It was hideous. I still want to curl up into a ball of shame under my desk when I think about it.  That vile email I sent to someone I hadn't been in touch with for ages.  Out of the blue, they got a message from me. I'll paraphrase.   "Hi, you haven't heard from me in years. I have a new company now. Can we talk about how you can buy my services?"   It makes me want to vomit.  By the way, this utterly forgiving and generous human being emailed straight back to set up a chat to hear what I was up to now. That doesn't make it right, though.  So, how can you make cold calling less disgusting? Both for you and for the person you want to connect with?  The answer is simple. It's actually so simple, you'll be angry with me that you wasted time reading this far.  Here it is:    Do Something For Them First    As a creative, I'm in a privileged position. I can create a piece of work for a company I'd like to speak with and send it to them. A short stop-motion animation, a graphic, a cartoon... something they could use in their social media channels, for instance. Imagine receiving something like that out of the blue, with a message.   "Hi [Super-Company-I-Would-Love-To-Work-With], I really enjoy your products/services. So much so, you inspired me to create this short video for you. A gift. No strings attached. If it's useful to you in any way, please use it as you see fit. It's yours. Please don't even credit me.    "If there were ever a chance to talk with you about what I/we do, that would be wonderful. But there's no obligation or expectation.    "Best regards,    Roger (   www.showandtellcommunications.net   )"   Wouldn't that be a nicer experience for everyone?  Yes, you have to weigh the time costs against the benefits, and against the chances of success. I understand that. But ask yourself this: What effort are you prepared to put in to have a chance at a meaningful conversation with someone you'd give your eyeteeth to work for?  Something to think about?  If you're not a creative, find out what you could do and lots more about cold calling in this episode of Business Jazz:              Business Jazz, Season 3, Episode 6     —Roger—

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It was hideous. I still want to curl up into a ball of shame under my desk when I think about it.

That vile email I sent to someone I hadn't been in touch with for ages.

Out of the blue, they got a message from me. I'll paraphrase.

"Hi, you haven't heard from me in years. I have a new company now. Can we talk about how you can buy my services?"

It makes me want to vomit.

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      You know when you visit a website and after a couple of seconds you get a message like this:     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Or:     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     But you’ve barely taken stock of the home page. Or worse, you’ve only read a     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Goddamnit, that’s irritating. Where was I? Oh, yes.  You’ve only had time to read a few lines of a     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Oh, for pity’s sakes!  You’ve only had time to read a few lines of a blog post before     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     OK, I’ve had enough. I’m     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Screw you.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Jeez Louise!  This is exactly the kind of thing the latest episode of Business Jazz talks     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Sigh. It’s here:  Is Your Browser Experience Detestable?      

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Goodbye.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Business Jazz, Season 3, Episode 5 Cartoon

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You know when you visit a website and after a couple of seconds you get a message like this...

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      Imagine this.  Your business is fresh out of the wrapper. Not a mark on it. Not a customer or client to its name. Not yet a week or month in business, let alone a year.  All your competitors have been around a long time. They have experience. They have track records, impressive client lists and tried-and-tested products. They are gnarly and calloused. And much bigger than you.  They have a blazing aura of credibility.  What have you got?  How do you compete with these beasts?  You tell a bloody good story about how the status quo isn't the best solution. You want to improve the market. You tell the world that your business isn't satisfied with the way things are being done. You are offering an alternative. From now on, there is a more human way. More efficient. More empathetic. More suitable. More sustainable. More enlightened. A way that brings benefits everyone—your client, society, the planet.  And who better to bring change than you? You, a business that isn't shackled to the old ways? One that sees the faults and isn't beholden to them. A business that doesn't have bags of experience of doing things you don't agree with. Instead, you are working from a clean slate and building a business based on how you believe things should be done, rather than on how they are being done.  Can you feel how appealing this is? How appetising you've made your business?  If your business offers something fresh and innovative, driven by the fire in your belly, your inexperience of the old ways becomes attractive. Potentially, irresistible.  The latest episode of  Business Jazz  is all about being attractive when your business is new and doesn't have a track record. Does that sound appealing? If it does, join us here:  Business Jazz S3E4 .  Each episode has a cartoon:     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Write here...

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Imagine this.

Your business is fresh out of the wrapper. Not a mark on it. Not a customer or client to its name. Not yet a week or month in business, let alone a year.

