What can you say dear reader…
Both Facecrook and Floptus use full page press advertising to try to rebuild credibility.
Who do you trust – certainly not the digital channels that’s for sure…
Here’s another digital marketing case study folks from the “you can’t make this shit up” files.
As you know the marketing industry has become infested with Virtue Signallers and fake marketers who make outrageous claims and sweeping generalisations about the industry, to try and position themselves as legitimately having some sort of expertise.
Sites like LinkedIn are adorned with self-serving wallpaper promoting miracle ways to be a LinkedIn legend, glib motivational statements for instant success, secret sauce sellers, and “fluencers” of all shapes and sizes.
Given the apparent gullibility of the market to believe this stuff, a mate of mine has decided to run some tests, particularly to see what the automation tools detect within his LinkedIn profile.
He works in sales, most recently selling advertising in digital publications. Given the luvfest for everything “X” (eg CX, UX even FX) currently infecting the industry, he decided to change his job title.
As an aside, why do marketers suddenly have an obsession with customer experience? Hasn’t the customer experience been the key to staying in business since the year dot? If you don’t acquire new customers and keep them regularly spending with you for as long as possible, you don’t have a business. Seems UX and CX are just virtue signals. But I digress.
To capitalise on this latest X-trend, this salesman removed sales manager from his title. He replaced it with an “X”. He called himself a HX Manager to see what it might do to the bots that trawl candidates on LinkedIn.
It only took a day for a result.
He got a call from a digital marketing recruiter. In a very enthusiastic voice she said she was keen to discuss his HX experience, claiming that HX is a growing area of marketing. She asked him to explain his HX expertise for her. (you can’t make this shit up…)
So he did. He said it meant he was a “human experience” manager. In other words, he worked with people selling stuff to them. Bloody amazing stuff this HX. She was well-impressed and asked him to apply for a job she is filling for a global brand, in its UX/CX division.
But he’s decided to expand his HX title to something that is even more descriptive. He is now an IRLX Optimisation Director.
That’s right folks, he’s now an In Real Life Experiences Optimisation Director. In layman’s terms, he sells things to people. And he’s already had one job inquiry, thanks to the brilliant marketing automation tools being used by recruiters to find talent.
Like many, I find the digital marketing industry’s obsession with renaming everything that exists in marketing, for no other reason than there is a digital component, rather tedious. The industry’s labeling by obfuscation is more embarrassing than productive.
I find it easier to understand when people just get straight to the point, like Bob Hoffman does when sharing the truth about the digital marketing industry: “you can’t make this shit up…” is one of his most used phrases.
And you don’t have to make it up. The rubbish that permeates the marketing industry claiming to be truth, is pure XXX-rated rubbish, and it gives you loads to work with to help advance your career.
For example, you can call yourself an XMN – that’s an Expert Marketing Ninja.
Or maybe an XCXMX – experienced customer experience marketing expert.
Maybe we establish another way of using X, with a Roman Numeral bent? Just as the X’s on clothing labels expand with your years (X to XXL) so too they can expand with your career:
These X-options are unlimited, and guess what? You can make this shit up – because there’s a digital marketing sucker born every minute who’ll buy it from you…
Recently I was invited to tender to write the copy for a regional tourism website in NSW. The brief was strange to say the least.
A wireframe or site map were not available. This, as you would guess dear reader, makes it a tad difficult to estimate the amount of writing to be done for the job.
Sadly the brief included personas, though curiously no reference to whether they were right or left-handed. The personas are just a manufactured marketing label describing the typical prospect. You know what they’re like – they never use language used by humans. Whoever invented the term “persona” needs to be <fill in the blank>.
It gets better. The required outcomes for the copy were:
All of these have everything to do with how well the site is promoted. The copy will help deliver the results, but only when people get to the site. Nothing was given regarding promotion of the site.
A brand style guide was also supplied – and it spoke volumes. Here are four headlines from the guide for the STATIONERY section. Obviously editing or proofing are not big priorities:
It appeared both the agency that developed the style guide and the marketing people who commissioned and use it at the council, are standing still when it comes to detail. Not much care factor.
It reminded me of a seminar I once ran in Canberra. It was about direct marketing and copywriting. The majority of the delegates were from the Commonwealth, and the ACT public services.
The seminar was advertised to run from 9am to 5pm. But at 4pm, something strange started to happen. Most of the delegates started to check their watches and fidgeting in their seats. By 4.15pm they were packing their bags. At exactly 4.21pm they stood up to leave.
