Throughout the week, I read a LOT of online articles. What follows is the one I found most interesting (along with a political speech and short documentary):
How The Mad Men Lost The Plot, via Financial Times—This article is about marketing, the ineffectiveness of “brand engagement” and the residing power of old media. I’ve always been curious about how/why advertising works and this take is refreshingly honest. I mean, no WAY are Google and Facebook ads so effective that they can justify those companies finances! Truth is, building sales by targeting previous customers isn’t a great way to build your user base:
Sharp’s first law is that brands can’t get bigger on the back of loyal customers. Applying a statistical analysis to sales data, he demonstrates that the majority of any successful brand’s sales comes from “light buyers”: people who buy it relatively infrequently. Coca-Cola’s business is not built on a hardcore of Coke lovers who drink it daily, but on the millions of people who buy it once or twice a year. You, for instance, may not think of yourself as a Coke buyer, but if you’ve bought it once in the last 12 months, you’re actually a typical Coke consumer. This pattern recurs across brands, categories, countries and time. Whether it’s toothpaste or computers, French cars or Australian banks, brands depend on large numbers of people — that’s to say, the masses — who buy them only occasionally, leave long gaps between purchases and buy competing brands in between.
If you work for a brand owner, the implications are profound. First, you will never increase your brand’s market share by targeting existing users — the task that digital media performs so efficiently. The effort and expense marketers put into targeting their own customers with emails and web banners is largely wasted; loyalty programmes, says Sharp, “do practically nothing to drive growth”. What seems like a prudent use of funds — focusing on people who have already proved they like the brand — is actually just spinning wheels.
The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions, Abraham Lincoln—I’ve been enjoying reading American political speeches lately, and Lincoln is widely regarded as the finest speech writer who ever lived. This early speech of his, written in 1938 when he was a 28-year old lawyer, had some particularly interesting passages in it. It covers themes like the corrosive nature of unjust laws, and the timeless question every young generation has to ask: namely, how to best use the advantages previous generations fought to gain and pass on:
“In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors.”
“When I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying there are no bad laws, or that grievances may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still, while they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be religiously observed. So also in unprovided cases. If such arise, let proper legal provisions be made for them with the least possible delay, but till then let them, if not too intolerable, be borne with.”
Whistling Smith: and finally, Whistling Smith, a fascinating documentary from 1975 that follows a Vancouver policeman through the city’s most downtrodden streets: