Marketing Management 2017 : Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture

Big picture marketing management

When we set out to write The Marketing Director’s Handbook our aim was to advance marketing management. The challenge has not diminished. It has increased. The digital revolution and associated media diversification adds extra complexity in managing search and social media. But in the rush to embrace digital opportunities, marketers have a choice to keep or lose their heads. In this article we look at some of the key dynamics and success factors for the year ahead. As we are marketers we must start with customers.

Rising digital media consumption fuels online sales

Around the world online access continues to grow. In the UK, 78% homes now have broadband access (1). Some 81% have mobile phones, and some 77% (and rising) (i.e 62% of the total) have smartphones (2). Faster broadband speeds, and increasing availability of 4G, mean more consumers spend more time online. Both in the home, multi-tasking and on the go. In the UK, consumers spend over 4.45 hours/day using digital devices. In 2017, this figure will exceed combined tv, radio and print consumption (3). As a result, online shopping is growing; rising from 15.4% of retail sales in 2015 to 16.8% in 2016. And with no sign of slowing (4). UK consumers spend on average £1760 each online – more per capita, than consumers in any other country in the world.

Internet/online continues to grow share of advertising spend

Globally online advertising spend is neck and neck with tv, with each accounting for 33% and 34% ad sales (5). Though in the UK online is dominant with over 43% share (6). Looking at Google, their share of online ad spend dwarfs all others. Google’s 2016 ad sales in 2016 grew 18% y/y though this masks an increase in clicks of c. 30% less a reduction in cost/click of c. 10%. In part due to lower cost per click on the display network rather via Google search alone (7) (Figure 1).

The trouble with online advertising

Google remains the elephant in the corner and Bing/Yahoo, and others, relative small fry. Most online advertising is relegated to a few key words. With Google, their algorithms decide what is seen, when, by whom and how much is paid for a few words. Further, an advertising keyword ‘quality score’ bears no relation to the natural search term ranking, and Google and others are unable or unwilling to explain how this works.

While online advertising innovation continues apace new initiatives need careful assessment. Extended advertising text presents an opportunity say more, and while early movers report click-through rates up by 20%, the advantage may be neutralised once all use extended text. Google’s ‘dynamically generated headlines’ are another innovation though only careful reading of the small print reveals both ads and keywords are automatically generated based on the content of your landing page. What Google omit to say is that keyword settings are over-ruled, effectively removing all control from the advertiser.

Google Analytics innovations also continue apace. There are now more data than ever to analyse website and advertising performance. Though key data remains missing. Many searches are omitted as are details on the searchers (customers). An entire search engine marketing and optimisation industry has grown-up second guessing Google and trying to analyse the data despite the significant gaps. Planning and management of digital advertising remains shrouded in ‘fog’ and obfuscation appears self-serving.

Agency heaven takes some finding

The last couple of decades have seen a continued rise of digital agencies and separation of functions; from media buying, planning, creativity, sales promotion, and a plethora of digital specialisms. Media is often planned and bought separately. It is usually managed in silos. As a result, few see, measure and manage the ‘big picture’. The buck stops with the advertiser who has to make sense of it all.

New media opportunities

Looking to the future, ever faster download speeds, and more powerful technology and devices, continue to fuel media consumption. Both in real-time and time-shift at home and on-the-go. Online search/social media advertising, though mainly display, grew 20% in 2016 (Figure 1) (7). We estimate 2017 growth at a slightly slower pace (8). Video offers more opportunities than plain words to build brands, and a growing range of media offer video advertising. You Tube raised over $5bn from video advertising in 2016 (c. 7% Google total), Facebook/Instagram projects $4bn video advertising revenue in 2017 and Snapchat nearly $1m. We estimate that video advertising will account for over 10% online advertising spend in 2017.

Global search and social media advertising spend 2015-2017

Global search and social media advertising spend 2015-2017

While traditional media has been dented by the growth in online display and video advertising, opportunities abound to buy wisely in both traditional and new online media markets. But there is also a need to see and think clearly to avoid traps set for the unwary. The savvy marketer will not go far wrong by developing and running creative campaigns via ‘reasonably high’ impact media offering ‘good value’ cost per thousand (CPT) impacts.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Customers are increasingly busy and time-poor. They wish to make best use of precious moments. Digital devices offer speed and convenience to live life on the go. Also access to extra value in the online world. Build these insights into your product and marketing strategies.

