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Marketing is Broken

Marketing is broken. Most of marketing isn't fit for purpose and doesn't work. The best way to explain this is by looking at the facts.

On a daily basis, it is anticipated that you are exposed to between 4000 and 10000 pieces of marketing per day. How many can you remember from yesterday? How many made you actually do something different?

Most people I ask these questions struggle to identify one example. We are all becoming experts on filtering out advertising, yet technology is helping brands try to get the slightest uplift in our engagement. This misses a fundamental problem when people actually are asked their opinion of marketing only 4% of people have a positive sentiment. The majority of marketing is wallpaper, unimaginative, sitting in the background with people giving it no attention and seeing no value. Almost double the amount of people are likely to have a negative sentiment to your marketing and a positive one.

Companies are obsessed by pushing their message and content, without truly understand what impact this will have on their customers. They fail to see the real problem, most marketing quality is poor. Quality is everything, yet do you measure content quality? The reality of marketing quality is this. Good, high-quality content is powerful. It creates engagement, drives a positive experience, boosts/creates relationships, drives positive sales. As a result, good quality content drives sales. Poor quality content has the opposite effect. People don't tolerate poor content, they stop engaging, it creates a poor experience, it can annoy the customer, it can stop relationships/permissions and in the worst cases drive negative sales.

Marketing quality should be measured by brand teams. If for nothing more than stopping content that has a negative impact. Diagnosing the quality of marketing and clearly identifying how to improve it can dramatically increase effectiveness and outcomes.

Most marketing teams apply a subjective approach to evaluating quality, but very few people view marketing quality from the lens of an excellence framework based upon behavioural science. Let me explain how to do this.

The markify system helps you evaluate quality by looking at content based upon behavioural science principles that would make the content more effective. Firstly, the job of any marketing is to grab attention. This is the toughest challenge for brands, to break through the volume of other marketing content that is thrown at your customers. Failing to gain attention and your marketing spend is wasted. Once, you have finally grabbed the customers attention, you need to maintain their engagement. You need to provide value, provide a positive experience and build trust. Failing to create engagement means customer stop interacting and your marketing spend is wasted. Finally, having grabbed attention and engaged the customer, unless you create the desired behavioural change your marketing budget is wasted.

The markify system, helps you evaluate the quality of your content on a number of different areas, based upon behavioural science. If we look at a number of these principles, you can see immediately how you can improve quality.


Your brain is designed to filter out things. By doing this we can go on autopilot. If we didn't being exposed to the 4000-10000 marketing messages we would never get anything done. Your primal brain is programmed to look for many things including that stand out. It is the principle of Gestalt psychology, our mind creates categories and we fit any information into these. When something new comes along we afford it more attention. Take a look at the image below. Where does your attention go? Did you give any attention to the 1st man on the 4th row? Most marketing doesn't stand out.


One of the main factors impacting engagement is customer centricity. Too many companies are focused on their message and fail to align with the customer. The reality every marketer needs to understand is, that your customers don't care about you, your products or services. They care about themselves. You can make them care by demonstrating how you can help the customer. If we look closely at the trust model below, we can see that failure to align with the customer, creates self-orientation. As a result, customer trust can be destroyed and they will stop engaging.


It is relatively common to ask a marketer what they want the customer to believe, feel and do differently having engaged with their marketing, and they aren't 100% sure. If the person paying for the marketing can't articulate the behavioural change they want, what are the chances of the agency being able to make it happen or the customers to actually do it?

Most marketers don't actually contemplate that their marketing could be actually driving negative sales. A good example of this is the posters you see in a typical doctors surgery telling people not to miss their appointment, that x number of people missed their appointment and it wastes a lot of money. A good idea? Who is the poster targeting? The people not in the surgery. Who actually consumes the poster? Patients who are compliant and attend their appointments. What does the poster actually advertise to them? It advertises to them that people are missing their appointments, modelling the wrong behaviours. What is the result? Those posters actually increase the number of people missing their appointment.

One companies material when audited flagged 30% of their assets drove negative behaviours. 30% of their budget was actually spent to lose customers. A quick fix saw a significant uplift in sales.

Embedding behavioural science into your marketing can make significant changes to impact. If we look at a familiar example to many, how we choose what wine we want at a restaurant.

How would you choose your wine from the list below?

Immediately you are looking for signals to help you buy. You look down the list for something that looks familiar. Most people won't have tried every bottle. They might recognise a country or a grape, but in reality, they don't know which is the best option. The attention focuses firmly on the price. Scanning down the price, most people don't want to seem cheap and go for the lowest price option. As a result, the average person picks the 2nd or 3rd option on the list.

If we make one minor change to the information, what is the impact it will have on our buying decision? In the list below there is one change, it has been flipped from most expensive to cheapest. Armed with exactly the same information as before, our eyes end up scanning down the price column. We are primed to scan down the list, but this time the top price is our anchor point. As a result, this one tweak typically means people buy wine slightly higher up on the list. It has increased sales with no extra expense and only a minor change.


Marketing quality is vital to marketing effectiveness, yet few companies actually measure it. As a result, companies waste their marketing budget on marketing that has little or no impact. Using the markify system, one company measured its marketing quality and identified how to improve it. Within 6 months, creating a quality uplift of 22% resulted in a 9% sales uplift.

Marketing may be broken in many companies, but perhaps we can fix it.

For more information and to discuss how we can make your marketing more effective

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