Lessons From Aarhus: And Marketing Functionality

A recent night out in Aarhus, Denmark – the trendy late night student town reinforced to me the importance of how great marketing is linked to great functionality. Again. The Scandanavians certainly adore the craft of making something utilitarian – a work of wonder. The devil (and the style)  – is in the detail and the thinking of the user, not just your budget and your boss. So, some Lessons From Aarhus.

Lessons From Aarhus #1. Our cool, hip and simple hotel does not need to be flash.V. simple Scandanavian design. Functionality = location. We stayed in a hotel with a tiny room featuring furniture that folded in on itself to save time. But when it is located 1 minutes walk to a selection of hip uber-bars and gorgeous Cathederal – then who cares?

Lessons from Aarhus #2. Great functionality is about making things easy to use – not just gadgets. The groovey olive oil bottle we bought in a Danish design store features a clever suction pump, every kind of measure and fits the human hand perfectly to avoid any mishaps. It is impossible to pour the wrong amount or make a spill. It is the opposite of flashy or bling. But is a wonder all the same (and demanded a hefty price tag to boot) Continue reading “Lessons From Aarhus: And Marketing Functionality”

the seven greatest marketing books ever sold

The list is purely my subjective opinion and is not based on sales, academic references or reviews. It is of course, a brilliantly selected list and impossible to fault by any sane person with an ounce of marketing knowledge. But, if you disagree and want to swap one of the books below for a different choice, then email me on – with three good reasons why your choice is better than any of mine below. (i.e. you must tell me which book you want to remove from the list). And, if I agree – I will update the list.

I am open to logical reasoning, amusing persuasion and bribary.

the seven greatest marketing books ever sold >>>> Continue reading “the seven greatest marketing books ever sold”

tulipmania and the madness of marketing

For amusement and insight, the stranger bye-ways of history often give some interesting perspective on our present. In the 17th century, Tulip mania or tulipomania was a period in which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulips reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. At the peak of tulip mania in February 1637, tulip contracts sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. At one point 12 acres of farm land were exchanged for one tulip bulb. Continue reading “tulipmania and the madness of marketing”

Andrew Armour’s Top Ten Marketing F-Words.

Ten Marketing F-Words that shape the modern marketer.

1 – Functionality – everything needs to perform brilliantly all the time
2 – Form – and everything needs to be designed to look as well as it performs
3 – Friends – partners & allies unlock unique competitive advantages that are difficult or impossible to replace
4 – Focus – good things happen when you narrow the focus
5 – Free – if you give generously, you will win trust, loyalty and interest.
6 – Fast & First – fast plans, products & services = first in the customers mind & wallet
7 – Fantastic – surprise customers with amazing service
8 – Feel – Some love, passion & urgency needs to accompany the numeracy and logic
9 – Flexibility – In uncertain times, plans need to adapt quickly
10 – The Facebook Generation …

the perfect spice

In the 1600’s – nutmeg, that stuff you can buy in Tesco’s in a little bottle, for less than a £1 – was more precious gram for gram than gold. In fact, the United Kingdom negotiated the purchase of New York from the Dutch king, in return for nutmeg rights in the East Indies.  Weird – but true. The spice was seen as invaluable and commanded a huge price and essentially changed world history ( if you are interested, read the whole story in Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History).

Continue reading “the perfect spice”

Eff’ing F-Words.

Gordon Ramsey got it right – he built a great brand by using F-Words. Do you remember the P words? It was business as the centre, eminating out in a controlling, systematic arc of influence. Then – in a world where the only thing in short supply was human attention – the C-words took over. It was all about the Concept, Channel, Costs, Communication, Care, Change Management. And now – I find my little F-key on the laptop is getting a lot of use. Today, it is all about the Focus (product and brand) being Fast (service), being First (to market) being Fashionable (design), having Friends (business partners) and above all having Function, (product differentiation). And as Hamel points out, it will be the Facebook-generation that will shape the next ten years. There is nothing mystical about the choice of letter of course – but this change of argot does reflect the change in what keeps us on our toes (or keeps us awake at night, it its one of those weeks). The original marketing reflected a militaristic risk, plan – command and control mentality. The nineties saw the rise of the seventies and eighties kids, with a softer approach, and the concern about the tricky human and non-mechanical parts in the marketing system. And now – we’re in an era which combines the two. Not only must you have a cracking product thats better and out before your competition – but you have to understand the ephemeral position of a consumer, who is not only increasingly difficult to communicate to (media fragmentation) – but is now capable of changing brands, products and services more easily than ever before and then telling all their pals about it within a few seconds. There is one last great F-word of course, that may sum up the increasing position of the poor marketer. Frazzled. What were you thinking of?

