3 Habits Every Marketer Needs to Try This Year

The fantastic book Atomic Habits” by James Clear changed my life! I vividly remember the dreamlike beach of Ko Poda in Krabi, Thailand, where I dived into it. The book’s key insight was no novelty to me, but James’s storytelling somehow convinced me to change my mindset. To build a habit, you need to do something for 30 days continously, and then it becomes a part of you. What habits can you build as a marketer to be a better version of yourself?

Here are three ideas:

  • Read a (different) opinion about your area of expertise – I know; we are all busy, we are all swamped in emails and Powerpoint decks, but those who exceed tomorrow are the ones who slowly build their insights in this knowledge economy. Read a blog, follow someone smart on Twitter (like Seth Godin), subscribe to a magazine (could be Harvard Business Review or The Economist – I know it’s not free, but nothing is), select a website (could be The Drum or Marketing Week), or even a Marketing book and read at least 10 minutes every single day. Augment your coffee break with a marketing read, and you will start making better knowledge connections.
  • Talk to a Customer or at least observe them – I know; it’s difficult to talk to consumers in a social distancing world, but when was the last time you’ve been to the store and observed consumers without being creepy. When did you search for your brand on Twitter or Reddit and learn the reactions? When did you last ask yourself a question and answered not from your vantage point but the consumer vantage point? Remember, you are not the consumer. It would be best if you “talked” to them daily.
  • Learn your Customer’s Media habits – we love our Social Media streams, our YouTube accounts, and our TV bundles. When was the last time you glanced over the usage behavior stats for your target audiences? How much time your customers spend on TikTok, and how much time they watch TV? The numbers from 2015 are different from today, so why not challenge your media agency to show you the data. “Show me the data…daily!”

I challenge you to pick up one of the three ideas or anything else you have always wanted to do and challenge yourself to do it for 30 days in a row. You will discover how the practice slowly grows on you and how it becomes you. And you develop into a better version of yourself.

Why Are Marketers so Obsessed on Millennials and What to Do about It

We love millennials! Millennials are different; they are sharp, open-minded, techy, digital, and the perfect fit for our brand, whatever brand we might own. In digital apps, books, consumer package goods, or alcoholic drinks, millennials are the magic solution to our marketing segmentation. Is this the myth of the last decade in Marketing? One that we fell so quickly into its trap. Because if you work in Marketing, there is a high chance that you are a millennial. Just remember, you are not the consumer.

The next two simple graphs should create an A-HA moment and convince you that the millennial opportunity is not that big. Two significant insights spring to mind: millennials are not the majority (duh), and second, they have the least disposable income to spend.

By targeting millennials, you are consciously deciding to ignore 80% of the population, maybe because you are a Pareto fan. Do you know accurately that 20% of your customers represent 80% of your revenue? Recheck your data. Unless you are active in the business of graduate recruitment or student debt repayment options, I would doubt it. 

Second, irrespective of the year, unemployment among millennials was higher than any other age group (that’s in the US, in Europe is even worse). Add to this the limited purchasing power of millennials, and your story starts to have legs. Don’t you think you should broaden your target?

3 simple insights to start your recovery journey:

  • Understand who buys your category – not just your brand.
  • Learn about your customers; know the revenue each age-group segment generates.
  • Study demographic trends for your market; in an aging population world, don’t be blind to your most valuable target group. 

Photo by Julián Gentilezza on Unsplash

Stop Using Marketing Research like a Drunk Uses a Lamppost

When I started working for Mars, one of my favorite onboarding reads I had to consume covered the dos and don’t of marketing research. Among excellent references to statistical significance, confidence intervals, and the role of probability, the highlight was the image shown below. It pictures a drunk man using a lamppost for support rather than its typical use: illumination. And that’s how we tend to use research with the wrong purpose in mind.

We often ask consumers what we want to hear and are overly enthusiastic when their answers match our needs. A concept validation is mistakenly seen as a sign of research success. We should be disappointed when the research outcome is clean; we should ask for new insights, not a confirmation. Research should be about learning something new. Let’s not forget: we are not the consumer. And if we think we could know in advance what they precisely want from our vantage point, we are maybe wrong.

So let’s start asking more from consumer research; let’s go beyond validation and into illumination. The role of a lamppost is to illuminate the way, even if you are drunk and can’t seem to find yours.

Photo by Sylvain Pitet on Unsplash

Why People Don’t Skip Advertising

Ad skipping is a generalized behavior every marketer should be conscious of. The river flows downstream, the hot air rises from the ground, and viewers will be avoiding ads. It’s the new normal in Adlandia. Please don’t ignore the majority. But in some cases, people decide to watch, to engage, to be entertained. Why is it so?

Last week, I wrote a mini-successful piece on why people skip ads, successful relative to my young blog standards. An intriguing comment received on LinkedIn challenged me to write about the opposite and interesting behavior: why people DON’T skip ads.

