The three Cs of marketing : Celebrities, custard and campaigns

We talk a lot about the value of integrated campaigns in marketing, and the nirvana of combining the online and the offline. So I was really pleased to see the latest GoDaddy campaign bring all these elements together.


It’s the one where “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” winner (and former football manager) Harry Redknapp relates, in a TV ad, the story of how when he was away in the jungle he missed not his wife but Jam Roly Poly puddings. So he went on to launch his own Roly Poly business, using of course GoDaddy’s web building services to create his business website.

It’s done with a wink and a good balance of wit & semi-seriousness that makes the ad somewhat believable and certainly relatable.

Of course, the marketer in me wanted to dig behind the scenes :

Q1 : Does exist? Of course it does.

Q2 : Can you buy a Harry’s Roly Poly? Yep,

Q3 : If so, who makes them? A specialist baker.

Q4 : OK, so how do they manage demand? Answer : orders are batched up, and baked then shipped on one day a week.

Q5 : So this is just a shameless way to sell cakes and make money? Nope : profits go to charity.

Order placed and I received a lovely package of cakey loveliness. And if there’s one way to win me over its with custard (included).

So a relatable, fun use case that invites customer interaction. An integrated campaign that combines offline and online. A donation to charity. And cake & custard. Love it!

Why "old" tech is dominating my 2019 technology choices


Scary fact : I’ve been working in the software industry for 30 years. I started out in a software timeshare business that sold access to an investment management system to financial services enterprises, connected over dial-up via DEC VT220 terminals.

It pains me to say this, as virtually every word in that sentence is now hopelessly redundant, decrepit old tech.

But hang on! Fast forward three decades and the concept still holds true today - the basic idea is still the same, but now it’s called Software-As-A-Service hosted in the Cloud delivered over the Internet, accessible by any PC. So in many ways, plus ca change!

Anyway, I’m resolutely sticking to that theme in my tech selections for 2019. Not only am I a bit of a geek, with a “Learn It All” mentality, but I’ve also come to love quality, purpose and ease in my tech choices - be that gadgets, devices or apps.

2019 is all about enjoying more the things I like (particularly music) and taking care of myself too. These are unusual choices in the digital era - this is not about building a digital profile, or building more connections. This is old school tech. So here are my Top Four gadgets/devices/apps for the year ahead:

Pro-ject Debut Turntable. I love music. I’ve played in bands, make my own music and messed around with synths & drum machines for many, many years. Despite giving away all my CDs and DVDs in favour of streaming services, I’ve held on to my vinyl collection, and during 2018 dusted off my Pro-ject turntable. Just as I shifted back to printed books for the physical experience, you can’t match vinyl for the same. Pro-ject’s turntable is great quality and easily affordable (they even do bluetooth & USB versions). And whilst the audio quality is phenomenal, nothing beats playing any music through a decent hi-fi system vs a crappy bluetooth speaker or headphones. So even if it’s Spotify - get a decent amp & speakers or upgrade those iPhone earbuds!

Cowon Plenue D Portable Hi-res Music Player. I love music on the go too, but am fed up with the relatively poor quality of downloads, as well as the distractions of having music on the phone. For many years, i’ve championed “dumb devices” or ones that have a single purpose (e.g. the Kindle or the old iPod). We’re all supremely distracted by the digital world, and I don’t think it’s good for us either personally or professionally to be unable to focus on one thing. The Cowon Plenue D is an amazing music player. Not only does it do one thing (i.e. play music), it can also hold content that is of a much higher quality (hi-res) than your music streaming services. So again, if you like listening to the detail of your music, or want a better audio experience - try it. And as a bonus, you’ll also be delighted at the extended battery life of your phone!

Calm Meditation & Sleep App. I’ve definitely become more aware of my health over the past few years, and also to the benefits of relaxation and sleep. Generally bucketed together as “mindfulness”, this side of our lives is one we are just beginning to understand. The focus up to now has been on fitness and exercise, but if you’re not getting enough relaxation or sleep, you’ll never exercise your way to health. I’ll be the first to say it, using an app like Calm is a little cringe-inducing with all those new age narrators, But once you get past that, it’s a relatively easy way to dive into mindfulness

Thriva Health App. Self awareness is a wonderful thing, and I’ve been intrigued by how tech has enabled us to monitor more and more about ourselves - be that weight, steps or heart rate. This year I signed up to Thriva - its a home blood test service with results delivered thru an app and commentary from a qualified GP. You get suggestions for improvement, plus anything that warrants investigation is flagged. Think of it as an early warning system.