All your competitors have been around a long time. They have experience. They have track records, impressive client lists and tried-and-tested products. They are gnarly and calloused. And much bigger than you.

They have a blazing aura of credibility.

What have you got?

How do you compete with these beasts?

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      The more aspirational your business is, the easier it is to get your message out.  But what if your business is one most people find boring?  One of our clients is a financial services company. They only deal with crew onboard superyachts.  They are excellent at what they do, ethical and are great fun to be around. Nevertheless, financial planning? Snoozy, yes? Especially for an 18- to 35-year-old who is earning a lot of money and is surrounded by oodles of temptation to spend it on luxury goods and expensive treats.  Maybe you work in unappealing industry as well, and are having difficulty reaching a reluctant audience.  Here are two approaches we're having some success with. Perhaps you'll find them useful?  1. Make it fun      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Crew onboard superyachts are paid very well. They also have no outgoings (food, clothing, accommodation, travel, etc are taken care of) and many of them don't have to pay income tax (because they don't live ashore in a tax jurisdiction). Over a 10- to 15-year career, it is possible to accumulate €1million to €2million. Yet, the vast majority leave yachting with nothing. They spend most of it on luxury goods and expensive food and drink.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


     2. Make it about them      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Yacht crew might not be excited about personal finance, but they do like anything to do with the superyacht business. So rather than talk about the client, we talk about the industry, finding fun facts and illustrating them. The brand travels with the visual as it is passed around. No hard sell. Just brand awareness.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


     Oh yes. How to be boring?  Simply do the exact opposite of the suggestions here. That should do the trick.

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The more aspirational your business is, the easier it is to get your message out.

But what if your business is one most people find boring?

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       Don't be delighted.    Or excited.    We don't care    about your share,    when all you do    is talk about you.   Ugh. Why do so many businesses tell people they are "excited to announce ..."? That they're "delighted to announce..."?  I hope your company doesn't.  You see, very few people (nobody, in fact) is excited or delighted by your announcement.  But—you are implying that they should be. You're expecting them to validate your excitement—share in it even. You're waiting for their compliments, their likes, their enthusiasm.  You're basically saying, "Am I not just absolutely amazingly fantastic?" and expecting a chorus of approval from your audience.  (Excuse me while I vomit a little bit).  What have you done for them to expect their adoration? No. Wrong question. What have you done for them to   DESERVE   it?  For most businesses, the answer is "Nothing". Most businesses talk about themselves and how super they think they are. Truth is, if those companies were sucked down a sinkhole tomorrow, nobody would miss them. That probably goes for your company too.  What people would miss are companies that think about their audience first. Companies that aren't delighted about their own over-excitingly overrated announcements. Instead, they seek out and promote the real achievements of others. They are delighted and excited for their target audience.  They are the kind of company that, before it broadcasts to the world, considers what value its message will bring to others. That kind of message is never an excited or delighted boast.    —Roger—

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Don't be delighted.

Or excited.

We don't care

about your share,

when all you do

is talk about you.

Ugh. Why do so many businesses tell people they are "excited to announce ..."? That they're "delighted to announce..."?

I hope your company doesn't.

