Digital Display ads Work

I have been dubious about the performance of digital marketing for almost 10 years.

Issues around viewability, ad fraud, bots and a complete lack of transparency within the industry had me thinking that display banner advertising, paid/promoted social posts, and video did very little to drive sales.

And if you are looking for all the arguments on why banner advertising, promoted social posts etc. are all a scam, go no further than Bob Hoffman’s blog – here for your reading pleasure.

I was wrong (and so is Bob – sorry Bob).

The data I have been working with over the past 18 months has shown (and convinced me) that display advertising does influence behaviour.

The team I currently work with have spent months developing a methodology to measure and understand the influence of display advertising on customers.

We have gone to great lengths to set up audiences with representative control groups. We have ensured that the control groups we put in place were not exposed to the specific display activity we had in market.

In what has become an ongoing analysis – it has become clear that there is incremental value in digital display advertising. We are now in the position to measure the conversion and revenue generated both in the online and offline space and are comparing the contribution made by the control group vs. the audience we targeted.

That is not to say that there aren’t widespread problems with how advertising is served and measured in the online space. There are definite shortcomings which advertising, publishers and agencies have to address. But from all accounts, they are worth addressing, if for no other reason, so that we can spend our budgets more responsibly and we can serve messaging to our audiences that is relevant.

December is business planning time. Get these six things done before you pop the champagne!

B2B Marketing


This post appeared in Anthill Online on 10/12/14:

If you are in B2B and you’re not busy hustling and business planning this December, you’re missing out.

That´s right, if you treat this holiday season as down-time, chances are that you’re going to come back into the office in January and not even realise that a major opportunity had passed you by while you were ‘waiting for your clients to come back online’.

Here are six things B2B companies should be doing over the December period to gain the upper hand in the New Year.

1. Call your customers at the beginning of December

Thank them for their business and find out if they have plans to go away over the Christmas period. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, this shows that you care about them and that you value their business.

Secondly, you want to know if they are going to be around over December. If they’re not going away and they are working all the way through the festive period you can be pretty sure that they are planning on using that time to plan for the New Year. There may also be projects that they didn’t get to in 2014 that they may want to bring back into focus.

What you should be looking for is an opportunity to become part of the planning and thinking. Your client will have more time and his other business associates will assume that there is nothing to do until January, which means they won’t be calling on him for a few weeks. If there was ever an opportunity to add value and build your relationship, it is over the December break.

2. Send a festive greeting card or gift

Make sure it is handwritten and that you are sensitive to your client’s religious beliefs.

This is also an opportunity to send a gift. Again, beware of the inappropriate gift and what´s your client´s policy on receiving gifts. While many like a bottle of bubbly or a nice red wine, find out if your client is one of them. There isn’t a present that is less appreciated than one that can’t be enjoyed.

At Monsterful, many of our clients travel regularly and we find that good quality, middle of the range headphones are well received. Gifts with a little thought behind them go a long way.

Also worth noting that a festive greeting card sent to a lead does no harm; and who doesn’t like receiving a (non-digital) card over the festive period?

3. The Lunch of Opportunities

If your client is going to be at work over the Festive Season, this will be the one time that they might have the opportunity to join you for that lunch you’ve been asking for all year. It gives them a chance to get out of a quiet and empty office.

At lunch, talk about the past year and find out what they felt you added value. Also, take the time to explore what opportunities there are with new initiatives or other departments going into 2015. However, avoid talking business 100% of the time. It´s the holiday season after all.

4. Send relevant and useful information to your clients

Most of us get fewer emails over December. This doesn’t mean the habit of checking email disappears, it just means that we are more open to reading mail that we would ordinarily ignore. If you know what your client is planning for the New Year, send him helpful articles and blog posts. It shows that you care and you’re around to help.

Similarly, if you have a lead, send them a personal email letting them know that the attached article you came across made you think of them and that it might be of interest.

If you are able to show not only that you are interested in what your clients and leads are doing, but are able to share worthy information that is relevant to them it keeps you and your offering top-of-mind.

5. Make a ‘to-meet-list’

If you take your foot off the accelerator in December, you’ll see the effects well into January. I am always astounded at how many people come back into the office in January only to get organized in a week and another 3-4 days to get going.