So there you are - four “old” choices from 20th Century vinyl, to the timeless idea of looking after yourself. Here’s to a healthy, balanced 2019!

Me + marketo + Adobe


10 years ago I took the plunge to become the CMO in a tech startup. With global ambitions and limited resources, I needed some smart tech to solve my customer acquisition challenges.

On one side of the business, an online B2B listings directory,  I invested in SEO & paid search to capture a massive long tail of global search traffic. But on the other, a SaaS e-buying platform, I needed something more comprehensive that could engage, nurture & filter thousands of contacts and highlight those that were in “buying mode”.

Of course this set me on the road to marketing automation and a friend of mine recommended I speak with a new company that was in the early stages of bringing a product to market.

That company was marketo, and I joined the Beta program for their Lead Management solution. In fact I was one of  marketo’s first 50 customers (the “Marketo 50”) and their first customer outside of the US.

I was in London and marketo (numbering I’m guessing less then 40 employees) was in California. We never met, all selling then on-boarding was done by phone (no video conferences in those days) and it took me 20 minutes to install the solution.

That experience was an epiphany to me - how small businesses could afford solutions that previously needed six figure budgets, how we could punch far above our weight with the power of Martech and just how transformative SaaS was in software delivery.

There was a hole at the time though. With efforts to drive web traffic to our site via search and marketo nurturing leads, it was clear to me I needed to get better insights into onsite behaviours. The obvious choice was Omniture (just bought by Adobe and soon to be renamed Adobe Analytics), and I explored bringing that tool into the business, meeting with Adobe & it’s partners. We never completed the transaction, being small we moved on to other things, but marketo + Adobe Analytics seemed to me to be a no-brainer.

That whole experience set me on a path to get on the supplier side of Martech, with the ideal employer being Adobe. The next few years saw me sharing my digital transformation journey at conferences and in webinars. It turned out what I was doing was relatively cutting edge (who knew?), and marketo supported me in winning several industry awards.

A little self promotion never hurts, and the opportunity to join Adobe came in 2013. This week marks my 5th anniversary. This week also sees the completion of Adobe’s acquisition of marketo. Both are incredibly proud moments for me.

I’m not sure back in 2008 I would’ve dreamt that Adobe & Marketo would join forces, but based on that personal experience I’m so excited by the future of Adobe & marketo coming together. It’s funny how things turn out...

My dream team of brands

I was honoured to participate in a panel discussion this week at the launch of the WPP BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2018. One the questions asked was "If you were creating a dream team of brands, what team of brands would you select and why?"

It's a really great question, as in considering the team, I started to think about the attributes of what makes a brand truly great. And for me that's a mix of a compelling story showing the "why" not just the "what" of what you do, together with the desire to deliver an amazing experience built on knowing there's a better way to do things.

So here was my answer:

  • TESLA for the MISSION. Not quite yet impacting the average consumer's life, but nonetheless a company with big, bold ambitions. Tesla’s mission statement was “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.” However, in mid-2016, under Elon Musk’s leadership, the company changed the corporate mission to “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Who doesn't want to be inspired when dealing with a brand. It shows desire, big thinking and ultimately appeals to our emotional side.
  • SPOTIFY for DISRUPTION. My formative years were spent buying records, cassettes and CDs priced at £10-£15 for approx 9 songs. I could likely 60 albums or 540 songs a year at a cost of around £600. Along comes spotify and disrupts this hugely inefficient supply for the consumer and delivers 40 million tracks for approx £120 per year. That's disruption. And all delivered across any device at any time.
  • SONOS for DESIGN. Boy do I love Sonos. Again, they brought disruption to the music industry and indeed I bought into some of the earlier iterations of their products back in 2006. Lets just say, the technology was a little shaky back then, but what's always been core to Sonos is an amazing focus on design & simplicity. They make wonderful consumer devices that deliver complex functionality in a sleek, easy to use form that just makes the act of listening to music at home a frictionless experience.
  • AMAZON for CONVENIENCE. OK, they seem to be coming under fire these days for getting too big, but the bar they've set for choice, ease & delivery is truly mind-blowing. They've totally changed my expectation of every other online retailer. If you can't get it to me within 48 hours then I'm not interested. Convenience is now the #1 criteria I place on product selection. That's a huge shift.
  • STRAVA for COMMUNITY. If every brand could have the passion of cyclists and runners then we'd all be on to a winner. Strava harnesses this community in a powerful way, again leveraging design to make their app supremely easy to use. Share PBs, plan rides/runs, tap into local activities. It's an amazing network of like-minded individuals.