2. Building enduring brands seldom happens by accident. Rigour and creativity are both required. We recommend a 5-step marketing management approach (Figure 2). Starting with analysis then creativity to find an idea and message that engages rationally and emotionally. Prefer pictures, videos and multi-media experiences to words alone.

The Marketing Directors' Marketing Management Approach

The Marketing Directors’ Marketing Management Approach

3. To select media to get your message across, understand your customer and customer journey, media landscape, and engagement drivers and barriers. Then use the objective and task method to plan your campaign, and assess which media offer best value. Look beyond digital media and marketing hype. Remember the story about the emperor’s new clothes. What’s new or big is not necessarily the best media option.

4. Don’t just rely on return on marketing investment (ROMI) to measure and manage performance. This risks short-term at the expense of the long-term gain. Use a broad range of metrics to measure customer engagement including brand awareness, interest, usage, preference and loyalty. Then test, measure and learn and test, measure and learn.

To review and enhance your marketing management methods ask The Marketing Directors for help. We’ll match our team to your needs.


(1) and (2)
(4) Retail
(5) PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2016-2020
(6) AA/Warc Expenditure Report, April 2016
(7) Latest company reports and accounts, (Jan 2017)
(8) TMD estimates based on published sources

Black Friday is Back! If You Can’t Beat them, Join Them ;-)

Black Friday
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming soon (November 25th and 28th 2016) we’re joining in the jolly japes, asking what’s up, and whether you should beat them or join them?

About Black Friday

Originating in the USA in 2003, Black Friday has become the most popular shopping day of the year when nearly all retailers in the country run sales. Now a global phenomenon, Black Friday is popular in other countries including Canada, Mexico, India and the UK. Most recently it has embraced Australia (2011), France, Germany and South Africa (2014) and the Netherlands (2015).

Black Friday marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. It’s a day when retailers’ profits are said to turn ‘black’ from ‘red’. Though the term ‘black’ may also be borrowed from the financial markets to describe days when share prices fall dramatically (1). Being the Friday after Thanksgiving, many US employers give their employees the day off as part of the holiday weekend. Discounting emerged to entice traffic into stores to start their Christmas shopping. As competition increased so did the breadth and depth of discounting.

About Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a extra special offer online shopping day. It takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

As Black Friday has grown so Cyber Monday has emerged to further extend the US holiday shopping weekend and provide a sales window for online and smaller suppliers. Originating in the USA, it has also spread to Canada and France (2008), UK (2009), Germany (2010), Australia (2012) and others.

Black Friday goes Global

In the USA, where Black Friday first emerged as a concept, sales peaked at $59bn in 2012 and have since fallen steadily to $51bn in 2014. The figure for 2015 is believed to be even lower. In context, Cyber Monday sales were $2.7bn in 2014 and £3bn in 2015. This suggests that the ‘Black Friday’ bubble may be bursting in the USA (2).

In countries where the Black Friday and Cyber Monday concepts are new, sales have grown, and generated both positive and negative publicity.

In the UK, Black Friday promotions are now trailed well in advance of the day, and this year Amazon is running a Black Friday week and a half. In 2015, some such as Asda eschewed the event, claiming their prices will be permanently low. However, our sources suggest special offers will return this year, probably as a result of competitive pressure (look out for cut price TVs;-)).

Black Friday Backlash?

In contrast, #BlackFriday has prompted the rise of #buynothingday (3) an international day of protest against consumerism. Participants include 65 countries. A glance at BuyNothingDay UK’s Twitter feed suggests that like King Canute, Buy Nothing Day has failed to stem the tide of consumerism.

Insights on the US vs. UK from Russell Howard

In this short video, British comedian Russell Howard shares insights from both sides of the pond. Suggesting both frenzy and perhaps a little media hyperbole.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Beware of the pitfalls in using price-led special offers. Risks are simply to drive down prices, commoditise markets, bring forward sales and reduce future income.

2. While conventional wisdom suggests that price-led offers provide pure rational benefits, recent research using brain imaging (fMRI) shows that this is untrue. More strongly discounted offers do cause pleasure seeking parts of the brain (the nucleus accumbens), and the decision making parts of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex) to light-up while the pain sensing area (insula) remains inactive (4). Thus significant emotional benefits, and suppressed pain, can be gained. This may well explain some consumer frenzy.

