Mark Ritson tells things as they are, and that’s why he’s one of my favorite marketers.
The founder of the Mini MBA in Marketing, he’s a long-standing columnist for marketing week, has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, and has taught at some of the top business schools.
In this longest ever episode of Everyone Hates Marketers, I challenge Mark to tell us how he would build a business on a limited budget.
It's the antidote to marketing bullshit.
Differentiate or Die - Jack Trout
Different - Youngme Moon
Louis: Welcome to another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers.com. The podcast for people sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I'm your host Louis Grenier. My guest today has been on the podcast before, and some said that it was perhaps one of the best distillation, if not the best distillation of the concepts taught in the Mini MBA of marketing by my guest today.
I'm not just saying that; it’s true. I've received one email, at least. He's published columns nearly for 20 years, on marketing week, worked for the biggest brands in the world. He's one of my favorite marketers because he's telling things as they are. Mark Ritson welcome.
Mark: Bonsoir, Louis. Hello from Australia from lockdown. We are, we're surviving down here. It's good to see your face. I have to apologize in advance if there's panting on this podcast. It's not me, although I'm very excited to be back with you. I've got my own dogs. I have an army of dogs, and I'm unfortunately looking after someone else's dog, who's an idiot.
I'm a big fan of rescue dogs, which are mongrels, which are superior to pedigree dogs on every level. But my neighbors have a pedigree Labrador, which is as dumb as rocks, as fat as the car, doesn't know what to do, doesn't know how to be a dog. And you'll hear occasionally my dogs will be telling it basically you're useless by growling at it.
So if you hear panting, it's not me. It’s the dogs under the table.
Louis: Is there a connection between the fact that it's a pedigree and it's being it's dumb
Mark: Definitely. I tell you, I want to, it's a more serious point. One of the things I'll do when I eventually retire is I'm just going to work very hard to explain to people that buying a Breeder's dog is one of the dumbest, most expensive unethical things you could ever do. Good people, we have, the world has enough dogs.
We literally kill thousands of dogs a day in dog pounds because nobody wants them. And then we go and pay, and these are very good dogs, hybrid dogs, diversity dogs. And then we go and pay some idiot to crossbreed, a brother and sister Labrador to produce this fat fucking useless thing here.
Which is a fine dog, but like, the world has enough dogs, so yeah, there's a definite link here. Diversity works in most things, especially in dogs. I'm sorry to go on about dogs too much, but my next-door neighbor on the other side, and we live in these farms, I've got a crossbreed Beagle Springer, something, mystery dog, and she has a perfect breed Springer.
And she was always feeling a bit sorry for me because I had this weird little hybrid mongrel, not a proper dog. Her Springer was dead at seven with some inbred heart disease. Mine's now 10, still killing rabbits on a daily basis fit as a fiddle. You know what I mean? Never been to the vet.
Louis: I’m trying to find connection with marketing, and I struggle to find a connection. So I think we have to just move on.
Mark: Quickly get me off dogs quickly. We could go all night, man. I could go all night.
Louis: So you'll know I work with big brands, right? You just have worked with the biggest fucking brands in the world with gigantic ad budgets. I made a calculation, the company that spend the most on advertising last year or two years ago, I just Googled it.
It was just to get an idea. They have spent the equivalent of 47, Boeing 747 every year on ads. So a lot of fucking money. And you kind of talk about that a lot in your Mini MBA, on LinkedIn, on other podcasts. This is clearly what you like to talk about the most, like those big brands and budgets moving the needle in a category that is already established. And I was trying to look at things from a different perspective. What are you not talking about? What are the things that I would like to hear from you that I've never really heard that you say? Maybe I didn't research enough, but that's another story. And what came to mind was what about smaller companies?
So let's think of the dynamics of a lot of folks listening to this podcast who are not working for big brands with big ad budgets. They might not even do ads. when I say ads, traditional TV ads, radio, like big mass media stuff. They might have just a small budget for search ads and stuff like that.
So what I want to know is, okay, imagine Mark Ritson, you are hired by me. We start a company together. Let's just say that for the sake of the argument, I can afford you, but you can't use your name, you can just use your skills now. And it's about trying to fucking grow this company from nothing.
We are not known. We have a product, it's just starting a few customers. A company that radically stands out in the market that is starting to get market share. Now I know there's a lot of parameters there that can change, but that depends on the industry and whatnot, but let's try to find some key pointers for people.
So you joined me. We have carte blanche, as we say in French to do whatever the fuck you want. You can pick an industry if you want to. I can give you an example if you want to, but we've worked together now. What do you do?
Mark: Let's start with, preamble. So the most important thing to realize, first of all, is small brands, mostly stay small. So everyone wants to know about small brands. If you look at a conference of marketers or a virtual conference, most of them work for smaller brands and there's lots of them.
And I get asked this question or a version of this question all the time. Okay. What about a small brand though, where we can't afford to do this? We can't afford to do that. And the first thing I say, and I don't mean to be a prick, but the first thing I say is, you can't afford to have multiple channels.
You can't afford to have access, share of voice. You can't afford to have big mental availability. what's going to happen. You're going to stay fucking small. And the problem is you've been reading all of this David versus Goliath, bullshit about how David's going to be nimble and do karate and beat up Goliath.
That's not how capitalism works. Capitalism doesn't work that way. The Dita seed thing is just horse shit. What happens is Goliath smashes the fuck out of David. And goes home. And so look, the first thing to say is the odds are massively against us, right? If you look at the work that was done by data to make decisions about, seven or eight years ago, being a big brand is the biggest single advantage you can have for effectiveness, right?
An 18, not just like it's, it's the number one. It's 18 times the multiplier on your dollar you spend. So for every dollar, a small little brand spends the big brand spending the same dollar, not spending more has an 18 times multiple. Because they're already big. That's super fucking unfair. So first of all, there's no way I'm working for you.
Not even if you pay my rate there, Louis because I know it's fucking pointless. First of all, second of all, the brand game doesn't really get going for about four or five years. So in terms of working with brands, and I've worked with relatively young brands when they were 7, 8, 10 years old.
Yeah. So I worked with Sephora, for example, the big cosmetics chain and we have a little, wonderful program called incubator where we take the two hottest, fastest growing little brands and we work on them and we help them. And we incubate them, but even those brands, they still need four or five years already before we can really get into brand strategy. The first three or four years are about finding your way, getting some loyalty, understanding the path. There's not a lot of brand strategy work that can be done in years one to five. All you would say to anyone with a new brand is don't create more than one brand.
Don't be a fuckwitt yeah, that's literally, that would be my consulting advice in an envelope to everyone with less than 5 million euros in revenue. And less than five years, don't create two brands or you're an idiot. First of all, that would be the one that looks like, now let's get that out of the way.
I have actually done this because my own work, Mini MBA, which is my own brand. I became a founder late in life. And had to do this exactly as you described for a small unknown brand that we started three and a half years ago. And we'll break, in euros we'll break. We should break, we'll get close to 10 million euros of revenue this year, From a standing start. So to your question, how did we do that?
And absolutely right, we thought, I thought long and hard about it. What did I learn from all the big brands to try and do this in a small way? I knew that we needed to do long and short.
First of all, I believe in that and I applied it to my own business. And I also believe if you do good long, you can't do good short. They don't exist.
Louis: So can you, I know what you mean, but let's describe it. Let's describe what you mean by the long and the short of it.
Mark: About 15 years ago, a couple of relatively old advertising planners. and they were old then. So now they're very old, called Les Burnett and Peter Field. Who'd been studying the effectiveness awards in the UK, came up with a theory called the long and the short of it in which they showed, with pretty good data, And elegant data, that actually there are two different paths to growth.
There's the short performance marketing path, we're all aware of, spend some money, get a return, bing! Sales. And there's a longer, more incremental path, which is more brand building. The long of it. They also showed that in different industries, you want a different mix of those two things.
The general rule let's say for FMCG consumer brands is about 60% long, 40% short. And the reason you want that is very simply you'll make more money. Yeah. And that's the bit that everyone misses. If you look at four years, If you do 60% long brand building emotional, top of funnel stuff, and 40% short over the four years in total, you'll make more money.