So there's my choices, but what would be your dream team of brands and why?

Why your next marketing campaign may just land on a doormat


I'm so delighted that my good friend, Jason Miller, over at LinkedIn is championing physical content with his Sophisticated Marketer's Quarterly. A PRINT publication that lands every quarter on your doormat full of amazing B2B marketing goodness.

The fallacy of the digital age is that offline channels are now dead and that every interaction has to be digital. So bye bye events, direct mail, telemarketing etc. 

Not so. 

The reality is its all about a MIX of channels. In fact, at Adobe, we can see that every channel (including direct mail) has a role to play in our marketing. OK, well, not every channel. I think fax marketing is off the table.

[A personal anecdote : I get so few things in the post, that when I do get something I get an email notification from our reception! Direct mail is one of the better ways to get my attention, along with twitter. See, its a mix.]

We all now have the data to see the effectiveness of our marketing and make decisions based on insights, not on gut feel. So if 40% of your marketing should be events, fine. Conversely if you should go all in on Facebook, don't hesitate. And if you get a higher response rate for direct mail, go for it! But don't feel peer pressure to do what's wrong for your business. Use data, not your gut. Above all, do what's right.

So zig when everyone else zags. And potentially be one of the few marketers that can proudly use the phrase "lands on your doormat" again :)

[Get your Yoda Mat at HMV here]

2018 : More content, less social media

I've been increasingly frustrated with social media and the amazing time-sink that it now represents. I've been a relatively early adopter of most platforms, mainly as in my job it's easy to become a marketing dinosaur in the blink of a post.

However, it's been an ongoing journey of discovery, immersion and filtering. I stopped using location platforms (foursquare, swarm, Gowalla) a few years back after I was investing hours of my time in a platform that told me that Jeff in Dundee was the King of his local gas station (whoopee!). I've restricted my Facebook account to friends & family only, plus I've kept LinkedIn to business contacts that I know or have met. I also switched off notifications (on phone and by email) from all platforms. I really don't know why anyone has these enabled as you'll be in the app virtually every hour anyway.

 Last year I uninstalled Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter from my mobile devices to save me the endless cycle of checking twitter, then LinkedIn, then Facebook and repeating ad nauseum hundreds of times a day due to FOMO

The reality is, of course, I'm not missing out. The problem is that feeding and interacting with the networks has become a thing in its own right. I love seeing posts from friends on what they're up to, but I can scroll through pages of suggested posts and ads, and sometimes never see a single piece of orignal content from a human being. And, no, seeing that someone I used to work with 15 years ago likes their local pet shop in Albuquerque does not constitute interesting content. And don't get me started on the non-time-linear algorithm that tries to throw up what's interesting. Try following a sports match on Facebook. It's painful. 

That's not to say I'm opting out of social media. The reason I originally loved social media was content-based, not ad click-based. And I'm sure we'll see future developments that will improve the utility of the various platforms back towards human connection. These have to come, mainly as the next generation has already opted out of ad-driven platforms preferring more messenger-like forms of direct connection (Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram Stories etc.). 

For me, it's about moderation. And focussing on creating, sharing and consuming content. So here's what I'm doing:

1. Less social media

  • Restrict use of social media to desktop only. Except Instagram* :)
  • Facebook : Opt out of brands devoid of content in my feed (right hand column ads work just fine for that for me thanks), keep just real people.. You'll be amazed how that transforms your feed. You'll also notice what little content people post. No more infinity scrolling in hope of some nugget or other! 

