the Linkfluencers and other fake LinkedIn ‘thought leaders‘ will share with you – as it’s not in their interest to do so. You may have a different experience dear reader, I suspect it’s horses for courses.

I have to go now and contact a bloke about a pitch – where’s my business card holder???

Oh, I nearly forgot – if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn:

Your Marketing 101 Guide by the Numbers…


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Hello again. I’m currently writing a book on B2B marketing – adapted from my training courses. The B2B category has a lot of executives in marketing roles who have no prior marketing qualifications. They have sales, product or technical backgrounds. Some even call themselves social sellers.

So, I’ve put together a little “Marketing 101 Guide by the Numbers”. Keep these in mind when planning your marketing executions, as they’ll keep you focused.

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

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

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

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

  • Mass marketing
  • Direct marketing

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

Direct Marketing – any marketing communication delivered directly to individual consumers* or to which they respond directly to you. All responses are measured and there is always an exchange of either data or dollars – online or offline. Generally used in broadcast, mail, email, telephone, print, events, social, search, mobile and online channels.

*Consumers is generic for both prospects and customers

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

  • To save time
  • To waste time

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

Saving or wasting time?

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

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

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

Marketers determine the most appropriate touchpoints to reach prospects and customers, then communicate as necessary in the most effective channels for those touchpoints. These touchpoints can be mapped for easier visual interpretation.

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

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

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

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

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

People DON’T go on customer journeys…

The numbers that matter when budgeting…

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

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

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


Marketing creates the need, while sales fulfils the need…

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

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

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

Online sales can reduce your revenue…


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A couple of years ago my agency created catalogues for an office supplies company – different catalogues for different areas of their business and different types of customers.

They had a catalogue for typical office stationery, another for bulk purchases of products delivered on pallets, and other specialty catalogues. They did some sophisticated testing, with the objective of moving clients to order via their website to reduce the dependence upon the call centre, as it took the majority of the orders. They also believed they’d make more money with online ordering.

The test results revealed some interesting insights. When the company migrated customers to online orders, they lost revenue. The average order size via the website was much less than the average order via the call centre. The reason is simple and one which any salesperson can explain.


Online sales reduced average sales value and revenue…

Once the customer was on the phone, the customer service person could upsell via questions and sell even more products than the customer might have bought if they simply went to the website. The customers who did use the website for orders, usually only bought a small number of items.

Another insight they discovered was that most customers had the catalogue with them when they called to order by phone. This gives the customer service person another way to engage with the customer, by referring to the catalogue pages and discussing them together.

Woman reading magazine at coffee shop

customers have the catalogue with them when they call…

The grim discovery was that the move to online ordering had the potential to damage the business and reduce sales. While website sales can possibly cost less to process, the average sale value was less than telephone sales.

The company had to work a delicate balance of telephone and website sales and eventually hit on a strategy of telephone follow-up to online sales. As online orders were received, the outbound telemarketers would call the customer and upsell based on the products in the online order.

This became a productive use of the call centre staff, giving them options for inbound and outbound selling. Customers appreciated the ‘service calls’ and nearly always increased their order value.


let me help you spend more money…

So don’t believe everything you hear about the marvels of digital disruption – it can damage your business rather than improve it.

The old adage continues to apply – just because you can doesn’t mean you should…

Your aspiring customers can be more valuable than your paying ones…


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My recent article about the Koala team’s overzealous belief of their brand awareness reminded me of a story about one of my first bosses, Sir Peter Abeles.

Sir Peter built the TNT global transport and logistics empire, which at one stage owned Ansett airlines. I was the National Marketing Manager of TNTGroup4, which was where I got loads of hands-on experience building databases and using direct marketing techniques for B2B and consumer marketing.

Sir Peter Abeles

Reg Ansett, the visionary founder of Ansett Airlines, bought Hayman Island in the 1950s and turned it into Australia’s most luxurious island holiday resort. Of course, the only way to get to the island back then was with Ansett Airlines. (BTW this was many decades before I eloped to get married on Hayman Island)

Back in the 1980’s after TNT bought Ansett – and consequently Hayman Island – the company made a huge investment in refurbishing the Hayman Island Resort. Those in the hospitality industry will know that all resorts eventually get stale and require deep pockets to bring them up to date.

