I’m Proud of You (Us)

I’m proud of you and us.

I’m proud you’re showing us there is more good than bad.

I’m proud you wash your hands longer than you normally do.

I’m proud you ask, “how can I help?”

I’m proud you keep your distance.  And your sense of humor.

I’m proud you pay attention to the news when you can, and turn it off when you should.

I’m proud we’re figuring it out together.  And we’re confused together.

I’m proud you take just what you need and no more.

And spread kindness instead of rumors.  And forgive those who do, because they’re also scared.

I’m proud you got some rest and had some fruit.

I’m proud you talk honestly with your kids and play goofy games so they laugh today.

I’m proud you smile at the cashier and ask “how are you,” because, this time, you really want to know.

I’m proud of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx.  I hope they get some rest and a piece of fruit, too.

I’m proud you share funny memes because laughter has never been more important.

I’m proud “Flatten the Curve” and “Social Distancing” are words we all use.

I’m proud you took a walk. Because air is free and good for you.

I’m proud you keep your head.  And help someone pick theirs up when it goes flying off for a second.

I’m proud you aren’t touching your face.  Except for just now, because I put the idea in your brain.

I’m really proud of doctors, nurses, and the unsung people who mop and manage our hospitals.

And I’m proud you’re doing what you’re supposed to do…because, right now, it’s all we can do.

Be well.  Stay healthy.


Digital Marketing’s Death Spiral

Listen below

How’s that for an opening? 

Digital Marketing’s Death Spiral.” I’m kinda proud of it.

If you find yourself reading marketing articles, you’ll find an unending parade of equally despondent headlines. According to Google:

  • “Television is Dead” (162,000 articles)
  • “Radio is Dead” (255,000 articles)
  • “Print is Dead” (414,000 articles)

In fact, all of “Marketing is Dead” according to 316,000 articles including this assessment from Harvard.  That’s right. A half-trillion dollars are being sent right into a 6-foot deep hole.

But digital is rapidly dying and may only survive a few more years.  

Digital is in a death spiral not for lack of use, but for lack of borders.  Digital once benefited by being its own thingy. It was called “new media” (until someone remembered Sandra Bullock was making movies about the internet 25 YEARS AGO). But it’s no longer new, nor is it novel.

Everything is digital. So, what isn’t digital?  

You buy an ad in the New York Times and 50% of the people see it online, what did you buy? Did that come out of your “digital marketing” budget? Did the New York Times categorize your ad as “digital ad sales?” And if so…how?

You buy an ad on your local radio station. It gets heard online via the stream. Did you “digital market” just now? No? 

Are you sure?

Radio, newspaper, television, and billboards get lumped under the term “traditional.” A pejorative term invented by digital people to be intentionally diminutive. It sounds harmless, but deliberately invokes images of a Grant Wood painting in depression-era Iowa. 

“Traditional” is less than. “Traditional” is olde-tymey. Digital advertising is now and new and sexy and hip. “Oh, you listen to records? Not me…I listen to digital. With my VR goggles on. That I bought online. Using Cryptocurrency.”

Digital ads turn 26 years old this October. The very first one, a banner ad for AT&T, had a 44% click-through rate. Nearly half the people who saw it clicked on it. The most recent data I can find (2016) suggests that the same banner ad would get an average of 0.14% to 0.35% click-through.

None of this suggests (or proves) the death of digital. But here’s what is dead:  Digital Marketing.

By definition, “digital marketing” doesn’t exist. It can’t. As I’ve written about herehere, and here, marketing is the full composite of everything you do that touches your customers. Training your staff to be affable and meet their KPIs is not something a “digital marketer” is equipped to help you with, short of setting up a Slack Channel or Basecamp Team.

Digital Advertising very much exists. It’s a tool in the toolbox for marketers when they get to the “promotion” part of the tactics. It’s on par with billboards, television, and flying a banner behind an airplane.

It’s also old enough and has had time enough, that we can accurately call it another traditional way to advertise. 

The traditional/digital divide is gone.  It’s just advertising. Nothing more.  Nothing less. No magic. No promises. It’s merely an option.

And that’s really the point here. The tools you use to advertise are just that: tools. If it calls for a hammer, use a hammer. If it calls for a socket-wrench, don’t use a hammer.

Marketing your business has never been just one thing…and it won’t ever be.  

Johnny Molson

Dave Said What?

Click above to listen. You’ll love it.

The marketing department often has a big ol’ bullseye on its back.  If you’re a CMO at a large corporation, don’t get too comfy:  Most of you will be gone in under 4 years.  If you are a Marketing Director at a small or medium company…you probably aren’t “directing” any marketing.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”

So sayeth the late David Packard (he was the other guy in Hewlett-Packard).

