Blog

People like them

People like us do things like this.

A mantra introduced to me by reading Seth Godin, but a cultural mindset that is evident wherever you look. Whether it’s the latest fashion, politics or the new bar to have your next Instagram photo in, there’s no denying that so many of our decisions are based on how we see ourselves and how, therefore, we can best maintain that image.

The reverse is also true. More and more we define ourselves by what or who we’re not. For fear or being like ‘them’ we do/say/think/buy/post ‘this’.

When everything is a reflection of who we are or who we are not, it can easily trump more rational arguments when it comes to our decision-making.

I’m not sure I have an answer or a real marketing point to make here. Should brands get off the fence and become advocates for certain causes, even at the risk of turning away a portion of their customer base? I’m not sure. There’s certainly an argument for considering it.

But, one thing that is certain is the power and influence of ‘groupthink’ or ‘herd mentality’.

Brands can’t afford to underestimate it.

‘Twas ever thus

Things social media managers hear all the time:

“We should be sharing this on social media.”

“Can we put something out on Twitter about this?”

“That’s a perfect Instagram post…”

The answers are almost always ‘No we shouldn’t’, ‘No’, and ‘No it’s not’.

It can be tempting to treat social media as the dumping ground for the stuff you don’t think warrants any extra thought or budget. After all, it’s free, quick and easy. But, this kind of thinking is going to yield very little results for your brand.

The same attitude that gets your Great Aunt to like a picture of your cat on Facebook won’t cut it when you’re trying to convince people to part with their money.

The fact is, social media marketing is still *marketing*. The need to give it some thought, to be protective of your image, considered in your messaging, and creative in your output is still as relevant as it was pre-internet. Marketing is the same now as it was then.

Right message, in front of the right people, at the right time.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Sam


Ogilvy on Advertising is a great place to start for tried and true marketing advice that’s still relevant in the digital age.

Balancing Act

The two most impactful things I’ve read during my long silence from writing anything on this blog are ‘Creativity Inc.’ by Ed Catmul* and ‘Making an Impact’ – a study by Kantar Millward Brown.

There’s one thing that’s stuck with me when reading both: if you want to build a brand, balance is essential.

Balancing art with science.

Balancing creativity with pragmatism.

Balancing head with heart.

Balancing dreams with reality.

Balancing what you want with what they want.

In all of these, it’s not an “either/or”. Both are necessary to keep the other in check. Creativity at all costs won’t make you any money. Commercially at all cost, and you’ll have no soul. There’s a vital tension between, what often seem like, opposing ideas that brands need in order to succeed.

Building a something that matters to you *and* the people you seek to serve means constantly walking the tight rope. Every day, in every decision, every time.

How’s your balance?


*an incredible book for anyone remotely interested in the creative industry. Hopefully I’ll get round do doing a book review soon.

Not everyone is going to care

One of the questions often thrown out during discussions about any business or comms idea – normally by those who claim to ‘speak for the consumer’ – is ‘does anyone care about this?’.

It’s a fair question. There is no point pouring money or time into a project that no-one else cares about. But surely the answer is almost always: ‘of course somebody does!’.

That somebody might be an audience the size of a small country, or a select few individuals who are highly interested in your niche, but that isn’t at all important as long as you’re realistic with your business model. The aim with building a brand that matters, isn’t to get everyone to care but to find those who do and connect with them directly.

If you’re building a ultra-premium chocolate brand it really doesn’t matter that most people wouldn’t pay over £1 for a bar, and couldn’t give a monkey’s about where the beans come from for you £10 a bar product. There are enough people out there who do. Find them. Build a product they can love. Speak to them in a way they value. And ignore everyone else.

The problem with the question ‘does anybody care?’ is that it’s really asking ‘does this have mass-market appeal?’. Not only is it presumptuous to think that’s what you’re going for, it’s not at all a helpful starting point. Something *built* to appeal to everyone, more often than not appeals to no-one.

If that spark of an idea in your head sets *your* heart racing, you can be sure there are others out there too. The only thing then you have to work out is how to find them, and make your idea come life.

Hearts not eyeballs

Organic reach. Paid reach. Impressions. Retweets. Presence.

It’s all overrated.