When I asked them what they were doing, they answered in unison “we’re not paid to work past 4.21pm, so we’re going home“. I argued that the seminar went til 5pm and the tickets had been paid for by their department for them to attend until 5pm. One assumes the tickets were bought on the understanding the delegates would attend the full day.
It was like I was living in a parallel universe speaking an alien language. These public servants could not comprehend “working” outside the hours they were being paid. It was a foreign concept.
Bugger the fact they might learn something to help their careers. They viewed attending a seminar, not as professional development, but just another way to spend time to get a pay packet – without a care about the details.
I did run until 5pm and those that stayed thanked me for doing so. But to say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. Others might say I was naive.
Then today, as I was writing this article, I received this email. I get regular requests like this because I run a “content team” for an online publisher.
I’m writing from Destination Blah. Destination Blah is the lead government agency for the Blah tourism and major events sector. We have two key consumer websites – Blah.com and Visitblah.com.
I’m reaching out to see if you’re currently accepting guest posts on your site? We have a content team dedicated to providing accurate and thorough information about different areas of Blah, and we would love the opportunity to share our experiences with the area.
I look forward to hearing what you think, and discussing further.
Blah Digital Team
This is depressing in soo many ways:
1. The email starts in the personal (I’m writing) then moves to the plural (we have a content team…we would love…) then back to singular (I look forward…) It doesn’t build confidence in Blah’s content team’s writing skills.
2. The final sentence said ” I look forward to hearing …” but the signature file is not a person, it’s a phrase – Blah Digital Team.
3. The cardinal rule of email marketing is “teams never send emails” – individuals do. I’ve written about this before.
4. “…we would love the opportunity to share our experiences with the area.” Share your experiences with what area?
5. The only time you should ever use “reach out” is if you are singing with the Four Tops – “reach out I’ll be there”. You risk offending people when you try to “reach out” to them. It’s such a creepy phrase.
But back to the copywriting tender. I did submit a simple proposal based on the “brief”, though without much expectation. Even included at no extra cost, hiring a final year marketing degeree student from the town’s university, as part of my “Auld Head – Young Shoulders” programme. It gives undergraduates and graduates paid work experience, at excellent value for clients.
The date passed when the successful tenderer was announced. It took three days of chasing past the announcement date to get an answer. We didn’t get the business, but wasn’t surprised. Apparently the job was awarded to a PR agency.
Hope they can proofread…or maybe it’s not a required outcome?
Let me share a personal secret with you dear reader. I’ll whisper it to you:
“I collect definitive guides”
It’s true. I download each one that arrives in my inbox and save them into a folder. And that’s where they stay, because I rarely read them. They’re usually so subjective and full of fluff, it takes too long to find any worthwhile stuff.
I use a false name and an email address I reserve just for subscriptions. It helps to redirect the inevitable automated follow-up by a computer, and in very few cases, by a human.
Nobody ever calls though. Last year, after using the “Premium” LinkedIn service without getting any benefit, I didn’t renew my subscription. Nobody called to ask why, or to re-sell it to me. Seems LinkedIn believes people don’t need to deal with people in B2B marketing.
Strangely, while I had the subscription, each time I opened my account, I was made an offer to subscribe to the Premium service to which I was already subscribed. One has to question LinkedIn’s marketing automation.
But back to definitive guides.
The following is typical of the opening paragraphs in many of these guides.
“With new marketing channels and technologies popping up every day, marketers must adapt and evolve their analytics strategies, skills, and solutions to survive. As big data becomes increasingly critical for informed decision-making, marketers and their organizations will find themselves along a spectrum of analytical maturity.”
That’s a concern. Nobody I know wants to find themselves on a spectrum of analytical maturity. Most, like me, have no idea what it even means.
But, given that everyone in the industry agrees we live in constantly changing times, with new marketing channels and technologies popping up every day, how can any guide be definitive? By definition, it’s out of date the day it’s published.
If you claim the reason for publishing a definitive guide is constant change, then the guide is only as current as the most recent change? By the publisher’s own reasoning, the guide cannot be definitive, except at a very small moment in time, or to justify the publisher’s self-serving purpose.
Maybe the name of these guides should be changed to reflect the truth? Here’s a suggestion:
Title: An Indefinitive Guide To <insert marketing topic>
Subhead: A self-serving opinion about <insert marketing topic> designed to convince you to buy our marketing stuff. Best before <insert date>
This is an honest description and puts a timeframe to indicate the guide’s currency, given it will be out of date pretty quickly and by definition, no longer definitive.