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      If you had a direct channel to your target audience, wouldn't you do your best to nurture it? Wouldn’t you be respectful? After all, treated properly, this place could provide you with customers forever.  But no.  Marketers don’t do this.  As soon as they find a place where they can reach their customers, they destroy it. They poison the waterhole and chase everyone away.  It happens repeatedly on social sharing platforms.  Take Twitter. A simple, elegant service that is being choked by a flood of "promoted content”. My feed is full of the stuff. Overfull. As a result, I pay less attention to Twitter.  YouTube is under threat too. Part of me dies every time a dull, irrelevant advert appears in front of a video, especially if I’m denied the opportunity to skip past its vomit-inducing banality after a few seconds. And I feel like smashing my keyboard over my desk when a video I’m watching is abruptly interrupted by ads that offer no way of avoiding them—other than by abandoning the video altogether. I’d rather peel off my own face than endure the ad. YouTube knows this. It has launched YouTube Red in the US—a service that allows viewers to watch ad-free content for $9.99 a month, and leave their facial skin where it is.  Pause for a moment.  YouTube is going to make money by offering people an escape from the deep frustrations posed by the advertising on its own platform. That’s how annoying marketing has become on YouTube.  Podcasting is going the same way. Shows are being stuffed full of blatant ads or (worse) “native advertising”. Those are advertising segments in which the podcast host does an interview with the sponsor or spins a yarn about how their lives have changed in wondrous ways because of the sponsor’s product. It’s all rot. It’s all phoney. And it’s all intrusive. There are a number of podcasts I can’t bear to listen to any longer because of the seemingly endless sponsor bottom-kissing that goes on. I’m sure I’m not the only one.  I hold shortsighted marketers responsible. Their behaviour is destructive. Instead of nurturing a herd that will feed them limitlessly, they kill the whole lot off in one hit for a single, wasteful meal.  Maybe it’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma at play. The mutually beneficial thing to do would be for everyone to behave and treat online social sharing platforms with dignity. Instead, isolated from other marketers, individuals decide to act purely out of misguided self-interest and take as much as they can before anyone else does. The result is an unsightly feeding frenzy. Unsurprisingly, the audience bolts to safer havens. Only for the process to repeat itself.  Marketing has always been a creative endeavour. Right now, much of it is creative in the same way that designing poison is creative.  Wouldn't it be better to treat social sharing platforms and their users with more respect?    —Roger—

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If you had a direct channel to your target audience, wouldn't you do your best to nurture it? Wouldn’t you be respectful? After all, treated properly, this place could provide you with customers forever.

But no.

Marketers don’t do this.

Comment

      There are two parts to effective communication. Both can be described by the word 'get'.  First, your audience has to get your message—as in, 'receive it'.  They also need to get it— as in, 'understand it'.  If one of these 'gets' is missing, there's absolutely no chance of your audience acting on your message.  Or to put it another way, there is no guarantee that if your audience gets your message they will actually get it. What is certain, though, is that if your audience doesn't get your message they will never get it either.  As long as we all get that.  Challenges  Both 'gets' present communicators with challenges.  How, for instance, do you convince your audience to receive your message when they feel they already know what the message is or have heard it many times before? A preflight safety demonstration, for example. Who pays any heed to those?  One solution is to pour the information into an original format—one that is enticing enough to make even frequent flyers whose air miles tallies are measured in lightyears take notice.   It's what  VistaJet  did, with the help of  Van Neistat  and  Tom Sachs .

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There are two parts to effective communication. Both can be described by the word 'get'.

First, your audience has to get your message—as in, 'receive it'.

They also need to get it— as in, 'understand it'.

If one of these 'gets' is missing, there's absolutely no chance of your audience acting on your message.

Or to put it another way, there is no guarantee that if your audience gets your message they will actually get it. What is certain, though, is that if your audience doesn't get your message they will never get it either.

As long as we all get that.

Comment

      I've long thought this about politicians and bureaucrats: they waste huge amounts of other people's time. Their purpose, it seems, is to create rules, red tape, forms, regulations, hindrances, obstacles and barriers. Not because we need them, but because they can or because they are stupid, or both. In doing so, they are producing a billowing cloud of lethal poison that is killing hundreds of people every day.  Here's the logic behind that thinking.  How many hours have you personally wasted because of overcomplicated business paperwork? How many minutes lost consulting dense government websites or being put on hold by a helpline (the very definition of a misnomer)? How much time lost to dealing with the red tape of being in business—hell, the red tape of just being  alive ?  My guess is plenty.  That's time pinched from you.  Every minute taken from you by red tape is a minute you could have spent doing something better, something you wanted to do. Instead, it's lost.  Add up all the wasted minutes stolen from people by dunderhead bureaucracy annually and you end op with a vast amount of time. Several hundred lifetime's worth, I'm sure—even in a small country like Ireland, where I live. That's like murdering several hundred people.  Maybe you scoff at the idea. Or maybe, because you've lost so much time to rules and sloth-like bureaucracy yourself, you get what I'm driving at.  So, where do marketing people fit in?  Well, I think, as an industry, we're just as guilty. We produce an astonishing amount of time-wasting crap. Every time someone consumes another one of our inane, self-aggrandising, barefaced-lying bits of promotion, we're killing a little part of them. We've wasted their time and snatched a sliver of life from them.  That's right: we're as bad as the politicians and the bureaucrats. We're all time-sucking murdering bastards. Even the women.  So, let us make a pact, you and I. We honourable few agree that we'll never again produce a piece of marketing that wastes time. Instead, we'll make it valuable. We'll create marketing content that will shine out and bring goodness to our target audiences. We'll honour and enlighten them. We'll make them feel respected. And, most important of all, we'll let them live!    —Roger—        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Marketing Kills