Make a ‘to-meet-list’ of clients and leads you want to engage with in 2015, and come into the office in January and have the list waiting for you. Contact them and organise a catch-up with them. Be the first face they see in the New Year and make sure that they are thinking about you as they get going with their 2015 projects. It is always easier to get in on a project at the beginning.

6. Don’t ignore the juniors.

Many of our clients leave a skeleton team in the office over the December holiday period. Many of those left behind tend to be junior team members. Make it a policy that a junior client always deserves your team’s attention and support.

If you make a junior member’s life easier and you are able to make them look good, there is a good chance that they will become an advocate for you brand within the organisation. Don’t forget; a junior becomes a manager and eventually your lead client.

A lot of teams over December are left with small projects and admin tasks. Invite them to a lunch or a breakfast. Offer them help in getting things done. They also have information that could help you and your cause. And whatever you do, don’t leave them off the festive greeting card list.

December is a month of opportunities. Realise that this is the time of year where you can build on your existing relationships and become a part of your client’s planning process. Use this month to the fullest, come back in January with a clear mind, and rock year 2015!


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Thought Leadership has nothing to do with your opinion

OK, content marketing is great and a really worthwhile pursuit if you have the time, the knowledge and the insights to get people to care about what you have to say. However, and you’d know this if you follow me on Twitter (@jackthebrave), if you are going to be a thought leader I want to know what you know and what you are thinking about, I really don’t give a shit about your opinion.

Everywhere I turn I have people telling me I have to be a thought leader, which is all well and good. However, this sage advice has every marketing halfwit tweeting and blogging that we should write more engaging content and to listen and engage with our audiences.

Let me be clear on this: to be a thought leader you have to know something that you are willing to share and that others will find helpful.

This is where I come to my next bug bear – telling people to write engaging and creative content is not thought leadership – it’s dumb, stupid drivel. And the amount of times I read this beggars belief. A thought leader doesn’t spout opinion and tautologies, they help. Helping people discover where they can go to find information that may be engaging, or where they can find inspiration for their ideas – that’s helpful and shows people you are genuine and want to share/help.

So, for those that are looking for ideas that others will find engaging and are tired of being told to be more engaging, you may want to start here:

1. Your Google Search History:

Chances are that if you are looking for an answer to something so are quite a few other people. Go through your search history, pick out the things that really stood out for you as being helpful knowledge and package the information for your audience.

2. Buzzsumo:

Buzzsumo is an awesome tool that lets you see which articles, information, infographics and blog posts on a specific topic were the most shared in different social media channels. It should provide you with some ideas on what your audience finds is helpful enough to share. Coolest bit – the basic package for the service is free.

3. Other Industries:

The trap many of us fall into is that we follow all the thought leaders and geniuses in our preferred industries. This provides a very small picture of the online world. Look at your interests that rank 3rd and 4th and  seek out trends and information that are big in their niches. Try to find things that might be relevant to your preferred area and extrapolate on how it might be relevant for your audience. This option takes a bit more work, but generates unique and interesting ideas.

But please, don’t give me hollow advice or tell me what you think. Your value lies in what knowledge and insights you have that could help me.

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6 tips from experts on how to stand out on social media

Things in the business are pretty tough at the moment and, true to form, when things are tough I do research to find alternatives or advice on how to fix or address problems.

In my research I can across a bunch of advice (most of it shitty). However, I collected what some of the ‘experts’ and those that had done well in leveraging social media had to say and which I found interesting or helpful.

Zach Kitschke from Canva



“Many brands spend time thinking about their content strategy, yet many forget to think about their visual brand. The best brands have a strong visual identity on social media. Every time you post, you need to differentiate your content from the flood of updates that fill people’s social feed. It’s been proven that images result in more retweets, Likes and comments.

When it comes to visuals, make sure you’re consistent in what you post. Use consistent colours, fonts, photo filters and icons or logos. People will begin to recognise your visual style and will look out for your posts.”


John Aguiar at


“The best way to stand out in social media is to do what other people are not willing to do. Start by being real, being available, and being helpful. Combine all that with making sure your branding from your blog or business follows you onto every social media site you are active on. If you do all that it will be easy for you to be seen, heard and followed on social media.”


Konrad Sanders at The Creative Copywriter


“Shamelessly unleash your personality. Be bold. Be brazen. Treat people like they’re your closest mates. All the hot shots on this list are just regular people like you. So make ‘em laugh. Comment on their comments. Offer your unique insights. Challenge them. Flirt with them. You’re an expert at something — so share your expertise with the world, and people will appreciate your angle. Social media offers you the unique opportunity to reach out and chat with anyone. So reach out and chat confidently to the big cheeses in your industry. Show ‘em what you’re made of. You’re just as awesome as them!

