Women smell better than men

Did you know, women have a better sense of smell than men?

I was reminded of this the other day walking through Heathrow T3, when I noticed they are using scent machines in their ancient and very looooooong walkways to and from the aircraft stands.


Scent marketing machines at Heathrow T3


The scent itself is barely noticeable.  But the latest research suggests this isn’t that important.

You see, in the early days of investigating scent, it was thought you could dlal up a distinct scent (for example, Lavender) and that it would have a particular impact.  A bit like “aromatherapy” which turns out to be pretty much bollocks.

Turns out, the impact of scent is much more about making your brain feel “safe” in a second visit.  This effect happens at barely detectable levels of scent.  As we get more used to an environment, we tend to relax as our “threat detection” is turned down.  And scent travels directly to the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala.  So it is a very good way of relaxing people through signalling familiarity.

This is why you take your dog’s blanket on holiday, of course.

So in the context of Heathrow, the most likely impact on the passenger’s experience will be on repeat visits, when the passenger feels more relaxed and familiar than they otherwise would have.

This is quite clever, as airports are pretty high-stress places for most people.

The benefits for Heathrow of relaxing the passengers….   Less aggro? Higher customer satisfaction ratings? More compliance for boarding and customs? Greater turnover in stores?  All are possible.

In other airport ideas, how about this one from Hong Kong?

We know that ‘mirror neurons’ fire in your brain when someone smiles at you.  It’s hard to believe… but someone smiling at you really does make you feel happier.

So if you own an airport and you want happy passengers, having airport and retail staff smiling a lot is a really big deal.

Which is why Hong Kong have the smile reward competition.


Smile rewards at Hong Kong airport


I put my money on Scent and Smiles over “Big Data” – any day.




Would you buy a $200M car?

That’s how expensive this bottle of scotch is, given its price relative to a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

John Walker Diamond
Ouch.  Status costs.

What’s the permission key?  Ahhh, this is about royalty.

You’ll be doing it for The Queen, and to celebrate her 60 years of reign – not at all to show off to your fellow Russian oligarchs or drug cartel leaders….

Why Car Dealers Suck at Marketing and Sales

We recently conducted a survey of just under 100 car dealers.
The aim was to gauge usage and attitudes towards digital marketing.

You might be interested in the results, especially if you are a dealer doing marketing (hint: newspapers aren’t as important as they used to be) or if you’re involved in any franchise-based branded marketing.

Here are the topline results:

– Overwhelmingly dealers see that online and digital success is imperative for overall business success (most see it as more important than press).  

This is not surprising, because it is.

– Almost all dealers know that customers research their purchase online first these days.  

Again, this rings true.  Who in their right mind would go shopping for a car at a dealership without doing a bit of google work first?  But here’s the kicker…

– 60% of dealers surveyed said they have “no” or “limited” online marketing, or are just “getting started”.

So despite the strong intent to succeed at digital marketing, there is a distinct lack of action to make it happen.

The question has to be asked – what’s holding them back?

It seems the problems lie in three categories – SKILLS, RESOURCES and TIME.

Dealers have staff to manage their website, however they are most commonly sales or marketing managers, or general admin (their PA).

This is a leading indicator of a skills and capability gap, which was supported by the facts that:

– 74% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they need more help with skills.

– Only 39% have an external agency to help them.

And if  digital marketing is being handled by sales staff who don’t know what they’re doing (and haven’t been trained).. the big question is…..who THE FUCK is on the floor selling?  

As one respondent put it, the biggest hurdles are …

“Time and IT talk – we just want to sell cars and service cars!”

Hooks, Hats and How James Bond Does Marketing

John from the pharma sector in Sydney wrote back with a question after my last letter….

I was just going to send him a personal reply but I thought you might be interested too.

Here’s the question he wrote:  

“I was thinking about what you put in your first letter: that companies shouldn’t do over segmentation. What do you mean there exactly? I thought that knowing your clientele as close as possible to the individual level was the best knowledge a marketer can have!”

Yes, knowing your customer is important.

If you have a decent CRM you can scrape data from social media and then you’ll know what your customer ate for breakfast!

But if you are finding a strategy, a nice, clear segmentation (and targeting) makes it easier for you to win in most categories.

Here’s how I think about it.

Do you remember James Bond entering M’s office?

Hooks, Hats and James Bond

Bond arrives, then – to impress Moneypenny –  throws his hat over the room towards the hatstand.  Of course it never fails to land right on the hook…

Well, you can think of your market segments as HOOKS.

And the different HATS you throw at them are the – targeted – offers, for each hook.