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I've long thought this about politicians and bureaucrats: they waste huge amounts of other people's time. Their purpose, it seems, is to create rules, red tape, forms, regulations, hindrances, obstacles and barriers. Not because we need them, but because they can or because they are stupid, or both. In doing so, they are producing  billowing cloud of lethal poison that is killing hundreds of people every day.

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      Brooklyn Beckham, the 16-year-old son of famous parents, has been asked by Burberry to take photographs to market its new fragrance.  Photographers are up in arms about this.  They say it further diminishes the craft of photography, and is disrespectful to professional photographers who have honed their creative skills over many years, decades even. How could a 16-year-old possibly be competent enough? “Sheer nepotism” is how one photographer described it.  Well, let’s ignore, for instance, that  Joey L  was shooting high-end commissions when he was a teenager. Let’s, instead, pretend teenagers can’t take a photograph. Let’s also assume that Brooklyn Beckham doesn’t know which end of a camera to look through—though nobody has proved this, I think. Even then, focusing on his alleged lack of experience completely misses the point.  I don’t think this is purely a photography assignment.  It’s something bigger.  It’s a   marketing   assignment.   Brooklyn Beckham has 5.9 million followers on Instagram . Very likely, the majority of them are the audience Burberry wants to reach. On top of which, the publicity surrounding his appointment as the photographer for their next campaign has been significant and widespread—be it positive, negative or neutral. Beckham is, to use the parlance, box office. He brings something to the table that most photographers can’t. Audience and exposure (no pun intended). In fact, I can think of only one other photographer whose appointment gets coverage, albeit much less hysterical: Annie Leibovitz.  It all boils down to story.  Brooklyn Beckham’s story is potent. It travels and it has reach. It’s nonsense to complain about his lack of experience as a photographer or be snarky about how he won the job. Being a competent photographer doesn’t mean you are entitled to an assignment over someone who has less experience. Being the right fit for the entire marketing campaign is. For this campaign, Burberry has chosen the photographer whom it feels is best suited to its marketing objective.  In doing so, Burberry isn’t intentionally causing offence to photographers. Photographers are seeking and taking offence. Two different things altogether.  Instead, I think photographers should be more proactive in building their own story. If the story they could build with Burberry were stronger than the one Brooklyn Beckham can, they’d get the job, not him. Fact of the matter is, they can’t offer Burberry a better story.  It’s not like they didn’t have time to build their story. Don’t forget that many photographers are much older than Brooklyn Beckham. It’s their chief argument for being better candidates, after all. They have lived longer and have more experience, remember? Well, that knife cuts both ways. It also means they have had oodles more time to build their story than he has. But they didn’t build a stronger story, did they?  You might argue that Beckham is trading off the time his famous parents spent building their respective stories. Fine. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that most photographers didn’t create a compelling story about themselves when they could have. Brand Beckham is 20 years old or so. What have these photographers been doing for the past 20 years to build their own story to make themselves irresistible to Burberry? I’m going to be very harsh here. They didn’t even build a story about their own photographic competency that was compelling enough for Burberry to opt for them over a 16-year-old.  So, what can marketeers learn from this?  Well, for one, hiring celebrity offspring to do your photo shoot will give you tons of publicity.  Second, and herein lies the point of this piece, if your story is more compelling for your target audience than your competitor’s, you win.  So, ask yourself: What you are doing to build your story?    —Roger—

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Brooklyn Beckham, the 16-year-old son of famous parents, has been asked by Burberry to take photographs to market its new fragrance. Photographers are up in arms about this. They say it further diminishes the craft of photography, and is disrespectful to professional photographers who have honed their creative skills over many years, decades even. How could a 16-year-old possibly be competent enough? “Sheer nepotism” is how one photographer described it.

