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Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

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Heading: “The customer is not a moron, she is your wife” – David Ogilvy

A blast of commonsense from my old friend and colleague Malcolm Auld in Sydney.

Some of you may have seen this subject line recently. It’s a Newsflash so it must be important:




It’s from Marketo and it’s close to being the most insulting subject line ever written about marketers. Either that or it reveals the Marketo team is comprised of fools.

Hands-up all of you who thought email was dead or gravely ill for that matter? Who among you no longer uses email to communicate with customers, because you thought email was dead?










Were you as relieved as I was to discover from Marketo that “email is not dead“? I suspect very few of you even believed the headline. It’s the equivalent of saying “the atmosphere still exists around planet Earth“. Of course it does and of course email is not dead – what fool would make such a claim?



Here’s the supporting paragraph:

“Marketers are spoilt for choice when it comes to digital marketing channels. Programmatic, social, mobile apps… the list goes on. Despite all the latest and greatest, tried-and-tested tactics still have their place in any marketing strategy this year: when it comes to true audience engagement, email is still king.”

It’s true, marketers are spoiled for choice – and tried and tested tactics still have their place in any marketing strategy. And when it comes to true audience engagement (whatever that even means) nothing beats face-to-face selling, telephone, direct mail and then of course email – the science proved it years ago. So while email may not be king, it’s certainly close in the pecking order beneath the throne.

Curiously Marketo is addicted to email – it’s the primary way they communicate directly with subscribers. They certainly don’t call their subscribers on the phone – despite the obvious profits in doing so.







So let’s consider why they published such a headline.

Option 1 – They believe all marketers are idiots and stopped using email for marketing purposes. As you and I know dear reader, marketers have never stopped inundating inboxes with marketing messages and won’t stop any time soon, so it can’t be this option.

Option 2 – The Marketo team members are stupid, as they thought email was dead and they stopped using it for their marketing purposes, when every other brand in the world continued to use it. I don’t think they are stupid and they certainly haven’t stopped using email if my inbox is anything to go by, so it can’t be this option.

Option 3 – Maybe a junior with no experience wrote the headline? As you can tell, I’m grasping for explanations. There is no sensible reason for making such a nebulous claim – unless the Marketo marketing team is just plain lazy and decided to be sensationalist to sell their webinar? I’m leaning toward this option.

The problem with using a sensationalist headline, is it must be believable if it is to work – like the headline in this blog. And given most marketers, including Marketo’s team, don’t believe email is dead, this headline makes no sense whatsoever and insults even the most mediocre marketer.

If you are interested in catching up on the latest in email marketing then you may want to join the webinar. Dave Chaffey is well worth listening too – he’s a very smart marketer. Though I suggest he would have written a different headline. Here’s the link to the event – so my good friends at Marketo get a free plug:)

But the headline does reveal the number one truth of content marketing – any fool can type crap and sadly many fools do…

You can see more from Malcolm Auld on his blog.

The Great Western AdWank: a near-perfect example of the worst kind of wasteful marketing …

Money that should go on toilets (yes, TOILETS) flushed down the toilet instead – with a barrage of boastful piffle

Sorry about the poor quality of my photos – but I think you’ll get the message.

It is my unhappy fate to travel regularly between Bristol and Paddington.

This was once the best service in Britain, created by the greatest of rail engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

You can see his statue in Paddington Station. If a statue could weep, I imagine it would.

For unless you travel when hardly anybody else does the first picture is utterly typical of what you have to put up with when leaving Paddington for Reading.

Besides the overcrowding you can safely assume some of the toilets will be out of order.

And just to rub your predicament in you can also assume there’ll be plenty of room in First Class.

Why this state of affairs?

Because whatever overpaid functionary purports to run the railway imagines money is better spent on one of the most infuriatingly complacent, irrelevant, incompetent and downright stupid advertising you can imagine.

To explain what’s happened, the railway was for some years called First Great Western sometimes referred to by us sufferers as Last Great Western.

Some fool decided that if they just changed the name back to Great Western Railway and stuck up a lot of guff everywhere saying everything had miraculously improved people would be happy.

Maybe some fast-talking smoothy at their ad agency sold them on the idea.

The staff (the only great thing about the service) must have been embarrassed. We travellers just thought it a bad joke.

The pictures tell the story. Just boastful piffle alternating with fatuous quasi-philosophical twaddle. Beautiful design; abysmal writing.

The idea behind it all reminds me how so many people running businesses fondly confuse talk with action and believe a lot of bilge about branding.