3. Special offers are most effective when designed to meet clear and specific customer objectives. So think clearly what those objectives are and design the mechanic so it works for you. Use creativity and the power of your brand to enhance the emotional benefits!

4. Use promotion events to gain a strategic advantage rather than bring forward sales. For example, by benefiting from the extra attention gifted by the event to attract new users, enhance your reputation, or inspire loyalty.

5. And if you can’t beat them, join them! Starting with our own unashamed Black Friday special offer for marketers. The Marketing Director’s Handbook – the definitive guide to superior and successful marketing. Grab it while it lasts ;-).


4. Rick, Scott, Nutson, Brian and others. Neural Predictors of Purchase, Neuron (2007)

Oh Happy Days! What’s the true value of loyalty?

What’s the true value of loyalty?First Direct Happy Days. What price loyalty?

This week I received a greeting card in the post. It’s not my birthday or anyway near our wedding anniversary. On opening it had a message of ‘Happy Days’… It was a thank-you card from First Direct celebrating the fact that I had been a customer for 25 years or 9,131 days. Nice thought I mused until when logging on I was confronted with an offer of £100 cash if, as a new customer, I had just switched to them.

Greeting card or cash, which would you feel would be the best incentive to move or stay?
My loyalty is to a satisfactory service and reasonable facilities, greeting card or no… They may not have noticed but I moved all my standing orders for utilities etc. to Santander 123 for a cash back and interest on balances. Their approach to loyalty is even more cynical – having acquired me and many others, they have quintupled the cost of the account and cut the interest.

Marketing Inspiration
Marketing it seems to banks is to fool some of the people all of the time. Oh happy days?

Lidl Marketing too Successful?

UK Lidl MD leaves suddenly after overtaking Aldi in the UK with a raft of marketing innovations writes Tim Arnold.

After period of dramatic growth through ‘clever marketing’ and the introduction of many upmarket products, the Guardian this week (9 September) reported that UK Chief Executive Ronny Gottschlich has left the company. Sources say he is likely to face a year of gardening leave.Lidl marketing - Ronny Gottschlich

The Guardian goes on to suggest his relationships with head office ‘cooled’ as he adopted policies different to the parent group such as his focus on marketing and PR as well as the introduction of additional workers’ benefits.

Apparently the increased sales volume has created logistical and profit pressures and the German head office wanted to bring the UK back in line with the rest of the business.

Sacked for successful marketing?

So a successful marketer, under whose reign, Lidl opened 630 stores in just six years – and this year overtook Aldi as the fastest-growing grocer in the UK, has been replaced. Christian Härtnagel, long serving head of sales and operations for Lidl Austria takes over. Aldi Austria has has a more traditional  culture, and is seen as an executive training ground.

If the press reports are correct then we have a significant international company eschewing marketing success for conformity and placing emphasis on operations and sales rather than marketing.

A sad week for marketing

Surely if Ronny Gottschlich is to be’blamed’ rather than ‘applauded’ then this a sad week for marketing!! Or are we only seeing half the story…what do you think? We applaud Ronny and wish him every success.

Creativity Techniques : How to Crack (Almost) Any Business Problem Under the Sun!

Creativity techniques are thinking tools or methods to generate ideas or solve problems. They are also useful to uncover insights, and to create new products, services and brands.creativity techniques

Creativity is a business weapon
In a world that is fast-moving, and changing, seeing the world through new lens, or finding new solutions to problems requires new ways of thinking, i.e. creativity. History abounds with businesses that failed to grow, because they failed to see a problem coming or failed to think differently, from Kodak in analogue film, to Blockbuster in video, to Woolworths and BHS in retail.

Creativity skills can be learned
In many organisations marketers are the creative lead as they as they hold responsibility for communication development, particularly advertising, literature and packaging. However, these skills are sometimes bought-in bought it and it is a myth that only marketers are creative. Creative ideas can be generated by anyone – simply using creativity techniques or tools and creating the right conditions for creativity to flourish.

Creative thinking processes
Creativity is simply a thinking process, an art and a science. Appreciating different ways of thinking, helps lift the lid on, and understand how creativity works and how to apply creativity to a business. Understanding the principles behind the techniques also helps inspire new creativity techniques or processes. There are three main thinking processes though any one can be combined with any another and at any stage.

