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.


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.

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22 June 2015

Most of their customers preferred to add the salespeople on WeChat directly rather than follow the official store account.

Pictures of Chinese People Scanning QR Codes

I haven’t seen enough research to know if this is a cultural peculiarity. Certainly the approach of Western brands is wedded to a broadcast model, unless specifically dealing with customer service issues where an individual representing the business may identify themselves.

This model, of following ‘official’ profiles is the antithesis of social media. It gets little to no response yet is relentlessly pursued due to marketers’ obsession with control of messaging. Rather than seeing their role as one of enabling and supporting customer facing personnel, or even being customer facing themselves, marketers continue trying to fit new media into existing hierarchical structures.

The example given piqued my interest as I was interested in a particular forthcoming release coming in the Clark’s Trigenic range of footwear. This is not a brand I’d usually consider purchasing as their general design work is way behind the Trigenics. I happened to be in a store purchasing shoes for my infant son so asked about the range, release dates, etc. The sales assistant knew no more than I did. The limit of what they can offer is a ‘deliver to store’ option.

There was no facility for taking my details, letting me know availability, ensuring that as I’d bothered to enquire I’d be able to get the pair I wanted if numbers were limited, etc. It renders their website an entirely self-serve proposition and their in-store assistants as offering little more than stock control.

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21 June 2015

Your definitive guide to the biggest UK digital agencies

Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2015

Marketing being marketing the brazen hubris of the industry comes as no surprise. This is exemplified by Econsultancy’s guide to the ‘top’ digital agencies. The rankings are arranged by the amount these agencies have managed to bill their clients. What this measures is what has worked for the agency, not their clients.

The commentary accompanying the report states:

“… the average fee income has increased by 25%”.

Presumably with a commensurately larger multiplier in the sales of the businesses for whom these agencies produced work?

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07 May 2015

Viewership dropped an average of 30 percent to 50 percent since then, according to two people who’ve seen the traffic data.

Drop in Discover Traffic Poses Questions for Snapchat

I said back in February:

“I don’t think Snapchat’s users will have any long-term interest in the new ‘Discover’ feature. It’s more brand marketing fantasyland stuff.”

Snapchat Discover

Compare this to the breathless reception from other quarters:

“Snapchat Discover is huge. I can tell you secondhand that the numbers, at least for the initial launch period, were enormous. We’re talking millions of views per day, per publisher.”

Snapchat Discover could be the biggest thing in news since Twitter

Less than three months later it seems ‘Discover’ is failing to perform:

“Snapchat’s curated selection of news stories called Discover is reportedly in trouble, with traffic dropping significantly since its debut back in January.”

Snapchat adds sharing tools to its news discovery portal

Let’s ask the users:

But has anyone actually asked the teens? My 15-year-old sister on Snapchat Discover: 2/2

— Julia Greenberg (@julia_greenberg) February 6, 2015

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