Skip to content

Telme something new

April 1, 2011

A slub of an industry. Halfway between a slut and a slob. Big and messy, lipstick all over it’s bloated wrinkled face, it’s knickers half off and its dick hanging out in the breeze. But it’s powerful and angry and sick of taking it from politicians and do-gooders. And as marketers, it’s got us by the balls. The hub of all communications.

On the subject of coms, I was at a law firm the other day, along with half the players in the industry, being told about changes in the Trade Practices Act. They were describing the ACCC’s running battle with Telco’s, and the iffy practices were like a who’s who of ads from everyone. Giraffes, pale blue Kombis, big-titted blondes calling ‘Dodo, where are you?’, all took a stand in the defendant’s box. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s complaints went up a staggering 80% last year (09/10) to top 480,000. About one person in 50 has bothered to write a letter to the TIO. That takes a lot of work. I bet it says almost everybody has had a legitimate reason to complain.


Lick or Suck

January 12, 2011

To do it. Not to do it. It’s sitting there, teasing you. You know you want it. No, you’re stronger than that. You’re losing weight, getting tighter, cooler. It will only take you backwards, pull you into that world of filthy self-hatred.

You walk on. Now it’s crying, Oh, God you think. You can hear the sobbing from beneath the wrapper. The haunting hormonal pull comes again, more compelling, every step you take away is a harder pull back. Oh, God I can’t. You don’t care. Yes, you do care, try as you do not to. But it hasn’t even got a mind. It’s just a slab of flavored vegetable fat packed with sugar, covered in thick plastic. Yet it can talk to you, make you feel guilty. Even though you will feel guilty for doing it, you feel guilty not buying it too.

You go back. Stare at it. Reach for it. It’s thick and strong and full and hard in your hand. You feel naughty but nice, exciting but stupid, all at the same time. You hide it down the side of the basket. You race towards the check out hoping no one has noticed your bar. You have to wait in the line for the counter. You feel so guilty you start to pump the basket up and down and work your biceps knowing you’ll be trowelling centimeters of cellulite onto your arse and thighs as soon as you get into your car.

You can hear it laughing before you’ve paid for it, the bastard. Still, even knowing the brainless chocolate is mocking you, you don’t have the strength to say no and just slap it back on the pile of magazines with covers like ‘Fat Attacks of the Famous’ and ‘Britney lets her behind down’.

Chocolate – just the word gets you hot, doesn’t it? Is chocolate a metaphor for lusty dumb men? Footballers? Tradies? Is chocolate a symbol of love when we don’t feel there’s anything that’s truly loving in this crazy world? Is chocolate just a great taste that we can’t resist? Is it because it’s so bad for us that it’s so desirable? Is it the food equivalent of the gorgeous young rock star who does you hard on the club’s stairs then throws you back into the dumpster of life? Do we really hate ourselves so much that we must lust after something that can’t love us back, that can’t be good for us, that will melt and go sticky at the mere thought of sunshine and die in our pocket the moment we start some exercise? That lasts less time than teenage sex? That you can buy on almost every street corner, yet still holds your fascination, and creates by its mere bloated price, a maddening sense of exclusivity?

A Universe in it’s own

Chocolate – an enigma in marketing land. At a time when making things overtly sexy can be a mistake, we have virtual porno over a food product. At a time when health promises are everywhere, and ingredients listed in codes, we ignore them with chocolate.

At a time when people demand value and discounting is rife, when have you seen discounted chocolate, (except just after Easter, for obvious reasons).

A drug of addiction, that’s full of sugar and salt, makes you fat and potentially turns you into a diabetic, marketed, ridiculously, as a health food.

That I can write an intro like the one above and most of you know I’m talking about chocolate before sentence two or three is testament to it’s power in our society. To the hold it has over many of you readers.

The whole world loves chocolate

Very few of us don’t. I have seen grown men sneaking nibbles on trains. Women hide it like gold or cocaine, away from prying eyes. I have seen people actually fight over bars of it. When I was working at 7/11 as a teenager, I saw skinny stoners literally eat kilos of it in the car park.

And if you can’t think of anything to give someone, it’s always a better option than a gift card, and I don’t know why that is.