2. More content.

  • Start the day with the (London) Times and New York Times. I subscribe to the digital editions of both, but hardly read the publications. (BTW - their Facebook feeds suck, as even as a subscriber you have to sign in for every single article).
  • Try out new sources of content. I use Stack and it is amazing - you get a different independent magazine each month, showcasing the best in content and design.
  • Read books! I have a varied backlog of books (some pictured above) - from music bios to business books to thrillers. When I was a teenager I used to get up early to read the latest sci-fi release before I went to school. In 2017 I think I read three books in total!
  • Write more business posts on this blog (I wrote exactly zero in 2017).
  • *Invest more time in photography. I still enjoy Instagram and love taking photos and seeing others'. I need to dust off the SLR and get back into Adobe Lightroom too.

Hopefully this'll rebalance my social media diet and make for a happier & healthier 2018. What are your plans?

And of course feel free to connect with me on Instagram, twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook (personal friends only)!

Immediacy v Convenience.


I think we've all know for a long time that "convenience" is now a big part of the expected consumer experience. But I think many of us still don't get it. Remember when local grocery stores were called "Convenience Stores"? Well, yes they were convenient but they had limited stock and slightly dubious brand-obscure, nearly out of date goods. Yes, on some level convenient due to location, but not up to what we expect today.

Never more was that made more clear to me than this week when I was off sick for the first time in, well, probably five years. I needed a Doctor's appointment, so as everyone in the UK knows, with a following wind, a pot of good luck and a four leaf clover you might just, maybe, possibly, at a pinch get a Doctor’s appointment within 48 hours.

My wife suggested the Push Doctor app. I signed up, made an appointment, got an online video consultation with a Doctor within 10 minutes and medication was available at my local pharmacy within the hour. All before 9:30am.

It’s a well delivered service that’s both convenient and immediate. That’s what consumers expect now - the bar is high and it’s no longer good enough to be there with a product or service.

Rush 2112, persistence and authenticity

Picture the scene. Its 1976 and a struggling rock band are given an ultimatum by their record label : change your style or get dropped. The music industry was splitting in two directions : disco was hitting the dance floors and the distant screaming of punk was hurtling into the mainstream. The band was ploughing the deeply unfashionable furrow of prog rock & the public were growing tired of flabby, pompous expositions that lasted over 20 minutes.

So what to do? Change styles to gain commercial success? Or stick to the courage of your convictions? The band chose the latter, released a wonderfully pompous record (it's based on an Ayn Rand book! It featured an Overture! And side 1 was one continuous track! They wore silk kimonos!) and went on to subsequent critical and commercial success. The band was Rush and the album was 2112.

As time fades both may be relatively unknown to most music fans, but to those who know them Rush (and 2112) is a "love or hate brand". No one marginally likes Rush. They have both die hard fans and vicious detractors. In my opinion, that's to be applauded.

We can learn two things from Rush:

1. Persistence. Stick with what you know, love and are good at. Rush faced several moments in their career where they dropped out of favour. But they stuck with it. They've now made 20 albums, are still touring and have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What's more impressive is the band has featured the same line-up (Peart, Lifeson, Lee) since 1975. I don't know many (if any) bands that have stuck together for 40 years (and before you say Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman left in 1993).

2. Authenticity. Rush have never tried to pretend to be something they aren't (OK, so the mid-80s synth-based stuff was a slight wobble). They know what they stand for and bring that through in everything they do. Understand your core strengths and keep plugging away. Even if it's deeply unfashionable. That authenticity means a lot to their core audience - they repeatedly sell out stadiums around the world. But here's a slight twist on authenticity. When they play their older, more pompous stuff, they do so with both reverence and a slight tongue-in-cheek. They know it's a wee bit embarrassing in retrospect and deserves a wry smile. Authenticity can feature humour - that's so credible.