After completion of the refurbishment, Sir Peter flew to Hayman Island to inspect his heavy investment. He attended the soft launch to the travel trade and left the island feeling comfortable about its new direction. Upon landing in Sydney, Sir Peter would normally be collected by his personal driver, but on this occasion his driver was unavailable.

Hayman Island Resort

So Sir Peter took a taxi. The first thing the cabbie asked Sir Peter was “where have you been?” Beeming proudly, Sir Peter said “Hayman Island.” The cabbie immediately replied “where’s that?

Suffice to say, Sir Peter politely explained where and what Hayman Island was, while discreetly seething under his breath. As soon as he got back to work, he demanded to see the Hayman Island marketing team, to get an explanation as to why a taxi driver at Sydney Airport hadn’t a clue about Hayman Island.

The mistake the team made was simple. It had micro-targeted a “luxury audience” by advertising exclusively in the Ansett magazine, upmarket lifestyle, fashion and travel magazines, as well as through media releases to travel writers. The problem with this niche-tactic of course, was that only those who could immediately afford to go to Hayman Island saw the advertising.

Nobody who aspired to go to Hayman Island, or who would save to go for a holiday there, had seen the advertising. They were not aware the Hayman Island Resort existed. So when Sir Peter said “Hayman Island” when answering the cabbie’s question, he didn’t get affirmation from the driver about his decision. Sir Peter was expecting something like “wow you’re lucky, I dream of having a holiday there.”

Holiday envy…

Part of the process of a considered purchase, such as a luxury holiday, home, car, camera, bed, lounge etc is the reinforcement by colleagues that your decision is a good one. Or even one they envy. It’s part of what drives our ego.

This is why your brand advertising should not just reach those most likely to buy, or those who buy regularly, but also those who might buy occasionally or dream of buying. Sales growth comes in distinct ways depending upon what you’re selling. Fast moving consumer goods such as groceries for example, have different buying patterns to high-value considered purchases.

Growth for high volume (often unconsidered) purchases comes from:

  • Convincing current high volume customers to consume more of your product
  • Converting high volume customers from a competitor to your brand
  • Getting more occasional users to buy your brand when they are in the market

Read Byron Sharp’s book; How Brands Grow for more detail.

Growth for low volume considered purchases comes from:

  • Additional purchase by a current customer
  • Converting a customer from a competitor to your brand
  • Getting first-time buyers to buy your brand

So, regardless of your product category, when marketing to consumers, you want as many people to know about your brand as possible. This includes those who will buy your brand and those who wish they could buy your brand. It’s why brand advertising, publicity, social sharing and review sites are all important tactics.

B2B is a different kettle of fish – you can often put every customer in the category on a floppy disk (ask your parents if you don’t know) and communicate with them based on where they are in their buying cycle, often driven by contractual arrangements or tenders. That’s for another article.

So don’t forget your aspirational customers, they help your paying customers justify their purchase and may eventually become your customers too.

Hmmm, it’s almost 20 years since my bride and I eloped. Maybe I should plan a quiet family celebration at home? Not likely. I suspect my bride aspires to at least a week back on Hayman Island.

I wonder if the resort has a past customer deal…

What does Uber Eats have in common with all these retail brands…


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Regular readers will know I’ve written about this before – (see below)

But given the increased amount of television and outdoor advertising that Uber Eats is doing lately, I thought I’d revisit it. Curiously, I’ve not seen any Uber Eats advertising online…yet. (now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ll probably be chased around the web thanks to cookies)

By way of background, I’ve owned a suburban supermarket and a travel agency – in different suburbs in different centuries. For both businesses, one of the most powerful media for generating retail store traffic and sales, was unaddressed mail. I’ve also produced loads of retail catalogues and other letterbox collateral for my agency’s clients.

Yet despite the fact we live in a ‘digital world’ the letterbox is still one of the most profitable channels in which retailers can promote their wares. Truth be told, most retailers would struggle to survive if this channel was not available.

Just this week, that most uber of digital disruptors – Uber Eats – dropped an offer in my letterbox.

And so did the following brands:

  • Aldi
  • Woolworths
  • Coles
  • Big W
  • JB Hi-Fi
  • Chemist Warehouse
  • First Choice Liquor
  • Pizza Hut
  • Priceline Pharmacy
  • Telstra
  • Baby Bunting
  • Plush Furniture
  • A couple of local small businesses too

So if you’re under the delusion that we now only live in a digital world, get off your screen, go outside and check your letterbox.

You’ll be surprised what brands are using this channel – you might learn something and possibly even rethink where you spend your budget…

Gotta go and do the shopping now – where are those catalogues?




A marketer’s love of their own brand can cost them sales…


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In most western countries the mattress and bedding industry is highly competitive. The tactics usually involve retailers creating loads of different brands and price points, so it’s confusing and not easy for consumers to compare apples with apples, so to speak.

If you’re interested in just how weird and corrupt the industry can be, check out this story from Fast Company about the online mattress industry in the US. But I digress.

Recently I tweeted (a rare thing for me to do) about a cheeky outdoor poster by a company called

Here’s the poster:

It is located on a main road a few hundred metres before an Ikea store. The copy on the poster is:

no tools, no worries,

There is an accompanying image of an Alan Key and screws, like those you use when assembling Ikea furniture.

On the face of it, it’s quite a clever execution.

In marketing parlance; my unaided recall of the brand was zero. So I naturally assumed was a company that provided a service to assemble Ikea furniture.

I decided to check it out – only to discover supplies mail-order mattresses. They are very good at it too – very similar brand personality to the Dollar Shaver Club.

So I tweeted the following:

I suspect this cheeky outdoor poster from Koala only works if you know that Koala is a mattress brand. Otherwise, you probably assume Koala is service to put together Ikea flat packs. Marketers think everyone knows their brand as well as they do

The response from Koala was interesting to say the least:

have you been living under a rock? if you’d like check us out here Ps. Koalas are terrible at building Ikea furniture

The response is a dead giveaway that the Koala marketers are in love with their brand way more than the general public. They live their brand every day – it’s their job. They have been very successful, so assume that success translates to every (non-living under a rock) potential mattress-buyer, knowing all about them.

And while I can appreciate the enthusiasm of successful youthful marketers, it’s no excuse for poor manners.

woohoo we’re a success…

I responded to Koala explaining that because I was in marketing I was aware of their brand. But it turns out I was wrong. Again in marketing parlance; my aided recall kicked in, and I remembered an advertisement I’d seen with Serena Williams flogging mattresses and thought it was a Koala ad. Turns out my recall ain’t what it used to be, as Serena flogs a competitor.

The reason I’m writing about this is simple. In the last 12 months I’ve bought four mattresses – a king-size and three queen-size. I suspect that’s a reasonable sale, even for a company as successful as Koala appears to be.

I cannot tell you what brand they are and I was obviously living under a rock that had no Koala advertising, because I never considered buying a Koala. The Koala brand wasn’t on my radar and unlike most consumers, I actively watch advertising.

I just checked the mattress brands. The King is similar in style to the brand Serena is flogging, while the queens are a different brand again. In case you’re interested, my bride and I negotiated a bulk deal with a pleasing discount, after a bit of shopping around – we like the social aspect of shopping and discussing our requirements with salespeople.

Marketers must remember that customers don’t really care much about brands, except when they are in the market to buy, or when something goes wrong with the product or service they’ve bought. That’s why marketers need to advertise consistently and reach as many people as often as possible, as they cannot predict when people will buy. They must also not assume that their own attitude for their brand represents the typical consumer atttitude – the respective attitudes are usually vastly different.

Though I have been keeping an eye out for Koala advertising online and on TV, but alas nothing sighted yet. I suppose I’d better take that insightful advice from Koala and get out from the rock under which I’m living – I might get lucky and see a Koala advertisement and really live a fulfilling life…

Gotta go now, am off to have an afternoon snoozzzze…

Nothing fails as badly, or regularly, as a marketing automation fail (continued)…


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Continuing from my article published last week about poor old Adobe’s problems, here is another example of computers getting in the way of sales because humans aren’t involved. This time it involves SMS – plus a late addition to the Adobe issues.

The sad part about this error is how easily it could have been avoided, as the perpetrator, Vintage Cellars, has my purchase history on file. Each bottle of vino I buy is linked to a loyalty card/app.

I do like my wine – in fact I enjoy both colours (red and white) in almost equal measures. Over a six year period in the Hunter Valley, I made wine as part of my membership of a wine club (now defunct). One vintage even won a trophy and my team also made a semillon in steel, not barrels, in the true Hunter Valley style.

If you’re a friend of mine, you’ll know I regard sauvignon blanc as a crime against humanity. It tastes like a batch of your neighbour’s lawn clippings, filtered by a garden hose through an old pair of your grandmother’s stockings. But that’s just my palette – others do enjoy it.

So last October, I received a text message from Zoe at Vintage Cellars – trying to flog me some sauvignon blanc:

Why I received this message is beyond comprehension. I’ve never bought sav blanc in my life, let alone from Vintage Cellars. Isn’t marketing automation messaging supposed to be linked to customer purchasing data to ensure the fabled “personalised customer experience/journey?”

I suspected Zoe was a fake customer service person, or possibly a bot, but I replied to her regardless, sharing a couple of my thoughts on sav blanc:

I assumed (wrongly) that the marvels of marketing technology would automatically process my message and stop the computers from trying to flog said sav. But unfortunately, the Vintage Cellars computers aren’t very smart. Even worse, it appears the humans in the marketing team don’t bother to check what their customers say to these computers. I know this to be true because a couple weeks ago, the computers sent me this message:

It would be funny if not so sad – well it’s sad that humans assume marketing automation works all the time, like a set-n-forget TV dinner in the microwave. It has obviously failed this time. But it’s sad for other reasons too:

Firstly, there is no way they could have missed me, given my wine buying in the last six months. I know this because I get my discount vouchers physically mailed to me each month and they are based on my household purchase history. And lately I’ve received a few vouchers – mostly linked to my bride’s champagne drinking I’m sure.

Secondly, because the message that was from Zoe, is now from “we” and is not signed off by anyone except the disclaimer.

And thirdly, it’s just bad marketing. Vintage Cellars has my data. They contacted me on a personal channel. I replied to them in the same personal channel. Yet they lie to me about missing me, are too lazy to check my sales history and are too lazy to write a decent message. It’s a bloody disgrace and enough to drive a man to drink.

But wait, there’s more – and it’s just arrived from Adobe as I type…

It’s an invitation to a webinar on mobile marketing, by the people who brought you “epic fails in marketing automation“. The image is of a human hand writing a WORD CLOUD in reverse on a glass screen. Why anybody would do this to their wrist is beyond me?

It appears the creative idea here, is to make the most prominent words the same as the topic of the webinar – enterprise, mobility, business, technology. Genius stuff. The first two sentences are:

Your customers, your business, your market are mobile-first. But 80% of all workflows today are at least partially paper-based. This is expensive, time-consuming and not very user friendly.

Don’t get left behind! Best-in-class companies leverage digital and mobile-first workflows to eliminate clunky, manual steps, removing inefficiencies, increasing revenue growth and improving customer experiences.

You can imagine dear reader that I may be a tad sceptical. After all, it’s the very fact that Vintage Cellars and Adobe didn’t have manual steps involving humans that caused their marketing technology failures. It was their very investment in digital marketing technology, with complete disregard for the compulsory layer of human intelligence, that cost them dearly.

The copy appears to be written by a typist, not a copywriter. After all, if your business is mobile-first (whatever that means) yet your workflow is 80% paper-based, how can your business be mobile-first? It’s obviously paper-first! The writer is contradicting themselves. This strive for marketing mediocrity is giving me a headache.

I’m off to medicate with a drink. Hmmm, red or white…

Nothing fails as badly (or regularly) as a marketing automation fail…


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As robots and “automation software” increasingly take over the tasks of humans, the number of customer service problems and technical glitches seem to be increasing. Yet ironically, in most cases, the simple reason for the failure is the lack of human involvement.

Here is the first of a couple of examples I’ll share with you:

Adobe is a very successful company and makes some great products, some of which I use. They were a client years ago and I also have friends who work there. On 14th May Adobe sent me an email with the subject line: “Gartner Magic Quadrant names Adobe a Leader in Multichannel Marketing Hubs“. Now as I’ve owned an email SaaS business, I thought I’d see what the Magic Quadrant had to say, though I wondered if I was supposed to be puffing on something when reading stuff by the Magic Quadrant?

