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June 12, 2012


NP, that is fucking superb - loving the venom and agree 100%.

Out of interest (and if you're able to say), how does your place react to this and the general Ehrenberg argument?

As an organisiation, up for stuff like this, since the agency is about 'Keeping Brands Human' which translates as strategy based on how real people behave and buy, not how the textbooks pretend
Inevitabaly though, like an agency, the reaction is evenly split by the good people who care about great work that works, those that are too set in their ways to question recieved wisdom (and regional folk are way worse at this than London types) and the plain apathetic

Sounds very familiar. In my limited time out in t'regions it's also clients that seem less willing to question the "wisdom" - who conversely, being slightly smaller and less known would probably benefit most from it.

Excellent writing.

Absolutely! Meaningless distinction is far more powerful than meaningful differentiation. 

The challenge is that most (if not all) of our industry has been "educated" with the words of Ries & Trout, among countless other texts that are influenced by classical economics and the idea of self-interested consumers seeking to "maximise utility".

With the exception of Byron Sharp, Les Binet, Peter Field, Robert Heath and a few other exceptions, very few voices have tackled this massive problem (casing point: How many agencies still have on their brief "what's the most important thing we want to say?") 

It's planners who can change this current situation by being more evidence-based in how brands create value for the bottom-line and how communications payback. Unfortunately thought there are way too many agencies with a commercialised "planning tool" that is built on the same flawed principles.

The starting point has to be an understanding of how consumers navigate and choose brands in the real world... Perhaps this is a better starting point?


Fellow-northerner... Living in Oz! :)

Working in digital, I struggle with this stuff all the time. It's amazing how touchy the digital industry is about producing anything that even vaguely resembles 'matching luggage'. Or to put it in less loaded language, digital work designed to reinforce the visual cues and memory structures the brand has already (hopefully) built over time through its ATL activity.

While I'm not advocating simply repurposing print ads into banners, the consensus definitely seems to have turned in favour of "forget big ideas, it's all about lots of crap little ideas with nothing in common".

Would love to hear of any disciples of Byron Sharp etc who've had success re-educating their digital colleagues on the myths of differentiation, loyalty and most importantly "engagement"?

Hi David
I've got to agree it's down to planners, presenting proper evidence. It still frustrates me how much marketing wisdom is based on what the industry can make data say about how it wants people to behave, rather than what is actually happening.
Hope life's good in Oz. We very nearly ended up moving to Perth once upon a time, I'd love to know how it's working out

And hi BdeCastella
Since much of what I'm doing these days happens to be 'digital' U share your pain.
As it happens, I'm finding some success here getting people to see the 'big picture'- mostly through the approach David highlights - real data about what real people think and do.
I think there's a dance on a razor's edge between convinving clients and colleagues not to 'just repeat' ATL the line stuff and doing lots of pointless little projects. As usual, I think it comes down to a coherent idea, more than a 'big' idea. The little stuff is fine if all builds to one engagement theme.

Yes. One of the most difficult assumptions to address is around loyalty and the idea that the role of marketing is to cultivate passionate fans as opposed to lots of light buyers.

I think this is exacerbated by the fact that what gets clients excited about digital is the clever stuff (personalisation, behavioral retargeting, social / interest graph etc) but this really only works to target frequent buyers / visitors as these are the only ones you can easily collect data on. Therefore, the digital industry has a vested interest in the data-driven loyalty myth.

For this reason I think one of the most powerful data sets from Byron Sharp's book is around purchase frequency - demonstrating to clients that light buyers matter most to their bottom line is arguably the key to overcoming the obsession with fans.

Hello again

Life down-under is good... particularly a day like today (winter) where it's 18 degrees and sunny! :)

There are some seriously good planners and creative teams here. However, far too many good ideas end up on the cutting room floor. There's a massive chasm between what the market produces and what it could produce.

(Although when it does get it right it's world-class! TBWA's MJ Bale campaign cleaned up at Cannes!)

Obviously no two scenarios are the same, but I'd guess that the biggest culprits are a misunderstanding of how people really think and behave, how brands really grow, and how communications actually pays back.

At the risk of being categorised as another 'arrogant Pommie planner', the UK does seem to have more people challenging orthodox thinking and trying to figure out what actually works and why.

Anyways, it's a good challenge for the planning community; one which I'm sure you'd be a valuable player if you ever up-sticks!


That's very kind of you to say, one day maybe, one day. Glad it's all working out

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