Tom Morton’s 5 myths and hidden laws of marketing

The brand advisor shares his insights ahead of the ICA's FutureFlash

FutureFlash speaker says forget the 80:20 rule, focus on universal truths

Tom Morton

Tom Morton has learned a thing or two about solid, effective marketing. At Havas Worldwide, he won an Effie for a campaign he helped steer – Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man In The World.” He’s spent the last year or so at Goodby Silverstein + Partners as head of strategy, and came up in the industry at TBWA London and Publicis UK, working on brands such as Google, Sony, Virgin and YouTube.

As a featured speaker at the Institute of Communication Agencies‘ FutureFlash conference next week, the brand advisor will share some of his wisdom with leaders of Canada’s creative industry.

Marketing sat down with Morton to chat about this year’s theme, Counsel and Conviction, and to give us a sneak peek at his address.

The 80:20 rule is a myth

“There are lots of rules of thumb and heuristics in marketing that turn out not to be true. Everyone talks about the 80:20 rule [that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers]. But in almost every category, that bottom 80% you’re meant to ignore are actually responsible for half of a brand’s sales.

“People are more detached from brands than you think. Consumers buy them less frequently than brands assume, brands are more dependent on light buyers than they think, and people’s interaction with communication is also less than we think.”

Universal truths are the key to success

“If brands pick up on these rules, they can be massively influential. Nicorette, after years of ducking the subject, admitted that most attempts to quit smoking end in failure, so they ran a campaign called Quitting Sucks, and it was very effective, very original.

“Here’s another example: for many years Snickers used to campaign to young men with skateboarders and extreme sports people. Then they started campaigning on the universal truth that you’re not you when you’re hungry. They were talking to a truth that spoke to millions of light buyers, rather than thousands of ardent fans.

“It’s a less egocentric view of marketing, where we admit that consumers aren’t going to be 100% loyal to our brands. The simple truth is that brands grow because a large number of light buyers get into them.”

People might not like you on Facebook

“The language that’s grown up around social media, fans and relationships, turns out to be untrue. It’s all metaphors that suggest people care and spend way more time with brands than they do.

“There’s a fantastic study out of Australia about how passion brands perform on Facebook, brands like Harley-Davidson – ones you assume people really care about. They looked at what proportion of the fans of those brands liked or clicked on them, and it was 0.6%.

“That’s absolutely not to dismiss these channels. What it really means is that in order to succeed, you have to plan for a world in which most people are detached from your brand.”

The internet is growing up

“The most disruptive thing we’re seeing right now is the maturing of digital platforms. Media owners are talking about paid distribution of high quality video, and at the same time you have Twitter’s stock price falling like a stone – it turns out it’s a very good elite publishing platform that isn’t going to become the size of Facebook.

“As a buy, it’s much more like buying The Economist than like buying People. And Facebook is more or less becoming a paid media platform rather than a social platform. With this rapid maturity of social media, the industry has suddenly redefined how all of these things work.

“We’re seeing the maturity of all of these media at the same time; we’re seeing the the reality of TV advertising and the reality of YouTube advertising, and the reality of Facebook all shaping up at the same time. It’s changing, but it’s good. In all these media, the patterns of success are emerging.”

Brands have their own “laws of gravity”

“My experience has basically taught me that brands are usually subject to their own law of gravity. There is a magic number or ratio that accounts for why that brand performs as it does. Often it will be something profound. If brands pick up on these rules, they can be massively influential.

“Take nicotine gum. Here’s the truth: 19 out of 20 attempts to give up smoking end in failure. That is that brand’s law of gravity. Or suntan lotion: half the search volume for suntan lotion lands in the month of June. So unless you have a marketing blitz in June, you’re not on the radar.”

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