Excuse me, madam: where might I meet a millennial?

riot

Sigh, as they say in the online forums.

In marketing circles, real or virtual, you can’t move for people blathering on about millennials about the moment. And how to target millennials. And what millennials want to buy. And what millennials think. (And magazines are full of it, too.)

It’s like someone has just realised that every product and service in the world is only bought by this newly discovered group of people. If you’re not talking to (and about) millennials, you’re a loser, an idiot and clearly know NOTHING about marketing.

There are two problems with this.

One, all these people raving about millennials seem unclear as to who these god-like creatures actually are. What they’re not, is people born at the turn of the century as their name might suggest. Because they’re only 16.

The descriptor seems to refer to people who are young, but not too young, but love their technology and like engaging with all the digital stuff that 20 year old marketing executives think is important.

At least, I think that’s what they are. The people getting all over-excited about the importance of millennials clearly don’t have time to stop and write a clear definition that we mere mortals can fathom. Perhaps they are in their twenties? Or thirties? Or forties?

Two, nobody seems able to say WHY this group is so important in any objective way. They don’t spend nearly as much as older people, for example. They have less disposable cash. They’re quite hard to reach through advertising.

So why is everyone so obsessed with them? Take this page of slobbering drivel amongst the gazillions on the internet. I’ve pasted this here as it’s absolutely stereotypical of the mind-bendingly dim stuff that is written about millennials.

“Who is the Millennial consumer?

Millennial consumers overwhelmingly prefer access to goods over ownership of goods, delaying purchases of large ticket items like cars and homes—and fueling a new “sharing economy” in the process.

While Millennials are often portrayed as impatient, tech-obsessed and egocentric, their spending habits tell a more comprehensive story. The Millennial group is highly loyal to their chosen brands, valuing philanthropy, authenticity, and higher purpose in business practices—and paying little attention to advertising.

This group rewards brands that respect their independent decision-making skills. These values mean that a company that can capture a Millennial customer will be richly rewarded, and for a very long time. As Millennials begin to enter into their phase of purchasing power and consumer dominance, their loyalty is more important than ever.”

This is absolute tosh of the highest order. You’ll note that there is no evidence put forth for any of these assertions. Because there isn’t any.

Who writes this patronising, idiotic garbage? More worryingly, who believes it?

Take the first point: they’re not creating a sharing economy, whatever that is. They’re delaying buying because they can’t afford a mortgage. They’re not a religious movement, they’re skint.

Second point. There’s no evidence they’re any more loyal to a brand than any other group. Recent studies have shown that brand loyalty is, in any case, not nearly as important as people used to believe. It hardly exists in any meaningful way. Customers described as ‘loyal’ can still only be buying your stuff twice a year. And will buy other brands regularly and readily if their preferred brand is unavailable. (Which is why real marketeers know that distribution plus shelf position etc is often considerably more important than advertising.)

They apparently value authenticity (whatever that is!) and higher purpose in business practice. Do they? Again, where’s the evidence? Who are these paragons of nobility? Are they superhuman?  So who are all these young people eating at McDonalds and Starbucks and happily supporting massive tax-evaders like Amazon? Who are these gangs of young Londoners drunkenly throwing bottles at the Man Utd team bus?

Can’t be the Millennials because they are all angels in human form.

“This group rewards brands that respect their independent decision-making skills.”  What does this even MEAN? Nobody rewards brands. People buy stuff.

As for the second half, ask anyone in a survey whether they like/respond to advertising and marketing and they’ll say no. But, of course, the fact is they do, just like they always have; and any sensible marketing director has banks of evidence to prove that good old-fashioned advertising works as well as it ever has.

Finally, the idea that you capture a young buyer and he stays with you when he gets lots of money in later life has been disproven so many times it’s tragic that people are still rolling it out under the Millennials banner as if it’s something new.

As the majority of people working in advertising or marketing today would probably consider themselves to be millennials (ie under 45 perhaps?), I have a horrible suspicion that what we’re really seeing here is their own idealised portrait of who they think they are (or would like to be)…

A group of smiling, white-teethed twenty-somethings that work in a children’s hospital, drive a vintage VW camper and have somehow, magically, stepped out of a FatFace ad to become living, breathing flesh and blood.

 

 

 

HM Government’s pro-EU leaflet.

ConHome-EU-shirt-Cameron

HM Government – or the members thereof who support staying in the EU – have spent nine million quid of taxpayers’ money on a leaflet designed to convince the populace of the righteousness of their case.

What a great opportunity to hire the most persuasive copywriter, speechwriter or journalistic writer out there and create a piece of communication that leaves you punching the air with a cry of “YES! We will stay in Europe! Break out the croissants and paella forthwith!”

What a great opportunity to commission a brilliant designer to create at-a-glance infographics and eye-catching typography to draw you into the arguments quickly and enjoyably.

