Keith Brody Keith Brody Director - 5thPosition Ltd.

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10 Observations about the State of the Marketing Nation as we Approach a New Year


    Some random thoughts about marketing subjects upon which my mind has alighted over the past month or so. I guess any one of these might have turned into a fully-formed blog, but as year-end articles lend themselves to lists, I thought I’d go in that direction.

    1.       Conferences – rigor mortis sets in. One of my first blogs on this site questioned the continued validity of the conference/trade fair/exhibit hall as a lever of marketing. In my view, at least where high-cost enterprise applications are concerned, I’ve seen nothing in 2011 to persuade me to change my mind. Yes, I get that a single sale will justify myriad time and expense attending shows but that’s not a justification for exhibiting unless it’s the only way you can get that deal. And it’s not (or at least it shouldn’t be if you’re marketing properly). Great conferences are great for learning for learning and sharing ideas; far less so for generating measurable business. Someone has to continue to point out that the emperor is naked.

    2.       Creativity and the job market – I am always bemused how a small coterie of individuals in any given niche (within a vertical market) seem to play musical jobs. You know the guys; usually high profile with an eye for an opportunity to self-promote; show me an industry committee and they’ll be on it. And they’ll have worked at some point for all the leading players in their niche, even though each of these companies has diametrically opposed beliefs, product roadmaps, and modus operandi. That these individuals must spend large chunks of their professional lives on the road to Damascus is axiomatic. But the question I want to ask is directed to their employers: “why (hire them)”? How will marketing ever flourish; how will creative horizons be broadened, if all you ever retain is someone who’s done exactly the same thing before, but for a competitor? Great marketing usually comes from getting outside your comfort zone. Maybe that’s why not much marketing is great.

    3.       Social Media – the more I become aware of, and exposed to it, the more I come to believe that the length of the copy it requires (short) exists in inverse proportion to the amount of time it takes to generate it. What I mean by that is, now that the dust on the initial topic frenzy has settled, two things are clear. First, there’s nothing particularly complex about social media or the strategies you might adopt to successfully exploit it, and second, just like anything else, you do need strategies, plans, and the time and effort it takes to conceive and implement them in order to succeed. There’s a lot more to it than 140 characters. Put another way, maybe ditch the job description for the person running trade shows and put it to work running (full-time) the social media programme. How modern would that be?

    4.       Silence – is, your mother was right, golden. I believe it was the great British explorer and mountaineer Mallory who justified his motivation to climb Everest with “because it’s there” (if it wasn’t Mallory, I’m sure one of you will correct me in no time). It may be, but the justification works less well for media and analyst relations. In my experience, when an opportunity for exposure arises, the first question we ask ourselves -- most of the time -- is “how can we respond in a manner that makes us look as good (or better) than our competitor because all visibility has to be good visibility”. The right first question though is much simpler: “do we want to say anything at all?” For a myriad of reasons, the answer is not always “yes”.

    5.       Websites – given the number of self-proclaimed design and positioning experts out there, in my view there are far, far more bad websites than good ones. If the litmus test of every home page is being able to divine “what you do” within moments of landing, then far more sites fail the test than pass it. Like silence (above), less is almost always more. Branding continues to be an area where the relationship between noise and real insight is incongruous.

    6.       Direct (e)-mailers – maybe it’s just me, but great marketing copy isn’t working very often any more. Or maybe I should say slick, professional, marketing copy is leaving me numb. I am bombarded daily (just like you) with enticements and entreaties from companies and individuals alike, to buy products and retain services. Among the most interesting are the solicitations I get from professional copywriters and marketing freelancers; those who should really know how to put an e-mailer together. I find most write clever, slick, carefully-thought-out pitches none of which, for me, are persuasive at all. How you market marketing is a different challenge altogether from marketing almost anything else, and I’m not sure I’ve seen someone do it really well for quite a while.

    7.       Steve Jobs – has to be part of any marketing list that relates to 2011. When I think about it, his approach was consistent with most of the observations here; quality, not quantity, in a nutshell. He was a great marketer. (Whether he was a truly great guy is, however, less clear.)

    8.       Learning – my first boss in marketing, back when direct mail involved things like offset presses and mailing houses and spending Saturdays tracking down lost deliveries at the GMF, was fond of hammering into his charges the maxim “test, test, test”. His point was that marketers don’t have to know anything, save that tomorrow brings the opportunity for another trial. This mentality seems to me to have been lost. Today, instinctively, we spend less time challenging our assumptions and more time believing our own publicity and conclusions than ever before – perhaps a by-product of the age of celebrity we live in. A marketing expert is someone who does something today that will result in improved performance tomorrow. He’s a detective (of what works)…not a show pony.

    9.       Volume – it is not clear to me whether cream rises to the top any more. Great writing, of copy, bylined articles, journalism, or otherwise could potentially stand out in the sea of dross that the blogosphere has created. Or it could simply be buried in the insufferable tsunami of white noise. Sadly, I am not sure which is the case. The Internet may have made information more accessible than ever before, but it’s main use seems to be to prove Andy Warhol right. Everyone’s getting their 15 minutes of fame and more. Sadly.

    10.   Marketing advice for 2012 – use your ears.

    Keith Brody
    About Keith Brody Keith Brody works as Director at 5thPosition Ltd.
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  • Robert Machin
    Robert Machin Damn good piece - hard to argue with any of it.
    30 November 2011