World sales are estimated at over US $50 billion. There are literally thousands of brands. On Google, there are 33 million entries under ‘Chocolate – how to market it’.

Worldwide market

Children are addicted to chocolate before they get to school. I was. I can remember the first pleasurable experiences my little brain had were not Mum’s cuddle, as much as she thinks it was. It was the taste of a Kit Kat as it melted over my tongue. Followed by a Smartie then another. I can see the front yard garden, the sun shining, the shadow of my sister reaching for the pile of Smarties high-lighted by a Kit Kat, that someone had handed to me.  I must have been 2 or 3. Kids all over the world (those who aren’t dying of hunger in Africa, mind you) have these memories. A client of ours, Paton’s Chocolate Macadamias, sells to 140 countries.

Demographics irrelevant

I’ve seen the down and out, poor as a church mouse, covered in tatts and wearing worn-out trackies and blind from boxed wine and probably Ice on Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne’s unglamorous home of the druggies, buying Lindt and Magnums.

You might say it’s that they are too pissed to care about value. I say its been proven that chocolate is one of those products that lives beyond logic and conveys luxury beyond comprehension. That people buy it because it represents a moment of affordable indulgence and richness in an otherwise dull life. For that matter it is recognized as one of the great counter cyclical products – the poorer the public are, the more chocolate sells – consumed as an escape. When the shit hits the fan and interest rates soar and we all panic and worry about our jobs, the chocolate makers rub their hands with glee and up the prices….Old ladies on pensions buy expensive chocolates for their friends. Stingy boyfriends will lash out on chockies. The rich won’t buy any or worse than the poor. It has no relevance to income or any other normal demographic analysis. Psychographic yes, but demo’s? Nup.

Sex sells, not really

It is sex, but it isn’t somehow. Women in focus groups might think its clever to put the body of a naked Nubian bloke on the cover, saying ‘this is sexy’ but it doesn’t sell chocolates. It’s a sexy product, but sex itself only cheapens the brand vibe. Subtlety and implication does work, but anything overt just comes across as trying too hard. Women know chocolate means sex. You don’t need to hit them over the head with it.

Sex replacement, yes

Chocolate to the average woman is about as sexy as you can get. This may sound sexist, and no-doubt it is. It’s like me saying V8’s are exciting to men. You now I’m telling the truth, you just cringe, cause you live in a poncy PC world where you can’t admit the truth most of the time. Fuck it. Women crave chocolate like starving dogs crave minced meat soaked in beef stock. Men just eat it cause it tastes OK. Women’s biological systems are somehow attuned to chocolate and they get off on it. I have seen countless ‘scientific’ studies on this subject trying to work out why, how or what colours to use, what messages to give out and I’m here to tell you, it’s an incredibly over-studied, over analysed, (there are literally thousands of research projects conducted each year) messy mystery to the science world but it has something to do with hormones and sex drives.

How To

Geographic Dreaming

Chocolate is haute couture fashion – invariably it’s where it comes from and who makes it, not the experience you have with the product itself.

France and Italy is where fashion comes from, and the occasional local hand made designer product… wouldn’t matter of it made you look like shit. For some reason, and I don’t get it, Belgian is better than Swiss, Swiss is better than Latvian, and Australian chocolate is one step above bog ordinary. This is despite the fact that Haigh’s of South Australia is possibly the best in the world.

Distribution dilemma

Brand positioning is often very affected by the place you find it. Something for sale at Shell in Toowoomba, crammed between the Mars and the Snickers, regardless of how good it is, is not by definition exactly exclusive. Not that you could get it into there, with the restrictions on location set by planner-grams and nasty merchandise managers. Yes, I know stores have to be managed in a well planned manner, I just don’t think anybody is going to buy into the fantasy that something with a scene of a Swiss Mountain on it, but made in Tasmania, is really very ‘Swissy’.

Where you buy the chocolate is what often makes the brand. It just ain’t quality if it’s at Coles, sorry. Once you have a deeply established brand premise, you can afford to gamble on weakening the impression that location inevitably makes on the brand’s overall image, but until you know you are a household name, if you want an exclusive vibe, don’t make it mass market.

