Archives for posts with tag: Marketing

Sometimes I see something so bad, I need to share it. Especially when a brand tries to be funny, self-deprecating and different – failing miserably. I can see the creative team during their brainstorm:

“The script is super duper.”

“Why not add some cup cakes? That always works.”

“Make them gluten-free. We can’t risk anything with the anti-gluten crowd.”


“How about the guy gets tackled by a security guard.”

“In a library. By a fat security guard. Now, that’s funny.”

“I met this girl last night. She wants to be an actress. She would be perfect.”

“We need a cat in a funny costume.”

“That’s why they call you Creative Director.”

As you would expect, they don’t allow comments for the original posting on YouTube and embedding is limited (that’s why I embedded the Russian translation).

Need to cringe more? Go to TheBrowserYouLovedToHate and experience the sadness of forced humor.

From what I hear, the new Internet Explorer is good. Reviews are good, people are raving about it.

It doesn’t matter.

People will forgive when you have one product iteration that is mediocre or even bad. People don’t forget when almost all of your previous iterations were terrible, filled with security flaws, slow and badly designed.

Amazing advertising might have helped to change our perception of IE incrementally. This terrible advertising just reminded us of how terrible the IE experience was and why we never want to go back again.


Watch this clip: The Kodak Carousel pitch by Don Draper. (Sorry, AMC doesn’t allow embedding.)

Pitch with emotion and passion

Sure, it’s fiction. Still, it’s amazing. He mixes his own experience with a fresh idea and delivers this new concept with raw emotion. The fearlessness of tapping into his own emotion and passion brings his audience to tears.

As I said, it’s fiction. But you can bring this concept to life whenever you present. Share a new idea. Add emotion to the mix and top it off with passion. See what happens.

Marketing doesn’t equal advertising

In reality, advertising is a small slice of what marketing is today. Any successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first, followed by a great product/service that makes the marketing story come true and allows the advertising to tell a story. If the Kodak company hadn’t invented the Carousel, slide projector, Don Draper could never have developed the story. Good advertising can’t bail out bad marketing. Both need to be good to work well.

Mark writes about this video he posted on Vimeo:

“On an unseasonably warm November night in Manhattan on our way to get ice cream, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a vintage shop, brightly lit display window and all. As we began to walk in, a man sitting out front warned us that we were welcome to explore, but nothing inside was for sale. Our interests piqued, we began to browse through the collections the man out front had built throughout his life. This is a story of a man and his home.”

An apartment as a social object. He created an environment that connects him with the world because people want to talk with him about it. As I wrote in my blog post ‘Social Objects are the future of participatory media’:

What are social objects?

Social objects are the reason why people socialize. We’re social animals but we need to find a common ground to communicate with each other. That common ground is the social objects.

Let’s say you’re at a party, you are shy and feel completely lost. You are not going to approach a stranger with “I really love Wilco’s new album and I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s latest book. So fascinating.” The other person will call 911 and hope you’ll end up in a mental institution. In the good old smoking days, your first conversation revolved around the brand of cigarettes both of you are smoking. (Remember the days when you sat in a smoky bar, your social object “cigarette box with logo” right in front of you communicating to the world some part of your personality?) Now, we are focusing on phones, apps, drinks or tattoos. Some social object that connects me with you.

Come to find out that social objects are not only the future of advertising. They are also the future of human connection and interaction.


Most companies fail because they treat headaches. Not broken limbs.

I have more than 100 apps on my iPhone. I use 10 of them regularly because they solve an important problem for me. All the other apps are nice to have and relevant but their solution lacks true urgency.

The majority of companies/brands that didn’t make it through the Great Recession or continue to struggle are companies that treat headaches. Nice to have a pill or massage to battle the head pounding. But not life-threatening. You’ll make it through another day with a headache, hard to imagine when it comes to broken limbs.

When the Great Recession started, businesses that treated minor head pressures disappeared overnight: the 100th clothing store, the 51st coffeeshop, the 11th video store. Over the next years, businesses went belly up when they treated minor headaches. In early 2012, businesses are starting to disappear that treated major headaches.

