When Advertising is only a Marginal Factor in their Marketing Mix …

I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes.  ~ David Ogilvy

Perhaps I was unfortunate to meet such clueless clients.

Advertising is seen as a marginal factor in their marketing mix. These people just do the bare minimum (from understanding their own product and market place to briefing and allocating marketing communication budget to folks like us) and then conveniently lay the blame on us when they do not receive massive returns. Sure, there are incidents where clients reap abundance for peanuts but that’s a rarity rather than a norm. If it were so easy, top companies wouldn’t pay big money for marketing research, creative, media planning, PR, etc! Unrealistic demands plus unrealistic expectations spell disaster to a fruitful working relationship. I can understand that all clients want us to create miracles for them. However, how to make solid, hardy bricks with a few straws? I’d be all ears if someone will teach me

These clients don’t really know which direction their company is headed and totally clueless of their SWOT against market competition. Sure, they produce lots of PowerPoint charts to tell their bosses what’s happening in the market place. Yet, they stop short of deciding the marketing direction they should sail to rise above the tide. They say to their bosses, “We’ll discuss with the agency”.

I suppose I ought to be appreciative and say “thank you” for their business. And, yes, I do appreciate the cheque when it comes in. However, I dd not like being the convenient scape goat. They are a conservative bunch who prefer to stick to whatever that were done previously. On top of that they have an equally conservative boss who is simply afraid to take baby steps into the new frontier. In the big corporate world, sticking your neck out could be equal to having your head on the chopping board when things go south. When everyone is moving towards online and mobile advertising, they adamantly stick to the traditional mode. They say no to online advertising, no to mobile advertising, no to social media marketing and rather lukewarm in making their website mobile compliant. Not that they have unshaken faith in traditional media, they are more afraid of doing the new things (which could be the wrong thing) and be blamed if results are lackluster. I’m certainly not against traditional marketing. In fact, I am still actively campaigning for it. LOL, we still encourage certain clients to adopt fax advertising as it does bring in results from some niches.

So, OK, we’ll stick to traditional media since our advice are not deemed appropriate. Like it or not, the client is the boss if we choose to keep the account.  While we do our best to work smart, and hard, on marketing traditional media, they decided that the economy hasn’t really recover from the heydays hence spending wisely is a must. Now, I agree with that. Investing wisely with whatever marcom budget a client has – lean or fat. You don’t necessarily have to borrow  money to market and promote your wares. Fighting guerrilla warfare when others are doing a full fledged war is certainly acceptable. Well, Mao won China. The Viets did not let the Americans have their way. However I cannot agree on cutting out copywriter to use their trashy ad copy. I’m not apologetic at all in calling their copy “trash” because that’s what it is.  And no, I cannot agree on repeating the same old TV commercial that’s has been aired for the last few years. Come on, that celebrity we used has aged just like all mortals. How can they say with conviction that their cream and potion are effective when I can see fish lines at the corner of the celebrity’s eyes now?

All I’m asking is for the client to do their homework and have the guts to take a stand. And we’ll do our best to get them the results they desire and make them look really cool before their bosses. When advertising is seen as a marginal factor in their marketing mix, when the agency is conveniently made a scapegoat, rest assured that the client will not smell as a rose either.

Coupon Deal Sites in Singapore

Did you hear that Groupon might be in trouble? Did you also hear that a lot of coupon sites are still coming up?

Isn’t that strange? For example, in Singapore, there are more and more coupon sites and deal sites coming up. Of course, many of them come and go. Some last a while and disappear, while others tend to stay on for a bit. Some have even been expanding.

Why do some coupon sites fail while others succeed? Why do some deal sites have so much activity while others are like ghost towns?


Yes, proper appreciation and understanding of your marketing niche is critical. If you are able to understand your customer’s needs and wants, if you are able to identify them and them position yourself correctly, you are in. Otherwise, you are out.

Take a look at these sites from Singapore and see if you can spot those who will be still around in a year’s time!

How is your relationship with your agency?

I just read a short but interesting post over at Marketing Agency Talk titled: “Does The Agency Model Still Work?“.

This has gotten me thinking about how our business has evolved over the years. It is quite true that while we used to have regular clients who work with us no matter what, such instances are rare today. Most clients know what they want and they also know that there are plenty of choices out there.

Worse, with the technologies evolving so quickly and the possibilities expanding everyday, it is almost impossible for any agency to be “excellent” in every aspect. This then results in clients working with multiple agencies across a wide spectrum of marketing needs.

As a small agency, this is particularly telling, as we will not be able to hire all the specialist talents needed. There are, of course, workarounds that we can employ. But the fact remains that a whole plethora of skills are needed and that no single agency will be able to have a monopoly on them.

But what is the core to your success with clients? I would hazard a guess and say that most likely, it is the relationship of trust and goodwill that keeps the business going. If you are able to maintain that, you will have a chance to be the main go-to agency, the cog in the wheel, so to speak.

Do you agree that it is essentially the good relationships you have that keeps your agency going? Or your skills, or both?

Video Marketing The Next Wave?

Here is an interesting discussion that seems to be floating around some circles. Have you heard talk that “video marketing is the next wave” for advertising and promotions?

If that is true, then there must be evidence. Newspapers will die. Magazines will die. Direct mail will die. Billboards will die. True?

So, why is it that these other media continue to thrive? Yes, for sure, video marketing is carving out a nice niche. But that’s all it is – a niche. Just like each media has its own place.

So, let us not neglect to hone our copywriting skills, our script writing skills, layout skills and so on. There is a place for all. Small business owners tend to hunt for that silver bullet. There is no short cut. Do not jump at “the next big thing” and hope your business will fly.

