While much of the publishing industry still has a problem with the concept of native advertising, I reckon it remains an excellent opportunity for B2B organisations to take advantage and make it part of their content marketing strategy, in order to gain profile and reinforce the infamous ‘thought-leader’ status.

The controversy is really around how content paid for by a commercial business is, or isn’t, distinguishable from independent editorial. Some publishers insist on the content being labelled ‘Sponsored Content’ (here’s an example from IBM), some are less obvious and only ask for final editorial sign-off, while others will have no restrictions at all.

Publishing purists will shake their heads and talk about editorial independence and the death of true journalism, and given my publishing background I have some sympathy. But actually the term ‘publishing purist’, with a very few exceptions in B2B media, is a bit of an oxymoron. (As examined in Advertising Age’s article on the Wall Street Journal’s native advertising plans). Most specialist B2B publishers are fairly quick to turn to bend to commercial pressures. As a B2B marketer, the important element is that you are getting your message across to your target market within the context of a respectable industry vehicle.

Native advertising is out there, the publishing industry may still have issues with it, but it’s a legitimate and perfectly acceptable and effective route to market for B2B organisations.

The decision to remove To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men from GCSE exam course content is clearly a good one. Both books were on my GCSE reading list, over thirty years ago, and I am amazed that they are still being churned out for analysis.

Yes, they’re both undoubtedly classics, but there have been many books published over the past 50 years that are more relevant and, frankly, more interesting and better written than these. Authors who immediately spring to mind include Iris Murdoch, Howard Jacobson, Julian Barnes, and Iain Banks.

The decision has caused controversy, but if anyone is in any doubt that it’s correct I would refer them to this tweet:

I rest my case.


“There’s no more B2B or B2C: It’s H2H – Human to Human”

The above has appeared in my Twitter timeline several times over the past few days, and is reference to an article by Bryan Kramer, I imagine following a presentation at one of the digital conferences that seem to be springing up around the globe on a daily basis. Many of those who I respect and follow have retweeted the image, declaring the message to be the best thing since cookies.

It’s becoming obvious that presenters are running out of sensible things to say at these events and are resorting to the creating random adages with which to amaze their gullible audiences.

Bryan’s right of course, in as much as most purchases involve a degree of emotion, and therefore human reasoning and everything that goes with it.

But where Bryan gets it so wrong, is implying that this is a new phenomenon, and that just because digital marketing and social media now exist, the rules of engagement have changed. They haven’t. Experienced face-to-face B2B salespeople, for example, will tell you that the purchaser buys the salesperson first, and then the product.

Please stop pretending that digital marketing has changed the basics concepts of sales and marketing. It is undoubtedly a fantastic tool offering a  tremendous wealth of riches, more than ever before, to use to achieve our goals. And while I  may have been slightly more polite than the first comment in response to the article, it is a good summary:

“.. another digital marketer gets all fluffy, while completely missing the bigger picture on business, sales, and lead generation.”

The bottom line –  B2B marketing is based on ‘needs’, B2C marketing is based on ‘wants’. Incredibly, humans are involved in both, and have been for many, many years.

I have never, ever consumed a Tall Latte. I certainly have never, ever purchased a Tall Latte from Starbucks, and what’s more, Starbucks know this. They know that I drink, far too many, black Americano coffees.

I have however, purchased Baker’s 3Kg Dog Food. I have, in fact, purchased Baker’s 3Kg Dog Food from Tesco, and they also know it.

Both Starbucks and Tesco have loyalty cards to which I am signed up, which is how they know my buying habits, and both have sent me special offers. Tesco’s, 75p off of Baker’s 3Kg Dog Food, Starbuck’s a quid off of a Tall Latte.(Interestingly the Starbuck’s offer comes via email, Tesco’s by post. It doesn’t matter.)

Starbucks – this is 2014, you are an extremely profitable company and have a big marketing budget. Please spend it on some expertise. Patronising rant over.

It’s that time of year when the great, good and stupid of marketing publish articles along the lines of “Best Ways to Succeed with Social Media Marketing in 2014″, “Five Trends Coming Our Way in 2014″ and “The 2014 Ecommerce Marketing Checklist”. Being a mere simple marketing mortal, I can’t compete with their clearly unchallengable knowledge and foresight, but I can set out my hopes for the following 12 months. Here we go:

1/ I hope that Website usability is put at the forefront of every digital strategy

No organisation should even consider a digital marketing strategy until they have conducted a website usability audit. There’s really no point at all in engaging in SEO, email marketing, social media or alike if a website fails to provide the user with what they want, preferably within 2 or 3 clicks. If a visitor is looking for a medium , red widget, it should be really clear how to find  medium, red widget on a site. Quickly, through obvious navigation.

2/ I hope that fewer buzzwords and buzz phrases are invented and more time and energy invested into marketing basics

To Quote the great David Ogilvy: “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

Big data, gamification, SoLoMo, snackable contnet, immersive experience, bleeding edge. Let’s stop talking rubbish and start marketing, you can be innovative without talking bollocks.

3/ I hope that companies market according to their needs, not what they think is expected

Contrary to what many will tell you, social media, for example, is not a tactic suited to all organisations. Companies should assess their needs, their budgets, and produce a marketing plan accordingly. Digital’s great, but new technologies and methodoligies shouldn’t be made to fit if not appropriate.

Following on…….

4/ I hope that sales and marketing teams work together, recognising the common goal

Sounds obvious, but many companies have organisational structures that prevent this. Sales plans and marketing plans should all stem from one central business plan. Marketing is not an administrative department, and sales is a two-way process, feeding back market intelligence.

5/  I hope publishers begin to recognise the value of good content again

(Maybe a bit out of place in this list, although media and marketing are unavoidably linked, but please excuse my self-indulgence).

If a publisher produces good content it has value. Sell it. By all means use advertising and sponsorship led business models, but good content should not be prostituted in favour of the agency’s shilling. Be a publisher, not a pimp.

6/ I hope ‘marketing’ starts to grow-up

Marketing continues to evolve, but is still far from grown-up. For all the specialist conferences, webinars, white papers, and websites, the discipline is still mishandled, and in many cases the people who lead it are arrogant and self-promoting. In general they are too keen to try and fabricate innovation, rather than sit back and review what they already have – a tremendous wealth of riches, more than ever before to use to achieve their goals.  Innovation is important, but innovation for innovation’s sake is not.

Let 2014 be the year of sensible marketing, using all the many tools we now have at our disposal, but remembering the basics such as features and benefits, pricing, testing and value proposition. Let 2014 be the year where marketing starts to grow up.

Last Thursday Facebook announced, somewhat quietly, major changes to their privacy settings. Posted on their Newsroom page under ‘Finishing the removal of an old search setting’, the article explains that users will no longer be able to protect their profiles from the general public, citing the need to improve user experience as the reason. Many commentators and informed users have taken offence at this, complaining of potential invasion of privacy due to the profile visability being removed from the user’s control. 

I understand the concern and certainly the low key method of informing users of the change, and the rather spurious reason given, show Facebook up in a poor light. However, Facebook are a commercial organisation, and are attempting to position themselves as a kind of social media search engine, and you can’t do that by hiding personal data. Facebook is also free to use, and if you don’t want to pay the price of allowing the world to see if you’re in a relationship or where you went to school the answer is quite simple – don’t use it.


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