It’s part of the de-leveraging process our society is going through. We cut the fat, only invest in necessities. At this point in time, people don’t buy products or services. They buy solutions.

Be brutally honest

Are you solving a significant problem? Did you identify and quantify a real problem worth solving? If you answered at least one question with a resounding “Yes”, you will succeed.

If your answer was a whimper, a muttered “I don’t know” or a loud “Yes!” – time to start rethinking your business. We don’t know when things get really better and luxuries are affordable again. We know businesses don’t have the luxury to wait until then.


When the Web was young and digital marketing in its toddler shoes, a common practice was to require customers to fill out a form before they could access a site. Cheered on by “Get all the exciting news from Brand A” or “Don’t miss out on the latest events”, many customers signed on. Once spammers started to get rich and marketers over-communicated with their audience, these forms quickly disappeared. You didn’t have to fill out a form before you watched a commercial, grabbed a brochure or visited a store, why should that be different when it comes to digital?

Some tactics never die

Marketers are rehashing that old formula, forcing people to ‘like’ the brand before they can see any content. Brands and agencies continue to be obsessed with aggregating as many ‘Likes’ as possible. In the beginning it was done through other marketing channels, social games and apps installations. Increasingly, this has been replaced by using the ‘Like’ click as the price of entry to interact with content or get special offers.

Wasn’t social about conversations, engagement and long-term benefits?

Social Media was this big party where we can interact in transparent and authentic ways, right? We didn’t like the screamer that just yelled at us. Or the “Look-at-me-guy”, right? Last time I checked, those are as annoying as the people I need to endorse on LinkedIn or praise them publicly before we can start to talk. Don’t I deserve a chance to explore what they’re all about before I endorse them to all my friends?

Don’t mistake a “like” for an endorsement

Studies show that 58% of US Facebook users expect to gain access to exclusive content, events or sales after “liking” a company, while 58% also expect to receive discounts or promotions. More insightful is what Facebook customers don’t want: Bombardment with messages (54%), access to profile information (45%), pushing things into friends’ newsfeeds (31%) and companies contacting them through Facebook (29%).

We all have busy lives. We can’t “like” every brand, we don’t have enough time and bandwidth. Does it make sense to “like” everything that’s in my closet, office, living room, garage and shopping mall?


The forced “like” tactic might be a good choice for brand advocates. But, they are already on your side.

Wouldn’t you rather start a conversation with people that have no defined feelings toward your brand, winning them over? Your forced “like” tactic might just result in the opposite.


We wait to win the lottery. The screenplay that will make you a Hollywood star. The blog post that will lead to a book deal and speaking engagement. The woman of your dreams. The dream job. The end of the world.

We tend to waste a lot of time waiting.

Companies wait for the new product to turn everything around. The new marketing campaign will change everything.

It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Brands succeed one person at a time. You make one person happy, they will tell others. Rinse and repeat. If you disappoint your customers, they will leave one at a time. Drip, drip, drip.

One at a time is not as cool as the big bang. But it’s the way the world works now.

Social platforms are “one at a time tools”.

You show up every day. You tweet. You blog. You give to the world. Over time, you build a body of work, leading to trust.

Many marketers want to use these tools for breakthrough efforts. Let’s get a million followers and then convert them into a sale. They don’t understand that you have to build trust, one at a time, to earn the right to make a sale. You need to build that trust over time, tweet by tweet, post by post, interaction by interaction, one person at a time. Trying to build trust right before you want to make the sale is a foolish undertaking.

Build a foundation of trust now before you really need it.


It takes 3 years to become a hair dresser in Germany. The first year you spend most days sweeping the floor, cleaning tools and serving refreshments.

If the floor is filthy, it really doesn’t matter how good your haircuts are, nobody wants to come back and pay good money surrounded by hair on the floor.

When people write and speak about marketing and advertising, they assume you know how to sweep the floor. They assume you understand the impact of creative, the power of copywriting, have advanced knowledge of graphic design and UI as well as UX. They assume you understand the correlation between paid, earned and owned media, know how to measure the impact of any marketing effort and be able to distill that knowledge into a client presentation.