If however, you look at it from a point of view of 12 months, you'll put all your money in performance marketing. It's got a better proven ROI. And then when year two comes along, you'll do it again. Groundhog day, groundhog day. And actually after four years, you'll have made much less money than if you did the 60 / 40 from the start.
Louis: Okay, thanks for describing this. So before we go on, just, I want to summarize a few things. you mentioned two other stuff we can talk about in the next few minutes. You mentioned shallow voice, and you mentioned mental availability. Those are two important concept in brand that we'll talk about later, but you contradicted yourself, which is I'm happy about, because first you said, I'm not going to work with you because you're too fucking small, less than five years, less than 5 million, but yet you're proceeding to give me an example of something that I was looking after, which is you starting something.
Now. before you go on into what you've done and perhaps mistakes you've made and not only the stuff that worked, you have an unfair advantage, an advantage that you've worked your ass off to build. Let's be clear, but you have notariaty, credibility, a huge fucking network of people that trust you. So you didn't start from scratch per se.
But having said that, let's try to extract the lessons and what the mistakes, perhaps that you've made doing this, launching this brand and trying to see whether people listening, who don't have the network that you have, the credibility, you can still get something out of it.
Mark: Yeah, look. And even that you're absolutely right. Look, we've got that advantage of being a known entity already, but I think that was part of the strategy, In the sense that you picked something that I'm really proud of Mini MBA, because it was a strategic creation.
So being a brand consultant was an accidental product of being a branding professor. You become a branding professor because that's where your research goes. A few companies call you before you know it, you're doing brand consulting. It's not strategic. It's mostly gravity, right? Mini MBA was a creation of how do I make money in a scalable way when I have a young family? Sorry, I've got dogs here. Shut up.
Louis: Yeah, the dog just loves, hates brand or loves it. I don't know.
Mark: Yeah the dogs love the brand talk. I think that I really did think hard about what can I leverage that I have, that will enable me to make money.
Okay. That's the first point. I think you have to start with what you've got. You don't start from a carte blanche, as you say, it is a carte blanche, but it also there's core stuff you can draw on.
The 60 /40 thing’s interesting, because that was one thing that I didn't just advise clients on. I believed in it and I said, how can you start a business that maintains 60 / 40? And the thing we did that was smart, I think I said, I'm Mr. Long, I'll do the top of funnel stuff. I'm doing it right now with you, You're not paying me for this as far as I know. And I like you, so I do it anyway, but why? What's in it for me? And the answer is, this is the long. It's top of funnel. It's reaching people that don't know who I am or what Mini MBA is. And if I do this about, I don't know, 300 times a year, which I do, we will get somewhere and we will create, that, which I can then leverage down below.
Now the down below I'm shit at, not a performance marketer. So then I got myself a good performance marketer, Sam who runs a pretty tight game with LinkedIn and Facebook and pixels and all that shit that I don't really understand. And we work together very nicely in the sense that, what he thinks I'm doing, he's fuck, I don't really get what you do. Yeah, okay do a talk on that. Whatever, here's my numbers, man. And I'm like, yeah. Pixels and stuff, blah, blah, blah. Look at how many people are listening to Louis podcasts. You see what I mean? And I think that's a lesson I've never met in an agency, nevermind a marketer that can do that long and the short, I've met people that can do them both badly. So I think, yeah, if you want long and short people, and that was absolutely deliberate from the start, right?
Louis: Let's backtrack a bit because there's something important here that you mentioned briefly, but we need to deep dive into this. You looked at the advantages that you have, right? So when creating this, so obviously your credibility, the fact that you've been working your ass off for years and years, showing up every day, writing articles and whatnot is a huge asset.
So even, I think even an idiot, even someone who's not good at the long and the short of it can say, you know what, let's use this credibility. What do you advise then? People who aren't at this stage, who obviously don't have your profile. How do you advise them to look into potential advantages that they have 10 personally or maybe people they know or, what's the process there?
Mark: I'll tell you the exact moment I worked it out and it'll help other people work their moment out. So it comes back to dogs again. So I'm busy walking the dogs, four or five years ago in the fields. And I remember having this moment of very extreme clarity, which was I'm the only person that can do this because there are lots of people running online courses, but they don't have the credibility or 25 years of teaching at top business schools to get away with it.
So they're going to run pokey, digital training courses, And probably give them away for free. On the other side, you've got a whole bunch of professors, very talented professors in some cases, But their universities will never allow them to run a rogue Mini MBA type subject. Which will cannibalize what the business school is offering.
So they won't be allowed to do it. And then there's me in the middle. Who's an adjunct professor now because I can't be bothered doing the full-time job as well, who has the chops, but also has the freedom. And I can tell you, That was the exact moment I said, I'm definitely going to do this right. I think for your listeners, the thing is find something that no one else can do.
And that seems old school advice. It doesn't mean that in theory, other people can't do it. It just means they can't do it as easily or as well as you. And there are more things. Yeah, there are more niches. I think that people really understand. And I think that was the key moment. The other key moment was working out marketing week that I, who I write for. I had about 600,000 unique visitors a month and I worked out on the back, literally on the back of a cigarette packet while drinking a very large amount of red wine at a bar called Jimmy Watson's, that if I could get a 1% conversion rate off those 600,000 people that were visiting each month, I'd make enough money to pretty much retire. And that was also a... it turns out not a bad estimate of how it all played out.
So yeah, I think that's the... I think you put it this way. I think most people need to interrogate their backgrounds and work out, what is it I can do that most other people can't do. And can I make money from this now having said that I'm not an entrepreneur and I've never really been comfortable with entrepreneurs now, I think it's more the market, the way we did it with marketing that counts.
You know what I mean? I think the entrepreneurial thing. But it's the marketing thing that's interesting. So I'd say the small market is look, first of all, it's going to be tough. Use your niche, use your creativity and have a backup plan. And then yet long and short is just as important for you guys and does something that no one else can do the same as you.
And they're the main things. And the other one is small brands can take risks where big brands can't. You can say, fuck. You can say we don't want to work with these guys. You can do something a bit differently. Never underestimate how hard that is in a big company to do anything like that. It quickly evaporates.
So you do have that chance to take risks, which I don't believe in, a lot of marketers say, Ooh, bravery is important in marketing. No, it's not. If you're a fireman or a nurse, it's important, but there's no such thing as a brave marketer. What a fucking, the minute we say that outside of a marketing circle, bravery is very important to marketers we just sound like total fuckers. Do you know what I mean? Like we’re the least brave. But yeah, taking risks and pushing it a bit within the context of marketing is super important. Yeah. For small brands. So yeah, if we were working together, I'd say, yeah, take some chances long and short from the start, interrogate what you can do well, and then play up the role of the founder.
So again, I've done that with Mini MBA, but I saw first hand when I worked with LVMH on the history of all the great brands. The original story was the story of the founder. And then it became the brand. But for the, and people forget that over time, once upon a time Louis Vuitton was a man that visited rich people.
And designed their travel boxes. You know what I mean? He was literally a man and his reputation was the start of the brand. Dior was a man that became famous among certain women in Paris in 1947. Before he became a perfume name. Do you know what I mean? We forget that with time, but the first again, five to 10 years of a brand's life normally rides on the personality of the founder, and then it starts to get corporate. And I think that we use that to our advantage too, and I would recommend that for your setup as well.
Louis: Thank you. So let me think about this a bit, because you said a few minutes ago, I am the only one that can do this, or at least as well. And to me, that's the textbook definition of radical differentiation in a sense, like the only one in the world that does that. And that's what you want to get into.
That's the, when you're, I don't want to put words into your mouth that you didn't say, or like thoughts that you didn't think about or that you don't agree. But to me, if I deconstructed, it sounds like you would advise to really find the sweet spot of, I am the only one that does X for this niche and start with that. And then, building up on that. am I right?
Mark: A hundred percent and maybe for the bigger brands, it becomes less important. so we get onto the two D's. So this story is a fantastic and important one for marketers. So we go back 25 years, Differentiate or Die is published. Literally differentiate or die. If you don't do differentiation, you're totally fucked.