Firstly, divergent thinking, whereby many new solutions are directly inspired by the problem (Figure 1). To generate ideas to address the problem, this creativity technique requires the problem and desired outcome to be expressed clearly. It is very simple to moderate a creative session of this nature, though a risk is that it relies on the creativity of the team, and the process may run out of steam quickly.

Creativity techniques : divergent thinking

Creativity techniques : divergent thinking

This could be mitigated by including different people in the process, and then combining them in different ways. For example, by combining different functional skills in small teams, and then passing the ideas from one team to the next for building. This adds energy and substance to idea generation.

Secondly, linear thinking, whereby a sequential analytical approach leads to a solution (Figure 2). In this instance a series of steps are taken to determine a solution. However, while the steps in a linear thinking approach are usually analytical or logical they could also be inspirational. For example, one of the steps could be to reframe the problem, or change the conditions surrounding the problem, so it is easier to solve. For example, a challenge to hydrate skin, could be reframed as a challenge to hydrate another part of the body, whole body or another object. Or to re-express ‘hydration’, for example, as a exposure or immersion in, a waterfall, dew, rain, snow, sand, wind etc. Re-expression requires each part of the problem to be delineated and expressed individually. Then for the individual elements to be analysed or recombined in new ways. Rather than conceiving a linear thinking approach as a series of analytical steps, but instead as inspirational steps, turns an analytical technique into a powerful creativity technique.

Creativity techniques : linear thinking

Creativity techniques : linear thinking

Third, convergent thinking, analysis of all facts, leads to the same conclusion or solution (Figure 3). While really the opposite of a creativity technique, this type of approach can be reversed to analyse a series of ideas or options and determine which is best. The start-point is to take the possible solutions, and generate data/insights on the solutions, and then assess arguments for and against the solutions. Alternatively, to assess the ideas using a simple two axis matrix, comprising for example, the ease, doability, cost or speed of implementation of an idea, vs. the impact or effect of the idea on the business or brand.

Creativity techniques : convergent thinking

Creativity techniques : convergent thinking

Marketing Inspiration
1. Bar ‘creatives’ in creative businesses such as media and entertainment, marketing departments have unusual creative expertise and experience, in comparison with other functions. This can and should be put to good use to solve pressing business problems.

2. Adaptation to change is essential for future success. As marketers have inherent creative skills and their primary role is to ensure the relevance of their offers, it is an opportunity, and natural stepping stone for marketers to take the creative lead to benefit their businesses. Marketers should seize the opportunity.

3. As no one has a monopoly on good ideas, and everyone has the ability to think creatively, marketers have an opportunity to, and should, engage their colleagues to this end. All that is required is to create the conditions for creativity, establish a simple lateral and logical thinking process, to dissect the problem, generate ideas, develop them into practical ideas, and then screen those ideas. Typically in a brainstorming session or marketing workshop.

Further Reading
Arnold, Tim, Tomlinson, Guy – Chapter 21, Creativity and Problem Solving, The Marketing Director’s Handbook
192 creativity techniques.

Branding – It’s All About Personality – Stupid!

In increasingly competitive markets, standing out from the crowd is not just a question of what you say but how you say it.

Line up a row of unbranded beers on the bar; how many of us can really tell the difference based on taste? And how many of us can really name the brand? Very few and even fewer we suspect. All of this goes to show the importance of brand positioning and communication. While beers do offer different benefits such as sociability and refreshment, the range of possible benefits is still relatively limited. This makes it hard to stand-out via the benefit message alone.  Yet, there are an infinite number of ways of expressing the benefit message. For example, though humour, being down-to-earth, authoritative or charming. Several brands assume personality traits that match the provenance of beers. Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX both assume stereotypical Australian male personalities. Both are laddish, blokey, witty – they suggest have a good time and male bonding.

If products are people, then brands are friends or lovers

Let’s look at this another way. What do you look for in a partner, a mate? Beyond the flippant, “And Mrs. Daniels, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Paul?” what really attracted you to your partner? In addition to physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality. Most likely the answer will be a very specific and distinctive combination of personality traits.

Search for and express, a distinctive combination of personality traits to define brands

In humans, the range of personality traits is almost infinite. So apply the same thinking process to brands. To start to appreciate the range of variables just let your imagination go; Spiderman – young, flawed and broody, a superhero; Ruby Wax – comedienne, self-deprecating, game-on for a good cause; Fagin (in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) dirty, a thief, miser, teacher, carer ……?