Functionality 2 V 0 Branding

Why do marketers love marketing communications more than their product and user experience? True, as somebody who spent nearly seven years in agencies – I love a good promotion me. Logo development, advertising, sponsorship. Fantastic. But – despite functionality now being the king of the marketing block, many I come across still care more about the image and the looks, and not so much about what is increasingly driving on-line and off-line consumer behaviour. Ever seen a Blackberry ad? I cannot recall one. I use it everyday but could not even tell you the logo. What it does have and what resonates is that it is solid, reliable, easy and very very rarely does it let me down. That’s the brand in my mind. The word association in my ladder for handhelds. How many milions do mobile companies spend on branding when it is quite clear NOBODY is loyal to any of your brands. Building a better product or making a better service is not quite as much fun as working with the agency. But in the digital world functionality (an F-word) is king.

what is the value of nothing

The famous Oscar Wilde quote is that a ‘cynic is somebody who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing’ . Within digital media and some organisations it would appear to be ‘ we cost everything but have nothing of value’.

The problem is the proliferation of dumb marketing and a trend to monetize the un-monitizable. And sooner or later there will be a reckoning as budgeting sheets that have ‘website advertising revenue’ and ‘content licensing’ fail to materialise. As somebody who spent seven years licensing entertainment rights, I love the notion that great content is king and will always be valuable. But there is a need for honesty and a real hard knowledge of your real value.  Quality material and maximising the back catalogue is what built the industries of human happiness. The music, print, television and film industries show great content being  monetised and syndicated again and again. And again. As an old boss of mine in music publishing once told me ‘ an artist sells hit singles today but a superstar will sell anything for ever and ever’. But with the democratisation of media access and the hyper inflation of brand importance over product functionality, we now have a deluded marketing pack. Just as anyone with no talent  thinks they’re a celebrity so many a marketer with little or nothing to really monetise, suddenly thinks they own the rights to the next Coldplay album or iPod patent. Just as the reality tv celebrity gets a few months in the spotlight before reality dawns, so many a website owner or brand owner has over valued their real value in the market place. Recently, I offered a business a collaborarative opportunity that would have enabled them to very quickly reach a highly relevant, targeted consumer audience running into several hundred thousand per month. All they had to do was work with me on some website material. They are not a media business and their core revenue and business has nothing at all to do with web content or media deals. But, bizarely they adopted a position as if they owned the rights to the next  JK Rowling. ” We need to monetise our content” . Oh I thought. Unfortunately, they did not understand their own value. Their content is not unique, and whilst their brand is OK, I am not going to pay for anything that I can obtain  elsewhere for nothing from a partner who understands that I am a long term promotional partner. I am an enabler to reach their consumers, not a revenue stream. Why don’t they focus on their core business revenue and improve product or service? Why are they trying to turn into a media business? I don’t know, but it seems a worrying road that many are heading down. As Sir Martin Sorrell said last year, there is only so much advertising and sponsorship to go round and the shrinking pie can only be cut in so many ways – and so there will be a painful reckoning. The adage of  the last boom, was ‘the old rules do not apply’ – it was all about the idea, the latest website design, the new – and having a funky dot com name. Otherwise you didn’t ‘get it’. Unfortunately, some of the old rules (you know, boring stuff like value chain, functionality, consumer propositions,  value pricing – that sort of thing) – did apply. And the biggest business in the UK is Tesco.

Great content that attracts actively engaged, relevant audiences are really, really valuable. And people should pay for great content or offer something great in kind. But too many marketers and website owners have at best minimal and at worse, nothing – of real value. But they can tell you how much it costs if you want to work with them.

On Ideas, Truth and Wisdom

” The wise man doubteth often and changes his mind. The fool is obstinate and knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” – Akhenaten


” One must explore deep and believe the incredible to find the new particles of truth floating in an ocean of insignificance.” Joseph Conrad


” If you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas. Then each of us will have two ideas.” Joseph Conrad


” All men dream but not equally. Those that dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible; TE Lawrence

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