Okay. That, and by the way, that isn't just a book title. That's how it was taught. It was done. It explained everything. If you're old enough to remember the eighties, that's how we played the game. Here comes Ehrenberg Bass in their black uniforms. And what they say is, listen, no differentiation.
It's bullshit. What you want to do is be distinctive. So differentiation again, technically is how I'm perceived differently from my competitor. Distinctiveness wipes the competitors from the board. That's not the point. Distinctiveness is literally do I stand out? Do I come to mind? Do I look like myself?
Yeah. Am I present in your consciousness and all we've seen with Ehrenberg Bass is a swing from one extreme to another. So now if you go to a conference you've seen this Louis, differentiation people go, Oh, that's it doesn't exist anymore. There's no such thing as differentiation. That's bullshit.
You certainly can have differentiation. It's just not unique. It never was, but you can certainly be more of things than other people and therefore different relative to the competition. And I think that's a great place to start when you're a small brand, Be different, or at least have a story that's different. Then don't get me wrong, I still think more of the challenges distinctiveness.
I believe what Ehrenberg Bass has done is exactly right. Most of the challenge is then coming to mind, being there all the time. It's me. It's me. It's me. It's me. Don't forget. It's me, by the way. It's me. Now, the reason companies haven't done that, is they think everybody knows it's you because they work there every day.
Louis sat there going, fuck, everyone knows my podcast. it's practically every day, it's there, It's a tiny little blip on the horizon of most of your listeners, so the more you realize that the more you realize yeah. Put your hand in the air, take your clothes off, man, make them notice you stand out, make your way. Hey, it's me. Once they know it's you, you can maybe add a little sprinkle of differentiation. And yeah, I think the start of a brand should still be. What can I do differently from, or more, or different or alternative from everyone else? But that doesn't then stop the idea of distinctiveness.
And then, Hey me over here, me being still the core challenge.
Louis: I was hoping you would answer this. Because it seems like there's this ongoing battle between the two concepts and, it's funny to see from the sideline, but anything it's, it can't be either / or it's both. It's both when you're starting a company, to me, radical differentiation, like making sure that you're the only one doing that in the world is super important to start with.
And then it dilutes, it gets less and less important as you get distinctive mental availability, as people remember you is what you want. And sometimes you don't have to have anything different about your product, but that doesn't excite me that much anymore when you're a big company. because you have the biggest budgets and you can, you can really ride on the market, share a wave that you have created for yourself. The double joke about the law as well, and making sure that people come back to you that are slightly more loyal, et cetera. But what is super exciting about the first phase is this idea of radical differentiation.
And I'm just going to challenge you on something briefly. I want to know what you think.
Louis: There's this book by Youngme Moon. And the book is called Different and she argues, she talks about augmentation by [inaudible], argumentation by diversification, I think, which is basically doing something slightly better, slightly cheaper, which is what you're describing a bit.
So do you, and she makes the point that this is shit. They shouldn't do that. If you ever want to radically stand out and truly be different, you can't just do slightly better, slightly cheaper, slightly more. Do you agree with that or do you feel like it there's more to
Mark: No I'm with you Louis on the bothism point. Like I did my, I did the Ogilvy lecture this year for the, marketing society in the UK. And I made it about bothism and I use differentiation and distinctiveness as one example in the sense that neither is wrong or right. And in fact, when you put them together, they're better than either one separately.
And in the same way to your question, I think augmenting a product and being simply better to use Paddy Barwise's phrase is a brilliant way to do things, but why not be differentiated and then be simply better as well? I think the point that a lot of people miss the nuance they miss is I learned a long time ago.
I worked with a very smart team at a bank. Who had been given the goal of increasing Net Promoter score. And I believe in Net Promoter, not completely, but I think it's a great metric. And, they discovered, and they're very smart boys and girls, they discovered the best way to increase Net Promoter was telling customers they are increasing Net Promoter.
Yep. So of all the strategies they try, you say we're a bank that's dead keen on increasing our Net Promoter score. And in fact, we've already increased satisfaction levels by this much NPS goes like that in the same way. I think one of the keys to differentiation is telling people I'm super fucking differentiated from anyone else.
Do you see what I mean by what I've just done on this podcast without getting too meta is to go? I'm the only one that could do this. You see what I mean? Even though it's probably, it's definitely not true. I think differentiation, and this is where Steve Jobs was just the best bullshitter in the world.
People do a disservice to Steve Jobs because they take him too literally. Steve Jobs just told lies, man, just bullshiting his head off to the amazing advantage of Apple. Do you know what I mean? Lying and exaggerating, part and parcel of our game. So yeah, I think that, yeah, augmentation is good. So is telling people you're differentiated and ideally you should do all of it at the same time.
There's no trade off here. Do you know what I mean between these different things? We're completely different from anything else that's out there. And also we've augumented it to make it even better than before, let's do it. Let's do it.
Louis: So you said four years ago, you, five years ago, you thought about creating the Mini MBA, right? Was it then you were at a pub, you realize shit, I could make a ton of money from this, by teaching people, and just basically by ranting, like you're all doing right now in a very
Mark: Well, not quite loose. So my rant, my ranting, which I'm definitely doing here, people are quite surprised. I was a proper professor, So when I teach,
Mark: I'm like ranting me, and top of funnel ranting
Louis: I know, I'm teasing you
Mark: Probably different, but yeah, basically what you're saying is true, but I'm not like this when I'm in the classroom,
Louis: Do you remember? You said that's the base coat of the podcast. I was a real professor, I know you were, I know you were, anyway. So you found your opportunity and you understood that from your perspective, the intersection of a few things were incredibly powerful. You had, you were, you're a professor, but you were able to do stuff on the side.
You had this credibility, you had to use the audience for marketing week. Then this intersection made something super interesting. So that was in your head, right? So what happened next?
Mark: It's a very good question. It took about a year of not giving a fuck first. So I had my first child, we'd been, I've been married a long time. We were almost not gonna have kids. And then we had him and then my first kid came along and it was like, it was needs must because I did two weeks a month on a plane, working for clients and it was suddenly not going to be possible to do that.
So this idea I'd had, but not really done anything about, suddenly became an imperative because my wife was going to chop my balls off if I got on planes anymore. with, with, three month old baby. There are men that get away with that shit, but I'm not one of them, my wife, she runs the show . Good men celebrate having dominant, powerful superior women in their lives and mine.
Yeah. fuck, I'm not attracted to women that are better than me, yeah, she just basically went, what are we going to do about this? Cause you can't travel anymore and you have expensive tastes. So yeah, that, so then that's what drives it out, And so then we, so then, but the big challenge for me is I lost, I don't know, 500 grand worth of consulting cause I didn't travel.
And I, we made the first class and we filmed it and green screened it and all of that. And then it's an interesting one because you really don't know, you I've never made anything. I'm always advising everyone else. So I produced something and then I had, it was only really at the end of the process, I was like, Oh shit, this might not be any good.
Do you know what I mean? That thought hits you. And the only thing you've got then is your research. I did pretty good quality research, no quant at the start, and I did one piece of quant, which was pricing. We did a bit of pricing research, which was invaluable, and I've got to tell everyone on this podcast, I've done a lot of pricing work indirectly. I did McKinsey work once on conjoint and pricing. So I'm not a pricing expert, but I've got pretty good practical experiences of it. And, the one thing I remember about pricing that always impressed me was the Van Westendorp pricing model.
Which is this crazy Dutch guy who's long dead. Created this four open-ended question matrix, which allows you to... learn about it on Wikipedia. Van Westendorp pricing model, for open-ended questions, and it gives you a pricing frame. Now, if you talk to a bunch of pricing, Nancy's, they're going to tell you all, no, it's not good because of this reason.
And this reason. Listen, it costs virtually no money. And it made me about, I don't know, 2 million euros because it said, no, you think you should probably sit here, but actually you could price it over here and you'd lose almost no sales and it worked out to be exactly right.