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      Do you know what a golden plover is?  It's a game bird, i.e. a bird that is shot for sport—though it seems a fairly uneven sport, if you ask me. The odds don't exactly favour the bird.  Or do they?  You see, the plover is quick.  Very  quick—as you would be if someone were trying to shoot you.  Of course, it's not all about incentive. Genetics plays its part too. The plover is built to be a fairly snappy mover. So snappy that, on a hunting trip in Ireland in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver missed one.  The miss appears to have led to a discussion among his hunting companions about which is the fastest game bird in Europe, the plover or the red grouse. Maybe the question should have been whether or not Sir Hugh was a rotten shot. Regardless, the debate about the birds remained unresolved. No reference book could provide the answer.  Long story short, Sir Hugh reckoned plenty of other arguments were being held along similar lines—most likely in pubs (but probably not about game bird velocity). Fastest this, biggest that, loudest the other. So, he decided a book of records should be created.  Did I mention he was managing director of Guinness Breweries at the time?  In 1954, the first edition of  The Guinness Book of Records  was published. A thousand copies were printed and given away as a marketing initiative. The next year, a hardcover edition was produced and put on sale. It sold brilliantly and became a bestseller.  You roughly know the rest.  Here's the point of this post.  In the mid-1950s, a company created a book bulging with information people found useful and, initially at least, gave it away for free. The book grew to become a household name—respected, sought after and beloved even. Along the way, it helped promote a brand of beer and (I'm guessing here, I don't have any figures) surely drove sales upwards.  These days, this sort of thing is called 'content marketing' and it's often presented as if it's something new. Something of our internet and social media age. It's not.  T he Guinness Book of Records  isn't even the oldest example. The  Michelin Guide  was created in 1900 by the Michelin brothers, who made car tyres. The company they founded still does. The book contained all sorts of useful and practical information for the motorist. It too was given away for free to begin with. By the mid-1920s, it had evolved into a restaurant and hotel guide awarding stars for fine dining.  I'm certain there are even older examples.  The point is that the concept of content marketing isn't new. Companies have been giving away valuable content for free and reaping the rewards for ages.  By the way,  the plover is quicker than the red grouse . It's not even close.    —Roger—

Comment

Do you know what a golden plover is?

It's a game bird, i.e. a bird that is shot for sport—though it seems a fairly uneven sport, if you ask me. The odds don't exactly favour the bird.

Or do they?

You see, the plover is quick. Very quick—as you would be if someone were trying to shoot you.

Comment

      Stop lying!  Seriously, what is wrong with marketing people? Do they think we're all stupid or something? Maybe we are. I dunno. Maybe we've all become so pacified that we'll accept anything they say, as long as it's said with confidence.  Take this bit of promotional blurb from a company that promotes content marketing (I won't name them; I don't wish to be cruel):  "THE NUMBERS DON'T LIE... A photo is worth 1,000 words, and a video is worth 1.8 million!"  OMG! That sounds so good, doesn't it? And it has an exclamation mark. You could almost believe it. Except it's misleading nonsense.  For a start, pictures don't always speak for themselves. Many don't make sense at all without some accompanying text that provides context. That's because the context is lacking in the picture itself. Either because the picture cannot show what the audience needs to know, or because the picture is a rotten one in the first place. Claiming pictures are better than words is plain wrong.  Who came up with this silliness in the first place? Would you be terribly surprised if you learned it was probably a marketeer? Of course you wouldn't.  Although attributed to the ancient Chinese, the phrase "A picture is worth 1,000 words" can be traced back to the more likely source of a 1927 print advertisement developed by Fred R. Barnard for Royal Baking Soda. Incidentally, when translated, the Chinese script used as an illustration in the advert places the word count at 10,000. Over time, depreciation has clearly set in.  Possibly, Barnard based his proverb on a quote by newspaper man Arthur Brisbane, who is credited in 1911 with saying, "Use a picture. It is worth a thousand words."  Either way, there is no science behind the number. It just sounds good.  As for the notion that a video is equivalent to 1.8 million words, spare me! 1.8 million?! Where to start with this lunacy?  The English printing of  War and Peace , a book often cited as "quite long", is only  561,000-587,000 words  (depending on the edition and translation). So, apparently, a video will tell you three times as much as Tolstoy could.  The King James Bible  comprises a shade over 783,000 words. Still nowhere near what a video can tell you.  And how long is this blessed video, anyway?  A popular frame rate is 25 frames per second. Purists will insist on 24, but, for ease, let's just stick to 25 frames. If a single frame is the equivalent of a picture, and a picture is (shiver) worth 1,000 words, here's the equation:  1,800,000 words / 1,000 words = 1,800 frames  1,800 frames / 25 = 72 seconds of film  So, one 72-second video is, by this reckoning, able to convey three times the complexity of  War and Peace .  That's some video. The current BBC TV adaptation of the book is running at 382 minutes. What the hell are they playing at? By marketing standards, they only need 24 seconds to tell the story. Have they added bits on?  Sigh.  Take it from me (or don't, see if I care), the numbers   do   lie.  By now, you're hopping up and down and wanting to tell me that these figures should be taken figuratively, rather than literally.  I don't think that helps matters. As mentioned, without context, standalone images can be just that. Standalone, isolated and meaningless. As for video, there are so many awful and meaningless videos out there, it beggars belief. They say nothing. Not 1,000 words' worth. Not 1.8 million words' worth.   Can an image be effective? Absolutely. So can a video. But only if the message is meaningful. Without meaning, pictures and video are both hollow. The same goes for words.  Neither pictures nor videos are inherently better than words. And trying to quantify the impact of visual content over text in such ridiculous, inflated terms makes everyone look stupid. Here, let me paint you a picture:      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Only one word needed: Ass.