Hmmm. There could be an opportunity here. Maybe I could publish the definitive guide to publishing indefinitive guides?
Where’s my definitive guide on how to write…
Who’d call themselves a digital marketer these days? As the evidence continues to grow about the lies, deceit, appalling ROI, as well as agency bias towards digital at the expense of better performing channels, it’s become embarrassing to claim you only have digital marketing skills.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Lone voices in the wilderness have been warning for more than a decade that the digital chooks would come home to roost. Though their voices have largely been ignored.
The real reason so much digital marketing fails is simple – the people working in it don’t have the right marketing skills.
The evidence is plain to see in the online advertising space. Most online ads are brand ads not direct response ads, yet the internet is a pure direct response channel.
Fact – the internet is primarily a direct response channel. Online marketing is just direct marketing, albeit at a much faster pace than analogue channels.
You wouldn’t run a brand ad in a newspaper or on TV, then measure its success using direct marketing metrics. So why run brand ads online and expect direct responses? But this is exactly what the brand marketers do every day.
FYI direct marketers are making money online – have been since day one. But they are not running brand advertising to do so. They have tested the different emerging channels and ads. They avoid those channels that don’t work. In most cases these are the social channels.
They rarely use programmatic buying. They deal direct with the publishers. This is how they’ve always worked with analogue channels, so they already have the expertise to succeed in online channels – evolution, not revolution.
But the marketers who dominate online advertising are mostly brand marketers and that digital peculiarity, the fake marketer. They were lured by the magic of its measurability.
Unlike direct marketers, they had no prior experience of direct response measurement. The “response drug” in the form of open-rates, click-through rates, time on page, downloads and (occasionally) sales, hooked them like teenagers having their first drink. This measurability stuff was the secret marketing hooch they craved.
And just because measurability was new to them, they assumed it was new to the world.
So they rushed headlong into the online advertising world completely ill-equipped for success. To cover up this lack of expertise, they created new buzzwords to describe alleged new marketing tactics – despite these tactics being centuries-old.
To help position themselves, they used virtue signals, to manufacture FOMO. Direct marketing was called old-fashioned, implying it was irrelevant. Some even made the stupid claim that DM no longer exists (really, some fools stated such crap). All it did was reflect their lack of marketing expertise.
For those who might be confused, direct marketing (or direct response advertising) is any marketing activity whereby you communicate directly to individual customers and prospects, or they respond directly to you, in any media channel. The outcome of the communication is that there is always a measured exchange, of either dollars or data, or both.
For example, the customer provides their credit card and in return they get a case of wine, or they provide their contact details, in exchange for an email newsletter.
Branding for branding’s sake, is a secondary priority with a direct response message.
But here’s the rub with direct marketing…
You are trying to get prospects who may or may not know your brand, to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it – take immediate action and respond.
That’s hard shit and requires some specialist skills, the least of which is the ability to write persuasively.
Yet the majority of people working in digital marketing have no direct marketing expertise. If they did, they wouldn’t have invented fake vanity metrics such as likes, and shares, to justify their credibility.
The brand and fake marketers have misunderstood the digital channels
Direct response is definitely not the way to sell fast moving consumer goods, in single unit sales. Why it took P&G until last year, at a cost of $Billions, to realise this fact, is a mystery.
The only reason to use direct response for packaged goods, is to sell a continuity programme or subscription. For example, that digital darling, the Dollar Shaver Club is a direct marketer and uses direct response advertising to sell subscriptions. Both analogue and digital wine clubs also sell wine by subscription.
The process is known as “negative-option” and I’ve written about it before. The marketer delivers products on a regular basis, say monthly, until the customer says “stop”. This is a way of marketing that is more than 100 years old and goes back to the days of mail-order. It’s not new just because we have an internet.
The more they failed the more they created spreadsheets of bullshit
These “digital marketers” tried to justify the poor branding results with vanity metrics. They even created jargon such as “customer engagement” to make the metrics appear genuine. When the vanity metrics failed, they just increased their tracking to create even more spreadsheets of bullshit. They attempted to confuse the world with useless data to convince us they were legitimate.
Sorry folks, but data without dollars is just doo-doo.
The tracking eventually became stalking as they desperately tried to get sales, from ads that didn’t sell, to people who didn’t want to buy. Have you ever seen a grocer chase a customer out the door shouting offers at them, just because the customer picked up a lemon then put it back without buying? Welcome to the world of remarketing – placing cigarette burns on your customers long after they’ve left you.