Here are 3 reasons why:

  • Because you’ve entertained them – advertising always claimed to be a form of entertainment, but this positioning might be more relevant today. We want to run away from the neverending news cycle, the worries and anxiety of the times. We want a quick snack of fun. But we don’t have hours anymore. In the past, we could dedicate a full evening of uninterrupted viewing to a movie. Today we’ve replaced that undivided attention with a split between our streaming and social media platforms. How powerful is the following example of a 6 second ad. There is almost zero need to mention the cause advertising
  • Because you’ve elicited emotions, preferably positive ones – we love a good story, and examples of good stories delivered in 6 seconds or less exist (anyone thinking about Print or Out of Home here?). In Online Video, a fabulous example I have is from our brand Sheba. Does it not leave a smile on your face?
  • Because they are not in front of the screen anymore – I know, it’s an inconvenient truth. People don’t necessarily skip by clicking the skip button; they can move their eyes and attention to a different direction: to another device, to another person, to anywhere else than your wonderful creation. It is not an omnipresent behavior, but still a growing one, fueled by our craving to dedicate our energy to multiple screen devices at a time.

Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

#26 Why People Skip Video Ads

As a marketer, you put in the extra hours to develop your cinematic ad, with product close-ups and manicured shots of the ideal consumer. You’ve added all the good stuff excessively: suspense at the beginning, emotional cues to trigger happiness, and an excellent product testimonial at the end glorifying the brand. Sadly, they are still skipping your ad. And they do that as soon as they can.

Why is that? Because:

  • They don’t have 30 seconds to learn about your brand story; they don’t spend that much time watching their best friend, Insta Story.
  • For many, advertising is just an annoyance preventing access to the desired cat viral video. Around 80% of viewers skip an ad before it finishes on YouTube.
  • They don’t like to be tricked into watching a video, so don’t be rude – show your brand early, don’t think they won’t notice this is advertising.

Skipping advertising takes many shapes and forms: from clicking the skip button after 5 seconds on YouTube, from scrolling faster in your Newsfeed or right click on the Insta Story, to opening another tab on your browser, to reloading the web page in the hope that the ad will go away or even focus attention on another device entirely.

I don’t have a solution for fighting this behavior; even more, I don’t think you should fight it; you should understand it and make elegant choices on working with it. Last year, Google enabled three agency folks to share advice on making those smart and common-sense choices. You can find the article linked here.

In the end, as the most famous agency person in the world used to say, “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife” – David Ogilvy. No, it’s not Jon Hamm. Mad Man is not real.

David Ogilvy quote: A consumer is not a moron. She's your wife. Don't...

Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

#25 Dear Marketer, You Should Install an Ad-Blocker.

Marketers often fantasize about the hockey stick performance shape for their brand. We expect a tedious, slow-building phase and then the explosion to unmeasured heights. Sad news, it rarely happens in the world of physical goods, but it often occurs where the marginal manufacturing cost is close to zero after producing the first item. It costs you nothing to sell the 100th Kindle file of your book, the 1.000th download of your Mobile App, or the 10.000th download of your podcast. To me, one of the best examples of exponential growth, with huge implications in our advertising bubble, is the rise of ad-blockers.

According to eMarketer, 1/3 of internet users use ad-blocking software, and worse, more than 50% of the 18-30 years old do so (source). Ad-blocking is common in western markets and results from years of cluttering web pages and deploying annoying pop-up ads. China took a more extreme route, and ad-blockers are banned. The implications for brands are notable; what can we do?

  • First, every marketer should install an ad-blockerHere is how to install one as a plugin on your browser. It might be counterintuitive to do that when you just agreed to use Internet Display banners on https://www.bbc.com/ for your next campaign. But don’t you want to see the emptiness your audience is seeing precisely? You might then reconsider your decisions.
  • Talk to your media agency to understand which media partners restrict ad-blocking (like Forbes or BusinessInsider), how you can protect your media budget from ad-blocking behavior, and learn what is safe. I know our agency, Mediacom, is very open to this. Rethink your media delivery and operate in platforms where consumers accept more willingly advertising content.
  • Rethink your overall communication strategy: bold advertising doesn’t need to be annoying, attention doesn’t need to be grabbed with force. In general, don’t execute something you would yourself be tempted to ad-block. Some say it might be too late to fix online advertising, but at least we can try to stop the decline.

Join the conversation on my LinkedIn page.

#24 Marketers Love Numbers, yet Traffic-lights Help Them More

The role of a marketing researcher is to help marketers make smarter decisions through an excellent understanding of consumers behaviors and the market context. It is evident to me that the final business decision-maker is the marketer, but on insight generation, she/he should trust the researcher’s experience and let him drive.

As I think of the most significant breakthrough in the advertising creative measurement research practice at Mars, a single change comes to mind: the moment we stopped giving marketing numbers and forced them to decide based on a four stars scale effectiveness rating. You could call it an intelligent traffic light; at each level of the scale, the next action-to-be-executed was crystal clear, with no room for interpretation. Similar to every organizational change, it wasn’t easy, but the new common language and direct actions were transformational for Mars marketers. A decision to restrict access to details fixed.

Why did it work?