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Stop lying!

Seriously, what is wrong with marketing people? Do they think we're all stupid or something? Maybe we are. I dunno. Maybe we've all become so pacified that we'll accept anything they say, as long as it's said with confidence.

Take this bit of promotional blurb from a company that promotes content marketing (I won't name them; I don't wish to be cruel):

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        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         Why is most marketing designed to make a company NOT stand out in any meaningful way?  I mean, do you ever feel that marketing is stuck in some kind of déjà vu loop? A loop in which nothing rises above the rest, and everyone's repeatedly using the same buzzwords and gimmicks to sell the same thing?  Brands just merge into one another. You can't tell their products apart anymore, and the marketing is all rotten and dull and irrelevant. In the end, you just tune out, fast forward or find another screen to look at. Does that sound familiar?  I think a big part of the problem is that most businesses are afraid—of themselves.  They're afraid because they don't know who they are.  They're afraid because they don't like who they are.  They're afraid because, if the truth got out, their customers wouldn't like who they are.  They're afraid because they'd much rather be like one of their competitors.  So, instead of showing themselves, they hide. Mostly, they hide behind meaningless buzzwords and clichés. The same ones everyone else is hiding behind. And they're happy—as long as they don't have to show any of their own personality or character or values. As long as they don't have to do anything truly original themselves.  You end up with a dizzying din of marketing that, despite all the individual voices, seems like a single voice saying exactly the same thing, over and over again.  That makes it very hard for someone to pick you out and form a bond with you. They can't really hear you or see you.  So, just because another company is successful with its messaging or spec sheet or activities (or at appear to be, at least), being a copycat isn't a good idea.  Instead, be you.    —Roger—     PS—If you'd like to know when we have new videos available, sign up for our newsletter and we'll send them straight to your inbox.

Comment

Why is most marketing designed to make a company NOT stand out in any meaningful way?

I mean, do you ever feel that marketing is stuck in some kind of déjà vu loop? A loop in which nothing rises above the rest, and everyone's using the same buzzwords and gimmicks to sell the same thing?