Get a unique, memorable, branded profile pic. Because social media users – especially the big influencers – see thousands of tiny gravatars and profile pics every week. If you’re attacking the web with wisdom, humour, charm, confidence and valuable content, AND you have a distinct, stand-out profile pic – then you’ll get noticed and remembered by influencers and users alike.”


Neil Patel from Kissmetrics


“If you are looking to stand out in the social media world, you don’t have to come up with something unique or creative. You just have to be willing to put in the time. The simplest way to stand out is to respond to people and help them out. Most people are too lazy to respond to a tweet… by doing simple things like this, you will stand out.”


Stacey Miller from Vocus


“When individuals or businesses want to stand out on social media, they should think visually! Images catch our attention, keep our attention, and are digested faster than text. Add hi-res images to social media profiles and posts, and install free features like Twitter cards on your web properties so that anyone who posts your content also shares the visual love.”


Adam Braun – Pencils Of Promise


“People that are successful with social media use a mass platform to build unique, personal relationships. I DM people every day if I like their comment, I ask questions to every reader who posts about the #PoPbook on Instagram, and I send personalized messages to people all the time. Your following might be massive, but it’s their authentic connection to you and your connection to them that matters.”


In a nutshell, be genuine, connect a lot, use images (good ones), and above all, patience and time. We all know this and so few do it.

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How to Automate Twitter

OK, since starting the agency I have come to realise the one thing that I value most in my day is my own time. About three months ago I found that I was spending a lot of time researching and finding articles to share on Twitter – in fact, it was taking time away from things that where more important to Monsterful’s growth and, ironically, this included connecting with people I wanted to build a relationship with on Twitter.

OK, contrary to popular belief, automating elements of your social media isn’t evil. If you go through Monsterful’s Tweets (@monsterfulsyd) you won’t find one post that we as an agency didn’t find valuable or inspiring, but I now spend 10 minutes on deciding what is worth sharing on Twitter and 20 minutes connecting with people whom I’d like to get to know better. And, I don’t care what anyone tells you, the more you post about information that is relevant and interesting to you, the more people will follow your profile – promise.

So, what did I change? I did some research trying to find ways in which I could leverage my Feedly RSS subscriptions. It was then that I stumbled across this recipe for automation using Feedly, Buffer and IFTTT and I think it’s brilliant. I already used Buffer, but hadn’t really used If This Then That (IFTTT) – which has now become one of my favourite productivity sites, ever.

How did I set it up?

First Step: Feedly

OK, if you aren’t using RSS, do (and this video explains RSS in under 90 sec). For this example I’m using Feedly as my RSS reader.

Set up your Feedly account and add all your preferred RSS subscriptions to your feed – remember that you can copy and paste a blog or a site’s URL into Feedly if you don’t find an RSS link on a site. In order to get the automation to work, you will have to subscribe to a Pro Feedly account which has a minimal annual fee.

Once you have decided which blogs and sites’ content is relevant to what you share on Twitter, put them all under one category in Feedly. Below you’ll see that I have them under IFTTT.

Feedly Page with IFTTT category.

Feedly Page with IFTTT category.


Second Step: Buffer

OK, go onto Buffer (or open an account). With a free account you can schedule which days at which times to post to Twitter – however you will post at the same time each day – a paid account will allow for greater configuration. Decide which days and at what times your posts will be best received by your target audience and schedule these into your account.

Posting Schedule on Buffer

Posting Schedule on Buffer

Now you need to link the content that you want to share from Feedly to Buffer so that it can be posted to Twitter as per you schedule.

Third Step: IFTTT

OK, set up an account on IFTTT, and go to Create a Recipe. You will land on a page that looks like this:

Click on the THIS

Click on the THIS


Click on this

This will open a bunch of logos and icons.

IFTTT logos and icons


Find the Feedly logo and click on it.

You will then be asked to choose a trigger. Click on the square that says: New Article from Category

This will take you to this screen:

Choose the category IFTTT

Choose the category IFTTT

In the drop-down menu choose the category in Feedly which has the content you want to share on Twitter, in my case it’s IFTTT. Now click on Create Trigger.

