Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Make Marketing Credible.

This is the work of advertising craft that greeted me on a train a couple of days ago. It immediately felt wrong. Can you see what they've done there?

The first thing that struck me was the cueing action of the woman preparing to strike the white ball. It looks to me as if there's a real possibility that she's not even going to hit it but, even if she does, what shot is she playing? I was baffled. But then I realised that it didn't matter because the game is already over. There are just four red balls on the table and nothing else. And yet her compatriots are ridiculously over-excited by the non-situation. No wonder her cueing action has fallen apart.

By now, I was more engaged with the ad than expected and my attention switched from the art director's craft to that of the copywriter.  Added extras could be accused of superfluity but "More FREE added extras" really is laying it on thick even for Villa Plus. That said,  I note that punctuation is not one of the aforementioned extras.

There are a three sentences on this ad. One of them ends with a full-stop/period, the other two don't. And the one that does, hyphenates air-conditioning but doesn't hyphenate table-tennis (when to do so would arguably improve the blocking of the text) and thinks a comma between the much and much is too much - probably becase they've eschewed the Oxford comma after air-conditioning.

Pedantry? Perhaps. But let's get back to the art director. What's going on with the sun here? Was the logo incorporated into it at the top left or was that just the best place to put the logo and was the sun originally at top right? It's really hard to tell because the various shadows tell contrasting stories. Those around the pergola and those on the pool point to it having been top right. Many of the others look like attempts to make it top left while that one on the pool table suggests the sun is directly overhead.

Oh and while I'm at it, don't those sun-loungers appear to be on a slope while the pool table manages to maintain the horizontal? Maybe all this visual cognitive dissonance is a sneaky device designed to maintain my interest in the vista, but my two minutes were up and all I was left wondering was how on earth this sort of shoddiness got through a creative review at a major business and a substantial agency? Baffling Plus.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The 4 Ws Of Messaging.

The 4Ws of messaging are what you say, where you say it, when you say it and to whom you say it. I invented them in reaction to seeing this poster the other day.

For non-UK readers, the Northern Line is one of the lines of the London tube/subway system and one that has recently been synonymous with torrid travel. So, what is being said is clear enough. Not award-winning, but clear.

Unfortunately, I did not see this poster in London. Rather, it was on the back of a bus stop in a side-street in a commuter town. So, not the optimal where - especially as the side-street was nowhere near the town's station. And that means that commuters who might have a knowledge of the Northern Line were unlikely to see it.

So, not the optimal who either.

None of this is necessarily the fault of the non award-winning copywriter and art director (unless the brief was to create a nationally relevant campaign) even if it does suffer from metropolitan centricism. But it does serve as a reminder that media buyers should focus on the message they're placing as well as the audience in front of whom they're being asked to place it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Narrative Fallacies.

The new year brings an invitation to a story-telling webinar.

An article about it asserts that "In the past, before tech came and muddled everything, a brand's objective was simple: create engaging stories to capture the public's imagination and endear them to the brand"

No, no, no. Marketing is not about stories. Stories are made up. Stories are contrived. Stories are disbelieved.

No. Great marketing is about uncovering and communicating truths. Not truths that please the CMO or support the Board's delusions aboutthe nature of their customers. But truths that resonate with the lives of real people and make them more inclined to buy your product or service.

And, yes, suggesting that your product or service wil make the user feel like a superhuman is a legitimate story, even if we and they both know that they won't actually become superhuman. Because that's not the truth.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Make Marketing Contextual.

Perhaps I'm being pedantic, but the first time I saw this bus I found myself completely confused by the bland Jingle and Tonic and my primary identification was with Tanqueray Gin. I don't know if some brand manager insisted on the brand name being the first word, but swapping the 12 Twists of Christmas and the Schweppes logo seems to me to produce a far more comprehensible whole.

You decide to run a campaign on the side of a bus. You know that people read from left to right. You presumably understand that buses are mobile and that people will often have a very limited time to absorb your message. And still you choose to put what is effectively the header that contextualises the message on the far right of the image? The headline at the bottom of the page.

If this were online, people would be all over the user experience of the communication. Offline, it's maybe even more important.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sharing The Sharing Economy.

In anticipation of an imminent IPO and with an eye on the myriad regulatory threats to its original business model, Airbnb have announced Trips. Guests will now be offered guided tours by local hosts.

You can argue that these will be personalised, authentic and non-corporate versions of existing tours that might expose the guest to the benefits of truly local knowledge. I wouldn't be surprised if that's how the management rationalised this brand extension. But, as an outsider, it also looks like they think package tours will paradoxically appeal to independent travellers and that's just odd.

I'm not saying they won't be popular. I'm also sure there will be regulatory issues (tour guides in many countries are required to be licensed) but I'm not sure that Airbnb have put themselves in their users' shoes.

Have they asked what could our users do with what we offer or have they asked what can we offer our users? They are very different questions and, I imagine, existing hosts who've already been doing this as an adjunct to their hosting might not be pleased to give up a share of that income. That's not what they understood by the sharing economy, but it is what the platforms mean.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Marketers Should Know About Filter Bubbles.

Filter bubbles work via confirmation bias. People construct them to reinforce their worldview. It's far from clear that demolishing filter bubbles will lead to people changing their worldview. Biases abide.

Friday, November 11, 2016

That Kodak Momentum.

Kodak has become the poster-child for bad incumbent management. We all know the story. They controlled 90% of the film and camera market in the mid-1970s but were ultimately "disrupted" by eight people working at a start-up called Instagram.

Of course, that's nonsense if only because it overlooks the thousands of people involved in the creation of phone and internet infrastructure without which Instagram has no business and the fact that Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975.

As for disruption, Clay Christensen puts an interesting slant on the received wisdom and points out that Kodak invested $8billion trying to get digital photography right. Yes, there were mis-steps like the focus on cameras, but to criticise Kodak management alone is to forget that the market has to be ready for an innovation.

What job does photgraphy do for the person in the street? It's not an easy question to answer. A repository of memory perhaps? In the days before digital, you took your photos, you had the film developed and you looked at your disappointing results. Once. Maybe twice. And then they resided in a drawer - as they still do today. Not doing their job. Or any job for that matter.

At some point in the past, Kodak got closer to the truth when they started to offer double prints for the price of one. The examination ritual continued to be played out, but the user also had the opportunity to give/mail a print or two to a loved one.

In doing so, he or she was able to tell the recipient that they were thinking of them and this was what they'de been doing even though they didn't have the time or inclination to write them a letter. Analog Facebook was born.

Many years later, new technology allowed the job to be done seamlessly and unthinkingly and Kodak's goose was cooked. The job to be done had been distilled and the identified user need could be addressed. That's the real lesson. And the fact that I used the word unthinkingly makes me wonder if that might mean the seeds of its disruption is already built in to the latest solution. Time will tell.