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      I just want to come back to last week’s topic.  Five thousand.  5  0  0  0  That’s how many messages people are exposed to every day.  Or, at least, that’s a figure you’ll come across quite a bit online and on social media platforms. It kept cropping up when I was researching last week’s post. And, coincidentally, on the same day that post went live,  the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) put out an Instagram repeating the number .  But where does it come from?  According to the CMI, it comes from a study done by  Yankelovich —a marketing and research company that merged with another firm in 2008 to become The Futures Company.  Wait. What?  Yankelovich ceased to exist in 2008. So the figure of 5,000 is at least seven years old already.  In fact, it’s worse.  In a January 2007 article titled  Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad , the New York Times references Yankelovich and its study. It states the research was done “last spring”. That dates the fact finding to early 2006. Almost ten years ago.  Ten years and we’re still quoting Yankelovich’s figure as gospel. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Don’t take this as a dig at the CMI. Other marketing people have used this figure in recent years. As a marketing collective, we should feel a bit silly.  Not only because the figure is outdated. Also because I doubt the figure is even a sensible one for us to be using to begin with.  Is 5,000 realistic?  If you sleep eight hours a day, you’re left with 16 waking hours.  Cramming 5,000 marketing messages in to 16 hours means you’d have to be exposed to one every 11.5 seconds. Non-stop, from the second you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.  How is that even possible?  It assumes people have very little else to pay attention to. In fact, they pay attention to a great deal of other things. That’s how car collisions are avoided. And how work gets done. And babies made. And food cooked.  It also assumes people are powerless to ignore marketing messages. Not so. People have an ability to filter out irrelevancies to concentrate on the task at hand. Even on platforms designed to push marketing, people aren’t powerless. That’s what the fast-forward button is for. And adblockers.   Simply putting out a messages doesn’t mean it will be heard or seen. For instance, modern western cities are crammed with visual advertising. Does anyone for a moment think that their citizens see all of it as they go about their daily lives? Let alone consciously absorb all of these messages?  The big question  Of course, you could argue that none of this debunks the number of people being “exposed” 5,000 marketing messages. It all depends on what you understand by “exposed”. Simply being in the same environment as the message could constitute exposure to it. Consequently, you could say my logic is faulty and built on a big, steaming pile of non sequiturs.  So, all right, let’s assume everyone is exposed to 5,000 marketing messages every day. That leads to an even tougher question for us as marketers. Why don’t they all take 5,000 purchasing actions?    —Roger—

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I just want to come back to last week’s topic.

Five thousand.

5

0

0

0

That’s how many messages people are exposed to every day.

Or, at least, that’s a figure you’ll come across quite a bit online and on social media platforms. It kept cropping up when I was researching last week’s post. And, coincidentally, on the same day that post went live, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) put out an Instagram repeating the number.

But where does it come from?

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      I had a different topic in mind for this post. Originally, it was going to look at this question:    "How many messages does the average person see every day?"    I figured the answer would be a solid foundation for a post about the communications torrent our own messages are up against.  I was wrong.  It's a stupid question. (Yes, they really do exist).  For a start, it's too broad. Worse, the answer is unknowable.  Even reducing it down to "marketing messages" or "advertisements" doesn't make the question any more practical.  That doesn't stop people from telling you the answer, though. A half-hour online trawl churned up articles quoting figures ranging from a couple of hundred to tens of thousands. However, none of the posts were linked to any kind of creditable research. Access to genuine source material is in short supply on the internet. Mostly, people just keep referring to each other.  Even if there were a genuinely trustworthy study about the number of marketing messages the average person is exposed to every day, or if one could be done, I'm not sure the answer would be very useful.  The answer is always going to be, "A fat, mahoosive cartload".  The magnitude of "mahoosive" will vary, but I'm certain that, regardless of how big the number is, it is bigger than the number of messages people actually pay attention to. Let alone engage with in any meaningful way. There are just too many of them.  From that perspective, the total number of messages becomes irrelevant. To make it more zen: messages simply are.  So how can we, as communicators and marketers, get people to pay attention to our message?  People are, I think, too unpredictable and fickle to allow themselves to be neatly boxed up into a single formula. So instead of "the" answer, here's "an" answer:  Make your message beneficial to your audience. Make it valuable to them.  Value can be enlightenment or entertainment, or both. But only if these things are what your intended audience is looking for. Otherwise they'll ignore the message at best. At worst, they'll endure it and hate us forever after.  So, part of our job as communicators is to make it clear that our message will meet our audience's need at the moment they encounter it.  For instance, advertisements on TV are painfully dull and dumb experiences. Nobody seeks them out. People mostly watch TV to be entertained. That's the value they're looking for. So why not make adverts entertaining? At least then, viewers might not fast forward past them. They would at the very least be aligned with the audience's need at that particular moment in time.  This isn't radical thinking. It's just not being done very often. That's my impression. How about you?  So, I suppose, at the end of all of that, my real question is, "Shouldn't we make our messages valuable?"   —Roger—

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I had a different topic in mind for this post. Originally, it was going to look at this question:

"How many messages does the average person receive each day?"

I figured the answer would be a solid foundation for a post about the communications torrent our own messages are up against.

I was wrong.

