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Marketers are from Mars Book Summary – Bob Hoffman

What you will learn from reading Marketers are from Mars:

– Why there is an increasing disconnect between marketing an reality.

– How marketers hide behind jargon and vague concepts.

– The rise of fraud in digital advertising and where you ad spend actually goes.

Marketers are From Mars Book Summary 

The definitive guide to marketing in the internet era. 

A great resource for illuminating the ineffective marketing practices which continue to hide behind meaningless jargon. 

Key Takeaway: one of the lessons about advertising is that practicality consistently outperforms ideology. 


Reality Check – The real reasons why people buy:

You can’t advance your career by speaking plainly and asserting the indisputable — that the reason people buy most products is because they are cheaper, tastier, prettier, work better or are simply more readily available.

Or they are made to believe they have a problem.


Two very different mindsets:

How marketers think: How can I engage consumers with my brand? How do I connect the personality of my brand with my target audience? How can I co-create with my target and develop a conversation?

How consumers think: Is there parking? Will this fucking thing work? How badly are they going to screw me on the price? Will there be anyone there who knows what the fuck he’s talking about?

How can you align the two?

Consumers want clarity and simplicity. Marketers want to complicate things.


The Latest (marketing) Fad always begins with “this changes everything”:

Using hysteria – everything has changed, this changes everything… The fact is habits die hard.

The “thought leaders” of the marketing industry are no less guilty of playing the hysteria card to buy themselves status (and consulting gigs) than the media are. They have created an avalanche of exaggerated claims and dire warnings that gain them attention and a nice little profit from the increased viewership/listenership/readership.

The 21st Century brand engagement – No, consumers do not want to have a conversation with your brand, or an “authentic relationship” with it, or co-create with it, or engage with it, or dance with it, or take a shower with it. They want it to work well, taste good, be reasonably priced, and look pretty. End of story.


Consumers want their predicted end goal not to engage with your brand:

Prof. Byron Sharp has said much more articulately in his book, How Brands Grow most of what we call “brand loyalty” is simply habit and convenience.

Useful Advice: Create a great product – Well, I’m afraid Bob has a very old guy opinion. You want customers raving about your brand? Sell them a good fucking product. Steve Jobs had it right. At Apple “brand” was a “dirty word” and Steve “dreaded, hated” the word “branding.”

Interesting Insight – People love bullshit: In trying to analyze the reason for this sudden popularity, I’ve noticed something. People seem to love posts with the word “bullshit” in the title. (One word persuasion, something they believe isn’t quite right)

The ugly truth The point is this: our brands are very important to us marketers and very unimportant to most consumers. Please read that again.

Richard Feynman, who wonderfully declared that “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”



“But, with digital we have comprehensive targeting ability….”

Targeting has it’s pro’s like everything it’s a tool.

The present obsession with media delivery systems may help our media people locate a certain type of person more easily, but is never going to provide the spark of brilliance on how to motivate this person.

The other exception occurs when people are shopping. Someone actively looking for something is willing to connect.


Here are the 6 stages of digital delusion:

  1. The Miracle Is Acknowledged: It may be podcasting or banner advertising, YouTube, The Ice Bucket Challenge, or Big Data. Whatever it is, it is going to “change everything.”
  2. The Big Success: A company somewhere has a big success with it. This is where the danger starts. The success is plastered all over every trade magazine and analyzed at every conference.
  3. Experts Are Hatched: Clever entrepreneurs gather up a Powerpoint full of cliches and march them around from conference to conference.
  4. The Bandwagon Rolls: Everyone who knows nothing is suddenly asking the marketing department, “what is our (the new miracle) strategy?”
  5. Reality Rears Its Ugly Head: The numbers dribble in. Oops… people are ignoring our miracle by the millions. The miracle seems to be working for everyone but us!
  6. The Back-Pedaling Begins: “Well, it’s just part of an integrated program…” say the former zealots. The experts start blaming the victims.


Now an important question — What is content?

So they’ve renamed it all “content” because it is non-specific — no one knows what the hell it is. And if you don’t know what it is, how can you criticize it?

Content is anything you can upload to the web. In other words, it is pretty much anything. It is a Shakespeare sonnet and a picture of my cat’s ass.

Distinguishing – The idea that “content” as a concept is an important marketing discipline is absurd. An old pizza crust is garbage. But an uploaded picture of an old pizza crust is “content.”

