Articles Tagged with: Marketing
Marketing so bad, it should be spanked
In these enlightened times when I can get the very best internet access from some paddock on the outskirts of Melbourne, where same sex marriage might even become law in these conservative ruled times, that I have a smart device that tells me I slept 6hours 13 minutes and woke twice (once to try and figure out what episode of Game Of Thrones I was up to, second time to wonder why I was not married to Henry Rollins)…why, WHY does bad marketing persist?

There’s so much big data around to tell marketers and advertisers who their customer is, what they want to buy, how they want it delivered to them, what colour option they’d prefer and what the name of their first car was…and yet, we’re bobbing about in a sea of bad marketing.

Why is that? Seriously I’m mystified.

Exhibit A, members of the jury: This Mercedes-Benz ad


I worked with Mercedes from the mid 90’s to 2006 doing their motor show stands across Australia. And I totally fangirled the brand. How could I not when I slid into the seat of the CLS coupe that was worth 4 times the amount I paid for my 1 bedroom cupboard in Melbourne? They got the shakes after the GFC when their message become muddled and unfocussed which in some ways was understandable after it got the cash stripped out of it, jettisoned the nutty match up of Chrysler and then sought to re-establish itself in the luxury car market. If this ad is any indication, they need to go into the room of mirrors and take a good hard look at themselves.

Alienating 50% of potential purchasers with a dour, fun-killer female is lazy and bad marketing. What kinda blows my mind is that this claptrap made it past the agency concepting whiteboard, through the suits at Mercedes and at every level it got ticked off without anyone saying “Hang about, isn’t this going to piss off a core group of our customers?” When you are dropping some serious coin on a luxury car you want to feel successful, prestigious, free and golden. Unlike the commercial that portrays women as hard nose harridans capable only of smirking like a know-it-all or eye rolling. Mercedes, time to lift your game, ladies love the luxury marques too.

<strong>Exhibit B, members of the jury: The Australian Liberal Government</strong>

No surprises, I’m not a liberal lover. And I could write a 7,489 page manifesto of the things that tick me off about them and not being able to market their message affectively. And let’s be clear, every government needs need market effectively, it’s how you bring the public along on the new vision you are creating for Australia’s future. They need to get their message out to the community, sell the hard policies and successfully celebrate the wins. But jury members, we reached a new low on morning TV recently. I nearly choked on my toast and vegemite one morning when Tony Abbott was rabbiting on about dealing with the children of suspected terrorist who have left Oz. Just watch.

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I can’t even….

Mr Abbott said the law would be applied to people regardless of their age or gender and that the children of criminals would be “dealt with in the same way [they] are usually dealt with”.

Like Tony, exactly how do you deal with children…<strong><em>children</em></strong> of alleged terrorists? Is it sending them to an off-shore detention centre, housed in the most basic conditions, for an indefinite period, behind barbed wire, mingling with people who have suffered trauma, are dealing with complex mental health issues and most heart breakingly, have abandoned all hope.

These are children we’re talking about, whose only crime is being born to alleged batshit crazy parents. One more time with feeling: <em><strong>children.</strong> </em>Tony’s really missed the marketing opportunity to sell his proposed citizenship reforms by going all hardline with kids who should be playing with Tonka toys and instead have the misfortune to be stuck in Syria with a dead dad and a mum who’s stateless. Way to go Tony coming on all heavy on the kids. Marketing fail.

<strong>Exhibit C members of the jury: St George Bank</strong>

I just paid off the home loan of my 1 bedroom broom cupboard in Melbourne. But context: This cupboard was bought back in ye olden days where you could pick up a home in Melbourne that did not require living 6 lifetimes to pay off the mortgage. But still, I was pretty pleased with myself paying it off and no longer co-owning with a bank.

So I received letter from my lender St George in mail. I’m a hopeful Harry. I try and think the best of people. I like to think that people are not dumb arses and have no clue about merging in traffic and instead are helping me develop fast muscle fibres as I avoid collisions with cars that inexplicably own no indicators or rear view mirrors. So I was hoping for a nice letter from St George congratulating me on me achieving the Great Australian Dream. But no. I was encouraged to plunge back into debt and fund some lifestyle purchases such a boat, a holiday or a pool with obligatory pool cleaner named Coco. The call to St George to see if I got any congratulatory love went no better. After a terse exchange because I was passed through several departments to reach “I-want-to-discharge-my-loan-and-not-take-up-your-offer-of-pool-and-Coco” I was dealing with the happy news to free myself of the St George loan shackles, I would be charged $350 and what account could they take it out of?

“Um…none? What does that $350 get me exactly?”

“It was in your contract you signed”

“Yeah, that was back in ‘97 so details are a bit sketchy 18 years down the track…but what’s the $350 for?