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      Digging around the internet to learn more about visual alphabets (we all have our quirks), I was drawn deep down an odd rabbit hole. Would it be possible to create a language based purely on visuals that could be understood by everyone? I wondered.  Some people might say we're well on our way. Just look at the growing use of emoji—the icons increasingly used in text and email messages. Think 'smiley face' and you've got it. There is even a semi-official (and completely sinister-sounding) organisation that governs them:  The Unicode Consortium .  The number of emoji is growing. In May of next year, the Consortium will decide which of 74 candidate emoji will be added to the official roster. Among them are 'bacon' and 'avocado'. 'Lying face' (which will presumably double for 'politician') and 'nauseated face' ('voter') shall also be considered.   Speaking of 'lying faces', did you know that  =:o]  is the emoticon (the precursor of the more graphic emoji) for 'Bill Clinton'?  Ronald Reagan is either  ,:-)  or  7:^]   This is John Lennon:  //0-0\\ , though I'm not suggesting he was a politician. Or a lying face.  How far could The Unicode Consortium take this? Could we end up with sufficient emoji to constitute a full language?  It wouldn't be the first time someone has tried. Do you remember Zlango?  Let me refresh your memory.  Zlango was an icon-based language created in the noughties by a company of the same name. The idea was to shorten mobile text messages using a visual vocabulary of 300 or so icons. The language never took hold and the company no longer exists.  However, Zlango did prove how far you could get using only icons. Here is 'Little Red Riding Hood' in Zlango:      </iframe>" data-provider-name=""      Amir Yagil, a director of Zlango, narrated a story of 'Little Red Riding Hood' with its iconic language at the MWC 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, Zlango had over 1,000,000 users in 12 countries, according to  Aving , the product news agency that filmed this video.         I wonder what that other classic bedtime story  'Go the XXXX to Sleep'  would look like in purely icon form.   —Roger—

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Digging around the internet to learn more about visual alphabets (we all have our quirks), I was drawn deep down a peculiar rabbit hole. Would it be possible to create a language based purely on visuals that could be understood by everyone?

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      Explaining a complex idea using only words is tricky. Even describing simple things exactly can be hard.  Try this:  Think of an inverted isosceles triangle that has an apex of 35 degrees. Colour it in with the colour that has the hex value #00a5ff. Here's a hint: that's a greenish blue.  Now, scroll down.           Keep going...           Is this what you have in your head?      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


     Probably not exactly. Maybe not even close.  And I bet that if we compared notes, none of us would have come up with the exact same triangle.  But if, instead of describing the triangle to you, I had just shown it, how much simpler would that have been?   —Roger—

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Explaining a complex idea using only words is tricky. Even describing simple things exactly can be hard.

Try this:

Think of an inverted isosceles triangle that has an apex of 35 degrees. Colour it in with the colour that has the hex value #00a5ff. Here's a hint: that's a greenish blue.

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      One of the key advantages of using visuals to communicate is that they are quick. People can understand a visual in the blink of an eye.  Literally.  According to Bionumbers, an online database that logs this sort of thing,  a blink of a human eye lasts between 0.1 and 0.4 seconds . Or between 1/10th and 4/10ths of a second in old money. Either way, it's very short.  Research done in France shows that  humans can process a visual in 0.15 seconds . That's up to 2.5 times faster than the blink of an eye—if you're a sluggish blinker.  To process an image that quickly, people only need to see it for 0.02 seconds, according to the French study. This is supported by an MIT study in which subjects were shown images for an even shorter period of time, only  0.013 seconds .  Not so fast—We need clarity  The subjects who took part in the tests were asked what amount to a yes-no questions: "Does this image contain X?" That helps the brain tremendously. It knows what it is looking for. It can discard a huge amount of information that doesn't fit the pattern it is looking for.  That's not to suggest in any way that the studies are flawed. Certainly not.  If anything, it highlights the need for simplicity in our own communication.  Unlike the French and US test subjects, our audiences won't necessarily know what to look out for in our messages. Our visuals will have to make that clear of their own accord.  Yes, humans have an amazing capacity to process visual information. But we have to do our bit too to help them do so. We need to be explicit about what exactly the important part of our visual message is.  Clarity equals speedy comprehension.   —Roger—

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One of the key advantages of using visuals to communicate is that they are quick. People can understand a visual in the blink of an eye.

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