As David Ogilvy’s mentor Raymond Rubicam remarked many decades ago, “The only purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other justification worth mentioning.”

What still puzzles me after 59 years in this business is why those in charge have never taken the trouble to study what marketing and advertising  are all about. First you improve what you offer; then you sell it. Not the other way round.

As one of the grand old ad agencies used to say, good advertising is the truth well told, not a pack of irrelevant lies.



Let’s play “What’s your niche?” Or maybe not

Excellent advice on specialisation from David Ogilvy and Ian Brodie – and two mistakes to avoid

One question pops up constantly – especially from people getting started.

It is, “should I specialize?”

A copywriter asked me this the other day, and I’ll tell you what worked from me in a minute, but David Ogilvy’s advice was simple.

He said “Be a generalist, but become a specialist.” Or maybe it was the other way round – it amounts to the same thing.

My friend Ian Brodie tells this story which explains why. He was working for one of my former clients, Gemini Consulting.

He was lucky because his personal mentor was a very able man who rose to
to become worldwide head of Marketing and Business Development for Gemini. Here’s the story:

“I remember very clearly a discussion I had with him a few years into my career.

We were reviewing my performance appraisal for that year. I’d kind of hit my stride – had done really well and got great reviews. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, so I wasn’t expecting Kieron’s question:

“OK, that’s all fine. But what do you want to be famous for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, so far you’ve done a bit of everything. Strategy, marketing, supply chain work, change management. What are you going to focus on?”

“Can’t I keep doing a bit of everything? I like the variety.”

“Not if you want to progress. You might have been the star in your previous company – but everyone is a star here. Everyone is a high performer.

Unless you focus and really build up your skills, there’ll always be someone better than you at each of the things you do. You’ll never be the first choice when a project manager has a role to fill.”

My own career has been a bit odd, because I was quite successful when young –  creative director of a medium sized London Ad agency by 28 – but catastrophically unsuccessful 6 years later when my business went broke for a fearful amount of money.

For seven years I lived under an assumed name to avoid the tax man and did almost anything and everything to make money, partly because I had a very expensive wife.

I sold investments in malt whisky on the phone. I was a freelance creative director, speech writer, copywriter, marketing director, created video presentations, banged out parts of books about everything you can imagine from cowboys to Bugatti cars.

To give you an idea, two days ago a professor at London University wrote to get my permission to use something I wrote about the world’s weather patterns in 1977.

I was forced to do everything that involved communication. I HAD to be a generalist.

You name it, if it involved selling or writing or pictures I did it. Swimming pool franchises in France and Germany, fake Chagal paintings in Australia, how outside broadcasts are made, how the TV news is produced – I even wrote and directed a film about property in Spain

I am lucky in that I love to learn. If I don’t know about something, I want to – and the more obscure the better.

If you don’t love to learn, your brain will atrophy, you will become a bore to others and yourself, and you will fail as a human being.

I am also lucky in that I find people fascinating. If you don’t, then you’re going to find it hard to get them to do what you want.

And if you can’t get people to do what you want, you’re going to spend a lot of time feeling extremely frustrated. You will spend your life doing what other people want you to do – not what you want to do.

But let’s go back to the beginning of all this.

Ian’s story explains why it pays to specialize.

But it is just as important to be a generalist. I was forced to. But the benefit of understanding everything, as far as possible, is simple. You understand why you are doing what you are doing. You understand why it matters to other people – and who those people are.

Otherwise you are like a mole, burrowing away in your own little tunnel, but knowing nothing of the great world around you.

Here’s your Christmas present (Sorry, I stole it)

How to get more of the most precious commodity in the world

About 30 years ago I attended a seminar in the Blue Mountains in Australia.

I was there to speak, but what I heard was more interesting than anything I had to say.

The speaker said this:

“People tell you time is money.

But really, time is life“.

I was reminded of this because of something a friend just sent me. If you’re in business – especially a formal business – it may add a little extra to your life.

Here’s what he sent me:

Let me guess…

This year’s been pretty busy for you.  You haven’t always had much free time at work.  In fact, there are some days when you’ve had back-to back meetings, where you’ve had
no time at all to do your job.

Sometimes, things have felt (at best) rushed and stressed.  And, at worst, impossible.

Am I right?

Well, if that was 2015, what do you expect for 2016?

More of the same?

That doesn’t sound too good.

