Archives for posts with tag: Marketing

Many people believe the advertising industry is filled with liars.

Reality is, the vast majority of advertising folks don’t lie. The consumers lie to us. 

Sure, we show the product in perfect angles, in perfect settings surrounded by perfect people. That’s just salesmanship. Just like you clean your car before you try to sell it or stage your house. We are not liars. Brands and agencies don’t dare to break existing laws and regulations. They’d be out of business very quickly. 
Customers, on the other hand, constantly lie to us. 

Just attend any focus group and watch people lie every waking moment:

“I buy a car based on specs.” No, you don’t. You bought that specific car to enhance your image.  

Nobody was every influenced by advertising, everybody makes pure rational decisions. Just like the Wall Street bankers in 2007/8. Studies show people can’t communicate with each other for 10 minutes without lying once. 

When it comes to business, people lie more often. But, we can’t question the statements of consumers. They are always right. 

So, next time you go through the findings of surveys, focus groups and interviews, make sure to consider the lies they told you. 


Many articles have been written about bright shiny objects of marketing, brands people putting out content on social platforms without any strategy, jumping on glossy bandwagons.

As they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Two pictures are worth even more:


Marketers have more choices than ever. That means marketers have to be more selective than ever. Some ideas might sound funny or innovative. Often, they turn out just to be stupid.


Valuable and return business is based on trust. You trust your hairdresser to make you look good. You trust your barista to serve a coffee according to your taste. You trust your mechanic to fix your car and keep you safe on the road. And CEO’s trust their marketing departments to generate more business-quantifiable customer demand for products and services.

Problem is: CEOs don’t trust marketers.

That’s apparent in a new survey by marketing consultancy Fournaise, which polled 1,200 chiefs of large and small companies. Campaign Asia reported the findings, which are your wake-up call ringing from an armada of alarm clocks:

“For B2C CEOs, more customer-demand means more sales revenue. Unfortunately, nearly seven in 10 of B2C CEOs believe their marketers now live too much in a creative and social-media bubble and focus too much on parameters such as ‘likes’, ‘tweets’, ‘feeds’ or ‘followers’—parameters they can’t prove generate more business-quantifiable customer demand for products and services. CEOs regard these parameters as “interesting but not critical”.

For B2B CEOs, more customer demand equates to more qualified or sales-ready prospects in the sales pipeline. More than 70 per cent of these CEOs believe that their marketers are focused on the latest marketing technologies but are failing to deliver the level of incremental customer demand expected of them.

These CEOs feel marketers are too distracted, get sucked into the the “technological flurry and jargon” related to system integration and forget that technology is meant to be used only as a support tool. These tools don’t create demand per se; only accurate strategies and campaigns pushing the right products, product benefits, content and customer value propositions do.”

While the marketing echo chamber continues to discuss secondary tertiary issues like engagement, value of connections, interactions…(Please add your buzzwords here), CEOs get this nagging feeling that marketers love fluff and despise substance. CEOs trust their finance and tech departments more, and the marketing department is as beloved, respected and trusted as US Congress.

Even worse, CEOs believe marketers measure the wrong objectives, focusing on performance indicators that are not theirs, such as prospect conversions and revenue. Instead, marketers should focus on the customer-demand related indicators, which are directly linked to their job and over which they have control.

What to do?

“Marketers should zoom in on a few critical key business performance indicators to precisely measure, quantify and report on the level of customer demand they are delivering, according to the study.

To earn the CEO’s trust and prove that they are solid business generators, 74 per cent of CEOs want marketers to be completely ROI focused.

B2C CEOs want these ROI marketers to be focused on tracking, reporting and boosting four key marketing performance indicators: sell-in, sell-out, market share and marketing ROI (defined as the correlation between marketing spending and the gross profit generated from it).

Meanwhile 85 per cent of B2B CEOs (and B2C CEOs in prospect-driven industries) would like ROI marketers to focus on tracking, reporting and boosting prospect volume, prospect quality rate, marketing effectiveness rate (defined as the percentage of marketing spending that directly generated prospects) and the business potential generated by marketing.

“Marketers will have to understand that they need to start “cutting the rubbish” if they are to earn the trust of CEOs and if they want to have a bigger impact in the boardroom,” explained Fontaine. “They will have to transform themselves into true business-driven ROI marketers or forever remain in what 65 per cent of CEOs told us they call marketing la-la land.”