Too often, we fall in love with the new thing, jump ahead and embrace it.

Too often, we fail to be competent at the important thing.


These infomercials have been around forever and they tend to pollute the TV screen in January:

Lose weight while sleeping.

Gain muscle mass while laying on the couch and doing nothing.

Stop smoking without any effort.

When you finally buy the product, it barely works, ends up collecting dust, and in a few years you toss it in the trash.

Ultimately, we don’t blame ourselves. Our lack of follow-through and self-discipline. We blame the product. It just wasn’t what we expected. We didn’t fail. The product failed.

I wish products like that wouldn’t exist but they are out there, and people will continue to buy them. Not a biggie.

The real problem is when marketing pushes responsibility towards the customer.

I got rich in 2 days. You can, too.

Learn to play the violin in 24 hours.

Become a Social Media rockstar in 1 day.

Work from home and become an instant millionaire.

People have dreams. Some lofty, some small. When you to tap into these dreams and try help people achieve them, you better execute flawlessly. You market knowledge, claiming you have found an easy formula to reach these goals. If your customers can’t make their dream come true, they will blame themselves. They will start to believe they are stupid, dumb, not good enough.

“If anyone can become a Social Media rockstar in 1 day, how come I’m the only one who failed?”

Is that how you want your customers to feel? Sad, depressed, defeated?

Empower people

Many companies and people are falling for these claims. They think Social Media is something you can learn in a quick seminar or by reading a book. When I talk to them, they feel like they’re the only one who didn’t get it. Everybody else seems to be doing so well.

They don’t see the hard work, the long hours, the overall communication and marketing knowledge you need to have to develop successful programs. They just see that people promise an easy way out and they believed them.

And they are so relieved when I tell them they’re not the only one. There are more Social Marketing disasters out there than successful programs. They just need a little help, put the hours in and commit for the long run.

Companies are in the business of helping people. If you want to have a loyal customer, you better empower them and make their lives easier and better. And make them feel good about themselves.


Your digital campaign represents your company, it’s the public face of your company. Just like your website, your store, your packaging, your employees, your phone tree (Let’s hope you have none.) Your digital campaign might be the first encounter of a prospect with your brand. Or it might be a visit with an old friend. Have you ever looked at the personality of your digital campaign?

All brands and their agencies design campaigns with best intentions. Sometimes they succeed. Often they fail and end up where they never wanted to go. I’ve been part of those and I’m not proud of my personal train wrecks. Advertising intends to motivate behavior change. Can you be motivated by an unlikeable person to change behavior? Shouldn’t we all try to be more likeable to customers?

Well, let me introduce you to a few of these people brands create every day.

The cheesy salesman

His perfume is cheap and strong, his clothes outdated and loud, and his pitch is annoying and even louder. Whenever you see him, you try to run away as fast as you can. He tries to sell and upsell anything, as long he profits from it: He doesn’t care.

That’s the digital campaign with huge “Buy” or “Click” buttons, takeovers, pop-unders, scams to make you”like” the brand: Any trick in the book is good to make you buy. Or at least to make you show some interest. That’s the least you can do to keep the cheesy salesman employed.

The creepy guy

You meet him at a party, have a brief chat with him and he believes you want to get married to him. Wherever you go, he’s there: At the gym, at work, in your home. He continues to ask the same question: “Why don’t we close the deal?” He’s the guy that makes you feel uncomfortable, a Big Brother always watching. If you could, you would punch him in the face but he might take that as a sign that you want to close the deal.

As a digital campaign, these are the re-targeting slaves. Yes, I showed interest in your airline 1 week ago but that doesn’t mean you need to remind me on every page I visit, thanks to your massive ad network/retargeting buy. A friend might have sent me a link to your offer, I checked it out and didn’t care. Make me care even less by retargeting me 5,012 times. Maybe it works at the 5,013th impression. Who knows?

Paris Hilton

Ok, she looks good. But, ask her what time it is and she needs an assistant because her brain is permanently turned off. Ask her to do anything and she’ll answer with a frozen smile. She’s stupid, she can’t do anything, the world adored her at one point. Oh, did I mention she’s pretty?