But instead, we get a leaflet that is so mind-bogglingly, eye-achingly, jaw-droppingly boring that it simply beggars belief.

And talking of belief…

Instead of a challenging, attention-getting headline on the front cover we get “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK.”

This is a classic amateur-hour headline that talks about the seller not the buyer.

I don’t care what the Government believes. Tell me why I, the humble citizen, taxpayer and voter, should vote to stay.

Talk about my needs, wants, desires. Talk to me as an individual. A person.

This headline is just like all those pointless TV ads on currently that, instead of giving the viewer a clear benefit, tell them what they, the manufacturer, believe. “At XYZ company, we believe…”

The first headline inside carries on in similar vein: “An important decision for the UK.”

Really? Wow, I didn’t know that! Thanks for telling me! It’s hard to imagine how, as a piece of copywriting, this headline could be any less engaging or interesting.

I genuinely want to know the arguments for and against. I was looking forward to receiving this leaflet. But it’s so dull and uninformative I could barely bring myself to turn the page.

 

 

What on earth were Ford thinking of?

Model T in Egypt

There’s a new TV commercial for Ford cars here in the UK. It’s flogging their American range, the Mustang and the GT etc. So far, so good.

But, quite remarkably, it does this by slagging off the British range. Referencing ‘no more Mondeo Man. No more OAP’.

Why on earth would you use the launch of a new range as an opportunity to spend millions of pounds planting negative thoughts about your main range in the public’s mind?

I’ll tell you why.

This is another example of an ad that simply writes out the brief.

The brief from the planner or suit will have said something like “In our target audience’s mind, Fords are sometimes associated with older people. And the image of Mondeo Man from twenty years ago is still fresh in some of their minds. These US models will appeal to men who wouldn’t consider a UK Ford for these reasons, perhaps”.

So instead of doing what creative teams are supposed to do, which is use their craft and imagination to bring a sales proposition to life–to make it impactful and memorable–they’ve simply written the brief into a lazy script.

Do they not realise that millions of happy Ford UK buyers will see this ad, too? Not just the genitally-challenged Clarkson-wannabees that might lust after a Mustang?

So I’ve just bought a Ford for £20,000 and these morons are now telling me I’m Mondeo Man? Or an OAP.

Remember, every ad you run is an ad for your entire brand. Not just the particular product it features.

 

What’s the story with ‘storytelling’?

_cave_paintings_001-1

There’s nothing digital marketers like more than a new buzzword. And the latest one is ‘storytelling’. Apparently your website or digital marketing is missing a gigantically effective trick if you’re not using storytelling.

Er, OK. So what actually is storytelling, pray tell?

When you scratch the surface of this latest fad you discover that it’s nothing more than a loose description for a load of well-tried and well-tested copywriting techniques that good copywriters have been using for centuries.

(The insularity and ignorance of many digital marketeers would be endearing if it wasn’t based on epic laziness and an epic failure to recognise that, you know, people were actually quite good at selling stuff before the WWW came along. Much better, actually.)

So storytelling is simply using things like customer testimonials and (pretend or actual) real-life experiences…in fact, as far as I can see, anything that brings to life the human element of the sell you’re making.

And of course there is absolutely nothing new in this, whatsoever.

Some of the most successful direct marketing pieces ever have used ‘storytelling’ to sell by the barrowload. Think of the famous ‘two neighbours’ copy platform. This tells of two chaps who were born brought up next door to each other but one made the wise decision to buy X and is now rich and famous. The other didn’t and isn’t. Look it up.

Or the brilliant One Legged Golfer ad by John Carlton, possibly the best copywriter alive today now that his mentor Gary Halbert isn’t. It tells of a one-legged chap who developed an amazing golf swing and ultimately sells you a course of lessons to make yours equally effective.

Or the John Caples one “Do you make these mistakes in English?”. Or the David Ogilviy one (nicked from an earlier ad) “At 60 mph the loudest noise in this Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock.”

These are all storytelling, folks. They bring the product or service to life. They use social proof to demonstrate that other people are buying the product.

They are engaging, involving, motivating, intriguing. Everything that highly effective direct marketing copywriting needs to be.

 

 

The Muppets rescue Christmas!

pig

It’s November and in advertisingland Christmas is already in full swing. Every tv ad-break is filled with cute, smiling kids handing presents shyly and cutely to rosy-cheeked granddads and grandmas. Every home is covered is snow and jolly snowmen & amusing reindeer jostle for position in every high street.

Depressing isn’t it?

Personally I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, full stop; its brazen commerciality, its false bonhomie, its sentimentality and all the rest. Bah humbug etc.

But what really depresses me is the total lack of originality in Christmas advertising. The ads for retail outlets are literally interchangeable. (And I love the way those cheeky ad schedulers seem to make a point of running very similar ads right on top of each other. Well done, you lot!)