Brand personality mapped to Myers Briggs

Archetypes provide familiar constructs

Archetypes are forms, images or myths which occur all over the earth. Originally advanced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, archetypes have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years. Jung originally identified five archetypes including the Anima (feminine image in a man’s psyche), Animus (the masculine image in a woman’s psyche) and the Shadow (the opposite of the ego image). Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson expanded Jung’s range of archetypes, and outlined twelve basic archetypes in their 2001 book – The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.

The strongest brands tend to clearly reflect single archetypes. For example, Nike has a ‘hero’ brand personality. It takes its name from the ancient Greek goddess who personified victory. Think heroes overcoming monsters, such as St. George slaying the dragon, and apply this to competitive sport. Think beating an opponent, or the monster within, your inner self, frailty or lack of confidence. Applying archetypes to brands helps them stand-out and connect with customers. Conducting archetypal market analysis can also help spot opportunities to challenge category conventions.

Create communication stimulus to express whatto say and howto say it

To help explore and define brand personality and positioning we often create mock-up advertisements, like mini press ads or posters. We use advertising (sometimes called brandcepts) because it is familiar, clear and comprehensible to customers. Creating and using mock-up advertising helps provoke, intrigue and engage. In turn this helps them express what is interesting and appealing and why.

By creating a vast number of mini adverts, allows a very large range of brand positioning ideas including both rational and emotional benefit messages and style and tone of communication to be explored.

Brand personality stimulus

Brand personality analysis and definition

Through qualitative research it is then possible to explore what is interesting, different and persuasive to customers. Analysis reveals what is working and why, and what is not working and why, helping to focus on the small number of hot ideas for further exploration. Quantitative analysis helps reveal the sweet-spot for communication – the most appealing and persuasive combination of benefits and ways of speaking.

Brand positioning outputs include messages, and visual and language guidelines that can be understood and acted upon by communication teams, product developers and front-line staff.

Some proprietary, personality indicators, for example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator helps analyse personality types in terms of four pairs of dichotomies such as thinking – feeling and extraversion – introversion. These are understood by human resources colleagues and potentially useful in helping apply brand personality concepts to organisation cultures and to inform people behaviour, recruitment and reward procedures. All can help deliver a consistent experience through multiple encounters from advertising and websites to call centres and retail operations.

Marketing Inspiration

Make sure a distinctive brand personality is at the heart of your brand positioning. It can enable more effective communications and relationship building through all encounters that customers have with your brand. If you are #2 or #3 in a category it could transform your brand and help you get and stay ahead.

Brand positioning and brand personality models come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of complexity. What’s right for you depends on your starting place, competitive context as well as the size of the potential prize.

Read more about transforming brands into super brands by adding brand personality.

Read The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ brand positioning success story.

Business Planning; A Simplified Process. Infographic

In this fast moving digital world, technology is ever-changing and brands are relegated to a handful of keywords. The only constants are customers and brands. Successful business development requires rigorous analysis of opportunities and creativity. It requires a plan to put the customer at the heart of decision making, and creativity to build the brand. Customers, creativity and brands are the realm of marketing.

Start by understanding where your business and brand is now and where you want to be in the future. Only by knowing where you want to be will you be able to plan how to get there. Then work with your colleagues to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles en route to your destination. Here’s a simplified process to follow.

Strategic planning process

Read a longform version of this article on our marketing consultancy website.

Marketing: Post-Digital Marketing – Success Factors for the New Era

We opened The Marketing Director’s Handbook by referring to the Bob Dylan classic ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’. Change is the lifeblood of marketing. Understanding it, and adapting to it, is Darwinian theory applied to marketing.

When a new era begins, it manifests as a hybrid of the past and the future. Remember how LPs gave way to CDs and now the likes of Spotify; how celluloid gave way to tv, then Betamax, VHS, satellite, DVD, You Tube, Netflix et al. Sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees during a period of change. Sometimes there is resistance to change or an inability to embrace it. There are always leaders and followers, and those that judge incorrectly. The result is that new opportunities pass by some businesses leaving them shadows of their former selves. Equally some adapt and become more successful.