As a digital marketing campaign, that’s the flashturbation campaign. So much Rich Media, you can pay the global debt with it. Too bad it doesn’t work on all devices, crashes your computer and serves no conversion purpose. Oh, did I mention it looks pretty?

The cheerleader

Who doesn’t love cheerleaders? Your team sucks, no one in the stands, it’s raining, they ran out of beer and the cheerleader is still smiling, yelling: Go team. They don’t understand why you don’t like their team, why you don’t share the same level of enthusiasm. No matter, in their mind the own team will always be the best. Even though they haven’t won a game in 10 years.

As a digital campaign, this is the campaign that doesn’t get why you wouldn’t “like” their Facebook page even though there’s no reason for you to like it. No value proposition. Why wouldn’t you follow a Twitter stream brimming with promotional messages? Why do you need motivation to change your behavior? Isn’t our presence  motivation enough?

The cheapskate

He’s the guy occupying the parking lot of Best Buy the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He’s the guy that occupies the coffee shop for hours with an order of a miniature coffee. He’s the guy sitting next to toilet, the guy that gets the worst seat in the bar. He doesn’t care. As long as it’s cheap, he’s happy.

The digital campaign you don’t see. Cheap inventory equals invisibility. Banner ads below the fold on sites you don’t dare visiting because they look like malware-infested 1990 designs. The cheapskate loves the cheesy sales guy on the publisher site. It’s a mutual feeling: the sales guy sells garbage and the cheapskate sifts through it, filled with happiness.

My talk from ad:tech Tokyo:

I’ve met with a few CMO’s and agency heads in the last few weeks and was astonished how painful relationships between agencies and brands have become. This is not just a feeling, it’s a major data point in a survey released by RSW/US: A client’s look ahead at agencies.

I do recommend downloading the free report but in case you’re pressed for time, here are two facts that caught my eye:

– Only 55% of marketers state they would consider using their primary agency again if they were to put up their account for their review.

– A marketer’s tendency to look for a new firm is driven by general lack of satisfaction with an agency’s creative, their strategic thinking, or their general lack of proactivity. (…) “…”lack of proactivity” was one of the primary reasons given for finding a better agency partner. They were with a much larger firm and felt, because of their “small fish in a big pond” status, they weren’t getting the attention they needed – resulting in their desire to look for a mid-size agency to better serve them.

Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 8.56.56 AM

The challenge for agencies

When the first agents appeared, the mission was very clear: Purchase advertising space on billboards/print on behalf of businesses.

Over time, brands wanted more: produce remarkable advertising that increases sales. To answer that demand, agents started to hire illustrators and copywriters. They transformed into agencies. And customers became clients. This hasn’t changed much over the decades.

The objectives of clients changed dramatically. It used to be enough to produce advertising that produces sales. We give you a coupon, you buy the product. You get an invite to test-drive a car, you head to the showroom.

The market changed over time. Everything became more complex and complicated – more brands, more media, more channels. Suddenly, you had to spend more to get some kind of lift. The placement game turned into an arms race.

No matter what: Clients still want to see increased sales. As they should.

Unfortunately, it’s complicated. In the old days, the guy with $20 to spend on advertising sold more than the guy with $1 for advertising. The ability to track results against communications activities has become diffuse. A campaign lives in too many channels, the desire to differentiate now means that there might be no direct, trackable call to action and the complex economic structure (pricing, distribution, competition, economic climate, etc.) cause signal interference for brands that advertise widely, sell multiple product lines, distribute through multiple sales channels, and face many competitors.

The complexity can be overwhelming

Clients have to muddle through this complexity and they don’t feel very empathetic when advertising agencies are not ready to join them through this struggle. On the contrary, the report suggests that clients feel a great deal of disappointment and bitterness about the failure of agencies to help them guide through complexity, while still delivering obvious, measurable results.

What agencies have to fix:

– Strategic Expertise:

Clients complain that agencies don’t think strategically, don’t have solutions that help clients gain market share, increase volume or otherwise steal sales from their competitors. They feel agencies don’t know their customers, their market, their competitors, their sales and distribution channels – in short: the complexity of the business. .