When you’re like James Bond, and you hit the right hook with the right hat, you’re doing marketing right.

Over-segmenting is doing too much of a good thing…  Too many hooks, too many hats… Confusion…


A segmentation that involves more than 9 segments is not much use for planning.  When you have more than 9 segments it  causes more confusion than help because the (normal) brain can really only deal effectively with 6-9 chunks of information at once.

More often than not, you’ll want a simple segmentation model that can be easily understood by the different groups you need to know your strategy;  your board, executive, marketing, sales…

When segmentation goes bad: a true story

It’s 1997…  I was John West account manager and went to present a fancy new canned fish market segmentation to Graham, my grumpy buyer at Franklins.  Problem was, my friends in marketing had ‘discovered’ a revolutionary new segment called “Oral Stimulation”…

The buyer stood up in the middle of his office and shouted:

“Hey everybody, it’s Matt from Unilever – HE WANTS TO TELL US ABOUT ORAL STIMULATION!”

In hindsight we might have been over segmenting…

Oversegmenting can lose you money

I don’t intend to bore you with it now, but it’s also theoretically possible to lose market share by over-segmenting….  The reason is not just due to falling efficiencies – you can also reduce positive “spillover” effects from advertising and marketing.

Anyway, I reckon the Mad Men were pretty good at finding nice, easy to follow segments, then targeting them.

Those Mad Men: they kept it simple

  • Cigarettes for Macho Men (or for Stylish Women)
  • Travel for Business (or for Leisure)
  • Cars for Jones-Beaters (or for Practical People)
  • Shirts for Individuals (or for Adventurers)
  • For 9 out of 10 businesses  a simple segmentation,  and decent targeting against the main ones, will do the trick.


How about a checklist…  

Are you oversegmenting?

If you can’t answer YES to each of these, you might be oversegmenting:

– Does it feel useful? Make sense?
– Can you tailor your marketing in a meaningful way, based on the segments?  (if not, you’re probably wasting your time)
– Could you explain it to a buyer without cringing like I had to?  Would your sales team think it’s useful?
– Does it define who you could be chasing? Does it show you why, how or where to track them down?
– Is it feasible to segment and target down to this level as part of “business as usual”?  (If not, you’ll be back to “Price vs Quality” in a heartbeat)

Do you want me to send you the June marketing letter?

Marketing folks, would you like a copy of this month’s Marketing Letter?

We’re just posting them now (yes, it’s a letter -old school) and you have 1 day to jump on my list if you want it. Info here: http://goo.gl/zZ6e7

This time, I’m reporting from last month’s web testing conference in Austin, Texas, USA: “Web conversion optimisation.”

  • What’s it about?
  • Why are US firms spending 5% of their marketing budget on it?
  • Where to start?

Plus a few surprises for you – like the secret spying network used by US retailers. And an a/b test cheat sheet.


Go here:  http://goo.gl/zZ6e7

Hope you like it…


Reporting from Texas – Austin Marketing Conference

Hi everyone,

I thought I would post a few photos from the Austin web optimisation conference!

First, here is one of the breakout sessions (the conference was at the Music Hall, just down the road from Obama’s Austin visit yesterday so the area was swarming with secret service suits).  There were some very smart people in this session.


Truth is, the USA is waaaay ahead of Australia when it comes to e-commerce.  To illustrate this, consider the average e-commerce TESTING budget in the USA is 5%, and they consider this to be insufficient.   I doubt any more than 10 majors in Australia have any serious testing program.

Even small and medium firms in the USA are doing some SERIOUS work on testing and optimising (they spell it optimizing) their websites.

This shot is of Andy Edwards from eBay.   Understatement of the day was just before this slide when Andy said “let’s get a bit geeky here.”  Then up went the slide of Bivariate fit of Median search times (in seconds) by rank.  In a nutshell, eBay were testing the ups and downs of making certain layout changes.  Ups being better search, downs being the time it takes people to “learn” a new layout.

Split testing Austin

When I get a moment I will write up some main lessons from the sessions.  But what you need to know is, there is no doubt this is the future of marketing.

Now to the fun.

Austin is a major music city.  The Elephant Bar is a sensational jazz bar, known worldwide. I recorded a snippet of this 13-piece big band for you: Voice_Recording

13 pieceIced tea is everywhere…  This is one of the nicest bulk service options I have seen in years.  Big bucket of ice, nice big clear dispensers – awesome.

iced tea


There are probably 100 great bands and venues every night in Austin.  Here is one garden bar in a row of dilapidated town houses-turned-bars just outside the downtown area.  Very cool.




Austin garden
Anyway that’s all for now…