For too long, marketers have seen data as an aid to justify media spend and overall marketing investment. This harsh wake-up call should spell an end to this justification era. Marketers need to use data to drive, determine and justify their marketing and media plans.

What are you going to do? Wake up or hit the snooze button?


The marketing world is filled with words like fans, followers, likes, fans, loyalty, engagement, commitment, participation, community, and so on and on and on and on, giving every marketer the false hope and idea what marketing should be about.

It would be beneficial for all stakeholders (clients, agencies and customers) to start with the assumption that nobody cares about what we do. This might make us feel depressed, less important and kind of useless. Still, at least we’re starting from the right point and it helps us focus on our work in the right way.

Don’t be sad: Nobody cares what anybody does.

Nobody cares about the 500+ TV channels, the thousands of magazines and radio stations, the millions of podcasts and gazillions of websites. There’s so much stuff out there, we don’t even have a tiny chance to consume 0,0001% of it. All this media is like the Atlantic, engulfing people with content wave after wave, competing with anything else that’s interesting, useful, or entertaining. With so many temptations surrounding us, seeping out of millions of screens, we should never assume anybody will notice anything we do. Oh, and don’t even assume anybody does care. Don’t kid yourself.

It gets worse: People don’t care about brands.

As a brand, you don’t want people to think about your brand too much. A strong brand will help people make quick, easy and gut-driven purchase decisions. If you’re an Apple fanboy, you don’t think about Dell or HP. It’s going to be Apple, no matter what. Strong brands solve problems. When your favorite beer is Guiness, you don’t have a beer problem. When Acura is your car brand, you don’t have a car problem. No thinking required, no decisions. No worries about price, quality or reviews.

The myth of brand loyalists

Another marketing myth is that the ultimate goal is to create brand loyalists and permanent relationships. People might ‘like’ your brand but they ‘like’ their dog 10,000 times more. For sure, people don’t love brands. They love their favorite pillow 10 million times more than your brand. Using the language of deep human emotions for brands trivializes those feelings. Brands are desperately looking for those lovers, those special ones. If you base your brand on loyalists, you will have a small party in a studio apartment in Manhattan. Brands are built by millions of light customers who buy the brand once in a while.

It’s easy to market to people who actively seek you out and use your product/services frequently. It’s hard to market to people who don’t know you, who don’t care about you, see you frequently. And, don’t get me started with the new buzzword “audience”. An audience goes to a Coldplay concert or watches the latest Spiderman movie. Advertising doesn’t have an audience, waiting for the show to start.

It gets worse.

The vast majority of advertising produced is horrendous. Go to some sad cable channel and try to stick around for the commercial breaks. Try not to change the channel within seconds. Good luck. It’s mental and creative pollution. Another proof point for people not to care about advertising.

That’s a good starting point.

At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference – Soren Kierkegaard.

It’s easy to be loved, even easier to be hated. But it’s really hard to overcome indifference. You can get 1% of potential customers engaged and create participatory communities for them. It doesn’t help you when it comes to the bottom line. The real goal should be to engage the remaining 99% and that means fighting indifference.

The majority of efforts on social platforms is now limited to activating the 1% and going to church afterwards, praying the 1% will spread and amplify the word. It’s good, but not good enough. It’ll earn you brownie points but doesn’t improve business results. Unless you’re happy talking to a minority, we need to focus mainly on the 99%.

You will be judged how you engage the indifferent masses, the ones that don’t care. It starts with answering the most important questions: Why should they care more about you than all the other gazillion options they have? What’s the point? What’s in it for them?

Marketer-Brain-InfographicMarketo posted this infographic, visualizing the difference between right brain vs. left brain marketing. As they write: “Psychologists and personality theorists have long believed there to be differences between the right and the left side of the brain. The right side of your brain is responsible for creativity, while the left side handles the details and implementation. The left side is analytical while the right side is artistic.”

Frankly, the infographic feels quite dated. If you’re pure right brain or left brain marketer in today’s market environment, you will fail. Pure art with no science attached to it lacks effectiveness. Pure science with no art lacks emotion and passion. You need both sides of the brain to succeed.


The whole advertising industry is embracing Big Data. It’s the new black of marketing. I’m a big fan of testing and optimization. We finally have readily available data in real-time – how can you not incorporate Big Data into your working practices and developing a culture around test and learn? The real success stories in Silicon Valley and on Madison Avenue are exactly doing that. And any advertising agency worth their salt has to follow that path.