Read Bob Hoffman’s brilliant Badmen for the appalling truth of the tracking, stalking and the fake world of online metrics.
Playing in the fringes
Any direct marketer will tell you, when you are marketing to a mass audience and chasing a response, you are always playing in the fringes. You don’t know when people are going to buy. That’s why you need to give them as much information as possible, plus some incentive, to help them make a decision in your favour.
Here’s an example. If a product is only bought once-a-year, then on average, in any single week, only 2% of the annual market is buying – 50 weeks PA x 2% = 100%.
This means if you deliver say, a direct response insurance ad to 100 people (and you don’t know their renewal date) then on a good day, you could expect at best maybe 2 people to buy – assuming you capture 100% of the 2% of people in the market that week. You’ll be partying like its 1999 just because you made two sales. It’s pretty obvious to see why trying to sell single bottles of shampoo via digital channels won’t be profitable.
Given this market reality and the complete lack of involvement in online ads by website visitors, marketers should not be surprised that online ads rarely get one tenth of sweet FA worth of clicks. Any direct marketer worth their salt could have told them these ads wouldn’t pay off.
If you’re a mass marketer, in most situations, you’re generally better off not running ads online.
If you really want to do brand advertising, change the way you buy media and dominate web pages for long periods to create awareness. Do not simply run an online brand ad and measure it by impressions or click-through rates. Measure it as you would the ads in other channels. And never rate vanity metrics such as likes or shares or customer engagement. You’ll just waste your money.
Once you build your database you can then encourage your customers and prospects to download your app. Then you can gradually reduce how much you spend with online advertising, as more of your audience migrates to your app. You’ll still need to advertise though – read Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” to learn why.
To get your customers and prospects to switch to your app, you’ll obviously need an incentive.
Where are those steak knives?
You’ll have probably noticed dear reader, the cancerous spread of fake marketers promoting their thought leadership, has resulted in an increase in the use of adjectives, particularly in headlines.
You see them everywhere. For example, you no longer need normal marketing tools, you need “killer” marketing tools. Or you can download “mind-blowing” secrets for your online success. Don’t you love how these aren’t just secrets, they’re mind-blowing secrets? How mind-blowing is it to sell something to someone who wants to buy it?
The problem with much of this digital dross, is that it rarely focuses on you, the customer – except the spurious claim about blowing your mind. The content is nearly always about the self-centred thought-leading internationally-published super-effluencing, fake marketer and their miracle secret sauce for digital success.
It’s never about you.
And “you” is the most powerful word you can use in your marketing messages.
The “You Rule“ is simple. Always use more of you, your, yours, you’re, you’ve than I, our, ours, us, we, we’re, we’ve, my and mine. People are only interested in one thing – themselves, so write from their point of view, not from yours.
There has always been some debate about whether “you” or “FREE‘ is more powerful.
When I was National Marketing Manager at TNT back in the dim dark 1980’s I ran a split-run test. I wanted to see which was the more powerful word for helping to generate a response.
This was the time in life when fancy digital calculators and branded business card holders, were all the rage as corporate gifts. I’m sure anthropologists in future centuries will just look at marketing incentives to determine a specific time in history. Digital calculators & Business Card Holders = 1980’s. iPods = 2000. USB sticks = 2005. iPads = 2010. Fidget spinners = 2015 and so on.
The test was in a direct mailpack, flogging the first-ever payroll software for desktop computers. It was in the heady days of disruption – when mainframe computers were being replaced by desktop computers. Sorry, that can’t be true – disruption was only invented by cyber hustlers and fake marketers in the last decade.
But I digress.
Heady days they were folks. The mailing had an insert. It promoted the incentive you would be given if you responded for a demonstration of this innovative and disruptive software.
The test was in the headline. We tested two different headlines, but kept the image and copy the same on both inserts.
Headline 1: FREE CALCULATOR
Headline 2: YOUR BONUS FOR TAKING THE INITIATIVE
My experience told me the first headline should get a better result. However, you guessed it, the second headline generated the higher response.
It addresses the reader and implies they’re smart. They’re taking an initiative, not just responding.
Then we combined the headlines for greater impact:
Headline: YOUR BONUS FOR TAKING THE INITIATIVE
Subhead: Complete the enclosed envelope and return it today for your FREE EXECUTIVE BUSINESS CARD HOLDER
I dug it out of the archives:
What an offer dear readers – how could you resist?