Digital marketing has given way to post-digital marketing. While there remain an enormous number of digital disciplines, and specialists occupying a variety of niches, the specialists are increasingly becoming mainstream. Joining together to provide a greater range of services, being absorbed into larger groups, or broadening their focus. In the same way, digital has merged with traditional marketing to create new value propositions, new brands, new business models and new routes to market.

Rightmove, a new digital brand

Rightmove, founded in 2006, is now the UK’s number 1 property site

Examples are everywhere. From or, to Rightmove, Uber to new Government services, to ALS’s ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ and Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ media campaigns. So what constitutes success?

Post-digital marketers put the customer first.

They understand his or her needs, attitudes and meet them. This wasn’t the case in the late 1990s Internet boom. It’s the reason so many businesses went bust. Back then I recall a well-known client, who had spent the best part of a million on a new website looking for evidence they spent their money wisely – with a budget equal to just 2 customer groups. Today’s digital marketers have learned the folly of pushing technology when there is no evidence of a need. They better understand and manage the risks and rewards.
Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.
They know it’s the combination of insight, a great idea and digital connectivity must come together to generate awareness and demand. Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ video has been viewed over 85m times and rising. It echoes yet rebuffs a stereotype, it connects emotionally and the pay-off is feel-good. It gets a message across at much lower cost than a traditional tv advertising campaign. In the post-digital world digital is mainstream, a creative communication and distribution vehicle, on a par with the 30 second Coronation Street slot and Tesco gondola end. It’s why Marc. S. Prichard, P&G Global Brand Officer, says the company is quickly shifting to a digital-first approach to building brands.
Post-digital marketers use multiple of methods to capture customers.

Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the many folk dunked during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

They recognise we live in an always on world. It isn’t enough to plan and launch campaigns. The days of shot-gun marketing are gone, though post digital marketers need to be more like gamekeepers. Setting traps, baiting, luring and nurturing (less than wild) life 24-7. Understanding where customers are, when, how they behave, what is required to engage and build relationships. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a success because it fulfilled participants’ desire to socialise (reach out and connect with mates), look good (even if the experience was a little self-deprecating), and entertain. ALS understood the criteria for social sharing, and in so doing found an idea to promote its good cause. And probably in that order.
Post-digital marketers plan budgets to achieve outcomes.
At a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing event on how CMOs should influence CFOs, we asked for a show of hands on how delegates planned their budgets. Most take what they are given, or start with last year’s budget and increase it in line with expected sales. Less than 5% calculate the impacts and cost of impacts to meet the required sales. A post-digital marketer uses the ‘objective and task’ method and knows the relative promotion costs per sale across all media. He or she doesn’t view the digital budget in isolation. This also requires the customer’s journey, the media consumed, and enablers and barriers to demand at each stage to be understood. Only then can media be planned to intervene, at the right time, with the right message, and right impacts to change behaviour.
Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.
They are sceptical of the relationship between impacts, clicks and sales. In the world of Google, as well as tv, there is lots of waste. They know what they don’t know. They know they don’t know who clicked and why. Understanding cause and effect relationships is difficult but they know it must be done. They look before they leap and test, learn and then replan promotion activities. They invest in small-scale tests before going large. They use econometrics to clarify causes and effects.  They may take a risk on a new medium but it is a calculated risk.
Post-digital marketing means connecting with the business.
While digital is code, and the realm of coders, coders are no longer just hunched over a computer in a back office. Digital should not be separate from, or different to, ‘business as usual’. Post-digital marketers have come out of closet; they are rightfully understanding and connecting with customers and influencing the business.
Marketing Inspiration
1. Post-digital marketing is business marketing. As business leaders, CEOs and CMOs define the entire business strategy, of which digital strategy is one important element.

2. CMOs and CIOs should work together – and with the customer as the arbiter of what’s right.

3. Focus on optimising products, creating new products, choosing the right distribution and promotion channels as well as getting your message across.

4. Stay truthful and authentic. The digital world is subject to more scrutiny, less forgiving and word travels very fast.

David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants – Book Review by Guy Tomlinson

An inspirational read

This is an inspiring read for anyone wishing to start a business or grow bigger. Malcolm Gladwell is staff writer on the New Yorker magazine and author of the best seller ‘Outliers – the anatomy of success’. He is also one of the most insightful people on the planet – I’m working my way through all of his books! The book reveals an armoury of ideas that could help shift the balance of power between the minnows and the mighty.