If on the other hand, you’re shooting for one of the many possible brand messages that don’t rely on exclusivity, then don’t worry about where you sell the product. If it’s a bloke’s chocolate, then sell it where blokes go. I’m thinking Bunnings, Complete Angler. If it’s supposed to be cool with skaters, have it at Milk bars or Surf shops.

Change it’s size

Old man Mars is sitting in the living room while the family scoff a big box of mixed chocolates. He notices that the one with the caramel over the fluffed centre always goes first. He says to himself, ‘What if we made a big one of those?’ and the Mars Bar is born. If you look at the biggest sellers on the world stage, the ones that sell just about everywhere, they are all large versions of small chocolates. The Bounty? The little coconut crème. Snickers? The peanut crunch. Turkish Delight, ditto. Similarly, tiny little Mars Bars and all the other flavours sell well as individually wrapped versions in multi-packs of 250 grams, 500 grams.

Changing the size works. Again, I don’t know why, but it may have to do with novelty. Mere behavioral observation is a powerful tool in marketing science and rarely gets the cudos it deserves.

Psychology slices

Cadbury Family block was once a ‘glass and a half of milk’, which was supposed to sound healthy, got replaced with ‘a glass and a half of fun’, then it became just ‘fun’.

It has been morphed across psychological lines, from family health to ‘family fun vehicle’ – on the basis that there is no way a family can’t be allowed to have ‘fun’, now is there? What kind of Mum doesn’t let her family enjoy itself? Lovely American-style guilt selling. Works, but. As well as that one, the chockie market is sliced up into the following main blocks: Convenient pressie, quick snack, rampant sexaholic, family guilt trip block, evil sneak, greenie indulgence and glamour puss.


Connecting Chocolate with abandonment, sheer unadulterated pleasure, with letting yourself go and just being hedonistic, is often quite a successful ploy. Perhaps the public like it when we tell the truth? There’s an interesting thought for the majority of Australia’s advertising, and corporate community. Such was the launch of Cadbury Flake, opening scene was basically a blow-job. Blonde gingerly pulls away wrapper, sighs, drops her mouth right around the erect Flake bar and almost goes up and down. For a fifteen year old school boy, which I was at the time, it was riveting.


There’s a movement towards third-world economy/ fairness as a positioning, (at an inflated price I might add – corporates love to punish greenies for daring to want equality or fewer chemicals) as if the lost tribes of the upper Amazon are seeing a decent slice of the retail price of a bar of Green & Blacks, the reality is that they loose their jungle home to the bulldozers, they get shot or die by white man’s infections, and their tribal lands get ploughed under for a quick crop of cocoa.
Some lefty intellectuals in Parkville or Paddington feel better about themselves while they chomp through a bar, but the remaining Amazonian/Nigerian/Ethiopian natives get precious little for the inconvenience.


The foundation of successful chocolate brands is great packaging. If you don’t arrest them in the store, you’re dead. If you don’t get across some exotic, cool or sexy vibe in the packaging, there is no brand.

Point of Sale

Think about the packaging’s advantages and make them even bigger. Absolutely key to have the brand noticed at retail but often bloody hard to get POS into supermarkets or department stores cause the faggy merchandising teams want no clutter and nice neat, orderly aisles that just don’t happen to sell anything much.

Tastes Tests

Yes, it’s an old-fashioned way to get people to like a product (a few companies push ‘experiential’ advertising, which is a totally wanky way of saying we got them to eat some) and it’s damned expensive per person. Ie. How many people can you get to taste something per hour? At how much cost? But it’s the only way to get the punters to fall in love. If they haven’t tried it, they’ll never crave it.


You-tube, cinema, TV, anything with sound and moving pictures can create an emotional connection, which is what marketing chocolate is about. We could go on to debate the relative merits of one creative execution or another, but the main issue is lower cost per sale, which free-to-air TV is still quite good at. (The coming fragmentation of Australian TV, to soon be brought about by the NBN – with literally thousands of TV stations then at our disposal, will melt this available brand-building power faster than a family block on a hot February footpath. Get in now or hate yourself forever for missing the last days of cost-effective mass market communication.)

Radio is OK as a back-up for TV if you want to drive sales at a particular time of the day or year, but the brand’s premise must have been first established on TV for it to really work well – very strong if you can translate the TV sound track to the radio somehow.
Outdoor is OK as a hunger/crave reminder, especially near retailers like 7/11 or Woolies, but sadly not brilliant at brand establishment, cause it is only one image and no jingle.