Now you’ll find yourself on this screen:

Click Then in IFTTT

Click on THAT

Click on that and go onto the logos page again. Click on the Buffer logo and then click on the Add to Buffer square as below.




Now you have to decide how you want your Tweets to be structured. Options here a limited – I stick to Article Title and Article URL. You can add a hashtag at this stage, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it will appear on every Tweet you post through this process.

Now just click on Create Action. You will then be asked to give your IFTTT recipe a title and to then create the recipe. After that you’re done.

How do you want your Tweets to be structured?

How do you want your Tweets to be structured?



1. Check the posts that are in the Buffer queue daily and weed out anything that’s not relevant. I also recommend that you take a look at the suggestions that Buffer offer – there can be some interesting things there that you might like to add to your queue.

2. This is important – this doesn’t mean your Twitter account is taken care of and you never have to go onto Twitter again. On the contrary – you will have freed up time to now connect with people who are influencers in your field, people who you can learn from and who you can collaborate with. You have effectively outsourced the research in order to focus on the core of what Twitter should be about for your business.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this approach.

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How to write a marketing plan (final post)

In this post it’s all about tactics within you marketing strategy.

You have your positioning and you have a good idea of where your competitors are playing. You know your target audience better than you know yourself. You know where your company is strong. Now it’s a matter of bringing it all together in such a way that you maximise your opportunity to meet your objectives.

This is the part in where you start working on the four Ps of the marketing mix. Many experts believe that the 4 Ps are dated, and to some extent I do agree, especially when it comes to more complex online services. However, I find that in many alternatives people are playing on semantics and that they are questioning the relevance of the traditional model for attention and to look clever rather than to address any real need in the modern marketing paradigm.

For the record, there are some thought provoking options to look at that I sometimes refer to. For instance there is Ogilvy and Mather’s 4 Es (Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism). Then there is the Harvard Business Review’s SAVE (Solution, Access, Value, Education) and the Hult Business School’s SAVI (Solutions, Access, Value, Information & Incentive).

In my estimation many of the more intelligent alternatives to the four Ps are looking to include context to the marketing mix. While there is value in doing this, it is wise to remember that a strategy should be simple. Always look what you can take out, rather than add in.

So, I have assumed that you have taken care of your product and that you have a brand in place around which you are building your strategy. If you don’t have this, come back, we will be addressing product and brand strategy in several posts in the near future.

6. Pricing: Look at your pricing and ensure that you are realistically positioned against your competitors as well as the market’s expectations. If you are pricing yourself at a premium, make sure your positioning acknowledges this and that you have addressed how you add more value than the cheaper alternatives in the market.

Under pricing, also consider special offers that you might be thinking of promoting. Are they cheapening your brand or do they add real value? Will your customers get excited by what you are bundling or discounting?

7. Place: Look where you are selling your product and ask what that says about your brand and your positioning. What environment best suits how you want to be seen by your market, are you there? If the head of sales at Louis Vuitton starts selling his bags at Target, the amount people will be willing to spend on their bags will drop like an anchor from a plane.

8. Promotion: There a thousands of options in this sections. I have included the ones that I could think of and are most commonly used. I always tell my clients, start with your target market, where do they spend time and pay attention to what brands are saying – and then go there. So, in alphabetical order, your options for promotion are:

Ambush marketing (usually at an event)

Blimps, banners, bus sides,  small format outdoor hoardings, shopping mall advertising boards and traditional billboards (all are now called ‘Out Of Home’, OOH or just Outdoor)

Blogs, Podcasts, Vlogs

Card Decks

Catalogs and brochures

Celebrity endorsements and brand ambassadors

Classified ads


Content Marketing


Direct Mail

Email Marketing

Event Marketing


Guerilla Marketing

Gift Certificates

Networking (yep, this is also a marketing tactic)


Newspaper/Magazine/Journal ads

Online Marketing (this includes website, SEO, SEM, social media

Outside radio broadcasts

Partnerships and cross promotion: is there a business in a parallel industry with a similar target audience to your own? How can you complement one another?