Agencies feel that clients don’t ‘get’ marketing, just focus on ROI and sales. They don’t get brand building and set unrealistic goals. Agencies don’t believe they are considered partners, just a commodity, ready to be thrown on the big pile.

– Transparency & Accountability

Clients believe agencies are bad at strategy and analytics. They can’t effectively measure the results they produce, or even worse, hide the real results. Clients desire more accountability from agencies: either sales, volume or ROI. At the least, they want to know how an agency defines success.

Agencies believe that there’s more to advertising than analytics and sales. While clients want deep analytics and strategy, they are not willing to pay for it. Clients just look at production and media costs, expect the strategy/analytics part to be a value-add.

– Creativity

Most clients believe their agencies are not creative enough. They don’t get enough brilliant and innovative ideas.

Agencies believe clients don’t get sophisticated creative, don’t get new technologies and are scared of new ideas.

– Trust & Service

Clients believe agencies don’t really listen to them, they don’t receive the desired attention and have to deal with junior staff after the initial pitch. Not enough unsolicited ideas, not enough interesting ideas, not enough fully developed ideas. They feel that agencies express a superiority towards the internal marketing team.

Agencies feel there’s no loyalty on the client side, trust being the main factor. Too often, they are being tested and not being seen as a collaborative partner. Clients can be abusive: passive-aggressive (delaying approvals) or direct (screaming/nasty emails).

– Costs & Capabilities:

Clients feel agencies nickel & dime them constantly on items that should be part of the project. They don’t know how to price a project and manage the costs throughout the process. Clients don’t want to deal with multiple agencies but they feel handcuffed assigning everything to one agency. They desire a more flexible and fluid model.

Agencies believe more clients want work for free or that clients just don’t pay enough. They often have to deal with procurement directly, a business division solely focusing on cutting costs. Clients often start out with one budget but get cuts later and expect the same results.

So, is the agency model about to expire?

The summary of the report is pretty devastating: Clients have business needs and objectives. They hope an agency can help them to achieve those through marketing and advertising. However, they don’t believe agencies are well equipped to surmount any of these challenges. That’s how the distrust cycle begins. And ends with a review.

There are two major challenges:

  1. Nobody pays agencies a dime to become experts on the client’s business. That’s why agencies become experts on advertising. They don’t have the people, reward structure and procedures to explore the economic and market structures of the client and, if needed, challenge the client in his assumptions. Agencies are often limited interacting with the client’s marketing department, lacking insights from other divisions to develop the best recommendations. And the client doesn’t pay an agency to get that information on their own.

  2. The fear factor: Let’s face it: Good advertising is not direct marketing. It’s based on good insights, hidden desires, based on lifestyle, develops cultural icons and builds a movement. When you found that nugget, that little hidden thing, you will do anything to defend it. Agencies will limit their research to prove their case. They will bring limited ideas to the table to make sure that the one idea will be bough by client. That idea is really the only thing they have, the only thing that keeps them in business. When the campaign is over, they will gather research that defends their idea, they often don’t gather the best data and don’t learn from campaign to campaign.

That’s why relationships falter: hurt feelings, unmet needs, disappointment, and an erosion of trust. That’s what happens when you misalign expectations with capabilities.

Nobody is at fault here

Clients ask agencies to solve problems they can’t solve.

Agencies are too married to the services they provide, not the outcomes of those services they created at one point.

It comes back to the old paradox: Agencies thought they were in the business of selling access to the development and placement of advertising, while their clients were trying to buy increased sales.

Clients don’t need agencies anymore.

They still need creative production and media placements/negotiation, etc. But not a full-service agency.

What they need now are business-model-seeking agencies that create roadmaps to carry out consumer, product, channel and marketing strategies. These agencies will facilitate the creation of assets that are placed into those channels or campaigns on behalf of their clients. They will be trusted experts who guide clients through the ever-evolving landscape of their market.

Capitalism is the art of creative destruction. Some agencies will prosper, some flounder, others disappear. Nothing is forever.

Update: Found this fabulous infographic by The Big Orange Slide.


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