We then tested different headlines for some of the other divisions I was marketing. Here they are:
That’s the beauty of testing – you don’t have to decide, the market does it for you.
You have to love that, don’t you…
You think that’s too many you’s?
Originally published 2016…
Any marketer, advertising agent, researcher or social scientist worth their salt, knows for any marketing content to resonate with, let alone influence, the typical punter, it must be consumed numerous times in a short space of time. Seeing something just once, rarely makes a serious impression (though it is rated as such in media terms – an impression that is).
Unless the message is designed as a direct response message, giving prospects all the information they need to ‘act now’, most marketing messages hardly penetrate our grey matter if only seen once.
Just look at the way we learn at school – through repetition. A message has to be repeatedly consumed for it to eventually make it through our distracted craniums and finally embed itself into our conscience. This is called learning. It’s a rare human indeed, who can read or view something only once and then remember the content.
So what does this mean in the world of digital chewing gum for the brain? This is the world where the people mostly share content in social channels, which requires less than a metaphorical chew to consume. The receivers of said content quickly scan it, dismiss it, then start to chew on the next piece of content, ad infinitum.
The majority of content shared by consumers is mostly images, video, memes, jokes, fundraising appeals and personal stories. People rarely share words or phrases, particularly lots of words like those populating ebooks, whitepapers, brochures and the like. Of course people communicate back and forth using words, but it’s not sharing in the content marketing sense.
The act of sharing on social media often has less to do with the content being shared and more to do with narcissism. “Look at me, I’m sharing this before anyone else” or “look at me I’m sharing something – how many likes did it get?” or “look at me, I liked something”. Though sharing in business channels can have less selfish motivations.
The average adult attention span is now roughly 8 seconds (just less than a goldfish) and ASS Times keep getting shorter and shorter – less than 1 second for many image-based channels like Instagram. So the ability for any snack-size marketing content to resonate at all in the memory of consumers, is nigh impossible. Did you like that piece of digi-jargon – “snack-size”?
And what about all that thought leadership content floating in cyberspace? At best, much of it remains in the ‘download folder’ of computers, because we’re too busy to print it or consume it in any depth. It’s why good quality email messages to opt-in subscriber lists, along with blogs, are still the best performing content online.
Ironically the content marketing failure is being driven by the content itself and FOMO. I’ve talked about the infobesity problem before. The average punter is waterboarded with content from friends, strangers, government, institutions and brands every second of the day. Add to this deluge, the modern dilemma of FOMO forcing consumers to have minimal engagement with content, and you can see why brands gain almost zero benefit.
Consumers know there’s loads more content coming down the digital pipe and they don’t want to miss it. So they quickly and disengagingly ‘like’ something, or ignore it, before moving to the next set of pixels.
Just as we chew gum without thinking and then spit it out, it’s the same with content. We consume it without thinking and with almost zero emotional engagement. We swipe, pause, swipe – in a constant process to churn through the non-stop current of content. And the pause is usually shorter than the time it takes to spell ‘pause’. And even if consumers do take a few seconds to read or view your content once, will it really make a lasting impression?
Hmmm that reminds me, I’d better check my emails. Oh look there’s a dog…
P.S. Please feel free to share this content with as many as you like:)
If you work in marketing you know that thanks to the internet and digital technology, the whole world has changed spectacularly. Human DNA has completely morphed. As consumers, we humans have suddenly stopped our centuries-old behaviour and now act entirely differently in every way, particularly when it comes to buying stuff.
Not only that, but everything that ever worked in marketing prior to last week, no longer works today. “Marketing has changed forever” is the gospel according to the fake marketers.
And these fake marketers have successfully used virtue signals to con the marketing industry into believing this gospel. Every week they claim there are new rules for everything marketing. Apparently, these new rules are so “disruptive”, that only those in the secret priesthood of fake marketers, possess the unique knowledge to understand them. Like the weavers of the Emperor’s new clothes, they claim you’re unfit as a marketer if you can’t see what they can.
The virtue signallers play on FOMO and hide behind a bizzare myth that because this new marketing is done via computers, then “traditional marketers” have no idea how it works. Only the fake marketers masquerading as digital marketers can deliver the future of marketing. So roll up, roll up and get your digital snake oil, before you go out of business.
In case you’re curious, Virtue Signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group.
In the marketing world, virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of marketing myths and B.S. done primarily with the intent of faking marketing expertise to enhance standing within the marketing industry.