Louis: Sorry to cut you, but I know obviously you can search on Wikipedia right now, but if you remember, not necessarily to follow up on any questions, but the one, one of the four
Mark: I can tell you all of the four because it's so simple. What you do is, you find, we actually did one class. I did it with a small bunch of, target customers. And then after we got the first class of 250, I said to them, you've already signed up at whatever price it was. But think back to when you were about to sign up for the course, we are going to change your price.
Let me ask you four questions. So they're not scientific at all, but it was, they were, they'd already come through the funnel. And I said to them, right at what price would the Mini MBA have been so cheap, you'd have thought, yeah, it wouldn't be any good. And they literally type in the price. At what price would it have been low enough that you'd have thought that's good value.
And what price would it have been so expensive you just said I can't afford that. It's not worth it. And at what price would it have been expensive but you'd have thought, but I'm still going to look at it, even though that's a little pricey. And you put, you literally put the percentage scores on the four axes and it gives you a whole, it gives you a whole, which is where you can price it.
And that's what I did and it works. And I, but I knew it was going to work because it's always worked in the past. Now you can spend a million, literally a million dollars on conjoint. And get a percentage point more accurate than Van Westendorp or you can do it for free. And I think my investing job is teaching it now in the Mini MBA.
I show them the data from the previous class to make the point and listen, of all the things pricing you get... Again, let's talk about online training. The first thing every Muppet does is to do digital online training because they look at their, their operating model and they go, there's no costs.
To give it away free. So they go okay, this training's free. So anyone who's senior will never do it. And anyone that's junior does it and goes, it's fucking worthless. Do you know what I mean? You've just, you've already killed your baby before it's born. Nothing can be good and cheap. Ever. Holding the line on price, but holding the right line, absolutely key, to make money.
And by the way, Louis, the big one for me, the biggest one of all revenue, not fucking important, profit everything. Yeah. So I was lucky enough to work for Gille Hennessy, the son of the son of Richard Hennessy who founded Hennessy, and Gille was one of the toughest, most brilliant, fantastic business people I've ever had the honor of working for. And one of his best things was to, and he was just, it was just fucking a killer. He was a fucking killer. And one of the things he was great at was just killing you with all kinds of stuff. And one of the things I did once, I boasted to him in a meeting that
Benefit cosmetics, which is a sister brand of Hennessy, had done a really good year of revenue. I'm not going to tell you the figure. Let's say it was a hundred million Euro, whatever I say, all that Benefit, I've just done a hundred million of revenue. Can't believe it, how successful it's been. And he went, what was the profit out of that revenue?
And I went, I don't know. And he went, stop talking about it then. And he's right, fucking The whole D to C argument direct to consumer bullshit in Forbes and fucking business week hit that Gille's point. Yeah, that's great. Or you've just done 30 million euros in a DTC business revenue. What was your profit?
Oh, you've lost 15 million. Yeah, come back when you can make a profit, I can take this mug that I bought from Yeti that costs $12. And I can sell it for 50 cents, And make a 50 cent revenue. There's no skill in that, but buying this mug for $12 and selling it for 20 bucks, that's hard. And I know this sounds basic.
It isn't basic because most marketers don't know the difference between the two things.
Louis: So let's unpack what you said. There's so much interesting stuff. The first thing is to go a bit meta . What you described with your wife and what happened is a classic to me, like a job to be done ,oment when you thought about this alt MBA, Mini MBA, excuse me, Mini MBA. for a year, it was in the back of your mind was just a job in your mind.
It was a potential idea. It turned into a job to be done. When your wife told you, listen, you have to stop fucking traveling. We could have kids now and have to stay with me. And that's when the catalyst, the trigger, that's when you start to work on it. Full-time the other thing that you described that I want to spend a bit more time on is the, you're not, you are not a creator until then. Like you were quote unquote in a easy situation where you were advising others, right?
Mark: Cold blooded, yeah, all consultants are cold blooded empty vast vessels. Yeah.
Louis: So you put yourself out there in a sense. And correct me if I'm wrong, the steps you took, where you created the curriculum and recorded the course first, and then you had 250 people taking it. Correct.
Mark: One more step. So yeah, you're almost there. So the one other thing that I had as a marketing professor was, once I had the idea. Then my wife said, I'll chop your balls off if you don't work anymore, if you go away anymore. And then what I had was qualitative research. So what I did was I went to my MBA students who were the kind of MBAs that I thought if they weren't doing an MBA, what would they, there were in my mind as being the guys I would go for. Late twenties to mid thirties wanting to do marketing,not necessarily the most confident people, but very smart. And so I went to, I sought out those guys specifically. And when you teach three or four classes a year, you teach three or 400 people. So there were about probably a dozen people. I sat down over a beer or a wine, or just said, can I have a coffee with you?
And I said, I'm doing, I've got an idea of doing this thing. And I described the basic Mini MBA. And I said, imagine you, you aren't doing your MBA. Would that be interesting? What would be interesting about it and what wouldn't be and how would, what would it cost him? So I did that about a dozen times and I'm proof testing and I'm also learning and I'm doing some press.
So there's a real little bit of quality there early on. That really did prove that I was right, but also sent me a different way. And then absolutely we create the syllabus. we get a whole ton of feedback, and then we test and learn. We test them.
Louis: You mentioned something. which is super interesting coming from you is the fear with a big F. What if it's shit, right? So you had this fear when you recorded it and you were about to put it to life, to the store and 50 people to see. When was it ?
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. I was filming it in a studio in Melbourne on a little street called Smith street on this tiny little green screen, smaller than the place I'm talking to you today. And, I always remember coming out and it was a long day of filming and I'd come out at the end of the day. And I always had this weird feeling like, Oh, that's, there's something twinkly going on here.
I came out thinking, Oh, I dunno what this is, but there's something unusual. I'd go and have a beer before I flew home. And I'd be like, Ooh, there's something where I could feel it every time. But then as we get closer and closer to launch, I'm thinking to myself, I might just be clinically mad at this point.
There is a moment where. and enough that there's a very thin line between cracking it and being just completely diluted. You know what I mean? There's this point, there's no way to know. There's no way to know. And I know there's no way to know, but it doesn't help. And yeah, I was very worried because you lose it to different levels.
I've lost. 600 grand of opportunity, cost money. I could have been just working for big brands while I've been doing all this shit. And I also lose because I've made a class that isn't very good. And I also lose cause I'm meant to be able to market something and build brands and I can't fucking do it, so I'm not very good.
So on all those levels, I started to shit my pants probably about a month in, but at this point, the other thing, Louis, which is different from your game with the podcast is. Then there comes this fascinating moment between the video Mark and real Mark and that's the best bit. So the best bit is I'd spent 25 years as a luxury working class man.
And what I mean by that is I'm completely working class or all my ancestors were coal miners. We had absolutely no money of any kind. And so I know what being... I went to the worst school in England, literally the worst schooling. So I know working class, working classes, mate. And although I was getting paid 20 grand a day, it sounds weird.
I was still working class because you literally got paid by the day. Do you know what I mean? And so you had to get up and fly to fucking, I don't know, Bonne or Stockholm or somewhere, and then earn 20 grand, but you had to let you know, earn it. And then suddenly I discovered video Mark, virtual Mark, who was once you built him
and he did declasse. He was way better than you. He was on time, he was prepared. He was reliable. He was always ready to go and he was scalable. and as the years passed, he was younger than you as well and fitter and so what happened over time is I learned to suddenly go well, but digital Mark does that.
I don't do that anymore. Do you know what I mean? That's a fascinating moment. Like on the brand posts we run now. Digital Mark even. I watched the class this year. We haven't edited anything this year. That's different from last year and I will watch the class and I'll have to be honest with you. I really thought it was fucking fantastic.
Cause I watch myself and I hate myself. I'm not one of these guys that looks at myself and goes, Ooh. I really I've never watched myself on interview ever, but I watched the modules and I was like, fuck, this is good. I even emailed the team. They were laughing at me. No. I said, I got to tell you these fucking programs fantastic., Suddenly you get this thing where you, your entity is working for you, but he's not you anymore. If I find that very postmodern and very interesting. And he keeps working. It's not like your podcasts. So right now, today, where are we now? Yeah, right now I'm teaching 2000 students right today.
