Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

Marketing Innovation Forum 2009


The third annual Marketing Innovation Forum organized by Economedia took place yesterday. And by common consensus it was the best one so far.

The tradition started off in with a bang in 2007 – the first Marketing stars to talk to a large audience of Bulgarian marketers were Sergio Zyman (Zyman group, former Coca-Cola Marketing manager) and Guy Kawasaki (Apple Marketing manager). 2008 saw the father of guerilla marketing Jay Levinson. Yesterday we had the immense pleasure of listening to Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology and one of this year’s TIME magazine 100 most powerful people.

I go to many such events. On the respective day’s morning I get all fidgety … I always hope that I will be impressed, that I’ll learn something new, that I will be surprised. Usually, I leave disappointed. Yesterday was a first!

The two speakers had a completely different approach in their presentations. Kevin won his audience with his sense of humor and light-hearted style of communication. However it was Martin who had everyone’s undivided attention. Never have I seen 500 people at the same place who barely move and hold their breath for an hour and a half. He went from whispering to yelling in a split second, his high-tech presentation was superbly delivered in a unique Broadway manner with a pleasant Danish accent. One thing kept bugging me though: the guy does not look a day over 25 (turned out he’s nearly 40).

Though they very much differed in areas of expertise, both speakers agreed on some topics:

1)Times of crisis are awesome (time for you to win, and win ugly);

2)In advertising you should appeal to people’s emotions, not to their rationale (always, always, always!);

3)Focus groups are completely useless (while Kevin just thought them to be a waste of resources, Martin put it very simply: people lie to you at focus groups. Sometimes subconsciously, but nonetheless most of the time they lie.)

4)Successful marketing sells experiences nowadays, and not products or brands.

Kevin summarized his advice with the words “Fail fast. Learn fast. Fix fast”. He argued that research is a waste of time and agencies and clients should work quickly if they want to stay on top of things. His personal-experience example of this was “If ever in any of the Saatchi & Saatchi subsidiaries there is a problem they cannot solve in 48 hours, they have to e-mail me. Within 24 hours I will send them the solution. I can’t promise that it will be a good solution which will work, but they still would get one in 24 hours.”

“Never give your clients what they want,” he said to a laughing-out-loud audience. Give them what they thought was impossible!

I learned that later on he shared with a smaller group of people that he found (just from a quick drive through the city) Bulgarian Outdoor advertising to be horrendous.

On the other hand, Martin Lindstrom gave a quick explanation of the science of why we buy things. He explained a huge study that he conducted prior to writing Buyology. 2000 volunteers were given a functional MRI while they were exposed to advertising messages. Their brain waves were scanned to see how they reacted to different methods in advertising – a pure scientific analyses of why we like and buy the things we like and buy. He couldn’t stress enough on the fact that our decisions are purely emotional (Kevin Robert’s estimate was 80% – and, jokingly, 101% for women) and irrational. His practical advice to marketers in this regard was to:

-use the past and not the future in advertising (the future is unknown and therefore scary, but remember how it was always sunny in the good ol’ days?)

-use somatic markers for your brand (smell, feel, sound, etc) – create experiences for your audience

-use kids in advertising (as much as possible; though personally I would disagree here)

-Never discount

Lindstrom used some interesting case studies to explain why people lie at focus groups: the rational part of their brain simply overrides the emotional part. For example: when blind-tasting Coke and Pepsi, over 90% of the respondents prefer Pepsi to Coke (the Pepsi challenge campaign was based on these blind tests). However, when you show the respondent the cans, the rational part of the brain dictates: You were wrong, of course you like Coke more. Or when some of the world’s finest sommeliers were presented with three different bottles of wine (of course filled with the same exact wine) in three price categories – super cheap, sort of medium and overpriced, all of them without exception said they prefer them according to the price tag. When they were told they drank the same wine, most of them said – Yeah, on a second thought, they did taste the same. A prime example of the rational part of the brain shamelessly lying to you.

I am so thrilled after yesterday that I can go on forever. However, as this is already a ridiculously long post, I am going to cut short the serious stuff and make it an even more ridiculously long post by giving you some of Kevin Robert’s funniest lines:

We’re in the shit. I come from New Zealand – there this is a business term.

The difference between New Zealand and Australia is that the people live in New Zealand by choice.

At the Australian customs office they ask you if you have a criminal record. Believe me, it is still a requirement to get in the country.

Everyone should be happy today. Except for Man United fans of course.

Al Gore was the only guy who got a Nobel Prize for a Powerpoint.

The further up a company you go, the stupider you get. Spend NO time talking to a CEO.

If I get a task that I don’t like I just don’t do it. I assign it to someone else. There is absolutely no point in having power unless you abuse it.

How old is your website? I bet you it’s the ugliest thing in the world.

I hate it when a brand manager walks into my room and says MY brand. Actually, I hate it when a brand manager walks into my room. Period.

Even guys in IT are human. Relatively. Bankers … nah.

Q: What is your advice to financial institutions?

A: Shoot the management and maybe you’ll be fine.

And last but not least, there was a strange Q&A exchange with a random bizarre girl (RBG)

RBG: What would you do if you work for a company that is hated by people, by media, by government?

KR: I’d leave.

RGB: Yeah, but that’s the easiest thing you can do.

KR: And probably the smartest, too.

RGB: Still?

KR: Tell me, is it tobacco?

RGB: Yeah.

KR: Then I want you to dig really deep down in yourself and find out why do you think it’s a good thing to kill people.

On that note, my friends, I’ll go have a cigarette. Out of curiosity – leave me a comment if you read all the way through here :)

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On focus groups


I am and I believe I’ll always be a fan of marketing research. The more the better, including focus groups.

However, when it comes to focus groups, I am always mindful of the opinions of two great men:

1) Henry Ford: “Had I listened to focus groups, I would have made a fantastic carriage.”

2) Sergio Zyman: “Make sure you don’t ask stupid questions at focus groups. For exapmle – if you ask ‘Why don’t you drink more Coke’, you might get an answer ‘Cause I don’t feel like it, dude!”

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Spoiler: this is what happens when you fire your agency


In today’s world where creativity is put on a high pedestal and there is a severe competition between the banks for every lev out there, I came across this:


For those of you who still aren’t fluent in Bulgarian, the text says: ” Deposit 1+2+3. Short-term deposits in BGN, EUR and USD. The indicated interest rates are annual, for BGN deposits”.

So there. You tell me if you understand something. What’s the term of the “short-term” deposit? Do 1, 2 and 3 indicate the months you deposit your money for? If it is just one [short term] deposit, why 1, 2 and 3? Which interest rate corresponds to which term? WHAT does this tell me???

Why does Cibank (formerly known as EiBank) think it made a smart decision by doing this ad in-house? Did it? I sure hope so! (If not, I hope they fired their agency.) And, if they did do it in-house, do they really think it was a good idea to save a couple hundred Euro for this to come out?

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