So, try these three steps. They’ll give you the Christmas Gift of Time…

In fact, every single person I’ve shared this technique with has saved time as a result.  The most is two days per week.  Two days! Keep that going and that’s twenty weeks every year – under five months!

Step 1: Colour in

  1. Get four different coloured highlighter pens
  2. Print off 1-2 weeks of your calendar
  3. Pick up Pen #1 and highlight every calendar entry that ticks all these three boxes:
  • You needed to be there, so couldn’t delegate it/not go; and
  • It had to take exactly that long, and couldn’t have been shorter; and
  • It had to be that channel.  For example, the conference call where you listened to one person talk non-stop for an hour would have made a much better email
  1. Now pick up Pen #2 and highlight every entry that you didn’t need to do.  In other words, you could have delegated it to someone else. Or it was so pointless that nobody needed to go
  2. Get Pen #3 and highlight everything that didn’t need to be that long – meetings that could have taken 20 minutes instead of four hours, and so on
  3. Finally, use Pen #4 to highlight everything that could have been a different channel
  4. Every calendar entry should now be coloured

Step 2: Self-discovery

  • Look at your coloured in pages.  What’s the most prominent colour?
  • If it’s colour #1, you’re great at managing your time
  • If it’s #2, you’re in the habit of saying “yes” to too many things.  This could be because you don’t feel you could say “no”.  Or you don’t delegate enough.  Or you haven’t stopped colleagues putting stuff in your calendar. Or something else
  • If #3’s the main colour, you’re in the habit of accepting the duration of things too easily.  For example, many people think meetings should last an hour because that’s the default time setting in Outlook (when you think about it, isn’t that a ridiculous reason to decide the length of a discussion?!)
  • And if there’s lots of #4, you’re in the habit of not thinking enough about the comms channel.  For example, maybe you had a conference call because… well, because you always do

Step 3: Take action

  • Think… now you see things in black and white (ok, in multi-colour), you’ll quickly see where you need to focus, to give yourself more time
  • If you’re mainly colour #1, look at the non-#1 diary entries, and take appropriate action to reduce them/free-up time – delegate better, arrange shorter meetings, and so on
  • If you’re mainly #2, the solution will depend on the main cause of it. For example, if it’s because you don’t delegate enough, start delegating!  Look at the meetings you could have delegated, choose the best person to send in your place, and brief them/the meeting’s owner about the change
  • If you’re mainly #3, speed things up.  For your own meetings, never say “duration will be an hour”.  Instead, say “maximum duration will be 45 minutes, though I expect it to be less”.  For other people’s meetings, where appropriate (this depends on the owner), contact them and ask if she can shorten the meeting, or if she’s ok with you only attending for the first 15 minutes – whatever it takes, to free-up some of your time
  • And finally, if the main colour is #4, spend more time thinking about the best channel to use. For example, a presentation that would work better as a quick phone call

As with every tip about communication (or, indeed, anything), remember the Doctors’ Rule of ‘First, Do No Harm’. If a big waste of your time is a weekly conference call with your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, suck it up! But, as long as a change won’t cause you a problem, you’re minutes away from giving yourself the Christmas Gift of Time.

I’m pretty good with my time.  I don’t work Fridays. Or weekends.  I rarely work in the evenings.  Meetings/calls tend to last 10-20 minutes max.  But I still do this exercise at least once every quarter
it ensures I’m still respecting my time as much as I could.

You might not save as much as two days a week (it’d be nice though, wouldn’t it?) But you’ll definitely save more than nothing. 

Which means you’ll have more time in 2016 than 2015.

Action Point

It’s pretty obvious.

Get four highlighter pens and do the exercise.

Also, ask your team to do it. A team of ten, each saving four hours/week, in effect gives you a new 40-hour/week full time employee. Not bad for a bit of colouring in…

The man who wrote that is my associate Andy Bounds. I do not know anyone who is better at getting things done – or at selling things.

I hope it helps you get more done. If you’d like more of his remarkably simple, eminently practical advice, go to http://www.andybounds.com/home/tips.aspx


Why the rise of Mr. Trump should disturb us all

The similarities between this blow-waved buffoon and the late Herr Hitler are terrifyingly close

There is a great wave of neo-fascism/racism/religious fanaticism sweeping the world.

“Tell a lie for long enough and people will believe it” said Goebbels. Trump doesn’t even try to justify his lies. And how do they differ from those of other racists or religious demagogues?

“They are Shia, kill them.” “They are Syrians, keep them out”. “All Mexicans are rapists, build a wall”.

