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December 2023

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I used to do this in business. Fiddling. Meddling. Polishing. Trying to get some really fine detail ‘just right’.

“Hang on… the blue is a teeny bit darker here – than there…”

…when no one notices really. No one cares. And I was doing things like this when I really should have been getting on with bigger (harder!) strategic stuff. The chunkier work. Work that gets results and matters most.

I’m a big fan of going the extra mile and trying so very hard to deliver excellence in the minutiae. But not if it paralyses progress. Which it sometimes did for me.

The cheeky question I posed a few weeks ago has been quoted back at me a few times now. It was:

“Why are marketing degrees 3 years long? When it takes 3 seconds to say, ‘As a marketer, just randomly post something your company did on LinkedIn. Oh, and say you’re proud of it too, if you want.'”

Hmm! Here’s a related point. About events you might go to. And brand.

If you really are a brand then you have a purpose, a point and beliefs. You’re set on changing something in a way that only you can.

So, on LinkedIn, instead of saying, ‘We went to a thing and it was great.’ If you really must tell us you went to a thing, tell us how people you met there, experiences you had there or how things you learned there help you  accelerate and/or double down on the delivery of why you exist… your brand.

Because if you don’t, that age old question that all marketers (really should) hate, will pop into the minds of every single blibbing person that ever blibbing reads that you went to a thing.

“So what?”

Merry Christmas.

It’s annoying that there is no such thing as a perfectly delivered brand, at every utterance and touchpoint. Nevertheless, we must aways try.

Brand Strategy is the place to start. This is working out how to get them to think about you in the way you want them to think about you.

(Getting them = Strategy. Them = Market(s). Think about you = Brand).

Everybody in the business has a job to do with the delivery of Brand Strategy. But as they’re individuals, the fundamental requirements of a perfectly delivered brand (one aligned voice/purpose, simplicity, precision, consistent message, tone and behaviour…) can never be, well, perfect.

And I think acknowledging this and accepting there will always be conflict and maverick interpretation and behaviour to manage in delivery is best for everyone. To minimise frustrations. And anyway, so long as you get things 80% right, it’s normally OK.

Yes it’s a bugger that you can have a perfectly defined brand, but never a perfectly delivered one. But that’s just the way it is.

I’m lucky. I’ve learned from world class Brand Builders and Marketers. And these masters of the art were universal in their appreciation of the most important part of any business. And it’s neither Brand nor Marketing.

It’s Sales.

Properly understanding how Brand and Marketing are different to Sales is important. It’s important so you can optimise how they work together. Because only then can you begin to address the stickiest business communications challenge of all – Brand Integration (Believing In and Becoming the Brand).

And why is Believing in and Becoming a Brand important? Because Brand Rich Businesses – Are Rich Businesses.

If Sales teams are dogs, Brand and Marketing teams are cats. Or vice versa. It doesn’t matter. ‘Point is; they’re different animals. Here’s how:

  1. Sales think mostly short-term. Marketing and Brand think long term (and short term).
  2. Sales are reactive to objections and barriers. Marketing and Brand are proactive because they must identify, anticipate and satisfy understood customer requirements (profitably).
  3. Sales seek familiarity, safety and connection. Brand and Marketing seek different, stand-out and downright weird.
  4. Sales is hands on and practical. Marketing and Brand are (more) hands off, analytical, strategic and principles-led.
  5. Sales thinks about selling. Brand and Marketing will think about story, juxtaposition with the segmented competitive set, crafting perceptions and driving behaviour and preference.
  6. Sales is urgent. Brand and Marketing is patient.

None of these are 100% one way or the other. And some areas of the business are impacted equally. Product and service development, for example. But recognising difference leads to a more harmonious day-to-day. And such harmony is crucial because Brand makes Marketing easier, and Marketing makes Sales easier, so more harmony means that, ultimately, the business wins.

So here’s to acknowledging that Brand, Marketing and Sales are indeed very different. Here’s to understanding, unravelling, fathoming and codifying the trickiest part of all brand work – Brand Integration.

And here’s to the universal, ultimate goal – to sell more.

PS. If Brand and Marketing teams were cats, they’d be two different types of cat. But that’s not for now. Another time.

I’ve drunk malt whisky for 20 years. I don’t like blended whisky because, to me, it almost always tastes watery. That said, I do reluctantly admit that my 8,000 tastebuds are being influenced – hoodwinked, even – beyond physical taste alone. By one, teensy four letter word.

Malt.

The inclusion of that one, teensy four letter word improves the taste for me. I’m sure of it. But this story of hoodwinked tastebuds does not end there. Because my tastebud hoodwinking encounters took a further, unexpected turn just last month.

You see, I recently read that Christopher Hitchens, a man whose mind and motives I admire beyond anyone,  adored Johnnie Walker Black Label. And almost instantaneously, I fell in love with this ‘amber restorative’ (Christopher’s words, not mine) in a way that outran my 20 year love affair with malt whisky, in seconds.

I fell in love with Christopher’s story of never taking the trouble to develop a taste for single malt because, ‘when you are voyaging in rough countries it won’t be easily available.’ His raw, bold, single-mindedness present not just in his words now, but in his whisky choice as well.

I bought a bottle of this blended non-malt the following day. And I now love and admire Johnnie Walker Black Label with the same intensity as I love and admire the man that introduced me to it. Even though when Christopher was kind enough to do so, he’d been dead for 12 years.