  1. Raw data numbers require a deeper understanding of statistics, of variance, of confidence intervals, of probabilities. Most marketers, with all due respect, are not trained to play with those concepts. As a researcher, keep ambiguity of data interpretation on your side, tell them a crystal clear message they can action.
  2. Traffic lights or a star rating scale are simple constructs present in our day to day life. From car traffic control flow to hotel bookings or online ratings, we got trained to read quality scales without too much training. What matters to a marketer is the correct next action: make it binary, make it simple, make it decisive.
  3. A strong endorsement from the CMO is helping. Convince first a senior marketer that can become your spokesman with things that matter to him. Show how meta-analyses are easier to manage, how internal behaviors could be shifted more easily or how positive competition gets triggered between units using a common simple language.

How can you streamline your research to get to the essence?

Share your views on this post on LinkedIn: https://sorinp.com/2020/09/10/24-marketers-love-numbers-yet-traffic-lights-help-them-more/

Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

#23 Advertising Works Best When It Transfers Positive Emotions

We love advertising! And we love advertising that generates emotional reactions. I wrote some time ago about the particular case when using negative emotions in advertising works and received plenty of comments about the role of positive emotions in advertising. This article is making justice to the role of positive emotions.

Negative storylines are not common in advertising; positive stories abound in the world of marketing communication. That’s because in most cases, the role of advertising is to lift-up consumers and elicit positive emotions, preferably linked to the brand. Advertising is one of the last bastions of positivism in today’s overloaded media world. The never-ending news cycle gets rarely interrupted by positivity, except when an ad-break starts. I see a wide gap in the media spectrum for inspiring and happy moments, and advertising should own that gap. It can become the entertainment of the future, however uninspiring that might sound today.

Neuroscience convinced us, at Mars, that positive messages work best. They elicit positive feelings of love, happiness, empathy, pride, belonging, hope, joy, to name a few. We also learned that positive emotions are better flows to encode in memory the brand messages.

A function of advertising is to make the viewer feel slightly better after seeing the ad compared to how she/he felt at the beginning. If the brand message is understood and highlighted at the moment of high emotional load, the ad becomes a success.

What example of uplifting advertising inspires you?

#22 Let’s Stop Calling Everything Digital

A famous meme of 2020 taught me that Digital Transformation wasn’t accelerated by the CEO or CDO, but by Covid-19. Everywhere you look today in marketlandia, digital takes center stage: your insights are digitally sourced, your brands are digitally advertised, your path to purchase is digitized, and your purchase channels become more digital than ever. Given the ubiquity of the word digital, it’s time to remove it from our vocabulary too probably. In 2020, everything is digital, like in the late 1880s everything became somehow electrical.

COVID 19 – A Wake-Up Call for Digital Transformation, Malak Adouch
Thanks @marketoonist.com

Just ten years ago, platforms like YouTube and Facebook were in their infancy and fighting for the crumbs of the media budgets. Every year since then we wondered at the declining share of investment of Traditional Medias (TV, Print and OOH) and the increase of Digital Media. It’s such a worthless stat to sit and admire or even target. No one outside of our marketing bubble even thinks of advertising as TV vs Digital. What is more important is the reach potential for each media format, irrespective of the pipes build to deliver the signal (pipes which honestly are the same these days too – all is digital).

Three things to remember or debate:

  1. Digital Media is not one thing – focus on the behaviors of people, how they view, scroll, skip, multi-screen, or even engage with your content in the multitude of digital formats and channels. Focus less on “we need to be digital-first”, focus on the details of today’s media. 
  2. The most iconic campaigns transcend digital media and aim to become news in themselves. Guess who is also in charge of the amplification: all media, including TV.
  3. And last, if you can’t grab their attention, it doesn’t help that it is digital-first, or TV last.

Digital is now everywhere like the air we breathe, so stop congratulating yourself for inhaling air, and focus on its scent.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

#21 Negative Emotions in Advertising

Human emotions are indispensable vehicles for building powerful brands. Our core job as marketers is to elevate brands that elicit (mostly) positive emotions in the hearts and minds of consumers. But what happens when we want to play with negative emotions? In recent months, during the peak of the COVID pandemic, many advertisers converged their thinking that “isolation-sadness packaged as togetherness” sells. It probably doesn’t. But what can you do?

I sincerely believe that building brands through advertising is translated into a desire to make the viewer feel better at the end of the ad compared to how he felt in the beginning. It doesn’t matter how long they paid attention to your commercial or what ad length you used, all it matters is the emotional crescendo—feeling better, in general, haloes into the feelings towards the brand. Memory structures get built easier with emotions and the likelihood that those memory structures get recalled at the point of purchase increases.

The simple path to this crescendo is to have an entertaining, funny ad which most advertisers default to. The other more complicated way is to delve into a sadder story, that has a positive resolution. This latter path is more challenging to nail. The longer time you spend building the negative emotions, the more difficult it is to achieve the uplift in the end. I am not saying it’s impossible, yet solving for negativity faster is a piece of good advice I often give.

Here are 2 examples when we were at our best to turn negative emotions into a positive resolution for Mars brands:

Snickers – Recovery Room
M&M’s – Eating in Bed

And here are 2 examples when we failed to solve negative emotions quickly

Cesar – Love Them Back
Uncle Ben’s – Drawing