There is nothing new about this thinking. It has always been there, lurking in the swamps of ignorance.

In Eastern Europe the Poles and Hungarians have elected racist, fascist parties. Trump would be welcome at their rallies.

“They are black, bring out the fiery cross.” Anyone who studies the repeated reports of police brutality against the black community in the U.S. cannot help but wonder how far things have progressed since the end of segregation.

“They are Jews, incinerate them.” That was what Nazism led to. Where would a man like Trump take America?

I am not American, but in my lifetime the U.S. has for the most part been a force for good. And like it or not the U.S. leads what is left of the free world.

The thought that someone whose views and campaigning techniques are so very close to Hitler’s is terrifying.

I am old enough to have lived through World War 2. As a child I sheltered from the bombs.

Many people in the ’30’s saw Hitler as a clown, but he nearly destroyed civilisation. What built Nazism was lies and hate. The kind Trump spews out.

The thought that this thuggish serial liar could ever lead the free world leaves those of us who believe in democracy appalled.

What the wise Professor would have told you about Black Friday

“Some would have bought anyway. Others only buy when it’s a deal. Save your money”

It has been my pleasure and privilege over the years to get to know quite a few people smarter than myself and steal their ideas whenever I could understand them.

One of the cleverest was the late Professor Andrew Ehrenberg. He was called by David Ogilvy the finest mind in marketing.

You can read about him in Wikipedia, but if you’re as thick as me you’ll probably be mystified as to what made his work so important.

There are two reasons, the first being that he was a master of statistics, a discipline which rarely inspires the spirit of discovery among laymen.

The other is that what he discovered calls for a fair bit of work to understand and few marketers are inclined to take the trouble. Actually he bemoaned the fact that even among users of statistics very few paid any attention to his discoveries

But here is something he said that may interest you:

Promotions have only a short-term effect, and do not affect a brand’s subsequent sales or brand loyalty. The extra buyers during the promotion have been seen almost all to have bought it before the promotion rather than being the hoped for new buyer.

I met Andrew when I was writing a weekly diatribe in Marketing magazine, and interviewed him three times to see if I could pass on some of his wisdom.

I was particularly interested in the impact of discounts, like the ones referred to in that quotation above. When I quizzed him about it he suggested that almost all buyers of discounted goods fall into two categories.

The first one describes my partner perfectly. She has been busy buying all her Christmas presents during the great Black Friday ballyhoo. She is one of those who would have bought anyway, but always waits till the offers arrive.

The second is those cheapskates who only buy when there’s a deal. That describes me, pretty much.

I recall two remarks apropos what you have just read.

One I heard many years ago in Kyoto where I was taking part in American Express planning meeting. Also present was Lester Wunderman – the man who coined the phrase Direct Marketing.  I recall him saying, on the subject of discounts, “You are training your customers to expect bribes.

The other was Andrew’s reply when I asked, “What do you do when your competitor is running promotions and you feel you should respond?”

He wrote back: “Save your money”.



Wondering now much Big Data matters? Wonder no more!

At last, the amazing Ryan Wallman – Melbourne’s Mystery Marketing Wizard – reveals 5 startling ways big data will change your life

  1. With big data, you no longer need to make decisions. By the time you’ve sorted through all that data, the opportunity to do anything useful with it will be long gone.
  1. You will adore all the advertising you see. No more of that untargeted, relatively unobtrusive crap. Thanks to big data, you’ll get ads that know you intimately, follow you around obsessively, and invade your space at every opportunity like a mob of unhinged online stalkers. Who doesn’t want that?
  1. You can put creatives in their place. Whenever they present you with a creative idea, shut it down immediately by simply saying ‘Explain to me how this is big-data-driven’. Numbers are like kryptonite to those hippies.
  1. Big data allows you to do whatever the hell you want. Let’s say you collect some data that doesn’t support your argument. No problem; just go get some more data that does. The beauty of big data is not the data – it’s the bigness.
  1. You now have an immediate answer for any business question. Someone asks what your strategy is? Big data. A client asks how you’re going to increase their sales? Big data. Some idiot wants to know what the fuck big data is exactly? It’s big data. Idiot.


“In life you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate” – Chester Karrass

What you can learn about your career from the sacking of Brendan Rogers

I don’t know if you follow football, or have the slightest interest in Liverpool, but football is a bit of a religion there.

One famous Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, said “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that”.