So why am I telling this tale?

It is because most marketing is boring and useless for the exact same reason that  most taste tests are boring and useless.

Tales like the one above illustrate the the utter absurdity of the logical business communicator. Communicators that say, ‘We do this for these people’, or ‘This is why we think we’re better’ or ‘We did this today’.

It’s all so dull. What we love as humans is story, emotion, character, love, passion, identity and heroes – in and around our businesses and brands. And I’d go further.

If your marketing isn’t genuinely different and a bit weird, in the exact same way that one teensy four letter word and he who drinks it play a part in how whisky tastes to me. If all you marketing is doing is telling me what you do, who for, why you think you’re better and what you did today – it’s largely useless. Because it’s utterly boring. And boring is rarely noticed and never remembered – so it cannot be chosen.

If all you’re doing as a marketer is chronicling what, who for and what you did today – stop now. Relax. Take a deep breath. Grab a glass of amber restorative. And start over tomorrow.

We’re never in the middle of nowhere. Obviously. We’re always in the middle of somewhere. And when we remind ourselves of this; tasks, days, businesses and lives really can feel easier.

I help businesses get noticed remembered and chosen. Businesses tell me the milestones they want to aim for and achieve. Deliverables. Events. Targets. And that’s super! But if all they look at is the next milestone, that’s disconcerting. Unsettling. Desperate even. They can feel lost because they are neither here (where they came from) nor there (where they’re going).

That’s why I remind business owners that – today and every day – they are in a phase, and that each phase has a name.

It’s OK to feel unprepared in a phase called Preparation. It’s natural to feel uncertain in a phase called Uncertainty. It’s fine to have grown pain in a Growth Phase.

That kind of thing.

We’re never in the middle of nowhere. Obviously. We’re always in the middle of somewhere. And when we remind ourselves of this; tasks, days, businesses and lives really can feel easier.

Here’s a present for your kids. If they are something-teen years old or a little bit older, and want to work in the Creative Industries.

So how do young creatives stand out when job hunting? Well, here’s what I know from interviewing hundreds of creative people over 20 years.

In short, you are what you do.

Not what you say.

I ran my own design and marketing agencies for 20 years. I interviewed hundreds of designers. Designers that said they ADORED design. Designers that tried to convince me they were BORN to design. DRIVEN to design. OBSESSED with design. They LOVED design. They had ENDLESS OPINIONS on design. Or marketing and advertising, of course.

So I’d ask when their most current in-portfolio work was actually done.

“Oh. When I graduated.” They’d say. “Last year.”

“And these endless opinions you have.”

I’d mention.

“Where do you house them? Where’s your daily blog?”

I’d ask.

“My what?”

They’d say.

“Next.” Said I.

OK so not all of that was said out loud.

But honestly, this is a true account of what happened – almost always.

Passion is passion.

Compulsion is compulsion.

Obsession is obsession.

Action is action.

The good news about this is that if you really are super serious about working in the Creative Industries, you can start today.

And before you know it – and this is a shame for the industry but brilliant for you – you’ll be way, way ahead of the rest.

In job search, as in life, you are what you do. Not what you say.

So what do you buy a copywriter for Christmas?

There’s this invaluable, invisible tool called an Attention-ometer.

It senses how the ‘attention’ of the reader rises and falls throughout the writing.

As a general rule, attention should rise sharply and quickly at the start. Thereafter, attention ebbs and flows. Calm preparatory moments. Sharp peaks. Sentences that build to arresting mini-explosions. (They make you think). And a blisteringly memorable, attention-peaking crescendo.

An Attention-ometer  is controlled by the instincts and intuition of the writer. No batteries.

And even though I made it up, and you can’t get one from Amazon, if you want to drive a reader through your words, to the end, great copywriters do need an Attention-ometer.

You could ask Father Christmas for one if you (or someone you know) would like one. But the best copywriters have one already. You know who they are.

Merry Christmas.

I chatted to this business owner last week. They said,

“You know what, when I twat my hand with this big hammer, it hurts. Who’d have thought that would happen?”

OK, they didn’t say that. They said this. Which is the same thing:

“You know what, no matter how often and how noisily I talk about my business -in the same way as, and just as often and noisily as they talk about their business – I don’t get noticed. Who’d have thought that would happen?”

This is why most marketers, and most marketing, are rubbish.

If all YOU do and say, is what THEY do and say, of course you’re not going to get noticed. It feels like you’re marketing. But you’re not.

So in the same way that you shouldn’t be surprised when twatting your hand with a hammer hurts. Also don’t be surprised when saying the same as every bugger else doesn’t get you noticed. No matter how much time and money you spend.

Merry Christmas.

The best thing about my being a (fractional) Brand and Marketing Director is…

  • Because I’m not there every day, clients gets Fresh, Profit-boosting, Board-level Brand and Marketing Leadership – with palatable investment.

The worst thing about my being a (fractional) Brand and Marketing Director is…

  • Because I’m not there every day, clients can get easily get Dragged Back to Average.

That’s why I help business leadership develop Brand Leadership Skills.

Great Brands get noticed, remembered and chosen. But if the business owners and top-level leaders don’t understand, support and lead the Brand effort, ultimately, the business will get Dragged Back to Average.

And believe me, that’s such a boring, frustrating and uninteresting place to be – for everybody.

Build a brand. Lead it. Make more money. Then never, ever allow yourself to get Dragged Back to Average.