The virtue signals come in numerous forms, but mainly they are fake claims, silly buzzwords, fake economies and fabricated expertise. You hear the signals in meetings and seminars, and read them in blogs, articles and social channels. One common element among the virtue signallers is their complete lack of real marketing expertise. They just shovel virtue signals in the hope of manufacturing some credibility and fertilising their reputations.
These are typical of the fake claims:
The jargon monkeys love their buzzwords and acronyms. You’ll know many of them like these:
Even more shady are the whole new economies that are allegedly revolutionising marketing:
The only economies these support, are the financial economies of each author who manufactured the economic term and published a book to fake legitimacy. By playing on FOMO they charge a fortune for alleged insights into their secret economic sauce, while doing the rounds of the marketing industry and seminar circuit sprouting their virtue signals.
Finally, there is the thought leader industry – because that’s what it is, an industry. There’s almost no legitimate thought leadership. Hire a virtual assistant/slave in a third-world country to ghost write a book, pay an SEO expert to own a few related keywords, and publish an article to stake your claim to expertise.
Some even label themselves some kind of influencer such as Linkfluencer, Socialfluencer and the like. I attended a fluencer’s webinar and couldn’t believe the dross being peddled. Apparently these are the 3 keys to success on LinkedIn:
The “fluencer” running the event thought it was an amazing achievement to be published in online business press – the machine that demands content to keep itself fresh. Any marketer worth their salt is regularly published in business press, thanks to their PR company, or the sheer fact they are a legitimate expert. Being in the media is standard operating procedure for marketers. So to get excited because your article gets a run, is at best sad and really quite naive.
Another fluencer shared their secret to becoming an influencer on LinkedIn. Before you post an article, invite all your contacts to like and share your article immediately it is posted. This will fool the algorithm into thinking your article is popular and help improve your influencer standing within LinkedIn. Sad but true. To be seen as an influencer you have to get colleagues to help you scam the system.
Why not just be bloody good at your job and share legitimate expertise, base on years of real experience? Or possibly just tell the truth?
Maybe they should be called “effluencers“?
Luckily there are still some of us living in the real world and we know the opposite of these virtue signals is true. Just look at the disgrace the digital media industry has become. The fake numbers supplied by Facecrook, Google, You Tube, Instagram and Twitter have stunned marketers who have spent valuable shareholder’s, or their own funds, in these channels.
So to save you from virtue signal confusion, here are some facts:
Curiously, not one consumer packaged goods brand has been launched successfully using digital media. All new brands, particularly online brands, rely heavily on old-fashioned advertising and public relations for sales, and to get third parties talking about them. Just watch any television show to view the plethora of ads for online travel, insurance and hotel aggregators, home delivery services, online financial services, Google, Apple, et al.
Unfortunately, just when the momentum to fix the problems created by the fake marketers is growing, it seems Google, P&G and Unilever’s management are becoming virtue signallers, rather than solving the problem. Check out Bob Hoffman’s expose here.
Though in a positive step, more companies are removing the word “digital” from marketing job titles. They’ve finally realised it’s all just marketing, regardless of channel or technology.
Here’s a signal to consider – spend your marketing budget as if it was your own money, promoting your business, so the profits feed your family. You’ll be amazed at how you start to ignore the virtue signals and focus your thinking on what really works in marketing.
Gotta go now. Am working on an AI blockchain cryptocurrency VR app. It’s going to revolutionise marketing forever…
I have teenage children, aged 14 and 15, so an emerging topic of conversation is what career they would like to pursue. I find this interesting, particularly given I still haven’t a clue what I want to do in my career, even after working four decades in marketing and advertising.
Most schools hold regular updates about “the jobs of the future” and the skills our kids will need to succeed in the digital world. You’re probably aware of the need for STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) that the career advisers and alleged experts believe are essential for a future success.
These skills are often quoted by the digital marketing virtue signallers, as part of their effort to position themselves as marketing experts (over marketers who really are marketing experts). They claim if you cannot code, you’re not a marketer.
Well Google has done some research on its staff, as it was a STEM employer of choice. The results have been published in an article in The Washington Post and they are very surprising indeed.
The essence of Google’s research findings, and that of another piece of research conducted by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers (which includes both small firms and large ones like Chevron and IBM) is that STEM skills don’t count. Well not in the way they have been historically favoured.
The skills needed to succeed in the digital world are the soft skills, not the hard digital skills. These skills include being able to communicate and listen well; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.
And go figure, to succeed in marketing you need marketing skills, not computer skills. Who’d have thought hey? Maybe this is why companies are starting to eliminate the word “digital” from marketing job titles.