There are the ‘oh what a terrible present but I’ll put on a brave face’ ads. There are the small child accidentally meeting Father Christmas ads. There are the giant family around the dinner table scoffing Christmas fare from Aldi/Sainsbury/Asda/Waitrose/Lidl/M&S. There are the black and white with film star perfume ads. Yaaaaaaaaaaawn is not the word.

And of course there is The John Lewis Ad. An event which seems to have taken on an importance equivalent to Christmas Day itself. This year it features a kid looking at the lonely man in the moon. So he gets sent a telescope so he can feel even more lonely as he watches everyone on Earth having a great time with all their family and mates. Thanks a bunch, Earthlings.

Then there is the new ad for Giant Crumpets. Starring the muppets. All of them, from Kermit to Piggy to Fozzie to the chairman of Warburtons.

Who is clearly not a muppet, actually.

Because he or his marketing people have realised that the way to get ATTENTION and MEMORABILITY during the Christmas advertising yawn-fest – and at every other time of the year, too – is to do something DIFFERENT from everyone else.

The muppets ad blasts into your brain like a laser and, doubtless, the giant crumpets will be flying off the shelves the length and breadth of the country.

 

Is your website for you or for your customers?

about you

Take a good hard look at your company’s website. Who is it designed and written to please? You, your board…

…or your customers and prospects?

Go on, look again. Be honest now. Is it totally focused on your customers’ needs and issues? Or is it a lot of it just stuff about how brilliant you think you are?

So many websites are simply vehicles for the company’s corporate vanity. Marketing directors who want their latest tv campaign to feature on it. CEOs who want their picture and CV on it. Web designers who want their latest whizzy technological innovation on it. And so on.

Ask yourself a couple of simple questions.

1: Does my website look like advertising? If it does it will be letting you down. Badly.

2: Does my website talk about my customers or does it talk about us, the company? If it’s the latter, you’re losing out.

In short, has the website been written to help your customers in some way or is it simply one giant About Us compendium of stuff your customers couldn’t give a monkey’s about?

So here’s a suggestion. Instead of writing About Us, how about writing About You?

 

Huzzah! A new ‘nobody scrolls’ has emerged from the digital universe.

Vector click here button concept

This blog is ironically named Nobody Scrolls in honour of the digital, ahem, gurus who used to bleat at us constantly that ‘nobody scrolls’ on websites or emails – despite massive evidence (and personal experience) to the contrary.

Now of course it’s recognised that we all scroll. So they’ve invented a new ‘rule’ to spout at every opportunity.

It’s “You must never say Click Here”.

Why? Because ‘it’s like writing Open Here on a door, so it’s unnecessary’. (I wish I were making this up!) You should use a phrase for the link that relates to what you’ll find at the end of it.

And because 60% of web users view it on a tablet, phone or other portable device so don’t actually click, they just touch and therefore it’s ‘wrong’ to say ‘click’ (as if the punter gives a monkey’s!).

This is all fine and dandy. Except it isn’t based on any evidence whatsoever. So it’s just more made-up ‘Expert Knowledge’ like ‘nobody scrolls’ was.

Wise marketeers and web designers who actually TEST the techniques they use on their sites and, especially on digital ads, know that using Click Here actually increases click through. (And of course, Buy Now and so on will work too.)

Again, this is a perfect example of how tried-and-tested techniques developed over millennia in print and broadcast media work just as well in the digital world. It’s simply because you’re giving the punter a clear and decisive Call To Action CTA).

Now there’s an important SEO element, of course, to links; and clearly Google will prefer a link that shows relevance to a search topic.

But if you just want the punter to move to the next level,  just ask her to do it.

 

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable”

seneca

I am constantly amazed by how many companies spend a fortune on marketing without analysing whether the money they spend actually helps their business.

As a long-term direct marketeer, it’s absolutely second-nature for me to say ‘how much business does this activity bring in?’ or, the DM person’s favourite question ‘does this activity pay for itself?’. In other words, is a specific marketing activity actually costing you money, rather than making you money?

(And if so, why on earth are you doing it?)

Yet, time after time, I meet clients who are spending money on various forms of marketing – be it a shiny new website, a direct mail campaign, a beautiful new brochure, some adshel advertising in their local area, email newsletters – yet have no way of knowing which bits of this (if any) is getting customers and which is just money down the drain.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, they aren’t formally measuring the effectiveness of the activity. Again, the old DM cliche is ‘What gets measured gets improved’.

Did the new website get more hits? More importantly, did it deliver more enquiries or sales? If not, why not?

Did the remarketing campaign generate enough clickthroughs to justify its cost? Did the PPC campaign do better than old-fashioned keyword SEO?

Did the press advertising generate more awareness in the target audience group? How many phone calls and emails did it generate?