Was this a snarky dig at marketing?  Or was Dave trying to get something else across?

The odds that you’ll overestimate the importance of marketing are slim. 

The odds that it will be relegated to “that lady over there in the corner who buys ads” are practically 1:1.

Dave, speaking from beyond, wants you to know that marketing isn’t “ads.”  But ads are part of it.  Marketing isn’t “being creative.” But those are good chops to have.  Most importantly:

Marketing isn’t a department, c-suite title, or one person.  If it has something to do with touching the customer, it has something to do with marketing. 

  • Your pricing strategy?  That’s marketing.
  • The texture of your business cards?  That’s marketing.
  • Your refund policy?  That’s marketing.
  • How fast your website loads?  That’s marketing.
  • Being a part of a charity event?  That’s marketing.
  • Where your business is located?  That’s marketing.
  • Where to buy chairs for the waiting area?  That’s marketing.
  • Qualitative and quantitative research?  That’s marketing.
  • Business hours?  That’s marketing.
  • Staff training?  That’s totally marketing.

This is not to suggest that your CMO or Marketing Director should make all these decisions alone.  This is to expound on Dave’s point:  Marketing is too important.

Your Marketing Director should be a clearing station for these decisions.  Is this going to fit with our greater marketing mission?  Yes…do it.  No…don’t do it.  Far too often I hear marketing directors say they would like to do something “but the sales department won’t let me.”

Shut up sales department.  If you want to direct marketing, apply to be the marketing director.  Your world is selling stuff.  Do that.  Marketing’s world is making sure what is being sold is consistent with the overall message being put forward.

If you’re Tiffany’s, Ralph Lauren, or any business that wants to convey that the quality of the product is more important than the price, your Marketing Director needs to body-block the door to prevent any department from having an “80% off storewide blowout sale.”

If you’re a plumber who proclaims how important fast response is, your Marketing Director needs to be empowered to judo-kick anyone trying to install an automated phone tree.

If your Marketing Director comes to you and says “hey, that meathead at the front desk was watching TikTok videos when a customer walked in,” don’t reply with “that’s not your department.”  Say “thank you,” and FIX IT.

Frankly, if anyone sees a rift between your values and the way your company is being portrayed by your employees, they need to be able to bring it to the attention of the owner. 

If you’re at a Chick-Fil-A and say “thank you,” employees consistently reply with “my pleasure.”  Is it some kind of southern charm?  Is it because the owners are devout Christians?  A smidgen of both…but the real reason—Marketing.  It’s good marketing.  It’s their way of saying “we are selling the same, dull, and pathetically tasteless meat everyone else is…so we better make the experience special.”

Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department…so get everyone involved.

Johnny Molson


In no particular order, here is an incomplete list of the things Marketing should be paying attention to:

  • Pricing strategy
  • Invoice terms from your vendors
  • Inventory
  • Available billing hours
  • Value : Benefit ratio
  • Email response time
  • Staff skills
  • Refund policy
  • Membership perks
  • Location
  • Hours available
  • Professional logo
  • Sales promotions
  • Brochures
  • Website
  • Message consistency
  • Business card texture
  • Bathroom cleanliness
  • Responsible drivers
  • Visible signage
  • Merchandising
  • Incentives
  • Financing
  • Customer interaction
  • Public relations
  • Advertising
  • Product research
  • Qualitative data
  • Quantitative data
  • Secondary data
  • Friendly receptionist
  • Staff attire
  • Service contracts
  • Rent
  • Frictionless purchases
  • Minimal errors
  • Message cohesion
  • Facebook page
  • Google search
  • Brand promise
  • Community involvement
  • Profit margin
  • Blog posts
  • Staff training
  • White glove test
  • Positive word of mouth
  • Website responsiveness
  • Comfortable waiting area

What would you add to that list? Send me an email.

Business is Not a Football Game

Click above to listen

…and it’s not a war either. 

Spend 8 minutes listening to a less-than-mediocre manager, and you’ll likely hear an infernal sports analogy. “See, it’s like this: Ya got yer head coach, that’s me, then ya got a quarterback. He’s the one that makes sure the guy on third doesn’t steal home. Ya get in a huddle, see, and block the forward from making a free throw. And THAT’S how you build a team.”

The purpose of a football team is to win the game.

But you’re not playing a game, and there’s nobody to beat.

The whole thing falls apart when you remember that your job is to help a customer. Your customer needs a root canal, a new air conditioner, or a bag of groceries. Your customer wants legal advice, brakes that stop the car, or a puppy. Your customer doesn’t care about your competitors, industry trends, or internal policies. So, why do you?