There’s one thing optimization can’t do.

Coming up with a radical, game-changing solution to a problem. An idea that is entirely different from any which is currently in play. A disruptive innovation.

To develop this disruptive idea, you need a vision. Testing won’t ever come up with disruptive ideas. Focus groups definitely not. Surveys? Please.

When you need disruptive innovation, you can’t rely on science. You need to rely on art, embracing a bit of chaos. It’s not either science or art. Agile, organizational cultures needn’t preclude discordant ideas. In fact they should thrive on them. The companies that will flourish are those that encourage divergent, not convergent thinking around a powerful vision, and then test and learn as (and not before) they build and execute it.


The list of countries by Nobel laureates is very revealing:

– The United States has 332 winners.

– United Kingdom 118, followed by Germany (103), France (58), Sweden (29) and Switzerland (25).

– China has 4 winners. India 9.

– Switzerland has 33 winners per 10 million citizens, China 0.052.

Even more revealing is to look at the German specifics:

– Before 1933, Germany won the Nobel Prize 38 times. 38 wins in 32 years.

– Between 1933 and 1950, Germany won it 9 times. 9 wins in 17 years.

What happened?

When countries become less concerned with output and more concerned with other factors (race, religion, political affiliation, class), they become less productive.

Hitler didn’t care about the work of Einstein, Teller, Haber and Frisch. He was only concerned about their religion and his insane racism.

(Now, let’s all be very grateful he didn’t care about their work. These were the people that made the atomic bomb possible. Can you imagine? Let’s not.)

All of us are guilty of this behavior.

We tend to put more emphasis on arbitrary factors than judging the work. Take an agency pitch:

Brands often choose a new agency because of the overall vibe. It can be the location. The architecture of the office. The chemistry. The niceties.

Employers choose new hires based on a cultural fit, not on their accomplishments. They rather create a  comfortable work environment than creating extraordinary work.

I used to have a dentist that was extremely friendly, I wouldn’t mind bar hopping with him. We chatted for 10 minutes before he went to work. Years later I found out that his work was terrible. I was blinded by his receptionist, his demeanor, the overall vibe. My current dentist barely talks. If I’m lucky, he has 5 words for me all day. But he does the work. Maybe the best work in the business.

I don’t care if my mechanic calls me on my birthday. I want him to do the work.

I don’t care if my mortgage broker loves the same movies. I want her to do the work.

Clients want agencies to solve problems.

The advertising doesn’t work. The product doesn’t sell.

So, the CMO gets orders from the CEO to fix marketing/advertising. The CMO has to find an agency to spend millions of dollars with. If I was a CMO, the last thing I’d be worried about is the culture, the fit, the perks. I wouldn’t care who I liked. I’d be looking at the work. At the expertise. The experience. What they have done. Not the charisma, their smiles, the hot latte.

Years ago, Washington Mutual ran the Whoo-Hoo campaign: The idea being that Washington Mutual was so good, all associates and customers should just shout out “Whoo-Hoo” all day. Employees greeted you with a handshake, they wanted to be your best friend and each hour, on the hour, employees got up to scream “Whoo-Hoo” in the middle of any transaction. Washington Mutual wanted to be liked. And they disappeared a few years ago.

Don’t try to be liked. Be competent.


My first job in advertising lasted two weeks. I was assigned to a dog food account, had to rewrite can copy, trade ads, brochures – almost everything. I was dreaming of creating amazing commercials and the reality was a 80 words of can copy.

There were no concepts, no strategies, no deep thinking. Just shipping work, hour after hour, day after day. Later in my career, I spent sometimes months to develop one campaign. The first two weeks of my advertising career, I shipped more than 50 items.

4 days in, I had to write an ad for a national pet magazine, my first chance to communicate with hundreds of thousands readers. I worked on this ad for 3 days, spent the weekend in the office. When I showed the ad to my Creative Director it was a huge mess. He dropped on my desk and muttered : “You worked it to death.” He asked me to start fresh.

I never forgot this advice. I’ve worked on web sites that felt like they were worked to death. Commercials that were worked to death. Copy, projects, campaigns.

When your creative product feels worked over, it is not good.

I was happy to leave after 2 weeks to start my career in a creative agency, including pay cut. I felt more at home in my new home. But I never forgot the lesson I learned in my first advertising job.


I was meeting with an advertising agency and one of the team members talked constantly about new insights. After we explored his insight, it seemed to me he was talking about an observation not an insight.