Measure this stuff and you will improve its performance (or decide to ditch it altogether).

Secondly, they don’t have any objectives to work towards. If you don’t have a target number of new customers to recruit by the end of the year, or an awareness score to increase, or a simple top line sales target to meet – then you aren’t going to tailor your activity to meet these ends most cost-efficiently.

Remarkably, I talk to many (usually smaller) organisations who don’t really have any business objectives or marketing targets other than ‘sell more stuff’.

And if your strategy is that non-existent, it doesn’t matter what form your marketing activity takes as nobody will be holding you accountable.

The quote at the top of this post, summing up this approach to business, is from Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher born 4 BC. Which just goes to show that there’s nothing new in marketing. Ever.

 

Good copywriter, bad copywriter – what’s the difference?

tweedledum-and-tweedledee

To me, there’s no mystery to it. You can tell who’s a good copywriter and who’s a bad one within a few seconds of reading their work.

By a good copywriter, I mean one that’s going to write copy (or content, if you prefer) for you that really sells your products or services. One that knows how to get under the skin of your target audience and writes stuff that will get them clicking through to your Buy Now page before they know what’s hit them.

And here’s the secret…

Bad copywriters mostly concern themselves with how they say stuff. Good copywriters concern themselves mostly with what to say.

This is because the message, the offer, the nugget of information contained in the words is always far, far more important than the words themselves.

A good copywriter will ask you loads of very detailed questions about the product, the marketplace and the target audience. And spend a lot of time seeking the razor-sharp idea that will most convince your audience to act (or think) in the way you want them to.

A bad one will simply write some puns around your product name or come up with what they think is ‘clever wordplay’.

I saw a particularly awful example of a bad copywriter’s work yesterday while strolling past the British Museum.

There were some posters on the railings announcing particular exhibitions. One had a picture of an ancient coin. With a line next to it about how things change through history. Geddit? Coin, change?

Trouble is, this headline told me absolutely nothing about the exhibition. I gleaned it was something to do with coins from the picture but the oh so clever headline added nothing to the communication whatsoever. There were several more, equally hopeless.

This is the classic sort of stuff you see every day of the week from Bad Copywriters who have hardly paused for a second to think what the communications objective of these posters might be. They’ve gone straight for a lame pun because they think that’s what copywriters do.

And, as they’ve bought this drivel in the first place, their clients clearly concur.

Why Apple’s 2015 website feels like a classic 50s direct response letter

1930s Man Newspaper Reporter Wearing Hat Typing Smoking Cigar

I was chatting to Paul Lindsell, Creative Director of the excellent Space01 agency, yesterday and he was telling me how he’s banned his website team from using Lorem Ipsum when they’re putting a new site together. (Lorem Ipsum is the pretend latin type that we use to show where words go on a rough layout.)

Why? Because if they’re using Lorem Ipsum  it means the team aren’t focusing on the site’s messaging. They’re only focusing on the design. So he insists they use real customer-facing copy propositions at all times to ensure that the communications hierarchy is in place right from the start. The don’t have to insert finally crafted headlines at this stage, but they have to be in the ballpark.

This is a great idea.

Far too many sites are driven by design and technological or navigation considerations rather than by the clients’ marketing and communications objectives. Let’s have a slider, they’re groovy! Let’s have the main navigation at the side rather than the top! Cool! What are the headlines going to say? Who cares! It’s just content! Woohoo!

I really, really wish I was exaggerating here.

And it’s this aspect of website creation, more than anything else, that separates the men from the boys in the digital world.

The real smart operators understand that a website is no different from any other marketing medium.

It has to offer the visitor a clear hierarchy of benefits from the moment they land – be useful, solve problems, offer a deal, give advice. And so on.

And that’s one of the reasons that, quite remarkably, the most successful websites are starting to resemble old-fashioned direct response marketing pieces. No, really…

The Apple site is a perfect example.

I was reading up on their new Photos app, that’s replacing its current iPhoto offering (hooray!). The page is put together in a way that’s spookily reminiscent of a classic direct mail letter that could have been written in the 1950s…

It starts with a clear benefit-led headline and follows up with paragraph after paragraph leading with secondary benefits, supported by explanatory copy, relevant pictures and live interactive examples. All there on the page. No links away.

They even use what I call classic ‘You can…’ headlines:

Make an edit

Perfect your best shots

Take control of the finest details

What’s more, because everyone with a proper direct response background knows that the worst thing you can do is make your marketing look like advertising, the page is designed to look and feel like editorial.

Because there are no links away, you start at the top and read to the end; convinced you want the product. And, guess what, there’s the call to action, right at the bottom, just like on that 50s DM letter. Complete with Act Right Now message – Start using Photos on your Mac today –  and the only link on the page, naturally taking you to the App Store.

Warms the cockles of a direct response copywriter’s heart.

Here’s the page: Apple Photos