It’s surprising how long it has taken so many companies to realise what type of people they should hire for success in the digital world. I mean, all they had to do was watch The Intern.
I spend much of my time consulting with and mentoring young digital marketers. It’s almost a fulltime business – and might be soon. The main reason I do so, is these digital marketers don’t know very much about marketing and are worried they are out of their depth. They know how to post on social media and use Slack to “communicate” with their colleagues about when to play the next game of Foosball, but not much else. They fear they will fail as they don’t have the expertise.
So next time you’re in a meeting and an alleged digital marketing expert claims to have a new secret sauce for digital marketing magic, lean over and clip them behind the ear – twice. Just so they know you’re serious.
Gotta go now – I have an appointment with a careers advisor…
An appalling piece of digital drivel appeared in The Drum last week. It is typical of the fake news constantly conjured by the fake marketers, those who call themselves digital marketers.
The horrible truth is that the digital marketing clerks have been manufacturing fake news since the internet was invented. They have claimed outrageously that everything has changed; there are new rules of marketing and PR; new business blueprints; and everything that has always worked in marketing, no longer does – even though it still does.
These pixel pushers provide no evidence to support their arguments, apart from platitudes about the number of people using some new social platforms. Sales and revenue are words banned from their lexicon.
In a desperate bid to try to differentiate themselves, because the majority are not experienced marketers (and deep down they know that nothing has changed, apart from technology), they have bullshitted their way into the psych of the marketing industry.
The Drum article, which has been derided by marketers around the planet, is typical of the posturing by marketers trying to differentiate themselves in a sea of sameness. So I thought I’d deconstruct it, as it’s a great demonstration of the bollocks passing for digital marketing intelligence. My notes in blue.
Here it is:
David Ogilvy reigned as one of advertising’s kings for a chunk of the 20th century. In his time, he was probably probably the most famous copywriter in the world with copy that was at once clever and straightforward, and above all, crafted to sell products. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the advertising industry, Ogilvy’s face would be immortalized upon it. I remain in awe of his talent and a big fan. I love David Ogilvy.
That said, “David Ogilvy” must die.
I know, the king’s physical being departed this world in 1999, but the advertising principles of his era — some might call them iron clad rules — continue to drive how we practice our craft. “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.”
The role of marketing is to acquire and keep customers profitably. The only way to do this is to sell stuff. The sole outcome of your marketing activity is one of these three things:
If your marketing messages aren’t doing any of these, you’re wasting your money.
Many of these applications and concepts of this legendary time in our business have little place in 21st-century advertising and marketing. Often during my career, which began in 1985, I heard the words from clients, “I don’t care if it’s good work, I just want it to sell my product.”
Firstly – it’s not good work if it doesn’t sell. Period. Am sure there isn’t an agency in town who’d prefer a new business prospect say “good work” and never get in touch, than respond directly to the agency’s advertisement to drum up new business.
All the applications of David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Rosser Reeves, Howard Gossage, Bernbach, Burnett and more, have every place in 21st century marketing. Scientific Advertising has just about everything you need to know about online marketing and it was first published in 1923.
The new paradigm is to sell more relevantly. Here are some reasons the old ways must change:
There is no new paradigm – it’s a bullshit statement. Successful marketers have always sold with relevance, otherwise they wouldn’t get a sale. There isn’t a business on the planet that can exist without sales. Technology changes, people don’t. We still buy emotionally and justify rationally. How else can you explain Jimmy Choos!
“Selling” at all costs isn’t enough anymore. Ogilvy had one goal above all others: Sell, sell, and sell some more, his principles widely adopted across the advertising world. It’s time for brands to disconnect from the old ways and learn how to connect with people through a set of clearly communicated core beliefs and values.
People do not want to be connected with their toilet paper brand through a set of clearly communicated core beliefs and values. Well maybe this is an exception:
Ogilvy himself never had to create for the Internet, mobile devices, apps, video games or social media feeds. Because media has become so much more personal, advertising must be more nuanced. People — not consumers — want products to match their core values and beliefs. The game has changed.
David admitted both publicly and privately, that the secret weapon in his success to grow Ogilvy & Mather was direct mail. It is one of the most personal and powerful channels. I chatted with him on this topic in two different meetings. He would have loved modern digital channels because he could use his 20th century skills to great effect.
Purpose, not just products. We live in what I call, The Belief Economy, driven mainly by millennials and iGen, which demands that brands have a defined, authentic belief system and act accordingly.