I’ve seen the word on job descriptions, data aggregators claim to produce insights, clients request them and agencies claim to produce them.

The word ‘insight’ is a case of over-promising and under-delivering

One explanation for the insight inflation is organizational: The executives responsible for producing insights are often located in the research and data aggregation department, trying to find small gems that may affect marketing. This can be on the client side or done through planners in the agency.  The other reason is that people believe everybody can observe but not many can be insightful

So, what’s the difference between an observation versus an insight?

Determining that new homeowners are more likely to buy a new car is an observation.

Understanding that putting snacks at the checkout register will increase sales dramatically because parents want to calm down/reward their kids is an observation.

According to, an insight is an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding. I’ve been working in advertising for more than 15 years and I haven’t encountered many insights. I don’t mind it because I’d rather reserve light bulb moments for science.

I worked with a global airline the last two years and they wanted to understand why they had problems attracting business class customers. We looked through all the data, did focus groups, interview prospects one-on-one. We had many observations and no insights. The breakthrough came when we observed passengers in the business class lounge. They were more concerned getting to the lounge than getting to the final destination. Once you’re in the lounge, you’re in the luxury bubble that protects you until you pick up your luggage. This observation led to an insight: If you can extend the luxury bubble from the usual airport to airport to home to hotel, business class passengers will be more willing to buy your product.

Observations are rooted in data. Insights are rooted in outside sources.

Insight is rare ,“apprehending the true nature of a thing”, since we often have to find a different way of expressing similar ideas to the competition. What’s the difference between Chase and Wells Fargo? Toyota and Honda? Goodyear and Pirelli? There’s no insight that can make a difference, the solution lies in how you say things, the advertising idea. Trust me, a lot of brilliant people try to find insights for these brands and markets, they are just as rare as hitting the $800 million jackpot.

There are some extremely rare planners and creative’s out there, hitting the jackpot once in a blue moon. Millions wait for jackpots, just to end up a few bucks poorer. Maybe it’s time to elevate the importance of observations. A great novelist makes a living with observations, stand-up comedians do. Just like observations bring a brand to life.


How many times did we hear outcry about tenure of CMOs? It’s somewhere between 12 and 24 months. In short: pathetically short. There are groups on various social networks where CMOs talk with each other and share information. I joined a few of them and was saddened by the content: a lot of echo chamber jargon, opinions and little substance. Anyone existing outside the marketing community wouldn’t understand a word.

There’s a lot of junk and cheap talk, nothing relating brand status to financial consequences. Anybody involved in the marketing and advertising world is responsible to nail down some factual benchmarks that smart business people understand. Many of the reports marketers produce are just fluff and hot air (Unaided brand awareness, anyone? Facebook likes. Do I have to continue? Thanks.) At my first agency job, we commissioned a client satisfaction survey each quarter. It gave us information agency staff couldn’t get internally. We used it as a way of giving the agency goals and every six months executives presented the results. It removed all opinion by giving us measures we needed to address. We tried to manage the agency brand through the eyes of our clients. The outcomes were fabulous when it came to retention, organic growth and new business.

The curse of marketing is jargon combined with unquantified opinion

That’s the real cause so many people in marketing and advertising believe to be visionaries and almost nobody is. When they lead the way, they might lead us to nowhere. Or Second Life. Let’s face it: most of us are challenged in the vision department. However, we all talk like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. They communicated substance, most of us hot air.

Now, there are some real visionaries in this business. People that know the past, understand the present and learned from both to look at the future. The problem for agencies and clients is to work out who is the person with the jargon and glossary, and who is the one that is thinking and talking intelligently.

Any new client needs to agree on a form of measurement to track performance. Most brands still  don’t want to invest in the most elementary tracking. They rather focus on listening and defensive tactics, rather than understanding the real perception of their business and brand. Some brands spend millions of dollars on media but they don’t bother to spend 0.5% of their marketing budget on tracking important KPIs. “Let’s do that next year.”

CEOs should be brand managers

CEOs should ask for this data on a monthly basis. In terms of brand management at the top of any organization, the CEO cannot rely upon the input internally as it has a vested interest in all things  being pink unicorns. CEOs need some form of external intelligence communicating honestly how his brand is doing in the real world. Good intelligence gives the CEO the time to adjust the business. When he has to fire the CMO to correct strategy, it’s too late. The horse has already left the barn.