And I've no idea what I'm teaching them. I know I'm doing a really good job and we know we're going to be doing, high ratings, but it's not me anymore, it's virtual me. And I find that whole thing, very trippy, but extremely arousing. Having had to earn money by the day and suddenly have scalability.
It's astonishing. It's astonishing.
Louis: Yeah. Whether or not it was like 20 grand a day or 10 quid a day, it's, the same concept applies. You say you sold your time, even if you sold real time at a premium, you don't sell your time anymore, right? It's infinite at this stage almost.
Mark: The key word is scalable. Louis, scalability was always the thing I wanted. Once you get scalability, man, it's a different game. And that's an important word. Scalability.
Louis: I want to unpack two things first. this avatar, this distinction between you, the real you and the video, you think there's a good concept of where, when you're scared of something, when people are scared of like standing out and giving their opinions and whatever, I don't remember who said that or the book that talks about it, but basically create an avatar of yourself.
Someone who's not, you was like, Fucking bullshit, Louis or whatever, and just separate the two and you let this person do the fucking work, prevents you from thinking about it too much. But the other thing is that, you said you basically shat yourself, not for real, I hope so, I hope not The month thing.
So was it a month after the course started that you started to get scared or..
The cost is a three months long ride. So it's about five hours a week for 12 weeks. What I worried about was the evaluations, right? So when I've taught in business school for 20 odd years, you, all you worry about is your evaluations at the end. And there's some famous stories of professors, marketing, professors getting fired because they altered their evaluations.
So any professor it’s built into us. We don't really worry about class as we get towards the end of the class. You start worrying well. Oh, maybe it's not very good, particularly when it's a new class. And it's not as good as I think it is. And that's when you get worried. Yeah. Because virtual Mark was teaching now and real Mark was sitting there shitting himself, going, fuck.
I hope this is good because it might not be. and that was a genuine moment of fear. But yeah, our emails were great. Everyone was happy. The class was, it was 250 people. So the only thing was that it, and I remember flying home when the second course was just starting from England, with my dad, with me actually flying back.
And I got off the plane in Australia and he said, what are you doing? I said, I've got to see what our numbers are because I didn't really care about the first class. I didn't really care about the second class, but I wanted to know what the Delta was, because that was the moment where if it starts to, you've done two 50, then you get a hundred, then you get 40 and it's over, or it goes to, as it did, it went to 5,500 and suddenly you've got that trajectory, right? That's the moment where you go, Okay this is, it's not just the first class that liked it. It's that we've picked up more people for the second class. You, your point earlier, there's no limit on the class size.
LinkedIn will tell me that there's literally no limit on the number of people we can target. So the minute I get that trajectory, I start going, okay, here we go.
Louis: So I just want to go back to this moment. And the reason why I'm pressing on it is because I know if you're listening to this podcast right now, and you're a marketer and you want to create stuff, there is this fear and I just want to. Go down into that kind of rabbit hole with you, Mark, because people would perceive you as successful.
Yeah. You've done a lot of stuff and who wouldn't necessarily be scared, but you were, just tell me more about it, before we move on to other subjects, I want to know how long, what was the feeling like? Did you lose sleep? Did you argue with your wife more? Did you start drinking more?
Did you start drinking less? What was it like that moment?
Mark: So I created a model that didn't have a financial risk, right? There was a big financial hit in the sense that I was not earning a lot of money, but it wasn't as if we dumped the mortgage to make a manufacturing plant and there was, you know, big fixed costs. I wouldn't have, I just couldn't... First of all, let's be clear, this is a child's approach to business compared to, and I had a proper income from preaching and writing. That was more than enough. So it's not as, I can't even imagine, that other level where you've put everything on the line. Fuck that. So I, this isn't even a real scary story. It was more the idea that you would look like a complete fucking idiot and you would have wasted about a year and a half of your life.
And by the way, nobody, except about a handful of people who were in my family circle, thought it would work. So marketing week. who are my partners in this and the publishing company. They wanted nothing, I had to push them very hard to do this. They were really not interested. I had to make them take half the profits, which is now looking like a really fun...now there's plenty of people. I thought it was a good idea.
Louis: Good deal.
Mark: Yeah. But no, they were like, man. Okay. That thing you wanted to do, what is that again? So yeah, you really did feel like you're, are you mad? Cause, there is a thin line, as I said to you between delusion and actually having a really good idea.
And I'm not quite sure the line even exists. yeah, there was definitely that feeling that I'm going to waste my time. I've been to a studio filming myself. I can't build brands. I can't market anything. My online class socks. I look like a bit of a tit, you launch it, right? So it's out there, like Mark's got a Mini MBA product.
What is that? So you promote it. I'm thinking if this doesn't work, I'm going to look like a total tit. So yeah, all of the above. And I think that fear isn't even a real fear. I wouldn't have lost anything other than looking like a cock, if it hadn't have worked. So an ego. It was still pretty hardcore.
Yeah, I admit it was pretty hard. But the other thing is don't underestimate being a professor. What we do when we start off in our careers is we get up in front of 70 or 80 managers and tell them how to do it better. And then we go and consult, like I fly to Switzerland and tell chocolate executives how to sell chocolate better than they've been doing for the last 25 years.
So we've all, we're already pretty used to shitting our pants. Anyone that doesn't shit themselves... I get to hotels in Hong Kong or wherever in my consulting life. And the night before, until relatively recently, the night before you'd still be shitting your pants about it, is this fucking nonsense?
They're going to just laugh at me when I get there. Do you know what I mean? It, so it does toughen you up for that. You do push through.
Louis: No, I'm glad you're mentioning it. And thanks for being so transparent because there are days of feeling from people like that. The people who've made it, they are not scared anymore and whatever, and everything is relative. Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned the fact that it wasn't like you put your, your house on the line or anything like that, but it's all relative to you.
Like it's zero to 100 and it's not because you get rich and whatnot that you don't feel the 100 level fear. It's just related to you as a person. and some people are happier than you being fucking, having nothing in their name. It's all related.
Mark: The people I've worked with are way more successful and famous than me, I'm much more nervous about it. So it's usually the ones that aren't feeling, the nerves that are shit house. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, those that don't get nervous are usually pretty bad.
You need the nerves to be good, right? I spent a long time working in fashion, even though it doesn't look like it. And Lagerfeld was Karl Lagerfeld was the man. And one of, one of the hundred things Lagerfeld said that I thought was fantastic, was that, someone said to him, are you nervous about the show this year?
Because there's this and there's that? And he said, yeah, of course I'm nervous. He said, but we must dominate these things. We must dominate them. And he's right. That's the thing. It's not that you don't feel it, it's the, if you're the Kaiser or if you're good, you go, Oh, there it is. I'm shitting myself.
This is fun motherfuckers. You know what I mean? Now we can, now I'm shitting myself, laugh at yourself. I'm really shitting my pants. This is now going to be right. You know what I mean? You gotta be dead. Yeah. Enjoy the fear. The fear is better than the triumphalism later on of it working or not working is far less interesting.
If you understand the fact you'll be dead soon, the idea that you feel, you shit your pants and you laugh at yourself, shitting your pants is fantastic. It's fantastic.
Louis: You also said something in passing that it was quite interesting that almost no one believed in this. And I think it's a lesson because in retrospect, this is what I love about good fucking ideas that are risky enough where you shit your pants and you're scared about it, is in retrospect, everyone's Oh yeah, of course it works. Like, fuck off!
Mark: I'll tell you a better one than that. It's perfectly in line with what you're saying. my columns have been, not always correct. But sometimes they've been very correct. And don't get me wrong occasionally. I was, let me give you one that was wrong. I was always convinced Facebook was going to be broke in five years.
And it was completely wrong. But many of them have been very prescient. I called Apple winning the smartphone wars ten years - five years before it happened before the launch of the iphone, or even better, I wrote an article about Nokia being fucked and my editor refused to publish it because it was nonsensical.
And I said, no, there's too many executives saying too many stupid things. They've fucked it. What's interesting, take that Nokia article, It was bang on the money. Like we just did a retrospective of my 10 years of our last 10 years of articles. And we got, the people I wrote about came back and said whether it was right or not.