Phone book ads


Press releases/PR

Promotional products

Radio ads/TV ads/Infomercials

Referrals (ask and incentivise existing (hopefully happy) clients to promote your services to their peers)

Seminars /Teleseminars / Webinars



Trade Shows

Word of Mouth / Viral Marketing (you get agencies that specialise in this form of marketing that are doing some amazing work)

At this point I should mention that I tend to split out online activity from the more traditional channels. Online in itself can make up an entire strategic campaign (consider content marketing and the various facets that need to come together to make it work). It is not uncommon for me to work up separate tactics for the digital space that compliments the more traditional ATL activity within a plan. And there are cases where a digital plan might be a strategic document in itself.

My advice, work with what makes it easiest for you to understand what needs to happen, more or less in what chronological order and how you plan to convert a potential lead to a customer.

That leads me to my next point:

9. Conversions: Think about what is pushing your lead to become a customer. What breadcrumbs are they following and at what stage within all your activity can you approach them with an offer that they will consider. I try to focus on places where people have shown an openness to what a brand has to offer (note I said brand offering, not product offering – a brand offering could be a piece of interesting information or content). It is soon after that point that I look to introduce the product and request a sale.

An example would be when someone shares their details with you online in order to download a piece of content. Your ‘thank you’ page that follows that transaction is a strong piece of marketing real estate. People are open to your brand, they have decided to engage with you and if you ask them at that point to do something, the chances that they will take the next step are so much higher. On a ‘thank you’ page you might ask them to take a survey or offer them a small sample of you product. Once they have taken that second step I look to introduce the idea of a purchase.

10. Financial forecasts: At the end of the process I like to estimate the cost of each activity I have planned and then to guesstimate what % of my objectives can be attained through that activity. I group together activities that overlap with one another, i.e. online advertising that goes to a special landing page with a unique offer.

This gives me a cost in relation to my objectives and helps me prioritise what could give me the most bang for my investment. I then work my way through the activity, testing my hypothesis on each tactic. If I find a channel doesn’t deliver the way I needed it to in a given time frame, I dump it and move on or alternatively, try to integrate it with another activity to see if that will deliver better results.

This is where I like to have three alternative tactics/activities lined up. If something I thought would really deliver, doesn’t I have something to fall back on within my plan. I don’t have to go through the process again of evaluating where I can engage my target market etc. It always comes back to your objectives. If what you are doing doesn’t deliver leave it, change it or support it in some other way.

If you have any questions regarding these posts, or would like us to take a look at your strategy, give us a call. We’re happy to chat, and I promise we won’t try and ‘sell’ you; we’d prefer if you decided to buy our services.

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How to write a marketing plan, post 2/3

OK, so you have spent hours and hours thinking about your target audience, you are intimate with who they are, what they do in their spare time, and most importantly, what they need.

You have done some ‘business introspection’ and know exactly what you as a business are good at and what makes you, you. You would also have noticed that when you talk about these things it gets you a bit excited because it is the secret ingredient in your business that makes it amazing. You and all the people working on the business bring this to life and it is a shared belief that motivates everyone to come to work in the morning.

Finally, you also have a clear picture of what you want your marketing to deliver. Your objectives are crystal clear, tangible and measurable. It could be as simple as get another 5 clients on-board, or as complicated as transferring 60% of sales from eBay to your own branded website.

Now that you have done that, it is time to move to step four on how to write a marketing plan:

4. Positioning. This is where you want your brand to live in people’s minds. This position is relative to your competitors and is defined by what makes your business special (your USPs). As an example, when I consider three hot-sauce brands, Tabasco, Nando’s and a home brand offering, I think of Tabasco as a little more old-school, with traditional values (in my mind it even smells old). A Nando’s hot sauce is for younger more fun loving people, quite a bit hotter and probably best served with Portuguese style chicken. Home brand is just hot, without any flavour.

That’s positioning.

Deriving a positioning also takes time. I start with the benefits a company offers its target market (refer to who they are in the earlier part of your strategy). I then consider what a customer feels when interacting with a brand and it’s products or services. I then overlay this with the company’s USPs from which I derive a positioning statement. Please note that if you position yourself on factors that don’t matter to your target market they won’t notice your brand, or build any mental associations with your company.

A positioning statement is something that anyone who works in your business should know and look at every day. Traditionally a positioning statement isn’t shared with the public, but I think there are benefits in telling people what you aspire your brand to be in their minds. This is up to the company.

Now, it is worth mentioning that there is a traditional format for a positioning statement. Some people still live by this – and universities still teach this format (see here). Me? I think you can be flexible and go with anything that works for you. All you have to ensure is that it clearly states what you’re about, who’s lives you’re looking to improve and how your company makes those improvements. Your positioning is the litmus test against which you evaluate everything your organisation does and says when interacting with customers.

5. Evaluating your positioning. Having a positioning statement that copies everything your competitors do doesn’t make for a great strategy. At this point it is wise to research your competitors and then plot the way you feel they position themselves against what your brand stands for. I recommend doing this on a quadrant chart where the X and Y axis represent the foundations against which you derived your positioning. As an example, going back to hot-sauce; Nando’s hot-sauce two axis’ could be ‘Hot & fun’ and ‘Made for Portuguese style Chicken’.

Plot each of you competitors on this chart, including yourself. Be honest about where everyone sits. If your brand has free space around it, you have a pretty good chance of being noticed and being seen as offering something worthwhile to the market.

NB on positioning. Pricing. Bear in mind that pricing is a major component of your positioning. It shouldn’t have direct influence on the final statement, but where you price yourself relative to your competitors should be included in your thinking. I find that pricing heavily influences target audiences and what is important to them. This has direct implications on where brands I work on end up playing. I have also seen cases where a good positioning has influenced pricing, so it is worth reviewing your positioning with a few different stakeholders before setting it in stone.

In the next post I am going to go through all the options (that I can think of) that are available to a marketer when promoting their product or service. This is where I address the promotional elements of the strategy (the tactics). I will then also touch on financial projections and how I use these to help me decide what tactics within my strategy to implement first.


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How to write a marketing plan, post 1/3

I always tell my clients that if you don’t have a marketing plan that is written down and that has various tactics that work together to deliver an objective, i.e. a strategy, then you don’t have a marketing plan. What I have found across the Internet and all the marketing sites that offer guidance on how to write a marketing strategy is that they give you a template to fill in with commentary on the nature of the information that needs to appear under various headings. While this is helpful, I think it misses in sharing the most important part of marketing, creative thinking and empathy for your customers or clients.

I don’t care what anyone says, great marketing is a creative pursuit. Mediocre marketing isn’t. Great marketing is about understanding people and then developing ideas that will motivate your target market to want to buy your offering. The purpose of a marketing strategy is show and remind you of who you are talking to and then explicitly stating what you are saying to them and where you are telling them what they need to know in order to get the response you desire.

This leads me to the next point – you have to understand yourself as a company, a brand and a product offering. This not only influences what you say to your target audience, it may make you change who your target market is altogether.

Finally, you have to know what you want – what does your marketing have to deliver; what’s the objective? Make sure it is something you can measure. Also give yourself a deadline in which to deliver this objective.

To lay this out in a simple step by step guide:

1. What is your objective – what is the business need your marketing has to address? This could be one of several things, like increasing inquiry, getting more conversions, building brand awareness, building product knowledge, getting more referrals, generating more repeat business.

2. What are you good at? What are you selling and what makes you different and more amazing than anyone else in the market? A lot of businesses don’t have this written down. Write this down, identify what makes you, you and then build your messaging around this. Position your brand around what you offer that is different – make this your story (this is what marketers refer to as a USP or unique selling proposition).

3. Who is your target market?  Who are the people who need your solution and who are going to love your story? Spend a lot of time thinking about this. Also be aware that the bigger your target market the more money you are likely to have to spend and the more people your message has to please. It is easier persuade and please 5 people than it is to please and influence 1000.

The first three steps should take a while. These are the foundations of your marketing and need much deliberation. If you do the above in 5 minutes without having given the matter more than a few minutes thought, you haven’t considered enough options to identify what is going to work best to deliver on your needs. Challenge your beliefs and see if there are more interesting ways to describe what you’re good at, or is there a way to make you target market tighter and more focussed.

In the next post I will bring these together and show how to get to a positioning. I’ll then run through an analysis of how to evaluate your positioning against your market in order to gauge if you have a competitive advantage that will lead to a greater chance of you attaining your objectives.


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How I.S. are using ‘marketing thinking’ with great success

In the past two weeks the news has focussed on constantly updating people on what the Islamic State (IS) militants are doing and the West’s response to their provocations. Littered liberally throughout the international updates we have also heard of the influence IS’ messages have had on radicalising a small section of the young Muslim population in Australia, the UK and the US.