“It was in your contract.”

“I’m hearing you.  But what’s it for? Exactly?”

“Your contract.  The fee was in there.”

“I can’t even…”

So sum total of that total waste of a marketing opportunity by St George to congratulate me, treat the event as something to be acknowledged with a branded something sent in the mail…hell, I would have been been happy with a plush mini dragon at that point.  Instead, the lack of feel-good marketing has got me thinking instead of shifting all my banking to a smaller firm that understands that it much easier to keep an existing customer happy than chase a new one.

The green dragon needs to ante up. Marketing FAIL.

Ok, I’m hopping off Dobbin my personal hobbyhorse to shake by tail to this:

Yep, no good marketing comes easy. Feel free to share your own bad marketing examples in the comments below.


Why comparing your trade show stand or display is dumber than a Kardashian.
To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.
Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.


The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.


I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

See you next week!

A love letter. This week’s ode to marketers who got it right.
I love marketers. Those crazy kids who are seen as cost centres who spend shedloads driving customers to buy products and services from the company that employs them in these austere times.  I like renegades and therefore I love marketers!

Two micro business entrepreneurs rocked my world this week. And they covered themselves in marketing glory.

An aside…what type of weirdo gets on a plane with 4 litres of laundry liquid as part of their carry on?!?! I’m writing this blog on a plane and into the middle seat has slid a young lady toting the mega value pack laundry liquid. Before I go off on all sorts of tangents wondering why anyone needs extreme cleaning power on a flight, best I get back to the theme of the week…

A card arrived in the mail this week and I was totally gobbed. It was from this small business who I had to buy no more than $30 worth of electrical gear to repair my Himalayan salt lamp.  Don’t judge until you’ve reclined in the soft glow of the lamp when listening to Nine Inch Nails. It soothes a frayed psyche. There was no little reminder to buy more product or tout a monthly special, just a simple thank you and the most gorgeous photo ever of the owners of his small business. Yet, do not be fooled by this seemingly charming yet ordinary couple. They are hard-core marketing pros. Who do you think I am going to go to if I need anything in the realm of crystal, alternate therapies or just general whacky shit? They have got me for life. If I just get a card or a $30 spend, how much do you reckon they love what they do and totally embody the “be excellent to each other” of the spiritual space.  I bow to such simple marketing. It cost them a dollar for the card and 60 cents for the stamp and they got themselves imprinted themselves on my loyalty list.


Next up on the love letter is my demonic personal trainer Nathan Morris. We’ve just kicked through a year if working together and I was clearly in the drop off zone in terms of commitment in turning up and doing the work. I am six weeks out from finishing the rowing season and I was coasting. I was turning up late under the guise of a good excuse and still dining out on my rowing successes. To celebrate our first year together did I get flowers? A gluten-free protein bar?  A photo book detailing before and after shots of me tackling the TRX?  No, I got a freakin’ “Come to Jesus” talk!  Nathan knew after a year together and hitting some high points that was in that zone of “Well, that was nice, lifted a few weights, did some mobility stuff but it is now time to ease up and get on the lounge with a cheesecake” and I could have tapered off my involvement with him.  Nathan’s marketing pitch for us to continue working together was explaining that it was my choice and my money but I was not getting the best out of him and our time together and that I needed to show up on time fully warmed up to get results.  He could have just shut up and taken the money but he recognized that having a personal training business depended on having committed clients that show up and are pushing hard on the gym floor. Other potential customers can see how hard he works his clients and adds in advice about nutrition and having correct form. Nathan’s marketing spiel worked.  I am getting there early doing my warm up and am fully committed to at least trying to love jumping around like an excitable bunny under the assumption that this is doing something really rad for my body.


So how could you uses these examples to produce outrageously good marketing in the trade show environment?

Could you send a hand written card to the top prospects, thanking them for visiting your stand?

Could you practice some radical honesty with a prospect about your products and services and steer them towards a better fit, even if it is with an opposition firm?

Over to you, what would you like to share about some mind warping marketing you have seen or experienced recently?  And can you explain 4 litres of laundry liquid on a plane?!?

This weeks tune is a song I reckon is one of the 10 best Australian songs ever written.  Have no idea what they are banging on about but that line “I’m the re-run that you’ll always force yourself to sit through”.  KILLER!

See you next week!

Hire vs buying your trade show stand. What should the savvy marketer do?
In the past few days I have compiled some data for a client of mine on their yearly trade show spend and it has highlighted some interesting metrics around hiring a 1 off trade show for each event versus purchasing a trade show stand that you can use repeatedly for your entire trade show program.  More on that data later in the post but first let me explain some of the pros and cons for the 1 off and the repeat use stand.


