July 17, 2017

Brand Preference Vs Brand Love

Today's post first appeared in my newsletter this week.

There is only one essential job for marketing - to acquire customers.
Everything else marketing does is a footnote. This is why the current obsession with social media is largely misguided.
People are far more likely to use social media to follow a brand they currently use than a brand they don't. It is very reasonable to assume that the vast majority of people following your brand on social media are already customers. And usually they are a tiny component of your user base - well under 1/10 of one percent.
Consequently, most of the money you spend on social media is spent talking to a tiny group of people who are probably already using your brand.
Every hour and dollar spent talking to these people is a dollar and hour not spent on acquiring new customers.
The justification for this is usually some fuzzy nonsense about "brand love." It comes from that infantile school of marketing that believes if you shower people with social media or "content" - whatever the hell that means -- they will fall in love with your brand.
Here is a recent chart from McKinsey. Frankly, I can't vouch for the methodology or the conclusions, but even if it's only half-true it demonstrates pretty convincingly the daunting limitations of "brand love."
 There is obviously nothing wrong with trying to communicate with some of your customers through social media and trying to build a nice relationship. It's a matter of perspective. It is reasonable to devote a small component of a marketing budget toward that. If you do it well, your objective should be modest -- to maintain or motivate brand preference.
However, spending a lot to chase the chimera of brand love is usually a wasteful and largely empty exercise. The idea that social media creates brand love is a fantasy. A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review reported that...
“Across 16 studies, we found no evidence that following a brand on social media changes people’s purchasing behavior."
I'm sorry to tell you this, but most people just don't care that much about your paper towels. And if some do, and they follow you on social media, it's not likely to change their buying habits.
Unfortunately, we have been lead to accept a very seductive philosophy based on the fantasy of brand love. It is founded on the expensive, wasteful delusion that people want to have "conversations" with brands, read and share "content" about brands, co-create with brands, and several other flavors of childish nonsense (for a great read on this subject, particularly for creatives, I suggest "Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t" by Steven Pressfield.)
Our brands are critically important to us marketers but in the vast majority of cases not very important at all to most consumers.
Instead of spending a lot of money trying to convince a small number of people to love your brand, your money would be much more wisely spent trying to convince a lot of people to like it.
I'll be taking some time off from the blog for vacation and to finish up my new book. See you in a few weeks.

July 12, 2017

Why All Advertising Philosophies Are Wrong

As a former ceo of a few ad agencies I think I know something about how agencies work.

One of the core principles of the agency business is to develop a philosophy about the advertising process that differentiates you from your competitors. Then you give it a name -- you "brand" it -- and you speak to your clients and prospects in the language of this brand credo.

There's nothing evil about this. I did it when I ran an agency, and almost every agency does it.

The only problem is that it is inevitably wrong. The reason it is wrong is that advertising success is about likelihoods and probabilities, not certainties. But there is no agency in the world that is brave enough to say out loud that their philosophy is contingent and uncertain.

For brand marketers, there are no straight lines in advertising. You cannot assume that if you do this, that will happen. The best you can do is infer likelihoods.

I believe in the power of probability (by the way, I wrote a curious and highly unpopular little pamphlet about this called Quantum Advertising.)

I am often asked to speak at conferences and I sit there and listen to speakers talk with great certainty about how whatever it is they happen to be selling is the root of great brand success. I don't buy it.

If you tell me that advertising success is all about emotion, I'll show you a hundred campaigns that were successful with no emotional factors. If you tell me that advertising success is all about logic, I'll show you a hundred successful campaigns that were completely logic-free.

You want to claim that all advertising success is based on strategy? I'll show you a hundred successes with no discernible strategy. You want to claim it's always about creativity? I'll show you a hundred successes my dog could have written.

What does skepticism about fixed advertising philosophies - and belief in the power of probability - mean in the real world? It means...
  • The more people who see your advertising the more successful it is likely to be
  • The more people who remember your advertising the more successful it is likely to be
  • The more people who like your advertising the more successful it is likely to be
  • The more people who have an emotional reaction to your advertising the more successful it is likely to be
  • The more people who agree with the logic of your advertising the more successful it is likely to be
These may seem like platitudes, but it is remarkable how many marketers waste money creating messages that are directed only at their fans, are immediately forgettable, are crass and unlikable, are emotion-free, and cliché-ridden.

Does this mean that advertising that is pervasive, memorable, likable, emotional and/or logical is guaranteed to be successful? No. It just means it's more likely to be successful. And that's all you get in advertising.

If you want to be a simpleton who believes in certainties, get into politics.

July 10, 2017

A Day In The Life Of A Blogger

4:50 AM - Wife’s Alarm Goes Off
First decision of the day: Divorce or hit man?

5:15 AM - Roscoe The Dog Starts Barking
Second decision of the day: What to throw at him? Shoe or iPad?