The selfie – and gives it status. You’re not guilty of narcisstic self-indulgence, you’re creating content!

Content is everything, and it’s nothing. It’s an artificial word thrown around by people who know nothing, describing nothing.

By invoking the c-word they are doing what marketing people do best — avoiding the specific and hiding behind jargon.


New Paradigms, ignorance and conformity:

If you don’t buy into new paradigms – When I left the agency business, people within agencies were essentially forbidden from saying this. If you did, you were labeled a Luddite, a dinosaur, or just plain stupid. You “didn’t get it.” It was a one-way ticket out the door.

Jes’s Insight – Ignorance demands conformity. Because everyone knows they are faking it, they seek comfort in the warmth of consensus.


Fraud in digital advertising:

We have failed to educate our clients on the serious deficiencies related to web advertising: -62% of web traffic is reportedly phony -54% of display ads paid for reportedly never ran -57% of video ads paid for are apparently never seen -Fraud and corruption are massive and reportedly in the billions.

It never ends:

For one thing, online work is never done. A website is never finished, a social media or content program always needs feeding, and display advertising always needs optimizing.

If you don’t have negative punishment how can it be stopped? Thinking financiers.

Self-interest has come into conflict with responsibility. Take a guess what’s winning?

Hindsight bias – khaneman and being stumped.

In fact, there is only one lesson to be learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge: sometimes silly shit catches on.

A whole generation of marketing and advertising people been taught an entire set of principles that is so lacking in a factual basis, and so influenced by anecdotes and fantasies. 


Marketers use Gobbleteegook to hide the fact what they say is meaningless:

Most of the time it doesn’t matter. You can get away with not knowing anything by talking in riddles, parables, and indecipherable jargon.

People, being the insecure dimwits they are, assume that since you’re an expert and they’re not, all this hogwash must mean something.

Because if you’re a prototypical marketing professional pretty much everything you say has already been said a thousand times and is going to turn out to be wrong.


Three effective strategies for being dead wrong, but maintaining your “expert” status:

  1. “I wasn’t wrong, I was ahead of my time.” This is also known as the “just wait, you’ll see” defense.
  2. “Of course, I didn’t mean it literally.”
  3. “It may seem like I was wrong, but if you look beyond…” This is the “broader view” defense.


Arguments against the older generation can be wrong

Everyone’s opinions are shaped by their circumstances — digital zealots no less than old traditional ad people. Their criticism implies that the only valid opinions are those of people who are a blank slate.

My opinions may be dead wrong. But the criticism that they are tainted because I started as a “traditional ad guy” is as stupid as criticizing a baseball manager because he started as a player.

Those who can’t argue on merit argue about you:

This is not the basis for serious debate. However, it is the only line of defense for people who can’t argue on merit.

In fact, the most important success factor for mainstream consumer brands is not how many loyal customers you have, but how many total customers you have. Which is why the current obsession with “engagement” is so misguided.

Most of what I read about the advantages that tech-based advertising (i.e., online advertising) has over traditional advertising seem to be opinions masquerading as facts. Is expanded reach actually a benefit? 

If your product is lousy, marketing can’t fix that. If your location is lousy, marketing can’t fix that.

Jes’s Insight – As always with irrational human behaviour we conform to the majority and the cocksure and we forget to question where there beliefs were founded.


Important competitive insight:

As new technology is adopted by everyone, what starts as a competitive advantage often quickly evolves into just another cost of doing business.

It is remarkable to me how much time is spent on technology voodoo and how little time is spent on solving the real problems of real customers.

Technology seduces us into thinking we can solve our problems by spending money instead of changing behaviours. Which is about the most damaging trap a business can fall into.


Here are Bob Hoffman’s 7 secrets of success:

  1. Assume everyone is faking it. Nobody knows a thing about advertising. All the rules are bullshit. There are a few people who can make good ads. That’s all there is.
  2. Preparation is everything. If you are not the best prepared person in every meeting you are in for trouble.
  3. Do as little work as possible at the office. Do your real work somewhere else. It’s almost impossible to do anything useful in an office. Offices are for meetings and phone calls and memos and emails and Powerpoints and politics and bullshit.
  4. Worry about everything. If you don’t worry you don’t care. Figure out what’s going to go wrong and be prepared when it does.
  5. Stay as far away from big organizations as possible. Corporations will suck all the joy out of your life.
  6. Pay no attention to the industry. The more you read about what other agencies or other clients are doing the more you’re going to become a cliché spewing zombie
  7. Be satisfied. You don’t have to work for the biggest agency in the world or be the best art director on the planet to be successful and happy.