And usually I was, it wasn't too bad. The point is nobody remembers. I was the only guy I think saying social media didn't stack up. So when the Oreo had the famous tweet, I wrote an article the next day saying, it's horseshit, the numbers don't add up, right? Social media doesn't replace traditional TV.
And I got slated for it at the time. And then later on, when it turned out to be true and the people from Oreo said oh, it was fucking bullshit, nobody remembers that, or you don't get credit later. People just remember you being wrong, even though you were fucking right. You know what I mean? When I wrote the Nokia article I got a bunch of shit from a bunch of people.
Go on. You're a fucking idiot. But from the Nokia fan club, and then when Nokia promptly went fucking crazily bad about a year later, nobody remembered my article. So you don't get credit later for being right at the time. It's a really important point. Really important. You're always going to look like a fucking idiot, even if you're right.
Louis: So when you're wrong, it's on you when you're right. It's obvious in retrospect, like it's not, you it's just. It was meant to happen, but that's a very good lesson.
Mark: Or the only thing that makes that worthwhile is there's a very good line that not enough marketers use, which is. I worked a couple of times with private equity guys, and I really enjoyed it. Complete fucking space aliens, Fucking weirdos. Fucking weird fuckers, completely soulless, really exciting, great people to drink with.
And look at the world completely like they look at the world from a category point of view. They love guys like me. Cause I have some like ability to spot brands, but they're like, we don't care. We know this is the category we need to be in now, which brand should we pick? You tell us, we'll buy it right.
Lovely times with them. But the thing with those private equity boys through and through is that they have this. I dunno. How do I describe it? This ability, just not to actually really care how it plays out. You know what I mean? Like they really they're already there. They've already won.
They've got the exit before they go in. So they've already won it already. That's a concept we miss in marketing. What's your exit? Before you go in, if you've got the exit plan you've already won, But we really don't look at it long-term like that in the market.
Louis: No, long-term is a fucking curse word.
Mark: The other thing they used to say was how can we make money from this knowledge? You know what I mean? Like the only reason it makes sense to have some forethought, marketers don't think this way is right. I would convince them of something in a bar and they would say, Okay. I can see the play, entry- exit.
How can we make money from this knowledge? You know what I mean? It's a really interesting albeit capitalist point, right? If you really are sure of the knowledge, no, one's going to give a shit that you were right later, unless you make money from it early.
Louis: So before we go back to the history of the media MBA, there is this. There is those people who are paid to recognize the sex of chickens, even though they don't fucking know how they can recognize it. They don't know, they can't explicitly say this is a male, female. There's just no looking at it.
And they can train people, other people by telling them this is female, this is male. I don't fucking know why, but this is it.
Mark: This is a new area of knowledge for me, but you've got me, keep going. Yes, I'm enjoying this.
Louis: The connection I'm trying to make is.
Mark: The other one's a hen, is that it? I keep chickens? I can do what you're talking about, but it's.
Louis: I'm butchering it. Like I'll always do. It's not chickens. It's another species of bird, where you can't fucking recognize whether it's a male or female and some people just know. But they can't explain why. And the connection I'm going to make with you is, is it a bit the same for you and brands?
Is it when you say you have this gift to recognize brands?
Mark: Oh, no. That's a very good question, but it's a very important point. The last thing you ever do is trust what you fucking think. So what you do is you go and look at the data. So there's a, I tell you it's a good story, actually. When I created the branding course, You know, I divided it into - Brand management is diagnosis, strategy and tactics, we talked a bit about it on the last podcast. When I try, and I've got, I use podcasts rather than readings on the course, because no one's reading anything anymore. So podcasts people do, and they love them. I could not find a podcast, on doing diagnosis of a brand and doing research literally anywhere.
So I had to go on a podcast and do one on diagnosis. To fill the gap. this is, everyone wants to talk about fucking using Tik Tok, but this question you're asking me, which is, how do you know? It's, you look at the history, you do your qual, you talk to loyalists, you do quant if you can, and you talk to some retailers and you put all that together.
You can spot it a mile away, but it's not me walking in going, Ooh, I can spot that, I feel like that chicken has a big dick and that one has a pussy. Let's assume what they do. I don't know. You're telling me this.
Louis: It's much more subtle. It, they also paid people to do that during the second world war to spot enemy planes versus, allie planes from the sky, even though you couldn't fucking decipher from the two, some people were able to know without knowing why.
Mark: They just, they don't know how they do that. No, definitely not, in fact, if I get that feeling, I would push back heavily against it because I think that's dangerous. I think you can have, you can have a feeling about something, but then you go and check. There are certain, I'll tell you,
there's certain things you look for. You look for a strong founder, you look for a category.that's got potential, obviously. You look for notoriety and salience, and then you, particularly, look for loyalists that are passionate about the brand that come from, a very enclosed, very, high level group of people that it's very rare in, particularly with premium brands.
There wasn't a group of people who discovered the brand first among their friends who were very influential later in a very organic way. There were certain things you look for but mostly what you're looking for is, how to describe it. I work with Tatcha, right? So Tatcha is a famous brand in cosmetics because Unilever just bought it for a billion dollars.
And I worked with the founder of Tatcha and the CEO who were both very smart. And I think they always knew it was going to be a winner. And I was always very skeptical until I saw three things. I saw the product, I know nothing about cosmetics, but the way they were doing it was something special.
I saw once Sephora who were their main retailer, say about them, which was, these guys are the future. That's a retailer, always trust your retailers, They're always miserable, but if they say that you go whoop. And then the loyalist I saw where there was lots of them and they were completely, and there was nothing else in their book like it.
And when you put those three things together, plus this cool founder and a smart savvy CEO who has been around the traps before I've worked with him before and you go, yeah, these guys are set. Now I couldn't have told you it was going to be a billion dollar acquisition, but yeah, you knew pretty early on it was,
it was going to be something else, but you always check Louis, you always check because everyone has a favorite wife or a favorite husband, and then you have to check.
Louis: As you said, we've talked about diagnosis, the strategy, the tactics, On the previous podcast, if you're listening to this right now, I haven't listened to the first conversation, between Mark and myself. So we're not going to deep dive into it again, but I want to go back to the story of the Mini MBA and going back to the initial question, close the loop a bit, how would you do it?
If we were to work together on a new company and you first said, listen, it's, unless you are over 5 million, five years plus it's just, it's not going to. But yet you proceeded to answer the question after a while. So going back to this initial question where you said, I looked at my kind of strength, the unique ability that the unfair advantage I have in the business. And then I did the long, I still do the long and the short of it. So spending time on podcasts is one thing. What other long stuff do you do?
Mark: It's mostly me. I'll give you a good example. So for 20 years I got paid pretty well to write for marketing magazines, right? So, or newspapers, and it did pay me pretty well. And I was always very negative about people that wrote for magazines that didn't get paid, I was like, fuck you're fucking worthless.
And I was making quite a lot of money from it, and the problem I got was with paywalls. So although I realize why you want to paywall, it doesn't make sense for me to be behind it. You know what I mean? And in the end with marketing week, I love marketing week, I want to write for marketing week forever, It does the job for me, but the problem was, there was a big debate about brand purpose about, I don't know, two months ago and all my stuff's behind a paywall. Now you've got to pay 500 euros a year to read it. And there was this big debate about brand purpose that I was, I think, part of the early discussion I was in there early.
And like people were asking me for my column, but I couldn't send it to them because it's behind a paywall. And that made me realize, why am I doing this? I can make these figures up, because I shouldn't reveal actual money, but let's say it's a hundred thousand Euro a year to write columns.
Is that really why I'm doing this? Because if that's why I'm doing it, I can make far more doing other things with my time. The reason I'm doing this is to be top of the funnel. So what I should do is talk to marketing. We can say, put me in front of the paywall and don't pay me anymore because I'm not really doing this for the money I'm doing it because,
because of how it feeds the machine of Mini MBA, and that's exactly the conversation we had. And my editor is very good and he was, we talked about it and we got to that conclusion without us falling out or anything. Cause I, I understand why he wants to paywall, it just doesn't suit me.
