I help businesses become brands. Because brand rich businesses – are rich businesses.
First, I stop businesses saying nothing. Here are two ways to say nothing in business:
- Say Nothing. The marketing is anodyne. I have no idea why they’re even telling me what they just told me, or indeed anybody. Immediately after I read it I feel pissed off that I gave a few seconds of my life to read such vacuous drivel. God it’s boring! And I remember… nothing.
- Say Everything. These businesses have no idea what to say. So they tell us that they are the leading, best, most experienced, best trained, most specialist, customer friendly, most accredited and complete solution provider of all. And I remember… nothing.
Here’s how to say everything, properly:
Isolate and codify the singular idea or concept that you must then come to own inside the mind of the prospect. Then integrate to become that brand. Then, work out the best ways for this brand to to sell these things, to these people, at this time.
Let me know if I can help you.
The cheeky LinkedIn AI thing asked me:
‘How to choose the right tone for copywriting for different industries…’ I said this:
Hmm; I think the most common mistake (some) copywriters make is forgetting that we’re just talking to people. All industries are the same, really. Our copy should be palatable. Digestible. Enticing and pleasant to consume. Well paced and understandable.
We attract and keep people engaged by being interesting don’t we? In any industry. Sorry this sounds obvious. But lots of copy I see is just selling, jargon, in a ‘posh voice’, all about me and – well – just boring.
Honestly, when pondering ‘copywriting tone’ I’d start with reminding yourself what you enjoy reading. And write like that. It’s more nuanced of course. I just think that we forget the above.
You cook what you like eating. So write what you like reading.
In Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Oliver had no qualms about asking for more gruel. He didn’t get any. Instead, he got hit on the head with a spoon.
180 years later, when those bloody marketers ask you for more budget this year than last, you should do exactly the same. Say, ‘no’ I mean. Not twat them on the head with a spoon.
Start with NO.
Anyhow; here’s why you should start with ‘no’.
The more compelling, motivating, simple, consistent, differentiated and distinctive your (owned) brand position is, the LESS you have to spend on marketing. Because prospects more easily understand why you are different and better and why to choose you. So the MORE your sales should increase. And the MORE profit you should make.
A good marketer for a great brand will ask for LESS marketing budget year on year (as a proportion of turnover), because the brand is strong. Additional budget is just not needed.
Those are the headlines. And it’s nuanced. Everything is. But a decent brand and marketing bod will explore and exploit this undeniable truth in detail with you.
It’s Your Fault.
So there you go. The reason you need LESS marketing spend as a proportion of turnover year-on-year is because you’re a strong brand. Unless of course, you’re not.you’re not. Then you do have to give your marketers more money year on year to just shout louder than the rest.
But then this silly, boring, naive profit erosion is not really (just) their fault, is it?
I am chatting about this important insight to a friend right now.
Lots of little businesses want to be bigger businesses. But many aren’t ready because they’re not very good little businesses. The bad bits of who and what they are when they are little, stay bad when they’re big. Because unfortunately, Shit Scales.
This insight is important. Because lots of frustrated little businesses would become much better bigger businesses if they sorted their small business out first. And that’s why my friend is exploring building his own business around precisely this insight.
He’s exploring helping smaller businesses not to just blindly chase growth, as so many business and the consultants that advise them do. He is pondering how best to focus on building a really Great smaller business – first.
Because whilst the bad news is that Shit Scales. The good news is that Great scales too.
I realised quite recently that any Professional Confidence I have comes not just from knowing more. It is bolstered just as potently by me being comfortable with, and openly admitting, what I don’t know.
Never in my life have I been more comfortable saying, ‘I haven’t got a fucking clue…’ than I am today.
I used to feel vulnerable when I didn’t know about the next big thing or the last big thing.
I find saying, “I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about…’ quite cathartic, actually.
Try it! It might work for you, too.
I was 15 when I learned about girls by reading the problem pages of Jackie Magazine. It’s all-knowing agony aunts were mythical oracles Cathy and Claire.