Obsession over analytics and data has led us into a world where we seem to think the number of people you manage to shout at is the measuring stick of marketing success. There are two problems with this.

The first is that only a fraction of those who you have the potential to reach will ever see your content or messaging. Of those who do, you will be lucky if more than 2-3% stop to look properly. An ever smaller portion of those people will actually do anything about it and maybe perhaps consider potentially buying something from you, *if* on the off-chance they happen to feel like it. Not great odds.

The second problem is that by placing such weight on how many people *might* see your work, you become careless and fail to get to know the people who are seeing it. With such a broad church of an audience, you’re forced into a ‘throw shit at the wall and see what sticks’ approach. Again, not great odds.

Instead, marketers and brand builders should be thinking about depth, not width. Focus on what Seth Godin calls the ‘minimum viable audience‘ your business needs to work properly. That might be 10,000 people, or it could be 10. Then, expend all energy, not on trying to grow that number, but on building trust.

Get to know your audience, who they are, what makes them tick, what they find useful, and practice the craft of talking directly to them. Everything you do, say and create should be about serving their needs and rewarding them for their loyalty to your brand.

Do this and you’ll find that by speaking to those who want want to listen your chance of success goes up significantly. Oh, and it’s a hell of a lot less tiring than shouting into the abyss.

Language Barriers

Whenever we learn anything about anything we love to prove it. It’s only natural, especially if you’re enthusiastic. One of the ways we like to show we know something about something is to use the lingo.

Acronyms, abbreviations, buzzwords and bullshit.

If you read anything about marketing on or offline, every book, article and whitepaper (maybe even my own blog) is pumped full of it. And, if you’re looking for a bit of advice on how to make your business stand out, or make a start in digital marketing, it’s like everyone who seeks to tell you how it’s done speaks a foreign language.

David Ogilvy, perhaps the most influential adman ever, said this:

Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.

He was notoriously brash, but he has a point. Jargon works a bit like armour. It makes us seem more powerful than we are. Makes us feel safe. Reassures us that we’re doing the right thing, even when we’re not. But it can also force us into a box, restrict our thinking and will us to apply some ‘textbook’ theory where it makes no practical sense.

As far as I see it, marketing and branding are reasonably simple. Not easy – but simple. It’s about consistently showing up, staying true to who you are, always doing the right thing by your customers and working tirelessly at making your business matter to others, no matter how few.

There’s no one way to do that. There’s no set budget that needs to be spent. No must-use platforms or nailed-on strategies. No magic pill. No need for jargon.

Everyone can build a brand whether they’re a marketing guru or a handyman in his own van who couldn’t give a toss about David Ogilvy. Provided you’re doing good work, all it takes is persistence and patience. Don’t let the language barrier convince you otherwise.

Sam


Sorry for the radio silence over the last few weeks. It’s all been a bit hectic, but hopefully, this slightly longer-than-usual post makes up for it. I’m back now, so speak soon.

Sprint

In 1829, George Stephenson created the first locomotive. It was about to revolutionise travel in the UK. At the time, some feared that the speed of Stephenson’s “rocket” would be harmful – even fatal – to people’s health. How fast could it go?

24mph.

We’ve always had a fear of speed, not least in the decision-making process. Snap decisions are frowned upon and seen as reckless, which can often lead to a general reluctance to deciding things at pace. “Let me have a think about it”. “Can I get back to you?”. “Leave it with me.”

This hesitation around fast decisions, I’d assume, stems from the anxiety around not being able to change things at a later date. There’s some truth to this, especially in the digital/social media age. Once it’s out there, it’s out there and things can’t be taken back. But fast decisions produce action, prevent distraction, create momentum and keep things moving forward.

In David Hieatt’s book “DO/Purpose” he says:

“If you want to achieve amazing things quickly, set yourself tough, almost impossible deadlines.”

Spending twice the amount of time making the decision or completing the task won’t make it twice as good. If you keep on your toes, you can stay nimble, learn and adapt at a later date if your decision wasn’t quite right first time around. But indecision isn’t the antidote to poor decisions.

You can’t build a brand out of theory alone – it requires action to get ideas out of your head and into the world. Make stuff happen. Fast.

Sam