So that's a good example of a top of funnel decision, right? Turn that a hundred grand hypothetically in favor of doing stuff for free in order to drive, more salients and awareness. and I think that's a good example of, podcasts, talks, articles. LinkedIn is my, LinkedIn is my [inaudible] in the sense that I love LinkedIn and it's always been useful for me.
And I think I average about a hundred thousand views of my posts eventually. And, I know they're not all views, but I've got good evidence to suggest 25 to 30,000 of them are properly read usually by often the same people, but not always, I've only got to convert a percent of those guys. I'll give you a good stat. I've, about at this point you get on LinkedIn, you get your rolling 90 day average of who's looked at your profile, And that means they've actually clicked on and looked at you. My average it probably hovers between 20 and 30,000 views over 90 days.
So if we take the 30,000 views, what does that translate into? That means that every nine days I'm getting 3000 views. So I'm getting 300, 200, 300 views a day. All we have to do is make sure those people are the right kind of people, which they are, and Mini MBA will prosper. Do you know what I mean?
LinkedIn for me is top of the funnel. it's certainly got bottom of funnel potential, but it doesn't really. For us, linkedIn is an amazing top of funnel opportunity, and I think more small businesses should realize that.
Louis: So go back to the paywall. I was checking some articles of you, today, and some of them are still under.
Mark: Two weeks ago, but I have to, yeah, two new strategies, Louis. So we're, first of all, we're doing a retrospective for the Festival of Marketing, where all the columns that people have complained about and commented on, are now going to be free. We got Byron Sharp tonight to comment on my article about him, so that was great. It's a really good session. It's going out on The Festival of Marketing, which we recorded today. and then we're doing something for Christmas where we're basically making them all available for free. So we will get close to getting them back out there, but from now on, they'll be free for the next 10 years.
Like you fucking losers, you fucking losers. Nobody fucking cares. We're plumbers. We're electricians. About the work with all this work going on and you want to write about, Oh, X said this and why things that, but I think that it's like, Oh my God, so many colonists. Fuck. You know what I mean?
They just do... talk about the work. The work is interesting. Do you know what I mean? The rest of it isn't interesting at all. It's like fucking bullshit and I think that's been a big, so yes, I occasionally slip into it and then I pull myself out of it,
Louis: That's one of the best quotes of the episode, again, writing a blog like a teenager. And you did if you're listening to this podcast right now, you don't know what Mark did, but he basically did a bit of a gesture. But so what's the difference then between a blogger? Is it the fact that they talk about themself and others and it's just a kind of a circle jerk. Is it what you mean by blogging like a teenager?
Mark: Yeah. all these blogs talking about other people. So first of all, there's no point doing Twitter or LinkedIn, unless you've monetized it. First of all, I think a lot of people don't get that. If I didn't have a Mini MBA or originally a column to promote. I wouldn't do anything on Twitter or LinkedIn, what's the fucking point.
So I'd keep in touch with my colleagues and so forth, but I wouldn't be putting things on there. So I think a lot of people have this kind of postmodern view of social media, where they do the social media thing and there's no fucking point to it. You know what I mean? Like it's. The whole point is it's top of funnel, otherwise what's the point of it, Oh, and I see these people on Twitter, they talk about their kids and they talk about what they're eating and it's Jesus, you're gonna, you're gonna, you're gonna have problems there down the track. You know what I mean? The best one was recently. There was a guy who tweeted, I no longer use LinkedIn and I no longer go on Facebook and I choose no longer
to go on Instagram. And I said to him on Twitter, I said, why the fuck are you tweeting this? Then you fucking lose it. And they got all this fucking, Oh, he's a good guy, and he's just making a point. Fuck you making this fucking statement on social media like you're not into social media, you're a fucking loser.
You know what I mean? Get a grip. You know what I mean? Get a fucking grip. Sorry. I should say he was a nice guy, but come on. You know what I
Louis: So you will agree with that, with what I'm going to say, LinkedIn, might go away. it's very unlikely, but maybe in five fucking years, they're going to die or they're going to be bought out again or something like the channel itself doesn't matter. Why do you think for you it's a channel to be right now.
what are the elements that make it an interesting thing so that people can spot the next one to be on if they need to be or replace it or whatnot. Why is it so interesting right now?
Mark: Because, and I know the LinkedIn guys pretty well, So I've worked with them a little bit over the years in New York, and it's a good story actually. My argument to LinkedIn has always been, so when LinkedIn came along, they looked at Facebook and Twitter and everything else, and they said, You've got TV and cinema and outdoor top of funnel B to C.
So bottom of the funnel, shut up. Sorry. Dog's going crazy. Bottom of funnel, digital media, more targeted. That's where you do digital stuff. So in comes LinkedIn B2B and LinkedIn says, we're like the digital media for B2B. So we're bottom of the funnel, except they never were, in my opinion, right?
They're not a performance marketing tool in B2B. The bottom of the funnel is the sales force. That's who activates, it's not, it's the, one of the fundamental differences the sales force goes out and does the performance right? But you think about top of funnel for B2B? What have you got? CNN and golf tournaments.
There's nothing there. So I think strategically LinkedIn missed their biggest opportunity and are now rectifying it. It's B2B top of funnel stuff that hands over sales leads to the sales force. And that's why I think it's such a winner for me and for Mini MBA, because we've been able to use it organically.
But also increasingly, for example, the brand course we've got, and I'm not going to, you know, I'm just trying to sell it via your podcast Louis, heaven forbid. It's better than anything else that's being taught at the top business schools, nevermind, online courses. You go and do a Harvard business school,
do the MBA elective in brand, then come and do my Mini MBA, let's talk, baby. We've got a Net Promoter score that's 18. I've got MBAs from top schools who do the course and they'll tell you. Anyway, my point is we have this course, but now we have ironically a marketing problem, which is we've got a great course in brand management,
and we know that our brand managers with no training, we just have to link the two together. And what do you know? We can go out to every brand manager in the world with a brand in their title, and we can target them with pretty decent content. Yeah, that will start the top of the funnel process going and will lead to other things.
I think that's a fantastic opportunity for us, And it's not cheap, but it's also not the most expensive approach either. So I really think LinkedIn's got it for now. And, we can talk about Tik Tok replacing Facebook, which is apparently a real thing. I still think LinkedIn has got. Here's another one for you,
what I would say is LinkedIn is going to survive the tunnel, and what I mean by that is when you get to my age, I'm 50, right, when you get to my age, what you realize is you've got a bit of experience, so you can start to call it. You start, not perfectly, but you really start to see the vectors,
you know what I mean? You can see where things are playing, a bit more wisdom, not too much, but just a bit more. And therefore you can spot what's going to happen. But also if you're 50, unless you make some horrible errors by the time you're 60 you're out, Anyone working past 60 is a fucking freak in my opinion, or hasn't earned enough money.
So my point is at 50, you can see the tunnel and predict it quite well in some cases, but you can also see that some things are beyond the tunnel. I know LinkedIn is going to be the dominant engine for B2B for the next 10 years, and after that, who gives a fuck, literally who cares, man? Because it won't be of any use to me.
That's the weird thing about your fifties, I think is you start to be able to spot things, but also that beyond those things, you don't care. That's a new one for me in my forties. I wasn't thinking that way in my, as I start my fifties, I'm like, yeah. Okay. Who cares, man? And I've seen that on all the managers I've worked with this kind of like.
dat de dat de, that's what's going on? They're going, Oh yeah, yeah. I can see what's happening here, you guys are all fucked, but I'm dat de dat de da! Are going to be gone before that happens.
Louis: And yeah, LinkedIn is this amazing organic rich, which is very good for top of the funnel, you don't have to pay to play. You can literally just post shit and LinkedIn will surface it too, to the right people. I'm always amazed by the power of posting something and not having that many quote unquote reactions, but then having fucking people, like when you call them remembering it or just saying, Oh, I saw your post on LinkedIn.
It's, it is really something that is quite interesting nowadays. There's something interesting. I want to ask you, because I, obviously, none of the questions I'm asking you are prepared, because I'm just listening to you. but you said in your 50, this, in your, this is how you think, I'm 31, right?