The art of battling giants

While we all know that David did triumph over Goliath, the book is also heavy with facts, and describes many unfamiliar aspects to this story!

Packed with insights

Did you also know?

That Richard Branson one of the world’s wealthiest multi-billionaires is dyslexic? We’re treated to many examples of individual success that arose through personal disadvantage.

In a story about a US schoolgirl league basketball team that was light on skills, the coach equipped the team with disruptive tactics and a hard working ethic which enabled them to beat better ranked opponents.

To raise awareness and gain public sympathy for the US civil rights movement, the organisers of an Alabama demonstration tricked the authorities into a confrontation which led to lots of bad PR (and inspired a step change in support for the civil rights cause).

The Impressionist painters were originally refused access to the Paris Salon exhibitions of the day so they started their own show. By creating a new pond in which to swim allowed them to be seen and grow big.

Marketing Inspiration

By applying some of the themes in the book to businesses, here are a handful of lessons that can help minnows triumph over the mighty:

  1. Competing on different terms, for example using different strengths, to your adversaries can provide an advantage.
  2. Sheer tenacity and drive can triumph over complacency or unwariness. Working harder can also be both a recipe and message for success (cf. ‘we try harder’ – Avis).
  3. Superior knowledge of your opponent can provide an edge.
  4. Weaknesses can be a source of hidden strength. Look hard to discover what they could be.
  5. Avoid being hidebound by current industry conventions and think differently i.e. ‘zig’ when everyone else is ‘zagging’. Virgin Atlantic, for example, was devised by a group of Virgin employees with no airline experience whatsoever. This helped them establish a distinctive new offering.

Gladwell, Malcolm, David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013)

Humour in Advertising: What works?

Did you know? In North America, 52% of adverts are considered ‘funny’ or ‘light-hearted’ and just 48% have ‘no intended humour’ whereas in Asia Pacific just a third are considered humourous (1).


humour in advertising

Incidence of humour in advertising

But does that mean you should use humour, or that humour always increases sales? We investigate to help you spend your ad budget wisely!

Funnier ads are more memorable

According to Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising survey humour resonates more than any other type of content (2).  According to Millward Brown’s advertising awareness tracker, the more humourous the ad, the more impactful it is likely to be i.e. the more likely the ad is to be recalled (1).

Impact of humourous advertising

Impact of humourous advertising

This is because humour is disarming, involving – it lowers barriers to engagement. To draw an analogy with human inter-relationships, we’re generally more attracted to ‘funny’ people! So it may be unsurprising that humour is used in almost half of the world’s advertising.

Response to humour and some humour codes differs by region

The relative impact of humour differs by region of the world. Humourous adverts have much higher impact in North America and Europe than in Africa/Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. The North American and European regions also have the highest incidence of humourous adverts which suggest these factors are related. These Western regions also have the most developed economies (larger gross domestic product/capita) and much higher expenditures on advertising than other areas (3). The advertising industries are equally larger and more developed – having spurred, and grown to respond to, increasingly competitive markets. Conversely, consumers are less exposed to advertising in less developed markets. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that ads have a lesser impact because there is a lesser need for more ‘sophisticated’ messages and/or consumers are less responsive to ‘humourous’ messages .

Cultural differences also have a bearing. In less open societies, for example in parts of Asia and the Middle East countries blue humour (references to sex, body parts) are taboo (4). Sarcasm is not appreciated in China and irony (feigned ignorance) appears peculiarly British.

Conversely some humour codes appear universally appealing. For example, slapstick (childish humour), such as ‘pie in the face’ gags as ‘performed’ by clowns. Also poking fun at minorities; Pommies (the English) in Australia, the Irish (in England), the Belgians (in France), the Spanish (the Portuguese), the Poles (the USA) and the Germans (Poland). Though in our UK experience, there is an increasing fine-line between poking fun and xenophobia (a reflection of an increasingly diverse and politically correct society).

Humour doesn’t always drive brand engagement

While humourous ads are more impactful, they are slightly less persuasive (1). Humourous ads are seen as less credible and relevant. There is a fine line between distracting and engaging with humour – the former risks the brand message being overlooked, and the credibility and relevance of the message being impeded. Further, once a joke is made and understood, repetition risks boring or annoying. Nevertheless the difference is small which suggests there are many humourous ads which are persuasive. Here are four ads from which made us smile and allow us to uncover more lessons:

Heineken (Heineken) (UK)

Heineken is one of the world’s most popular lagers. Created by CDP, their ‘refreshes the parts’ campaign was one of the longest running in advertising history (30 years).