I read Jackie on frosty paper rounds. Hunched in the hallway of Blueberry Apartments. And as the sun rose, so too did my eyebrows as I learned about periods, horrid boys, makeup and a seeming epidemic of one-boob-bigger-than-the-other.
I mention this with particular reference to ‘all knowing’. You see, I am not even sure Cathy or Claire were real. Scribbling sincerely at their little desks. Settling the unsettled. Inadvertently shaping the assumptions of curious young boys on paper rounds. And yet I read, digested and learned.
I read the work of similar oracles today. Writers of business books. Spouting about marketing, brand and the good old days of advertising. Some writers are interesting. Some are not. I have to be astute enough to work out which is which, and who has one-brain-bigger-than-the-other. Then work out how this influences me as an Associate Brand Director. Making the things that really matter about your business more interesting to those we need to engage.
And as I’m writing a book in 2024, I sometimes wonder whose perceptions I might be shaping in the future. If indeed I’m read at all. On frosty paper rounds. Hunched in hallways. Or indeed anywhere else.
Time will tell.
If your email newsletter isn’t interesting. And few people are interested in reading it (an obvious consequence). It’s because you’re sat in the wrong chair.
You’re sitting in the ‘Marketer’ chair. When you should be sitting in the ‘Publisher’ chair.
Marketing is fundamentally about attracting and persuading prospects to buy things. Publishing is about building and holding the ongoing attention of a grateful, interested ready-to-refer readership.
Sit in the publisher chair. Be generous. Give 10x more than you ask for. Teach them something. Gift them something. Inspire them. Make them laugh. Be patient. All you’re really trying to do is stay front-of-mind and tip-of-tongue until they’re ready to buy. 99.9% of readers are ‘not yets’. So lean back. Stop selling. And for goodness sake stop waffling on all about yourself. It’s boring.
Shift chairs. Don’t sit in the ‘Marketer’ chair. Sit in the ‘Publisher’ chair instead.
LinkedIn sometimes asks me and other experts (I know…) to answer questions.
A recent one was, “What’s the difference between a Brand Story and a Brand Message?”
I wrote this:
“Blimey. I’m not sure I know, care, or care to know. And if I don’t, I’m sure consumers don’t either. Maybe someone made them up? All I’ve got is that the Brand Story is justification of the appropriateness of YOU as the sole deliverer of the change you want to make. And the Brand Message is the memorable distillation of the above. Yep. That’ll do.”
Goodness… Don’t people overcomplicate things?
As a younger man, I sometimes wore glasses when I didn’t need to. Because John Lennon wore glasses. Now I need glasses to read, I sometimes can’t wear them. Like when showering.
So why don’t shampoo, conditioner and body-wash packaging give me BIG FONTS? My arms are only so long, guys.
Many businesses fight a linear battle of better. Heads down, polishing away at the same pissy little things as each other. Marginal gains that we neither notice nor care about. If they got their heads up, thought more interestingly and just… differently. Magic happens.
After all, as we all know, it’s better to be different than it is to be better.
Mick Hucknall was born 1 mile from where I was. In Denton. In Manchester. Liam Gallagher was born 6 miles away. In Burnage.
So, clearly, I am very nearly one the best singers in the world. I missed by a mile or six.
This confused, voyeuristic, sycophantic, swirling reasoning as to why I am not one of the best singers in the world is bonkers.
But this bonkersness was part of my internal dialogue as a younger man. My mediocrity, I told myself, was a quirk of fate. Not down to me being lazy, moany, jealous, drunk, asleep, unfocussed, uncommitted and undisciplined. And it was not down to me refusing to stare what I really wanted in the eye, before chasing it down with the focus and ferocity of a starving lion.
No. It was fate.
I’m different now. I know myself better. And as I approach 2024 my toes teeter nervously towards the change I want to see.
At least. At last. I’m moving.
Because I think I may have finally realised that the change I went to see, is the change that only I can make.