The one-off stand usually refers to the one-off hire of a trade show stand or booth at an exhibition.  The cost will traditionally include the design, the hire of the items, transport to and from the venue and labour to install and dismantle.  At the completion of the show, in most cases, you will retain nothing and this can be also refereed to as a “build and burn”.  You can do a hybrid of 1 off hire items supplementing that with items such as banners and key graphics that you use and keep across your trade show run.


Bayer @ VNCA 1 off Hire Stand


Bayer @ AVA 2012 1 off Hire Stand


  • You can change the look and the theme for each trade show event you attend.
  • You are not locked into the same size space for each event as you have a stand that only fits a pre-determined size eg. 6m W x 3m D.  This allows you to take more space at the shows where you want to make an impact and downscale at the shows of lesser importance.
  • You do not have to pay for storage of your stand in a warehouse when not in use.


  • You have to re-start the design and sourcing products and services anew each time you do a show.
  • There can be a lack of consistency across the look and feel of your trade show as it has a different vibe every show you attend.  Consistency in the marketing of your brand to existing and prospective customers is SO vital, so don’t underestimate how valuable consistency is!
  • It can do your head in.  All you want is the same freakin’ stool in green because it matches your logo and across the 5 shows you do in a year, you have more variation in your stool that there are discoverable languages in the world.  So the key take away from doing one-off stands is that you will have to build in some flexibility with finishes and selections as there is A LOT of variance from both supplier and  hire location!


This typically refers to the stand that you, the exhibiting company own and store.  Normally you would partner up with an exhibit firm to design a stand that you can use across your trade show program and the exhibit house is responsible for the warehousing, transport and install / dismantle of it.  I think my best advice here it to go with a kit form of items that allow you to have large or smaller stands depending on your requirements rather than be looked into a permanent size footprint – say 6m x 6m.


Thiess @ Ausrail 2011 6 x 3 Reusable Stand


Thiess @ Ozwater 6 x 6 Reusable Stand


  • You have a consistent look across your trade show program and once you have developed and locked down the stand design, you aren’t faced with “what the HELL are we going do for THIS trade show”.
  • You can predict your costs for the trade show calendar up front.  As you know the stand you will be using, you can then get your exhibit house to provide costs for each show you attend well in advance.
  • Although the stand is reusable, you can build in the flexibility of updating graphics and messaging and even changing the colour of the stand.  Just because it is a reusable stand does not mean that it is set in stone!


  • You will have to store the stand – at either your own premises or that of a third-party.  Your exhibit house will usually have a network of storage facilities that you can park your stand in.
  • If you make the investment in building a repeat use stand, you will be locked into it to get the return on investment for around 2 – 3 years.  Upshot of this?  Don’t build yourself a stand so ugly it burns your retinas.  Take time to get it right and ride your exhibit company like a pony at a church fete to make sure they develop something that will blow your hair back.  In a good way.
  • Make sure you have buy-in from all the stakeholders in your company to have a repeat use, modular stand.  I know of one company a few years ago who decided to do a reusable stand that did not run it across the desk of the CEO with enough detail so the response when Boss-man turned up on site was “What the (rhymes duck) is THIS?!?”  He was right, it was particularly ugly stand done by an inept contactor with bubbling laminate and 300 x 300 bathroom tiles used on the floor.  And the poor buggar was stuck with it.  So start well in advance and get everyone on board the “YES!” bus.

You will notice that I did not mention cost benefits for either the 1 off stand or the repeat use stand in the pros and cons above . That’s because – largely – it is determined on a case by case basis.  But I can tell you from the data I have collected based on my client’s example I mentioned in the intro above, the repeat use stand is more cost-effective than the 1 off stands across a 2 year show run. Figures? About $400 difference from the more cost-effective repeat use stands to the higher cost of doing 1 off’s.  Any exhibit house of value can run the figures out for you if you want to look at your options so why not do just that?

Tune for this week is one of my favourite one hit wonders…Plastic Bertrand!  God with talent like that, I can’t believe that bloke only knocked out one single killer song….

See you next week!