Two months ago I hadn’t heard of ISIS/IS/ISIL. Within a two week period this group had become a household name and successfully ensured the West take them incredibly seriously. They have garnered an extraordinary amount of media attention and influenced the behaviour not only of a handful of young Muslims, but also politicians, and the general public. From a marketing context this could be considered a remarkably successful global launch for a previously small brand.

I have spent the last few days considering what IS have done that has helped them gain such recognition and have identified the following three points that relate directly to how they have used basic marketing principles to get to where they are now.

IS know their target market:

In order to influence the behaviour of people to take up arms to join a distant battle your messaging has to be spot on in terms of resonating with the group you’re attempting to recruit. The IS call to arms have been very focussed on pushing the right buttons in their audiences. To recruit even a small group of potential fighters they have to know their audience’s behavioural triggers exceptionally well, which IS clearly does. In many of the most publicised videos IS mirror the people they are targeting with their messages by having them feature in their videos. This advertising technique generates empathy and motivates audiences to relate to a character.

IS went for the low hanging fruit first:

ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant is the track of the Middle East that stretches from Syria to Jordan and includes Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. When IS first looked to expand their campaign out of Syria they targeted Iraq (not technically part of the Levant). In business terms this strategy would be referred to as targeting the ‘low hanging fruit’. In other words, following the course of action that takes the smallest amount of effort to attain the greatest desired effect. In this case the desired effect was to get publicity and international media attention. Invading Lebanon or Jordan would have gained the amazing levels of media exposure but prompted a far harsher international response from the West and potentially seen the destruction of the militant group, i.e. not options offering low hanging fruit.

Similarly, from a marketing perspective, for a small organisation to gain exposure it tries to take up market share by targeting the smaller players within a category’s customers to win over their market share while taunting the bigger players to acknowledge them in the media. As soon as the bigger players in a segment acknowledge the newcomer it validates the newcomer as a real challenger in the minds of consumers.

IS know what to feed the media:

I won’t spend too much time on this one, suffice it to say, if it ‘bleeds it leads’. There is a reason this line is so well associated with the news and media is – it’s true. IS have sadly used this fact to gain an extraordinary amount of global media coverage.

IS have strong branding:

In each video and photo we see of the militants we are exposed to the black IS uniforms and inevitably we also see the black and white flag under which they fight. The simplicity and the distinctiveness of these elements makes IS members and their brand highly recognisable and memorable.

IS have targeted getting mentioned by influencers:

Influencers in marketing are individuals with a wide group of followers. Many brands target influencers to endorse their products in order to be noticed and accepted by a wider audience. In the case of IS, the influencers they targeted were politicians. Politicians with massive audiences and great influence have over the past 8-10 weeks been mentioning IS repeatedly in almost every available media channel. If IS is viewed as a brand, it has lead to millions of dollars of free exposure for their cause. It has also made IS a brand worthy and acknowledgement and attention by the wider population.

It is astonishing to think of how much power marketing can have over people. It is even more sobering to think that we can so easily use it to do bad.

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3 Tips to find out there is no Secret!

As you would imagine, I spend a lot of time online. More than likely because I have an addiction, but I tell myself it’s to learn and know what is going on in various fields.

While on my online adventures, I first noticed the trend about 3 – 4 years ago and I fell for it. I realised that blog posts and tweets that promised me success with 3 tips, 5 hints, 10 insights really captured my attention. I even read in Jeff Bulla’s blog that this is a great headline strategy to increase post readerships. I gave this much thought recently, especially now, with Monsterful up and running and SEO haunting my dreams; I am trying to find ways to engage audiences on various platforms.

At first I thought it was laziness and short attention spans that created the demand for these types of headlines. We tend to skim read material online and having only 5 points to read makes it much easier to get the gist of an article than a block of writing. But after analysing my own motivations I realised that for me it was more than ADD and laziness, I realised I was on a quest for the ‘easy solution’; the easy secret that everyone else knows to becoming more successful, smarter, more productive, fitter, richer, more popular.

On our eternal quest for the shortcut to greatness, we are now spending more-and-more of our time clicking on promises of success and riches as opposed to doing the hard yards. The ‘5-6-9-12-15-21 steps to anything’ has become the new snake oil salesman speak of the online generation. One blog post, or one 5 step article is not going to change your life – promise. The work still needs to be done, the great books still have to be read and assimilated and the 10,000 hours (or however long it is now) to mastership still have to be put in.

When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said, “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”

In other words, do the work, that’s the secret.

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