Your company’s purpose isn’t to “beat the other team.” Even if you did, there’s nothing to “win.” No trophy to kiss. No Gatorade bath. No ring. 

You win when you view things from the customer’s perspective and make things easier for her. This is not a feel-good philosophy to fill an article. This is called Market Orientation.

A business can choose to focus on making their product better (product orientation), make their sales team more efficient (sales orientation), or choose to serve the customer’s needs (market orientation).

Your customer doesn’t care about your competitors, industry trends, or internal policies. So, why do you?

“Oh, our company is ALL ABOUT customer service.”
I’m sure that you think you are, but your behaviors suggest otherwise. A survey conducted by the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland showed that 63% of executives said that understanding customers and acting on that understanding was critical (really? Only 63%?). But in practice, only 24% had a customer-led approach to running their companies. An overwhelming majority of companies like to say that “customer service is #1,” but customers don’t agree. In the 2018 Serial Switchers report, a chilling $75 billion is lost to poor customer service. That’s up $13 billion from the 2016 report.

More than 65% say they will drop you like a sack of hammers if you give them bad service. And they won’t think twice about it.

Your football team sucks.

Market Orientation, as taught from Harvard to Wharton to London School of Business, isn’t about “wow-ing” your customer. It’s about figuring out what the customer wants from you, and how to make it as easy as possible for that to happen. Amazon isn’t dangerous because it’s big or the prices are better. It’s winning because they spend a disproportionate amount of time figuring out how to make things easier for you.

You don’t like using a steak knife to open your packages? OK. Amazon researched and found tape that holds a box together for shipping, but pops open with a simple tear at your house.

You don’t want to click all those pesky links to make your purchase? OK. Amazon made a one-click link.

Wait…let’s make it even easier: How about I just say what I want in the air and it comes to me? “OK,” says Amazon. We’ll do that, too.

Company decisions must be made with the customer in mind, but too often are made with the company in mind. When companies over-weight research, sales, and product, they move further and further from the customer. It may sound somewhat backward, but the numbers are hard to ignore. “…research has shown what intuition suggests—that businesses that are more market-oriented enjoy higher profitability as well as superior sales growth, customer retention, and new product success,” according to Professor John C. Narver, University of Washington and Professor Stanley Slater, University of Colorado.

It’s easy (almost habitual) to say “we need a better product…our salespeople need more training…the marketing department needs more budget…we need more research…” But the hard work is figuring out what the customer needs from you. Then doing that.

You never see that at a football game. Because business isn’t a football game. Your customer doesn’t care if you beat the other guy. Your customer doesn’t care if your team has won the local “Best of Duluth” newspaper award. Your customer…that selfish little snot…only cares about – – – –


If you want to play sports, here’s a link to the CBS Sports Fantasy Football League.

(This also isn’t a “war.” In war, people lose their limbs, mental well-being, and sometimes their lives. Things that never happen at an accounting firm. If you feel you need to go to war, here’s a link to find a recruiter in the U.S. Army. Otherwise, just stop).

In the fog of business, it’s easy to obsess about the product and sales. Naturally, that’s important, and it sure seems like those things are all about helping the customer…but in practice, that’s just not the case.

In their 2017 book “Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It,” Jeffrey and Brian Eisenberg delve deep into just how customer-obsessed a guy like Jeff Bezos really is. And yes, a lemonade stand can do it. Indeed, a little HVAC company in Charlotte, NC went from making under $5 million a year to clocking in at over $100 million.

In Charlotte. North Carolina.

That customer-obsessed story is told here in “Mr. Jenkins Told Me… Forgotten Principles That Will Grow Any Business.”

I’m not here schlepping books for you to read (but those are good ones), but to remind you that constantly operating from the customer-inward, instead of the business-outward, is what’s missing. You don’t need more Xs, Os, and squiggly lines on a whiteboard.

It’s not easy. It takes a long time. Most don’t have the stomach for it. But when it’s done, it works so much better. Every time it’s tried. Every single employee, from the CEO to the receptionist, has to answer these questions:

  • Am I making life better for our customer?
  • Am I making this easier for our customer?
  • When was the last time I talked to my customer about what they need from us?
  • Do I even know what that is? Really?
  • If I don’t know, how can I find out?

Don’t bonus your employees for making more sales. Bonus your employees for doing what’s right.

Can you imagine giving a bonus to a salesperson who says “ya know…what we have isn’t right for you…but here’s the name of a company that can help.”

That salesperson never gets the bonus…but damnit, she should. 

She just scored a touchdown.

Johnny Molson

For a deeper dive on this topic, watch the TV thingy below