Magazines with exactly the right environment will work to an extent to get the public familiar with the packaging, but they are far weaker than electronic media at punching the message home.

Chocolate is one of my favorite products. It meets a lot of the standard FMCG rules, but is hyper-real on emotional triggers and personal involvement. (The number of people I’ve met who remember their days at Cadbury’s, Toblerone, Lindt or Rowntree’s very fondly is amazing.) For that reason if you’re sold chocolates, you’ve almost been spoiled for harder products like milk, batteries or light-globes, that people get way less excited about. But if you’re in the FMCG market anyway, shoot for a stint at a chockie brand, you’ll love it, even if you do pack on the pounds. There’s always jogging…..

Top Ten Marketers New Year Resolutions

January 11, 2011

To get more recognition for my work
To get a better grip on media, especially social
To engage with my customers more
To increase brand power and sales
To track & explain more
To over-deliver
To be less inclined to box and judge people
To raise my pay
To further my career
To loose 5 kilos
To get more sleep
To be nicer at home

(Yes, I know there’s twelve here, that’s the point – over deliver.)

Brand Your Land

September 30, 2010

The following discussion is about how to build a brand for big property development. What to do, when, and why.

Get yourself a glass of red wine. Now a piece of white paper. Hold the wine up to your mouth, take a swig, and be a bit messy about it, so some of the wine dribbles over the rim of the glass. Watch the drop slowly run down the side of the glass, down the stem, onto the curve of the base. Move the glass to and fro, just so. If you do it right, you’ll end up with a red line around most of the base. Stick the base onto the piece of paper. Pick it up again, drink the rest of the wine.

You should have on the piece of paper a red, messy, almost-complete circle of about 8cm across. You photograph this and send the photo to the client. If you’re a designer, you call this a logo and charge $30,000 for it. If you’re a really smart designer, you’ll sell them on three different colours of the same logo for another $5,000 each.

I can show you at least half a dozen similar logos currently in the market place for very similar projects. And the designers who did them don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The engineers and architects and accountants who approved them don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. They all think, cause it looks like the others, they are in the ‘fashion’ of the moment…bozos.

Agencies do things differently.

Good ad agencies put serious thought into the whole game. Especially the psychology of how it all hangs together. But if you’re not a seasoned large scale developer, you may not know the disciplines…or why you ought to use a disciplined ad agency over a bunch of hip, cute, but dumb designers.

Welcome to the world of property, big time. I’m not talking about doing the local paper ads for an apartment block of 8 or 10 in Caulfield. I’m talking 2,000, 5,000 or 20,000 house lots – whole suburbs. Read more…

Brand the Globe

September 16, 2010

This article is about taking commodities and turning them into desirable brands. This may sound like a big deal for aspiring marketers – how to make what is other wise something that is indistinguishable to it’s competitor, into something that is desirable and differentiated. Presumably something that is more valuable. But, like how to make vegies interesting, which is a problem for Mums and Dads every night, it’s an issue that confronts practicing marketers every day in Australia. Read more…

The Power of Ants

August 30, 2010

I’m staring up at a blue sky. Something moves at the edge of my vision. I think I’m seeing shadows, but no matter which way I tilt my head, it just moves in a determined direction, one way along the edge of my line of vision. A grey shadow just out of my visual reach. There it is again. Suddenly I have a brain-wave. (Something that happens so rarely I actually decide to start an article with this momentous event just to give myself some confidence that I’m not entirely without merit). Read more…

Oh, Save Me!

July 30, 2010

I’m at a swanky restaurant that has featured on TV and has a weird name, like 16 or 14 or something. I’m actually wearing a jacket, cause I was asked to very politely by the people organising the function. It’s a weeknight and there’s a huge table with about 25 people on it, set in a dark corner. I gaze around, feeling like a Taipan hunting frogs in the dark by smell alone. My eyes get used to the candle light. I’m the only person who looks like they can’t afford to eat here, and I suspect the only one actually paying to attend, cause I felt guilty and got them to send me an invoice first. Sucker. Read more…

%d bloggers like this: