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…


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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…


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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…


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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…

Is it time to bring offshore call-centres back home?


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Before I start this post dear reader, I declare I only speak one language – Australian. I respect anyone who can speak multiple languages. But because someone can speak a language doesn’t mean they can communicate in the language they speak.

I assume my international colleagues experience similar frustrations as we Aussies do, when you call a local company’s “customer service centre” that is located in a country where English isn’t the first language. This outsourcing of alleged service has been one of the great cons of modern capitalism.

Firstly, the service is worse, it’s never better. Secondly, the income earned by the call-centre staff doesn’t benefit our local economy. Thirdly, the poor service really pisses-off customers, the people who pay the salaries of the call-centre staff.

One of the worst experiences is when the call-centre representative gets into a circular loop reading from a script, usually because they don’t understand the language or its nuances, and are unable to solve the problem at hand. The conversation ends up as “I understand your situation…” Of course they have no idea or understanding of the situation. But some call-centre psychiatrist, or human capital expert, has convinced management that this phrase helps diffuse the customer’s frustration, when in reality it makes matters worse.

“I have no idea how to solve your problem, but it says here I should say…”

So, given the COVID-Crisis and the massive unemployment it is creating, isn’t it time we returned call-centres to Australia?

Qantas is an example. Today it announced it is sacking around 6,000 staff in order to survive. Why not relocate the Qantas call-centres to Australia and employ some of those staff, where the income will benefit the local economy? It will also improve the customer service.

Telstra is another one. I’ve yet to speak with a customer service person without “I beg you pardon” being the most common phrase I use. Even worse is the Voice Recognition software that doesn’t work. Here’s a typical day in the life of a customer. You call the Telstra hotline. A computer answers and asks you to state why you’re calling. After stating your reason to the computer, it replies with something such as “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you, please repeat the reason for your call.”

This goes on until the computer forwards you to a human in another country. You go on hold until an English-as-a-second-language representative starts talking to you, usually to advise you’ve been put through to the wrong department, so “please hold while I transfer you“. Then the line goes dead, or if you’re lucky you get through to a queue to wait to speak to another representative, blah, blah.

“What do you mean, how do I spell Kim?”

It may be naive, but I believe we should use this opportunity to create jobs in our local economy – we have the talent pool. It’s the largest since the Great Depression. Let’s bring our call-centres home!

Gotta go, I’m having internet problems and have to call Telstra – aaaggghhhh!!!

The second wave of stupidity proves it again – when consumers panic, brands don’t matter…


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A spike in the number of COVID-19 infections this week, in the State of Victoria in Australia, has led to a second wave of stupidity. Apparently, people are rushing their supermarkets and panic-buying bog rolls.

So I thought I’d republish this article, as it is the most popular of my posts in this crazy year. It reflects the simple adage, when common sense flies out the window and people panic, brands don’t matter…

Never underestimate the stupidity of the typical punter…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mmm no-frills beans…

Communications degrees to double in price, when they should be halving…


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Last night, the Australian Federal Government announced a restructuring of university fees. It’s an attempt to attract more people to study for what the politicians believe will be the growth-jobs in the near future, as we emerge from the COVID-Crisis.

One decision they’ve made is to double the cost of a Communications Degree, as they believe communication skills won’t be in demand in the near term – go figure. I have to declare my hand here folks, as I lecture and tutor subjects in a Communications Degree, as well as a couple of other degrees. I also run a lot of training and education courses in the private sector.

My main concern about this decision is it’s lack of understanding about the average student’s ability to communicate, not to mention the typical blogger, community manager, content marketer, people publishing on LinkedIn, academics et al. They operate under one of two mistaken beliefs: “I type, therefore I can write” or “I talk, therefore I can teach“.

As I’ve written about in these pages before, The OECD International Adult Literacy Study revealed the following:

  • 48.5% of people have difficulty reading basic language
  • 32.7% of people have below average literacy ability

These people, who are struggling with basic language and literacy, are the people creating content for marketing purposes, among other things. It’s no wonder so much ‘content’ is completely ignored, or not understood.

And I recently read that the biggest fear of about 66% of graduates when starting a new job, is having to talk to colleagues. Our graduates fear conversations with humans – partly because they spend so much time staring at screens and texting rather than talking, they have little appetite for verbal communication.

Please don’t make me speak to my work colleagues…

The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear – communication skills are an essential service in which we need to invest – now more than ever.

As Confucius said in the 5th century BC:

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.

Confucius was correct…

And Confucius was correct. Right now, our people are standing about in helpless confusion:

  • People don’t know if they have a job or can get a job in the near future.
  • People don’t know how long they will be supported financially by government assistance, if at all.
  • People are worried they can’t afford their rent or mortgages and may end up homeless.
  • Physical distancing rules are applied inconsistently.
  • Schools are open for students, but universities are not.
  • Borders are open/closed, while health advice is ‘spun’ for political purpose.
  • The bipartisan parliamentary support has evaporated, as politicians have turned the COVID-problem into a political football.

Confusion reigns!

I urge the politicians making these decisions to reconsider – after all, just look at the (lack of) communications skills of so many pollies. Reduce the cost of a Communications Degree, don’t increase the cost. We need more people who can communicate, just as much as we need more people studying nursing, psychology, agriculture, mathematics and so on.

Gotta go, I need to communicate some assignment results to my students. Maybe I’ll just email them…

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


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

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

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

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

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

CMO’s are all over the media…

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

There are now Deputy CMO’s…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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