Marketing BS Briefing: Now with Extra Marketing Edition

Thanks to Byron Hobart who called out the Sam Heath (Tim Hortons CPG Lead) interview in his Saturday newsletter. I think roughly fifty of you subscribed to Marketing BS over the weekend. Welcome onboard. Tuesday’s posts shift between essays and briefings. This week is a Briefing - and it is a little more marketing heavy than the median. Enjoy!


  • Facebook Substack: Facebook has launched a newsletter platform called “Bulletin”. Unlike other Facebook platforms this one allows you to “take your list with you when you leave” (with the exception of payment processing, which is through Facebook Pay). The social network has lined up an all-star group pf writers to kick off the project. The advantage vs Substack seems to be “no fees” (for a few year anyway), and “Facebook augmented distribution”. The last COULD be very valuable, but likely won’t be for most writers for very long (if ever) given FAcebook’s history. So it is really a trade off of lower cost vs ownership of payment processing. I expect most writers (who do not receive large upfront payments) will opt for the status quo.


Marketing to Employees

  • Cutting emissions: Companies often make commitments to cut their emissions (to who? Employees! No one else cares), but they are not succeeding. So now they are pushing the cuts onto their customers (who don’t care to take on that “responsibility”). From the WSJ: "To decrease emissions, L’Oréal is selling a solid shampoo bar that the company says needs 25% less water to rinse off than regular shampoo. Colgate, which says consumer use makes up 87% of its emissions, has focused on asking people to turn off the tap while they brush their teeth through product messaging, social media and in-store displays. And Unilever got consumers to use cold water with its laundry detergents by reformulating the products and pitching the benefits in energy costs. It has had less success getting people to take colder showers.” Getting customers to cut their useage clearly does not work, but maybe it will make the employees happy that they are “trying”.

Business and Strategy

  • NFL Live Audio: The NFL will host 20 live “Twitter Spaces” during the 2021 season. Last March in my essay on “Clubhouse and Convenience” I argued that one of the more powerful use cases for live audio is commentary during live sporting event. Smart of the NFL jumping on owning this, rather than ceding it to entrepreneurs (and interesting they chose Twitter over Clubhouse or LockerRoom (owned by Spotify))

  • Marketplace Pricing: Follow-up on “Online Travel Agencies and Platform Economics” Daniel Kyne (a reader) reminds me that Doordash allows restaurants to choose 15% or 30% to get different service. This is not dissimilar to allowing hotels to pay the % they wanted to “choose” their sort position, Spotify allowing artists to collect smaller fees in exchange for promotion, or Google paid ads, or.... Allowing, rather than forcing, your customers to pay you more money turns out to be a better way to find their utility function.

  • Gaming and Fraud: The Atlantic has a piece on how “gamers are better than scientists at catching fraud”. The positioning is that gamers are particularly good at this, but it might just be that scientists are really bad. This study shows that papers that do NOT replicate get more citations than those that do — even after non-replication has been demonstrated. One sees this same pattern in many situations: Google search- once you achieve strong positions, even if achieved in an underhanded way, it is fairly durable. CEOs- once you “achieve” CEO you can fail many times, but still get new CEO opportunities.


  • Facebook Lift Tests: The hardest part of marketing is smart attribution. Generally in digital display the choice is measuring clicks, views and timing of purchase events (i.e., “last touch”, or “Any view”, etc.). The “right” choice is to measure true lift through A/B tests with a “holdout group” (i.e., run ads for your product to 50% of your audience and ads for something else to 50% of your audience and measure the incremental purchases from the group that saw your ads). This is often hard to do in practice, but Facebook HAD a product that would do it. Unfortunately they will discontinue it as soon as Apple begins enforcing the new iOS 14 requirements. Privacy has a cost…

  • Ad Free Search: Neeva is a new search engine by a bunch of former Google executives. You pay $5/month for a “private”, no-ads search engine. People, even very smart people, continue to believe that other people care about privacy (reminder: they don’t). Who is going to pay for a (worse) search engine that doesn’t have relevant search ads at the top? I hate making predictions, but this seems very likely to fail (Also: See my February essay “In Praise of Advertising”)

COVID and the New World Order

AI, Machine Learning and GPT-3


  • Seattle Healthcare SaaS CMO: Sub $100MM ARR Seattle-based company is looking for a CMO. I know the team well. Great opportunity.

  • DTC Ready-to-Eat CMO: One of the top players in the ready-to-eat space is looking for a CMO. Based in Southern California. Please reach out to me if interested in either role.


  • Voltaire: “Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little to cure diseases of which they know less in humans of which they know nothing”

  • Howard Skipper: “A model is a lie that helps you see the truth”

Keep it simple,