Mark Higginson

This short manifesto covers what I hold to be self-evident about modern marketing practices, particularly related to online activity.

This piece about how people's attention flows on the web evidences why I believe the above to be true.

The blog that follows is a series of short posts that taken together provides further support to my arguments.


The web is a social artifact.
Here is a selected collection of related items:


15 May 2016

He has seen declining organic reach and traffic — challenges also being felt at other brand publications like, Coke’s Journey and GE Reporters.

To combat image issues, Walmart bets big on its own newsroom

Here’s another example to add to the collection of big brands who don’t understand how attention works on the web. A blog featuring positive stories that people have to actively choose to visit isn’t going to fix perception problems. I’ve highlighted the nonsense that is ‘brands as publishers’ so many times let me simply juxtapose the above story against this one:

Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

Walmart. Thousands of police calls. You paid the bill.

Here you’re looking at a problem systemic to the business in question. I’d argue that where people come into contact with their ‘newsroom’ all it does is serve to throw these types of problem into sharper relief. People aren’t stupid. They’re aware of blatant propaganda. If you can’t fix the things the public perceive as problems because your business model relies on these to generate profits then you’re in the wrong business.

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04 March 2016

It’s easier to be tempted by stuff that promises you the most money or the most return for your reach. I think they were perhaps underwhelmed by maybe more professional options that promise less payment.

The secret lives of Tumblr teens

This comment is a little disingenuous. The reality is that the major social platforms don’t like you making money if they’re not getting their cut. Logical given this is their only revenue stream and are massively over-valued.

The piece the quote comes from is fantastic in every way and well worth a read. It charts the rise of popular blogs run by teens that are then destroyed by their involvement with affliate marketing. Truly a parable of the modern web.

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02 February 2016

I would watch in awe as she flipped through her snaps, opening and responding to each one in less than a second with a quick selfie face. She answered all 40 of her friends’ snaps in under a minute.

Snapchat like the teens

Great summary of a longer Buzzfeed post where the author observes his sister using Snapchat.

“No conversations…it’s mostly selfies.”

The way she interacts with friends’ messages doesn’t match-up with how ‘brands’ market themselves on Snapchat.

“I don’t really see what they send. I tap through so fast. It’s rapid fire.”

Snapchat needs to generate revenue from advertisers. Yet the dominant user behaviours appear fundamentally incompatible with how advertising operates in this medium.

“Industrialization made it so that people could live farther and farther apart from each other, which is weird for social animals like humans and particularly difficult for teenagers for whom that social connection is the most important thing in their lives.”

People’s needs and the behaviours that manifest as a result on social platforms aren’t congruent with a model of marketing that is still based on the ‘broadcasting’ of messages en masse.

Let me know what you think on Twitter


22 September 2015

At present, Nescafé.com plays host to a wincingly earnest collection of visual puns and feel-good images designed to promote the company’s coffee, however the hope is that, over time, it will be the brand’s fans that populate its content grid.

Nescafé declares the brand website ‘dead’ as it moves to Tumblr

Nescafé has changed its website. It’s based on tumblr and features a load of ‘content’ squares that can be clicked on. They announced this by saying “the brand is looking to engage in owned media territory”. Whatever that means.

Here’s the thing: a ubiquitous brand like Nescafé is well-known because of its availability not due to any passion people feel for it. Therefore to think that re-structuring the corporate site will somehow make the brand “much more inclusive… allow conversations… (and the) possibility to co-create” is just a reiteration of some of the more absurd concepts of social media marketing.

Have a look at the hashtag #itallstarts around which Nescafé attempts to gather interest. Next to no one uses it who isn’t already associated with Nescafé’s marketing.

The fact the web allows for a direct connection between groups of people doesn’t directly map to the desire of brand marketers to have customers publicly demonstrate enthusiasm for their product. To do so the product must have cachet and infer some kind of positive status upon the individual. Nescafé doesn’t have this.

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11 August 2015

Brands are increasingly developing content ‘micro-hubs’ housing aggregated content from their social channels.

Renting social is good, but owning is better

Here’s an example of how agencies still want their clients to believe notions that are completely and obviously at odds with reality.

The statement above is presented with no supporting evidence. ‘Micro-sites’ have been de rigeur for years now. It’s what agencies always do because of the associated planning, design, build and marketing fees. They also don’t work, appearing and disappearing as campaigns start and end, failing to sustain interest.

For more on this read my award-winning post about Coca-Cola’s attempt to build a ‘hub’, with supporting data, and in particular do refer to the comments.

These places are the antithesis of a hub. Consider the following:

“Snickers and Pepsi have both created successful content hubs, where their communities can go to add, discover, and share content.”

‘Success’ is undefined in this context. The only example linked to in the piece quoted above is the Snickers website. You should visit it, then ask yourself:

Why would I go back?
Would I share anything on this site with my friends?
Where on earth is the ‘community’?

We know the answer and we don’t have to guess. Using a service such as Ahrefs we can see what content on this domain is linked to or shared.

In the post the author suggests that due to social platforms forcing ‘brands’ to spend money to reach people then brands must ‘own’ their ‘content’ on their own ‘hub’. He then goes on to suggest the challenge is then getting people to visit these hubs… by using paid media such as that provided by Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Check out the Snickers Twitter account. This is not a platform that restricts ‘organic reach’. 203,000 followers yet the favourites and retweets barely ever top double figures.

A couple of years back I took apart a previous presentation by We Are Social about work performed for Jaguar you can read here. They’d claimed that Jaguar was the third most engaged with UK brand on Facebook. I pointed out that most popular city for ‘fans’ of the Page was New Delhi and wondered how many cars Jaguar sold there annually.

Note that the author states “the days of vast organic reach on Facebook and other social channels are over”. This is pure revisionism. If you look at the Jaguar Page from back then around 3% of followers interacted in some way Facebook measured. This is really low. It’s even lower now, 0.6% at time of writing, but to claim ‘vast organic reach’ is yet another false narrative.

The author cites “creating genuine dialogue” as a goal but no evidence of this is presented because none exists. Furthermore I would challenge the statement “the aim of marketers still needs to be on facilitating conversations”. No client hires me to ‘facilitate conversations’. They hire me to increase sales. Lose sight of that and you’re lost in the fog of proxy measures of success.

Let me know what you think on Twitter