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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Some curious paradoxes – and one moral

I am not quite old enough to remember the days when the German Mark was so devalued that you needed a wheelbarrow-full to buy a loaf of bread.

But I do know that it all started with printing money – Mugabe economics – which is what Gordon Brown has resorted to

The Daily Mash came out with a good take on this the other day.

“So the Bank of England will today start pumping £75 billion of brand new cash into the economy. It's going to do this by giving it to the high street banks we already own so they can lend it back to us with interest.

Many economists have written long, complicated articles explaining why this is a good idea, but no-one has, as yet explained, why it's a better idea than just giving each of us twelve and a half grand of free money to spend on cars and gin.

Well, Mr Economist?”

As I mentioned, two weeks ago I did a talk for the Market Research Society. Much of it revolved around something said by the gent above, Leo Burnett, for whom I worked in the early 60’s in my first job in London.

“The public does not know what it wants … there is no sure way of finding out until the idea is exposed under normal conditions of sale. If people could tell you in advance what they want, there would never have been a wheel, a lever, much less an automobile, an airplane or a TV set.”

I was reminded of this when reading about a self-serving piece of research in the Aussie trade rag, B & T. which claimed that outdoor branding advertising would save the banks, and that the least effective way of banks gaining the public’s trust is on-line.

Immediately below this an equally self-serving piece said that PR is better than advertising.

Ignoring the fact that both pieces of research were probably conducted among 23 resident marsupials of Rottnest island, and the fact that almost all bank advertising is meaningless pap, and the fact that everybody and his mother is an instant advertising expert, what is a body to do?

Especially when yesterday I also read that for the first time in 60 years, US direct mail volumes are down, whilst online continues to thrive. What is a body to do?

Here's a hint. Among the people who are coining it online by the million, the online entrepreneurs I was talking to two and half weeks ago in Washington, the smartest are looking at direct mail.

They realise, unlike so many of the cluckheads rubbing marketing departments, that there is no one-weapon answer.

They realise, unlike the big-firm know-nothings whose lives are governed by corporate guidelines and interminable, pointless meetings**, that you just have to go on what works.

So THAT is what a body has to do. Go on results. Not on phoney research. Not on the current fad in marketing La-La land.

I am off to Warsaw today, where I shall say what I have been saying for a long time, even if one half of the people weren't listening and the other half were busy rewriting their wanky "strapline".

Focus on three things – only. Get more customers. Get them to buy more. Keep them longer.

There are no other ways to make more money. If what you plan does not do at least one of them, save your money. You're going to need it.

** Not long ago I was in a meeting where 12 people - TWELVE - were discussing a direct mail campaign. There's a lot of corporate flab to be cut away yet, friends.

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