As it happens I was born in Liverpool, got my first copywriting job there, danced in The Cavern before the Beatles were heard of, one of my sons has played guitar there – and I’ve even done a seminar at Liverpool football club.

Well, Liverpool has been having a hard time since Shankly’s day. But Brendan did a better job than anyone has for years. But football club owners are an impatient bunch and they replaced him with the charismatic Jürgen Klopp.

Was this a good idea?

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, doyen of Premier League managers since Ferguson has quit says “no”.

He thinks Brendan did a fine job. And Jürgen has had catastrophic results recently – but time will tell.

Now to some important lessons, based on getting jobs and later advising managers when I helped run the worldwide Ogilvy business.

The quote at the top is from one of the only two training seminars I ever attended – on negotiation

I learned several things, one of which relates to Brendan’s fate.

Brendan was frustrated throughout his tenure because he didn’t control transfers. He had to answer to a committee. Hell on earth!

Jürgen insisted before he started that he, not the committee, would have the last word.

What comes next is so important you should never forget it.

Your best ever chance to negotiate for what you want is before you sign that contract. They’re still in love with you. Afterwards? Forget it.

Brendan didn’t do it. Jürgen has.

I know; it takes balls to make conditions if you really want the job. But if you don’t do it you will be at risk from then on.

The second most important lesson is this.

Once you’ve got the job, immediately make it clear what you stand for and what you believe in.

That’s when everyone is excited and hoping you’re the Messiah.

Seize the moment. Afterwards will be too late.

Jürgen did it with charm as soon as his position was announced. (I imagine Brendan did too, by the way).

So there you are – except for one thing.

How do you get the job in the first place?

Well, perhaps my ebook How To Get a Better Job will help.

It’s the most popular thing I’ve ever offered on line. And it’s FREEEEE!

Most meetings are rubbish – here’s scientific proof.

(From a cleverer man than me. And very funny)

You may have to think about this but it will save you endless hours of misery, rage and frustration
Here’s an equation…              

N x (N – 1) ÷ 2

This shows the number of agreements required in a meeting where N is the number of people attending.

For example, when two people meet (N = 2), the number of agreements you need is 1 [work it out: 2 x (2 – 1) ÷ 2 = 1]. 

In other words, person A needs to agree with person B – one agreement.

And that’s it.

But when four people meet, it’s six agreements – AB, AC, AD, BC, BD and CD. [If you care – and who does? – the maths is 4 x (4 – 1) ÷ 2 = 6]

Obviously, it’s much harder to get six agreements than one.

And if you do the maths, you’ll find meetings of eight people require 28 agreements; and sixteen people require 120. This will mean big meetings take ages, and people rarely agree on everything.

You’ll have seen this at work. It’s all-too-easy to think “collaboration” means piling as many people as possible in a room to discuss things.

But this often leads to decisions taking ages, not happening at all, or being rubbish (that’s why they say a camel is what a horse would look like if it was designed by committee).

So, what to do about it?

Well, you have a few options. One is to reduce the number of people involved.  For instance, some/all of:

  • Only invite people who need to be there. One way to decide who could be to use the RACI model (this is a way of looking at each person’s role – are they ResponsibleAccountable, do we need to Consult with them, or only Inform them?)
  • Only invite people who need to be there – remember, you can always send the Actions Arising to non-attendees
  • Don’t attend meetings you don’t need to – you can ask to see the Actions Arising
  • Never allow big groups to discuss small detail (simply say “we’ll do the detail offline. For now, let’s just agree the main points”)
  • Where appropriate, split large groups into smaller sub-groups. One sub-group does a detailed first draft, to share with the wider group

I was once invited to a meeting to put together a complex proposal for a £ multi million project. There were – get this – 28 people there.


They asked me how I wanted to start the meeting.  I told them “by removing as many people from this room as we can”

Which they did. And we had a great meeting.

And they won the contract.

But if I hadn’t done this, we’d have needed 378 agreements. That was just never going to happen.

Action point

Which of your meetings has the most attendees?  And what can you do to reduce the numbers?

Also, which of this week’s meetings do you not need to attend?  Get out of one meeting per week, and you save about 50 hours per year – that’s a working week!

Now what you just read was from my esteemed colleague Andy Bounds.

In exactly two weeks from now you can join him and me in a meeting I strongly advise you do attend. And I should add that because I am such a slapdash old soul, and most of the seats are already sold you can get a very good deal.

I should also add that we guarantee every single attendee will get at least fifteen new ideas they can implement immediately. 


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