Marketing is as marketing has always been. In all its various forms and through all its various media; long live marketing.

So, you think you dig the culture?

Here is an interesting thought – marketing is local.

In fact, it might be that marketing can only be local. Now, before you hit the roof and point at the gazillion “global marketing” campaigns, hear me out.

Essentially, marketing is about taking what speaks to a person, relate it to a brand or a product, and attempt to engender a response, preferably a “buy” action. Now, if you fundamentally do not agree with this simple, direct definition of marketing; then you will not agree with everything in here.

To be able to speak to a person, you need to understand him. It sort of comes down to an understanding of the culture, since that provides a broad backdrop against which almost everyone in a particular community can relate to. There will always be fringes that differ enough that they do not fit. But by and large, the culture is a good entry point for most marketing efforts. From there, you distill it further into specifics.

That is why the statement earlier, that marketing is essentially local in nature. In a culture where “big is beautiful”, using skinny models have a negative impact on your brand.

International campaigns actually go against the grain and create their own culture. That is why many of them require huge budgets. But once they have the critical mass and the traction, their own sub-culture is created. That sub-culture then exists within the other social culture where the audience lives.

It is hard for marketers to understand the other person’s culture. Just saw this post about “Fish Don’t Know They’re In Water” and it does bring home the point of perspective and understanding.

That is why partnerships are so important in business. Finding a good local partner can make the difference between success and failure.

Think on it.

Earn Less to Survive Advertising Slump?

I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes. ~ David Ogilvy

That’s certainly understandable. However, how many advertising agencies and design firms will actually do that right now?

Once upon a time,  there were many full-fledge advertising agencies where creative, media and production departments all fall under one roof. Now, these departments became self-sustainable companies with their own overheads and revenues to take care of.

Why? Because good clients who will  not “raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes” are now a rare species.

Inflation is in. Everything you see in the market place has risen at least 20-30% over the past one year. With droughts and floods, wars and political tension in mineral rich and agricultural countries, prices are rising horrendously fast. Many businesses lamented that  higher operational cost is eating away their profit.  “Cut Cost” and “Minimize Wastage” are two words I hear very frequently these days.

With such a gloomy outlook, it is not surprising that many clients are much more careful with their marketing budget. They might still put out a big war chest for an advertising campaign. However, you can bet that many eyes had scrutinized every step and process that were proposed, and many questions must be satisfactorily answered before the dotted line is finally signed. Gone are the days when your client will slap his thigh and gallantly said “Good idea, let’s do it” immediately after you have made the first presentation. More often than not, they will look at you straight in the eyes and said soberly and slowly, “I like what I have seen, however, your price is too high”. Don’t bother to ask “Too high? Compared to what?”. Even if the price is reasonable, they are most likely to share with you their  challenges with upper management or their finance department on budget issues. The bottom line is, you cut your price if you want the job.

You have to make a choice between earning less and earning what you deserve.

And then, you’ll have to decide to be happy or unhappy after you opt to do it for less.

No wonder many creative talents – especially creative directors, art directors, and graphic designers decided to abandon their true passion – and turn to the teaching industry.

New Products need People to Survive

It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive. ~Nicholas Johnson

Not surprising, with consumerism being the norm these days.

I used to have a green fan sitting on my desk. I remember my father used to take it apart every fortnight to give it a thorough wipe down and wash the metal casing to prevent any rusting. That green fan faithfully served me through out my years in elementary school and beyond. Only when I was in high school did my father retire it with regrets.

Back then, things were built to last. Not any more. For the last 10 years, I believe I have bought more than 6 to 7 fans. Somehow, they don’t last as long as my faithful green fan. And no, I didn’t turn abusive as I age. I’m one of those rare specimen who still believe in sending damaged products for repairs. Even when I have to dump beyond-repair goods, I usually place them in recycle bins.

Naturally, my mum laments “Things are not sturdy any more.” She has a similar experience. After her 26-year-old Kelvinator refrigerator died of old age, she also had to replace her fridge once every two or three years.

My answer to mum is “If things were build to last. Many people will be out of a job.”.

With consumerism raging and the promiscuity of consumers who prefer to have the newest model, newest look, newest toy in the town, it behooves the old brands to update themselves regularly to stay in touch with their customers’ swaying loyalty. As for the new kid on the block, the products basically must be of good quality, look great and price well. Otherwise, good luck!

How Important is it to have Exact Keyword Match Domain Name

Just a few days, I was talking with a few people in a well known online forum. There was this guy who was quite prepared to throw in his towel in internet marketing. Basically, Bob has invested more than $60,000 and two years of his time learning, developing and driving traffic to his website. However, he has not monetized the way he saw his compatriots did. Bob’s online income was pathetically little. In his own words, “quite insufficient to pay for website hosting even”.

Bob was extremely puzzled because he believes that he has done what every internet guru did. First and foremost, he said his domain name was keyword rich. His site offers wedding management and tips, and he therefore used a long tail key word which include “weddingtips” in his URL. He said there must be millions of people looking for wedding tips and he could not fathom where those targeted audience wander to. Alas, Bob only got the computation partially correct. While it is true that “wedding tips” are words used by to-be-bride and bridegrooms, it also meant that these 2 key words are highly competitive. The last I checked with Google, there was 108,000,000 search results on “wedding tips” alone. Our frustrated friend’s URL has an adjective and a number before “weddingtips”.  What this means is Bob’s website is no where near #1 spot on Google Page 1. In fact, his website is not listed in the first ten pages of Google’s search results.

Some online marketing experts would suggest that it is a much better route to attract “Type-In Traffic” than spend exorbitant amount to draw in traffic. Type-In traffic is Continue reading “How Important is it to have Exact Keyword Match Domain Name”