Mark Higginson

The web is a social artifact.

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 highlights the fundamental misunderstanding that causes almost all online marketing to be ineffective.

The blog that follows consists of a series of short posts that support my arguments.


06 January 2018

Spiegel has a portrait of Jobs hanging in his office.

The Snapping Point

Bizarre isn’t it. This article seeks to establish weak parallels between the co-founder of Snapchat and Steve Jobs. It does so by highlighting that Spiegel has a portrait of Jobs hanging in his office and has an apparently annoying tendency to micro-manage. Presumably this is to give us a sense of confidence in his leadership ability.

I haven’t checked but I’m betting Jobs didn’t hang the portrait of some other technology visionary on his wall, nor seek to have this mentioned in the press.

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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.

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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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