Thank you to everyone who volunteered to be a pre-reader of Marketing BS: The Book. It is highly appreciated. There were a lot of you! I WILL write you all back individually, but last week was a little crazy for me (hence why I was not able to get my essay into the hands of my editor in time, and you are getting a briefing this week!). If you did not raise your hand last week, but would like to be a pre-reader of Marketing BS, just let me know by replying to this email. Thank you all!
Facebook: The FTC and 46 states attempted a sweeping lawsuit against the social media giant. Yesterday all that came to an end when a moderate judge tossed everything out without even an oral argument. My understanding was the biggest issue was the definition of Facebook as a monopoly. The lawsuit tried very hard to define their market as “Companies exactly like Facebook” and ruling out everything from Snap, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vine, TikTok, etc. It was so convoluted that it killed them before they even got started… $FB jumped almost 4% on the news and took the company over $1T in valuation. I don’t think Apple and Google will be so lucky.
Floc: Google’s replacement for the “cookie” has been delayed until “late 2023”. Advertisers can breath a little easier and put off doing anything about it for now. Also: When it does happen, Amazon will block the system. And since Amazon knows purchase behavior better than anyone else, expect Amazon’s ad network to continue to take share. And: Flocs may be blocked by wordpress due to “security concerns”
Brand Extension vs Brand Dilution: That is always the question when one is thinking about adding SKUs to a brand. In the case of the NCAA the organization decided opening up “March Madness” to the women’s teams would be “dilutive” and was blocked.
Offline channels: The WSJ has a piece on “online brands” increasing their spend in offline channels. It is HARD to find a new channel with good ROI. And offline channels are particularly hard due to difficulty tracking attribution - it is hard to iterate when you are not getting fast feedback on whether what you are doing is working. But when ROI is NOT hard to measure (for anyone), the result is everyone driving prices to their point of marginal profitability. And now with so much competition for “online brands” they need to look elsewhere if they want any profitable growth at all.
Wikipedia Hacking: “Jagged 85” was a Wikipedia editor that, over the course of seven years from 2005-12 changed over 80,000 Wikipedia pages to inject Islamic thinkers all over science (note: These claims were mostly false, exaggerated or misleading). His edits were so extensive (and referential to each other) that they were often cited in news sources, journal articles and conference papers. He got away with it apparently because no one who read it was able to identify it as “wrong”. He was finally exposed when he started changing pages for video games and anime (and fans DID identify the changes as wrong). If he had not got so cocky he may have changed science history forever. So, no, a muslim scientist did NOT discover gravity before Newton…
Cannes Lions: The advertising festival has announced the winners of their “Titanium” Lion for best overall creative advertising campaigns. You can read about the winners at the link. Note that Burger King won the biggest prize for sponsoring a second tier football club and trying to make them famous. Unfortunately that did not play out in Burger King’s business performance….
Apologizing: Say your company or company executive makes a mistake - or just says something offensive to someone. Should you formally apologize for it? A new study suggests, from a PR perspective, you may not want to. The study described controversial statements made by Rand Paul and Larry Summers, and then added paragraphs saying they either did or did not apologize. When the apology information was added participants said they were LESS likely to want vote for Paul and they were MORE likely to say that Summers should receive negative consequences. Be careful admitting failure in a public setting…
The Evolution of Logos
Personalized Ads: Tobu Lutke (Founder Shopify) sums up how I feel about thisPersonalized ads are one of those things where stated preference and observed preference are almost total opposites. No one thinks that they do, but people really enjoy being catered to.
Daniel Patricio @danielpatricioLegit about to turn back on data sharing iOS 14 so I get more damn relevant ads
Marketing to Employees
Conquest’s Second Law: This is the theory that any organization that is not explicitly right wing, will become more left wing over time. Tyler Cowen explores how that plays out in society and explains why (if true) it also means society if more right wing than is commonly believed.
North Face: China is a huge market, and most employees don’t seem to care much about what is happening in Xinjiang. This allows companies, who are normally very “pro-human rights” to ignore what is happening there. When H&M was pushed out of the China market due to their criticism, North Face “quietly” took down their “statement of concern” about the Uyghurs’ living there. BCI (a coalition of fashion brands and nonprofit organizations which includes Nike and Adidas), Inditex (owner of Zara), PVH (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and L Brands (Owner of Victoria’s Secret) also took down their statements. Unlike the others, after the executives met to discuss the issue, North Face did an “about-face”, and re-published a statement of concern. “Doing the right thing” is easy when your employees are for it and your customers don’t care. It is a lot harder when your employees don’t care and your customers (i.e., China) cares a lot.
Apple: “Apple is letting over 150 countries censor LGBTQ+ Content in the App Store”. But in America…
Business and Strategy
Peloton: Ben Thompson argued that “Phase One” of the internet was about technology. Phase Two was about economics. And now Phase Three is about politics. In May Peloton announced plans to build a $400MM factory in the US. Byrne Hobart ($) argues this is only partially about supply chain - a second driver is that this increases the company’s US-based head count by 2/3rds and concentrates them in one place. The first step in getting a member of congress to care about your business.
COVID and the New World Order
Babies: Nine months after the start of the pandemic, births dropped 8% YoY. We still don’t have the full data for 2021, but “Net Births less Deaths” in February 2021 was down to 43K (vs 872K in the same month in 2020). It is looking like graduating college class of 2065 is going to be tiny…
Birding: The biggest open question about the pandemic is which new behaviors are going to stick and which will revert. “Bird watching” seems like it would be one of the new trends that would revert once we had more interesting things to look at. But the most popular app in the bird watching space (which grew new sign-ups 60% in 2020) is having an even better year in 2021. Birdseed and birdhouse sales are also up this year. Apparently once you bird you can’t go back.
Dungeons & Dragons: Sales of the game were up 33% last year. More and more people I know are playing the game over Zoom. I played when I was younger and I felt like much of the value was an excuse to be in the same room as your friends for extended periods of time doing something. I guess that was not the driver for people last year…
Home Schooling: Went from 3.3% pre covid to 11.1% by Sep 2020. I expect this is one that will revert.
AI, Machine Learning and GPT-3
Feedback: New AI will take direct “to the point” honest feedback and soften it for you so that it is better received. “Your new LinkedIn picture is terrible” becomes…
Colorado: The state passed law requiring all jobs to contain a salary range. Result: Many companies hiring remote workers will hire from anywhere, “except Colorado”
Math Professor Fixes Screen: Watch with Sound on. Very Funny. But man, is this what education has come to?
Hear what you read: Turn the sound on for this one too. Try jumping around the words randomly. Lobsters in Motion!
The End of Fun:
When I started writing the book, I also began collecting quotes that I could consider using at the start of chapters. I am going to start including a few of these from time to time in these briefings
Napoleon: “The definition of military genius is a man who can do the average thing when everyone else around him is losing his mind”
Mark Twain: “A classic book is one everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read”
Wilbur Wright: “…in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that men would not fly for fifty years. Two years later, we ourselves were making flights… I have ever since distrusted myself and have refrained from all prediction…”
Otto von Bismark: "With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and when I have to do with a pirate, I try to be a pirate and a half."
Keep it simple,