Marketing for
real people
Tell me what it is, why I’d want one and how to get it. That’s all I give a monkey’s
about. If you can do that in a humorous, dramatic or otherwise attention-grabbing
way then, fine, knock yourself out. Please don’t talk to me in Latin, use obtuse images
or hit me with stuff that goes way over my head because I just don’t care enough about
you or your product to bother trying to understand your clever rubbish.
In that one paragraph you have all the rules of advertising you will ever
need. Be clear, tell people what the benefit to them is and then make it very
easy for them to buy from you. Ad agencies argue that advertising is about
building brands too. There is truth in this but, frankly, brand is built more
powerfully by your shop, your people in it and your store culture. Slick
eye-candy advertising is simply not important.
Basic brands such as easyJet and Poundland tell you what they are for, why
you would want to use them and how to do business with them. Both
those brands are sales heroes. Both are never going to win awards for the
glossiness of their advertising. On the other hand, IKEA and Sainsbury’s
do the same thing but with a bigger budget, and arguably greater creative
finesse, but to the same effect.
Advertising made simple
Media commentator Charlie Brooker wrote in his Guardian blog:
Marketing is the art of associating products with ideas to bamboozle consumers.
People in marketing often talk about the ‘personality’ of a given product. A biscuit
pa r t t h r e e c u s t o m e r
might be ‘reassuring and sensual’; a brand of shoe may exhibit ‘anarchic yet inquisi-
tive’ tendencies. Marketers have built their worldview on such thinking, despite it
being precisely the sort of babble a madman might come up with following years alone
in an isolated cottage, during which time he falls in love with a fork and decides the
lightbulbs are conspiring against him.’
And, of course, he’s right.
Beauty has its place
There is space for the beautiful those breathtaking adverts that force
their way into your awareness. But these are very much the exception that
rather proves the rule: you remember these because they are exceptional.
Orange, the mobile phone network, has built a hugely successful brand
without ever showing a picture of a telephone in its advertising (there
was one, once, but Motorola were paying and forced the issue, but even
then the phone featured was only shown as an x-ray image). You might
think this goes against the simple doctrine I’ve outlined here. It doesn’t.
Orange’s adverts always tell you what they are for (mobile communica-
tions), they always focus on one clearly defined benefit at a time (say the
joy of swapping pictures on a mobile), and then they put a great big phone
number up on screen and suggest interested punters might like to ring that
to become an Orange customer.
Marketing things to make and do
Marketing is not a mythical black art, it is nothing more, or less, than a
common sense framework: a framework into which adverts and promo-
tions can be fitted. Marketing theory is actually very simple. The skill,
especially in the case of retail, is not in cleverly executing the practice of
marketing but rather it is in trusting your gut feel to keep things simple.
Marketing is about understanding who your customers are, where they
can be found, what they want, and how much they will pay to satisfy those
wants. That’s really kind of it.
This sets up a series of questions. Who are we selling to? How do we
tell them about our product? What will they pay for it? Notice how these
questions form a chain? The answer to the first informs the second which

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