Keith Brody Keith Brody Director - 5thPosition Ltd.

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Sex and the Billing System

  • In his most recent blog (, Cato raises a question about -- and I'm paraphrasing here, so apologies if I haven't articulated this perfectly -- whether Communications Service Providers really understand themselves.  The gist of his thinking  relates to what a telco should seek to be based on a). what it actually does, and b). the degree of self-awareness it has in doing it.  The default position, concludes Cato, appears to be that telcos are dull, but look under the covers and, really, that's not the case at all.  I'm not going to expatiate on that topic, but I am going to go off on a closely-related tangent.  That is, from a marketing perspective, do you a) play the tune that you suspect people want to hear, or b) do you play the tune that you're actually capable of playing with a reasonable degree of competence?


    I suppose the argument can be made that with really good marketing, you can do a) while making it look like you're capable of b).  The trouble is, not many are that good at good marketing, and even for those who are it only gets you so far (after all, at some point somebody's going to use your product/service and then, if it isn't up to scratch, you're going to get found out. And even if it is that good, they're going to realize that, dammit, billing just isn't that sexy).


    But the line that really jumped out at me in Cato's blog was this one (and only a non-marketer could have written it); "This industry may be viewed as dull, but it has played a fundamental part in changing people's life (sic)".  Cato, I think, implicitly suggests that this is a problem.  But I think this view begs two questions:  1. Who cares?  and 2.  Why should this be a problem for anyone?

    If it isn't already, a golden rule of marketing should be that there are no "dull" products and no "exciting" products (or industries, or services, or anything else, except people).  There are just products.  Products exist because people use them (if no one did, they wouldn't be around) and demand is all you need for success.  The telecoms industry (and the companies in it) would be no richer, happier, or better placed for being (or even being perceived as) any sexier than they are now.  The pursuit of sexiness, from a marketing perspective, is thus an utter waste of time.  At best, it involves putting lipstick on a pig.  It is thus not true, either, that perception shapes reality in any useful way (except salaries.  It is definitely true that a top FMCG marketer will earn more than a top B2B infrastructure marketer, more's the pity).  Making your product/service/company sexier may feed your soul, but it won't feed your sales book.

    What I think is that if marketers focused their energies on insightful segmentation and the self-awareness and understanding that enabled them to clearly articulate their value propositions in a way that resonated with their prospects, the word "sexy" would never again need to enter the marketing lexicon.  Which would be a good thing.

    Keith Brody
    About Keith Brody Keith Brody works as Director at 5thPosition Ltd.
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  • Tony Poulos
    Tony Poulos Keith, where have you been hiding, in the cabbage patch? Sex definitely sells. Sexiness in marketing appeals to the mass market and both sexes, e.g. Victoria's Secret. Some people, I don't doubt, may even see the sexiness of pigs with lipstick on.
    5 July 2011
  • Jessica Zimet
    Jessica Zimet Not sure CBOSS is winning the war on that one, Tony. As Ewan pointed out on Mobile Industry Review, the message tends to get a bit lost there. But yes - even when we are going for sexy, what we are really going for is interesting. How do we catch people's...  more
    29 November 2011
  • Robert Machin
    Robert Machin If Victoria's Secret advertising wasn't sexy, someone really would be slipping up. Jessica's right - it's not 'sexy' we're looking for but interesting, or perhaps better, 'not dull'. Not just the same old bah-de-blah of buzzwords and supposed industry dri...  more
    30 November 2011