Generation gap and misperceptions:

Anyone who’s ever had a parent knows one thing for sure: Old people think young people are idiots.

It’s no coincidence that people in the ad industry tend to be young. All this youth worship is really just narcissism masquerading as business strategy.

Realistic look at demographics – Youth: Even if they wanted a Pontiac (which they didn’t and never would) young people can’t afford new cars, and no lender in his right mind will finance them. Chevy is flirting with frittering away its whole culture on people who don’t buy cars, don’t want cars, and can’t afford cars.

Do not hold up a mirror. Don’t try to show them who they are or tell them what they believe. Older people want to be youthful, but they do not want to be like young people.

Contrary to popular belief – It turns out that the average consumer has a lot more on her mind than conducting online conversations about fabric softener.


Why people change brands:

Enthusiasm about a brand or convenience – Believers in this ideology assumed that a person’s use of a product was a demonstration of enthusiasm for the brand. Sadly, in the vast majority of cases, it is merely an indication of habit, convenience, or mild satisfaction.

In most cases people will change brands with very little bother if it turns out to be convenient or otherwise beneficial.


The State of Social Media:

Social media sites are quickly evolving into just another channel for delivering traditional interruptive advertising.

There are only two possible explanations. The first is that they are not capable of creating anything that anyone wants to read. I doubt that this is the reason. I think the real reason is the second possibility — they’re full of shit.

“The Future Of Data Driven Infometrics.” Let’s be honest here…none of us really gives a shit about the future of anything except ourselves. – Tell me how this will benefit me.

A Hilarious interpretation of current state of social media consultants – According to one theory proposed by physicists at the Very, Very Small Teflon Collider in Rhode Island, there are actually more bosons in the universe than social media consultants in Brooklyn.

Issue the following statement: “Sometimes process can be the enemy of progress. We’ve learned something from this and are streamlining everything we do.”


The truth of Social Media:

Your social media strategy doesn’t suck because Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs can’t reach people. It sucks because you’re stuffing it with crap that no one is interested in.

Maybe ask yourself this question before you create social content: Do you have something worth saying?


Online Fraud:

CNET reported on a study by research firm Incapsula that found only 38% of traffic on the web is human. – fake traffic is essentially systemic to advertising—it’s part of how the business works.

Every study ever done tells the same story — display ads are overwhelmingly ignored.


Internet is full of phonies:

Phony traffic – Bot-nets generate billions of phony visits to websites daily, which advertisers pay for. Phony clicks – Likewise

Phony websites – Sometimes called “spoofing,” phony websites pretend they’re real websites and sell imaginary ad space to knuckleheads Invisible ads – 

Euphemistically called “unviewable,” these are ads that “technically” appear but are invisible.

A company in the advertising fraud detection business recently estimated that just one average sized bot-net could be responsible for one billion fraudulent ad impressions every day.

The digital industry is full of sneaky little bastards whose “facts” and “data” usually turn out to be either intentionally misleading, willfully incomplete, or stone cold bullshit.

The research industry, heavily dependent on the digital ad industry for business, is complicit and almost always spins its findings about digital in the most positive light.

The pitiful trade press — devoid of perspective or skepticism — swallows this garbage whole and publishes it with a tone of gee-whiz boosterism


Using logic and reason to persuade:

Current Marketers Brains operate like this —- “While I haven’t seen any research that confirms this hypothesis, it seems logical to me and I think it’s probably true.”

Naughty words have a use — they remove any hint of ambiguity.

People keep saying this “the internet now means people are in charge of their choices: Look at what statements assume — consumers are now in-charge of making there own decisions thanks to the internet – It assumes that there was a time in the past when the consumer was not in charge of making buying decisions. I’d love to know when that was.

It assumes the usual bullshit about the web having “changed everything.”

Most depressingly, it shows a remarkable and frightening lack of understanding about what’s going on.


Political reality – 

You will think of your agency as “your team.” And, like all teams, they will have a limitless capacity for petty grievances and will go out of their way to undermine each other.

There’s way too much consensus. Way too much cordiality. Way too little controversy.

Nobody seems inclined to challenge the wearisome assertions of modern-day wizards, no matter how many times they’ve been wrong.

You can find more of Bob Hoffman’s Work on his blog – http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/