The email is an image with the ridiculous headline: “Your customer has many sides. Engage them all.” There were no images of customers, just technology.

I laughed so much I just had to click on the link to see how many sides my customers now have – apart from the obvious backside. And as I’m already married I don’t want to engage any of them.

The link was for a report titled: “Connecting with People Across Their Every Dimension” so I was a tad confused given the subject line. The link took me to this page:

It’s not immediately obvious what to click on for the report. There is a “request a demo” button but that’s not the report button. Eventually I realised the headline “Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs” was the link, so I clicked on it and it opened to this:

The page simply says: Access to this content has expired

So I went back to the email and tried again – same result.

I scrolled through the email to see how to contact Adobe. But like most marketing automation brands – they don’t want to provide customer service to customers or prospects. They force people to do everything themselves via (often useless) websites, rather than provide humans (or at worse, chat bots) to help. It’s the equivalent of going into a retail store and asking the salesperson if they have a product in stock, and getting told to go look out the back in the storeroom yourself.

The email fineprint tells me not to reply to the email, even though it was personally addressed to me (well to my subscription email name – Ted). I have to go to a damn website and search for the contact information:

PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. To obtain information on how to contact Adobe, visit the web at:

This is so wrong on so many service levels, not to mention the language: “To obtain information on how to contact Adobe” – I don’t want to obtain information on how to contact Adobe, I just want to contact Adobe.

Apart from the link not working and not being able to contact Adobe without opening up a website, the message itself indicates what’s wrong with many digital marketing businesses these days.

Like so many of these companies, Adobe obviously doesn’t employ copywriters or art directors – it employs graphic or industrial designers – people who know how to design, but not how to communicate. And they employ typists not copywriters.

Some of the obvious giveaways:

  • Centred headline across more than one line
  • Widow or orphan in the headline
  • Full stops in the headline (these tell you to stop reading)
  • Two full stops in the headline (stop reading or else)
  • Centred body copy – with widows
  • Breaking a publication title across two lines, with the final words hanging as widows
  • Reversing white out of black type in a sans serif font – significantly reduces readability and comprehension
  • Use of the jargon-monkey button on the keyboard – this message is full of it:

Let’s deconstruct:

Today’s customer expects personalised content when it matters most” In simple terms, this is complete B.S. Today’s customers are no different to yesterday’s, last week’s or last century’s customers. They just want good service – if it involves personalised content so be it. But they are not “expecting personalised content” – most don’t want any more damn content. Marketers are the ones who want to create content – not consumers. Read more below.*

And when you understand all the human complexities that drive customer decisions,” “understand the human complexities???” It’s not brain surgery – it’s marketing. Maybe this refers to a complex customer decision like “I think I’ll buy a cup of coffee” or “I will click here to download the report” – definitely need to understand the associated human complexities for such decisions. We’ll fail otherwise and never be able to “deliver experiences that speak to them, get them to click, and make a lasting impression.

#changehands #fingersdownthroat

These types of messages are contributing to the reason the majority of people don’t trust online content as much as they trust printed content. It’s why the marketing industry is ranked near the bottom on the consumer trust barometers.

But wait – there’s more…

A week later on the 21st May, Adobe sent me this message:

The message has a report attached, a week after I had tried to download it. How long did it take the humans at Adobe to realise the link didn’t work? Didn’t a human test the link when it went live, so to speak?

This message also demonstrated the wrong people are creating the emails:

  • The Adobe team is singular not plural – so ‘we mistakenly linked you” cannot be. An individual created the email link, not a team of people.
  • Teams don’t send emails, individuals do – did a bunch of marketers sit around a send-button each waiting anxiously to push the button together as a team?
  • “We care about the quality and relevance of our communications and have taken measures to fix the issue.” No. No. No. Stop the passive language. There is no need to say “we…have taken measures” just say “the problem is fixed.”
  • Stop talking about yourself – there are numerous ways this message could have been written with more relevance so it delivered in Adobe’s words, “experiences that speak to them, get them to click, and make a lasting impression.”

BUT WAIT, there’s even more…

The report that I tried to download on the 14th is titled:
Connecting with People Across Their Every Dimension.”

The report the Adobe team sent me on the 21st May is titled:
Analysts Report Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs“.