Why coxswains are the best marketers ever (and bye for now Alison)!
When I am not designing and managing exhibitions and displays, I can be often found wedged in a fibreglass hull either training or competing.  This rowing thing would have the be the most barking mad sport of all time.  You can’t see where you are going, the time you need to train to perfect the list of 6,467 things you need to excel at in order to just scratch competent level in competition is out of all proportion and did I mention that this bulk of this activity happens at dark o’clock when most reasonable people are tucked up in bed?!?  But there is one person in out crew of 9 who really stands out in terms of contribution and commitment and that is our coxswain, or cox as we lovingly know them as. And while I hack my way through the water (one of the 6,467 things I am trying to remedy), I have had cause to pause and reflect on why coxes are the best marketers ever:

1. They see opportunities others do not

Fair play, they are the only ones facing the right direction in a crew but they are constantly assessing wind and weather conditions, other crew’s positions throughout a race, the crew’s ability to lift through key stages, the actual course and what can wander into your path (Police boats!  Sydney Ferries! Spectator Craft!  SWANS!!!!!!) and they try to steer the sharpest  and most direct line to the finish line.  This, all done under a 4 minute time frame. Marketers, like my beloved coxes excel at seeing niches to position their brand and see new fertile ground for opportunities.

2. They are the key drivers of moving a crew (or company) forward

How does a business get and remain successful? Hands down, it is generating sales and making profit, which is largely the function of the marketing team devising strategies to deliver sales.  Coxes are the same.  I am just some hack with a blade wishing I was on some lounge with a cheesecake balanced on my lap.  Until the cox fires me up and gets me and my fellow 7 rowers functioning as a crew, we are destined just to lope along with”OK” results and an empty medal display case.

3. Tactics, tactics, tactics.

Marketing mavens need to implement their marketing strategies using carefully placed tactics and so do coxes.  You can have all the sound marketing strategies you like but without the implementation of the tactics, well, you just have a lovely piece of paper.  My race tactics are pretty concise. Row like you stole it. Don’t freak out / fuck up.  The tactics employed by a cox are a little more elaborate “Right.  We do our start of 15 off on 38 and then after 15 strokes, settle down to 34 – 35 with no loss of power. I am going to call for pushes on the legs for 10, another 10 focussing on clean catches and then another 10 on finishes.  I will also call for pushes if I feel that the other crews are making a move.  Towards to end of the race, I will ask for a power push of 3, then holding for 7 and then stepping up in 10’s for the final 250 metres. At that point you EMPTY THE TANK”.  Christ, that took longer to write that it does to row…

I am reflecting on the marketing power of the cox as I am sad to say that I am loosing one of the best coxes I have had the insane thrill of rowing with.  Alison is returning to the UK to be with her family as they face a health issue and so the rowing gals and I are gathering to break bread (and crack open a champagne bottle of two) and see this lovely lady off in style.

In my first years of being coxed by Alison I was always bouncing around her like a frog in a sock.  Did we do OK?  How was the power in the boat?  Did we still get clearance when we upped the rating.  Truly, I was / am  / can be insufferable.  Rowing can be such a battle in your own mind, you need feedback like a crack addict to compare your own experience to. Over time, I have seen that Alison is like the zen master of coxswains.  She is super calm before and during the race and only gives you the feedback and instructions you need.  There is no yabbering on or streams of consciousness, she locks it down tight.  I have seen over time how this has helped me so much in the boat as my excitable foxy terrier ways have been smoothed out by her cocoon of calm and I am a better and a more controlled rower because of it. She has cheerfully carried our mascot Daisy the Donkey through training and races, steered us through the Sydney Harbour cauldron when whipped up through a strong southerly and has dispensed lip gloss, tissues, plaster, water bottles, hats through her amazing monochrome dream coat, all while crammed in a space that is the average size of a handbag.

Alison owns a fair proportion of all the medals I have won with the rest being shared with Koach Kim, the rest of the rowing squad, my demonic personal trainer Nathan and my friends and family for the ever strong support while I wail “I can’t DO this!”.  I am not sure how I am going to feel when I step in the boat again, lean over the side, look down the boat and not see her there. But I will have the memory of the last race I had with Alison coxing.  It was the recent State Masters and were in D8 amongst some pretty hot competition.  At the 500 metre mark I was aware that we had slid up along side the boat in the adjacent lane on my right.  Through each stroke, Alison encouraged us forward and we clawed our way along that nearby boat. I was level with 7 seat….I was now level with 5 seat….now with 3….and then final with 200 metres to go, our bow was clear of them!  You know that zen master Alison?  Forget that, she became a force of power! The nearby crew put on a surge but Alison got the jump on that and we found a new level.  Everything was hurting, but Alison called for one last push to ensure that they could not take our water and then…the sound of the finish hooter for first place…and THEN another hooter and OHMYFREAKIN’GOD, WE JUST PLACED SECOND!!!! We were just so, so happy and to perform and respond for Alison in her last race (for now) will stay with me forever.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

There is a saying that God made coxswains because he can’t be there and in Alison’s case this is doubly true.  And there is no way he would have carried our mascot Daisy. Heartfelt thanks and much love Alison!


Our mascot, Daisy!

The tune this week comes from one of my favorite “gee-up” tracks when I need to get the rowing zone.  Push it!

See you next week!