The economy is not driven by millennials and iGen – they have bugger all disposable income. The single largest group influencing the economy in the western world is still those known as baby boomers. No labelled segment gives a toss about a brand’s defined, authentic belief system. They wouldn’t even pass a test if asked to explain it.
WTF planet do you live on? More than 90% of all sales never involve the internet, they happen in store with almost no consideration whatsoever. They are mainly packaged goods and fresh food. Here’s a typical customer thought process when shopping in store or online “I need toilet paper. Do they have my favourite brand (created via TV ads selling the brand) or is another brand on sale? Oh I’ll grab that packet.”
Sustainable clothing company Patagonia has a devoted customer base, in large part because it does not adhere to the old system of advertising. In 2011, the company ran a campaign around Christmas, urging customers not to buy a specific jacket. The idea behind the “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign was to urge people to buy a new jacket only if they needed it. Additionally, they offered to repair people’s current jackets rather than have them thrown out. They’re still doing things like this today as evidenced by their latest campaign, “The President Stole Your Land.”
Good on Patagonia – they used a tactic and it worked. Whooppeee. Next year it will be a new tactic. Because the average tenure of a marketing manager is less than 18 months and the new manager always does something different to the previous manager. After all, that’s why they were hired.
Collaboration over consumption. The term “consumer” dehumanizes people, reducing them to faceless entities that represent nothing more than dollar signs. But today’s tools allow brands to motivate and inspire and provide an opportunity for co-creation which creates something more valuable than selling, buy-in.
Collaboration over consumption? Does anyone know what this means? Do customers call Unilever to discuss the scent additives of the soap powder they plan to buy? Ever gone shopping with kids? There’s no collaboration there. I don’t know of any tools that motivate and inspire or provide opportunity for blah, blah… buy-in.
Though come to think of it, since they were invented, ice cream parlours have let customers collaborate by choosing their own flavours. My local barista lets me tell him how I want my coffee. Even the sandwich shop lets me nominate my fillings. But this is a decades-old process. Nothing new to see here folks when it comes to collaboration or consumption.
What impact do brands have beyond the advertising and sale of a product? What does the brand stand for? All of these questions require careful consideration, and brands should not run from them because they can’t afford to. It’s time to lean in and give a damn.
Yes, brands do need to stand for something that resonates with their customers. Brands won’t sell otherwise. And remember in every category in the world, the number one brand is always the brand with the most customers. That is, the brand that makes the most sales.
Ogilvy famously said, “The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife.” He was trying to instill a sense of the person in the ad industry at a time when wives and moms were the gatekeepers of products that entered the household. Wives are no longer the gatekeepers. Now, everyone shops for everything all the time.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and the same-sex revolution is changing everything up and down society. The very idea of shopping has changed. It can be done online in between completing reports at work. Or people shop in-store with online mobile comparison help — a medium that did not exist robustly even ten years ago.
Yes, Ogilvy wrote for the times. He was spot-on when he wrote it. Though he did say he would have written that phrase differently had he written the book later in his career.
Brands without a communicated set of values will be left behind as the economic buying power of Millennials and iGen continues to grow over the next 40 years. A brand’s values and impact are even more critical to iGen, and research strongly indicates both generations’ purchasing decisions are influenced by knowing what a brand stands for.
Only fake marketers think customers care about brands as much as fake marketers do. Every generation has bought brands based on what the brand stood for in terms of its positioning. It’s not something new.
Centuries before the digital revolution, Confucius said “Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.” The observation is still relevant. Technology changes, people don’t. Read The Marketer Stripped Bare, by John Hancock.
The old rules aren’t right or wrong, but some of them are growing outdated, and advertising needs to evolve alongside Millennials and iGen.
The “old rules” (read truth) apply today more than ever, as the skills of communication have been desperately lost in the age of digital marketing. The OECD Adult Literacy Study revealed roughly 82% of people struggle to comprehend basic English, so we need persuasive writing skills like never before.
After all, your marketing activity, particularly direct marketing, now known as digital marketing, is trying to get your customers to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. And that’s not easy. It also has no relation to technology.
“David Ogilvy” must die because the world David Ogilvy inhabited no longer exists sociologically or physically.
Never before have we needed to study the past if we want to succeed going forward. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
And if the fake marketers continue on their dishonest path, they will continue to fail the industry and themselves.
BTW, here’s an article I wrote in 2015 explaining why we still need David Ogilvy’s thinking in the digital world.