So now I’m confused. The report I was sent reflects the subject line of the email. It talks about SaaS that delivers messages in many channels to customers. But it doesn’t talk about the many sides of the customer, as per the headline in the email message, or the title of the report I tried to download.

So is the subject line and the landing page correct, but the email message incorrect? Or is the report title in the email message correct, but the subject line and landing page incorrect? It’s enough to make a simple marketer reach for the Magic… I suspect you get my drift.

This is so typical of what happens when technologists pretend to be marketers. What is going on at Adobe? Where are the experienced marketers? Where are the people who care or are accountable?

If you would like to learn some facts about readership, comprehension and designing to communicate, read the brilliant book by Colin Wheildon – “Communicating or JUST MAKING PRETTY SHAPES.” If you contact me on I’ll send you a FREE PDF of the book – no downloading or teams involved.

Gotta go now – am going to download a definitive guide to downloading definitive guides…

You can read more here:




Ignore the Personalisation Paradox at your peril…


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Personalised marketing messages have been around for centuries – think mail-order catalogues posted to individuals, using those individual’s name and address data. The personalised customer experience, including face-to-face customer service, is not new to the world.

Personalised customer experiences are not new…

But now in the digital age, we can personalise almost every communication we have with consumers. We can use names, images, facts, charts and other data linked directly to individuals, to customise our communications – be they email, landing pages, websites, ads, SMS and more.

We can go even further by using cookies to chase individuals around the web, based on their behaviour on a landing page, website, email or other digital asset. I’ve written about the remarketing problem of leaving cigarette burns on your customers before.

But here’s the rub…

When you use direct mail and write a letter to someone, it is common courtesy and good manners to personalise your letter with the correct name, address and other relevant details of your relationship with the recipient. In fact, if you don’t personalise correctly your recipients are offended or lose respect for you the writer. Your lack of good manners can damage your brand.

Dear John…

Conversely, in the digital world, the holy grail of a “seamless personalised customer experience” can be disastrous for a brand. The more a marketer uses personalisation and demonstrates they are using digital surveillance to track an individual, the more the marketer offends the individual and possibly damages their brand.

Here’s one example I’m still experiencing. In January I searched online and visited a couple of retail stores before buying some gym equipment. Almost three months later, I am still being chased around the web via remarketing, by one of the companies from which I bought some equipment and one that I didn’t buy from – I just looked at its merchandise.

I’ve written before about how this type of remarketing mistakenly tried to sell breast pumps to a granny. It seems marketers are not learning from their mistakes – which is the best way to learn.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

Marketers have fallen in love with technology and the various tracking tools now available to monitor customers. And it could be argued it’s costing them more in negative attitudes toward their brands and lost sales, than positive results.

After all, you don’t see a greengrocer chase a customer out the store and into the carpark, throwing a free banana and special deal through the customer’s driver-side window, just because the customer fondled the fruit but didn’t buy it?

Don’t leave, I’ll give you a free banana and a discount of you buy more now…

Marketers need to consider if the marketing tactics driven by their online surveillance tools pass the pub test. If they don’t, then don’t use them – simple.

Most marketers I’ve asked about remarketing and digital personalisation use words like “creepy”, “sleazy” and “not on” when describing how they feel as recipients of surveillance-based marketing. So why do we do it to the people who pay our salary – our customers?

Mind your manners

If you are writing directly to a customer or prospect, by all means personalise your message – be it mail, email, or even a PURL. It’s good manners to do so.

But if you are going to use surveillance-based marketing tools to “personalise the online customer experience” you need to ask yourself if it is worth doing. Would you like to be treated the way you are treating your customers? Are you practising good manners and respecting them?

The reason you consider your options is simple. The marketing industry is among the least trusted in the world. The last ten years has seen its reputation trashed by the digital marketing practitioners. Your surveillance-based marketing will only reinforce this negative attitude and reduce the effectiveness of your marketing budget.

Trust me, I’m a digital marketer…

And this is the Personalisation Paradox that marketers face. It’s a delicate balancing act and you need to take it seriously – particularly if you want your customers to take your brand seriously.

Gotta go now – I was going to search for some lingerie for my bride’s birthday, but am concerned by what might follow me around the internet afterwards. Think I’ll just visit the store at the mall instead….