Why does this ad work?

The campaign idea and message reflects the most universally appealing benefit in the category – ‘refreshment’.
Strong secondary benefits – social desirability and cleverness; antidotes to the ‘down-trodden’ married male stereotype.
This ad ‘refreshes the pets’; it twists the original strapline and parodies the Dulux Paints’ campaign – this is also evidence that the long running joke was wearing thin. The campaign was dropped in 2005.

Old Spice (Procter and Gamble)(Global)

Old Spice is a men’s fragrance. When acquired by P&G in the mid 1980s it had a slightly faded image.

Why does this ad work?

We’re unsure of the extent to which this drives sales and question how aspirational this ad is to men! We suspect there is more to this ad than meets the eye!
The target is more likely to be females who wish to buy a gift/make a statement to their partner rather than males.
The message is make your man a dream man (dream he is a real man, make a joke to your man that he isn’t a real man and express a desire for a real man…).
This ad has spawned a significant number of spoofs and is a huge social media talking point. (UK) is an insurance comparison site competing in a market where the cost per click for ‘insurance’ terms is very high.

Why does this ad work?

This ad  campaign (VCCP) has driven significant online traffic directly to two websites and fuelled a burgeoning industry of meerkat toys (Aleksandr Orlov and his family). It has injected a stand-out personality in an otherwise ‘low interest’ and price driven category.
The benefit of cheap car insurance and distinctive personality is appealing and engaging. The joke is that ‘compare the market’ sounds like ‘compare the meerkat’ in Russian. Having researched this ad in Russia, the humour only works in the UK!

Head and Shoulders Anti-Hair Loss Shampoo (Procter and Gamble)(UK, US)

Head and Shoulders Anti-Hair Loss Shampoo is a relatively new product (2009) that’s available in the UK and US.

Why does this ad work?

First up we’re not sure whether the ad drives sales but it is hilarious. Since the ad was created (Saatchi and Saatchi), the product appears to have been repositioned from anti-hair loss to hair endurance. The former benefit (being to avoid a negative) while the latter is clearly positive. In our experience positive benefits are more appealing than avoiding disbenefits.
While the absurdity of the idea is amusing it impedes the relevance and credibility of the message. For example, the idea of ‘loving your hair before it leaves’ undermines the core proposition of ‘anti-hair loss’. Nevertheless this is a slightly taboo subject area, and the ‘off-the-wall’ humour and gentle tale is dramatic, disarming and engaging. This may even reduce self-consciousness and increase propensity to discuss the subject more openly. Let us know what you think.

Marketing Inspiration
1. Consider using humour in markets that are plain boring, commodity-oriented and rationally driven. Humour works in many ways to lower barriers to engagement, inject personality and increase brand stand-out.
2. Humour needs channelling with care to ensure the brand message is clear and persuasive.
3. Humour can be both simple and complex. It is coded – so make sure you know how it works before building it into your strategy.
4. Explore and test a series humour codes and personalities in markets where humour is highly prevalent, for example, beer (UK).
5. Not all humour travels. Use humour with more caution in less developed markets. It is fine to develop an over-arching international strategy using humour yet allow localisation.
6. Humourous campaigns sometimes wear out quickly. Make sure your production budget is big enough to keep the idea fresh.


(1) Millward Brown. Does Humor Make Ads More Effective? (2007) Humourous adverts are those considered ‘funny’ or ‘light-hearted’ as opposed to having ‘no intended humour’. Impact is based on Millward Brown’s Awareness Index (AI) and is calculated by looking at the rise in prompted ad awareness per 100 GRPs that is generated above the base level factoring out “diminishing returns” i.e. that it is harder to go from 60-70% than from 20-30%.
(2) Nielsen’s survey of Trust in Advertising (Sept 2013) is based on 29,000 respondents in 58 countries.
(3) Banks, S. Cross-national analysis of advertising expenditures. Journal of Advertising Research 26 (2), 11-24 (1986)
(4) McGraw, Peter; Warner, Joel. The Humor Code – A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny (2014)

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