7:00 AM - Wake Up, Get Out Of Bed, Drag A Comb Across My Head
Oops. No hair. Drag a wash cloth across my head

7:30 AM - Meet My Breakfast Boys At Coffee Shop
Discussion: Ailments, Medications, Basketball, Trump

8:15 AM - Return Home

Read nasty emails from people who hate me

8:30 AM - At Home Office
Write nasty emails to people who hate me

9:00 AM - Decide Not To Do Much Today
It’s a great habit to develop

9:30 AM - Check Bank Account To See If Nigerian Prince Has Deposited The $22 Million
Not yet.

10:00 AM - Rummage Through Old Unpublished Blog Posts To See If There’s Anything I Can Use For Tomorrow
Not a fucking chance

10:15 AM - Start Writing Blog Post For Tomorrow
Realize I've written this same post 20 times before

10:20 AM - Decide I Need To Think A Little Before Writing Blog Post
Maybe checking Facebook will help. (Or porn sites!)

10:30 AM - Receive Invitation To Speak At “The Real-Time Customer Journey Optimization Insider Summit”
Third decision of the day: Slit wrists or jump off building?

11:00 AM - Go For Swim
With every stroke, wish it was over.

12:00 PM - Buy A Tunafish Sandwich
Fourth decision of the day: Chocolate milk or apple juice?

1:00 PM - Check To See If There’s A Baseball Game On Television
No. Need a different excuse for not writing blog post

1:05 PM - Get An Email From Former Colleague Telling Me How Much He Hates His Agency
Feel ashamed but nevertheless bask in my Schadenfreude

1:30 PM - Check “To Do” List To Make Sure I Haven’t Done Anything
Clean bill of health

2:00 PM - Cancel Meeting I’m Supposed To Be At Tomorrow
Hasn’t today been exhausting enough?

2:30 PM - Start Panicking About All The Shit I Haven’t Done
Decide to review the status of my projects

2:40 PM - Review Novel I’m Supposed To Be Working On
Get depressed because it sucks

2:50 PM - Review Book About Ad Tech I’m Supposed To Be Working On
Get depressed because it sucks

3:00 PM - Review Speech I’m Giving Next Week In London
Get depressed because it sucks

3:30 PM - Try To Get United Airlines On Phone
What was I thinking?

4:00 PM - Check Email
Why do all these people want to join my LinkedIn network? Didn’t even know I had a LinkedIn network. Who knew there were so many award-winners, storytellers, founders, co-founders, advisors, analysts, professionals, globals, passionates, worldwides, innovators, data-drivens, strategists, authentics, experts, coaches, transformers, disruptors, leads, champions, builders, advocates, ambassadors, pioneers, architects, lifelongs, change agents, believers, motivators and ideators?

4:15 - Get Sucked In By Click Bait About Pop Star I Never Heard Of
You won't believe what she looks like now!

4:30 PM - Find A Baseball Game On TV

This is better

7:30 PM - Find Another Baseball Game On TV And Eat Something Garlicky
This is even better

10:30 PM - Go To Bed
This is even betterer

3:00 AM -  Wake Up And Write The Fucking Blog Post
Get depressed because it sucks

July 05, 2017

10th Anniversary Edition

This week marks the 10th anniversary of The Ad Contrarian blog.

I can't think of a more interesting time to have been writing about the ad industry. I've had a few favorite story lines -- marketers' detachment from reality; brand babble; the devaluation of creativity; the unhealthy consolidation of the agency industry; the foolish disregard for the most valuable consumer group in history.

But the biggest ad story of this decade is undoubtedly the story of online advertising. It has gone from infancy to pimply-faced adolescence in the last decade. And like all adolescents it is annoying, stupid, and stinky.

One can't help but marvel at how our industry was presented with such an extraordinary opportunity and has managed to fuck it up it so thoroughly.

The marketing industry has hijacked the web. It has become a relentless 24-hour marketing machine. Online advertising has been an integral factor in many of today's most dispiriting realities -- the degradation of journalism, fake news, industry corruption and fraud.

In the past ten years online advertising has gone from a minor annoyance to major menace (this is the subject of a book I'm working on.) It is not simply a pesky nuisance; through the twin agencies of tracking and ad tech it has become a danger to democratic societies.

It's been a fascinating decade -- but frankly hard to watch for someone who has derived substantial pleasure and prosperity from advertising.

I don't believe much in legacies, especially in an industry that doesn't even bother to bury its dead. But if I did, I'd hope that this blog would be seen as contributing to the story of how an industry went so far off the rails so quickly.

What a stroke of luck to have been inadvertently chronicling the whole thing. I know it's unseemly to derive amusement from the decline of an industry, but I have to admit I've had a blast for ten years.

Despite the foolishness of our aristocratic "leaders," there are many wonderful people in advertising and I've been fortunate to get to know many of them. This blog has allowed me to become friends, even if just 'virtually,' with great people all over the world.

It has also permitted me to share some of my immoderate views with tens of thousands of others. No matter how wantonly we have endeavored to screwed it up, the web really is a remarkable connection device.

It is not hyperbole to say that some of the people I like best in the world I've met as a result of this blog.

Thanks for reading this thing. I hope it has been of value to you -- if not illuminating, at least thought-provoking.