So 40 years on, with some persistence and authenticity, the band has sold over 40 million records, 2112 features in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 50 Prog Rock albums of all time (indeed subsequent albums "Hemispheres" and "Moving Pictures" also chart, and higher) and the album is cited are a major influence by many contemporary rock artists. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, here's Foo Fighters (& Rush) covering the 2112 Overture. A wry smile & silk kimonos in full effect:

New Order, cassettes & sky high consumer expectations

In this age of digital disruption, we talk a lot about fleeting customer loyalty and the war for consumer attention. We're all bombarded by thousands of messages a day, and in this noisy world its the experience brands deliver (be that service, support or creative marketing campaigns) that will win out. Which means consumer expectations are high. I mean really high.  Things like next (or same) day delivery, mobile app continuity, personalisation & online self service are all no longer nice to haves. They're now table stakes.

Take music streaming & Spotify as an example. 

The image above is the cover to "Brotherhood", the 1986 album by New Order (I provide a link as the other day someone told me they had to google "Human League".). Originally I bought this album on cassette (if you want to sound really out of touch, say "cassette" several times over). That was £4.99 (£13.67 in 2016 money) for nine tracks. I then bought the album on vinyl. Same nine tracks for £9.99 (or £25.37 today). And finally I got the CD version. The same nine tracks (but with an added bonus track!) for £14.99 (£36.28 today). So that's £75.32 spent on just nine tracks.

In addition, my ability to amass a comprehensive music collection was somewhat limited. I was likely able to buy 4 or 5 cassettes/vinyl/CDs a month at the very most. That's 60 albums or 540 tracks a year.

Now, along comes spotify and totally disrupts the entire music distribution market. Today, spotify gives you access to 30 MILLION tracks, on any device, instantaneously. That is world-changing, market disrupting and totally mind-blowing to someone who had to wait a year to get access to just 540 tracks, nine at a time.

Yet, that isn't enough. Oh no. In fact, I bet you're one of the people that refuses to pay £9.99 a month for Spotify Premium. You want 30 MILLION tracks, on any device, instantly available, anywhere. For free! You're crazy ;)

You see, making the world's music available to anyone, anywhere is now table stakes. For my kids (and some of you) its a "meh, so what?" With such high expectations even brands like spotify have to work harder. They have to up their game on AI, social sharing, intelligent recommendations, cross-device synchronisation and so much more. It's the wider experience that matters, not the core product itself.

And most brands are in this situation. Today, what separates great businesses from the good ones is the ability to provide customers with a meaningful experience — not just a great product - that ultimately beats those high expectations. 

So next time you moan about not being able to skip tracks or having to listen to Ads, just repeat after me "cassette, cassette, cassette".

...In the meantime, check out Brotherhood:

Getting personal in the peloton : the new business meeting

Us marketers love meeting customers or at least organising ways in which customers can meet other parts of our business. But increasingly its getting harder and harder to prise people out of the office for a few hours, let alone a half- or full-day. Of course we like to make it "worth their while" and entice them with seminars featuring reputable speakers, dynamic content and, sometimes, the hallowed industry gurus. 

Inevitably, it seems, we surround these events with food as if that'll be a clincher - be that a breakfast briefing, a lunchtime discussion or an evening roundtable. But I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly dying for another meal, in fact more often than not I'm trying to reduce meals out in order to keep that waistline/heart in check.

And of course if you're trying to reach more senior executives, the de facto choice is the Golf Day. But seriously, do you think the golf-mad CEO/CFO/CMO of a FTSE/Fortune company isn't already a member of a decent golf club, and not short of the opportunity to get a few rounds in  if needed?

Which is why I think the dear old world of events needs a shake-up. You're not offering any differentiation offering the same old same old. You need to do something different, that appeals to a more modern way of thinking about business relations. Increasingly attendees want something more than indulgence. They want something new, something that enriches them, something that they get a return on. Which is why cycling is starting to feature heavily on the corporate agenda.

At Adobe, we run regular rides around our major events and they're consistently sold out. Why? Well, they're certainly original (for now!) and the trick is to include cyclists of all ability. But the impression I get is people have an increasing interest in fitness and wellbeing. Getting outside for an hour or two and doing that without impinging on the working day (many of our rides are first thing in the morning) has an enormous appeal. Individuals feel an immense sense of satisfaction and, yes, you can have a conversation whilst riding too! And it sure beats enduring another three course dinner listening to that industry guru.