So I don't wanna make you feel bad or anything. That's not the point. The point is okay.
Mark: I feel bad. I feel bad that there'd be a thought of 31 again. What a great year 31 is. If you've got it right. 31 is among the best years, mate. If you're not, you haven't got any kids yet or have you, Louie? No.
Louis: No, not yet. No.
Mark: Take your time. Get drunk, have as much sex as possible. This is my advice to 31 year olds not being patronizing.
I'm just saying that's what you should drink more. Have sex.
Louis: How are you thinking in your 30's about marketing?
Mark: Yeah. Look, I was on the academic train and I was, it's all very well being a bit of a rebel now, but I was in the middle of a tenured track. So 31, I'd moved back to London business school from the States, I was on my second professorship. I was still tenured track, I was assistant professor at LBS,
I was, I was just starting to get. I tell you what 31 was probably the year I decided to focus on brand, because it was clearly more substantive than comms and no one else was doing it. So I was really making that my niche. and I was enjoying London and having a bit of money.
And it's dead interesting. because I'd been in Minnesota for... my first job was Minnesota for four and a half years. Great city could not get laid and at 30, you turn 30 in Minneapolis. It's like being 70. Like my, all my friends were divorced, they're all 30. And everyone gets married when they are 18 in Minnesota.
So all the guys I was hanging out with were all divorced hockey players, And so we go out on a Saturday night, but it was fucking depressing. And I got it in my head at 30 31, I was really over the hill, there was something wrong with me. And I got back to London and I was like a dog with two dicks.
Cause it was like 31 was like young, super young. Do you know what I mean? I was like, what was I thinking? So I was in, I really had a good time, I think. and LBS was great. So yeah, I think thirties are, I would say thirties at the time to really go into things, forties are the time to go into things and fifties are very enjoyable. In my game.
being a professor in your thirties is horrible because everybody just assumes you're too young, whereas 50, it's great because everyone, you're the right age to do the job. For 25 years,I was the wrong age to do the job that I was doing. literally. You say professor and they expect you to be 50.
Louis: That's another unfair advantage that you have your grey hair.
Mark: Yeah, grey, and now the irony is, man, I tell you, when I started teaching in Minnesota, I was 26 years old. Just turned, not even, and I'd done my PhD early and I knew nothing. And I was trying to look older. I wore my specs because back then, I could wear contacts. I wanted to look older and now I'm just like fucking appauled, by how old I look and it's like back then, I'm wanting to be as old as possible.
It's fascinating. life goes full circle,
Louis: You mentioned earlier on that, You have no problem calling people out on LinkedIn and whatnot, which I always enjoy when I see a notification from your LinkedIn. I know you're going to say something on the comments, you're going to fucking bollock someone, and it's always funny to see the other people commenting because they know what you're doing.
You're doing it for the fucking, for the laugh yourself, but also so that other respondents, more people see it. And I see your game a bit, but either it's, it's a pleasure for you to do it. I can see that you don't need to think hard about it. When did you feel confidence about doing it?
And I don't mean LinkedIn, forgetting the channel. I don't give a shit about that.
Mark: I tell you exactly when it was, when I paid off my mortgage. It changes someone, not to be necessarily rich, but not to have a mortgage anymore. You suddenly feel like I'll fuck it. If I had a mortgage, I'd still be like, Oh yeah, brand purpose, it's important, and oil companies are good because I might need to make money from that down the track.
And I think that the freedom of not having a debt on your house, even though you're not rolling in money, liberates you to be like, Oh, you know what? I can't be bothered anymore. Fuck this. I couldn't stand the worthiness, when it started with social media because it was just horse shit.
It really was horse shit, and I, I didn't know if I was wrong or right at the time, but it was like, it just didn't stack up to me. And I remember thinking at the time, this would be 2010 ish, I'll start giving talks about this and if I'm wrong, somebody will point out I'm wrong. Do you know what I mean?
And nobody did. And the more I went on, the more I'm thinking, hang on a minute by now, somebody should have told me I'm wrong. And nobody is. And I, but that started with, I don't have a significant debt on my property anymore, I own my own home, again, I'm very working class. that Liberty came from that, before that I just didn't say anything.
And suddenly it was like, and you, people like it. I try not to be personal. I try to be about the, what you said is stupid, you're not stupid. I try to be very careful and say, You're not stupid, but what you said was stupid. There was a nice chap in, I think it was in Sri Lanka who posted that strategy was an emotional connection.
And I said, and I commented on his tweet. I said, look, I'm sure you're, my exact words, but I'm sure you're a really decent fellow, but what you've just said there is horseshit. You should read more and stop tweeting and 10 wankers then went, Oh, that's not fair. He's only ever, he's only got six connections.
Look at you picking on the little fellow from Sri Lanka. And it's like dudes, you're the racist patronizing motherfuckers here. If the fellow from Sri Lanka says something stupid, I'm going to fucking tell him it's stupid. And I hope he will do the same thing to me. All you worthy motherfuckers with your, Oh he's only got six followers and he's from Sri Lanka
go easy on him. No, let's all, let's have a problem, let's have a debate and have a beer afterwards. And I think one of the things that's missing Louis is, in academia, we have this image of being all lovey dovey. I went to research talks for years where two professors would bang the shit out of each other and then go out for dinner afterwards, quite happily.
And I think, the homoerotic thing with me and Byron sharp, I absolutely think he's terrific. I just disagree with half the things he says and vice versa. And we can enjoy it. It's not, it's not that important. Do you know what I mean? You can hammer someone's ideas and still, I think a lot of them, unless you're an idiot.
Louis: And there are countries, I think, where people are more used to that. I know that in France, that's [inaudible]
Mark: The Dutch love it. The French, you have to put some butter on top of it in France. Do you know what I mean?
Louis: Shit sandwich and this shit.
Mark: Whereas the Dutch just fucking, sticking. Germans are great. Germans, love calling it out. I like the French more than anyone else, because I love the way at some point they have to reveal the fact that they've been clever.
The Irish are better than the French because the Irish will leave you thinking you've fucked someone over, even though they fucked you all along. Whereas the French they get, they really do a great, and then at some point they have to go to see, I love that, but that's the vulnerability I love about the French.
They can't resist .
Louis: So you felt free when you didn't have your mortgage anymore. And that came from the history of your context and the family and whatnot, do you regret that if you were to advise young Ritson again, with his shitty glasses.
Mark: No. I think one of the problems I have with this find your purpose bullshit is it's coming out of Richard Branson's mouth. And a whole series of other billionaires. Yeah, sure. You go to find your fucking purpose. You've got a billion dollars. Here's the purpose of most working men and women all over the world.
Yeah. And I'm talking about middle-class French, German people, not, no, not just, people that are struggling, your purpose is to pay your mortgage off and get a decent pension and bring up your kids in a way that works. That's what purpose is for most people. And I get really tired of people that have seven figure salaries, telling people that don't, you should find your purpose. You know what, that's fucking dangerous talk. The purpose is do a job that doesn't make you too unhappy and pay off all your debts. and that's very, again, very working class, but it doesn't stop it from being right.
And I think that's another problem with this nonsense. It misses the fact that for most people, life isn't a struggle, but it's not, what am I going to? What's my ultimate calling in life, it's, that's not how it plays for most people. It certainly wasn't how it played for me, or most of us.
We don't have that luxury.
Louis: But don't you think that by being more straightforward and less bullshitty and calling things as they are, even if, even when you have a mortgage, don't you think that's one of the basis of kind of good marketing in a sense where you pick an enemy, you have a fucking point of view. You at least say things slightly differently.
Mark: No, it became strategic. It became strategic at a certain point when I saw it working. So I saw that people would, I mean like any brand, what you discover is a client said to me, the reason we love you is because you tell us the truth and you don't bullshit us. And I had really had no idea that was the case.
And so what happens of course, is as I've seen with brands a hundred times over, what starts as an accident becomes a core competence, and then it becomes embedded through strategy. Again take Sephora the reason Sephora has so many different small brands, is when it was acquired by LVMH a lot of the big suppliers starting with Chanel didn't want to supply them for a while because they were owned by one of their major competitors.
So they had to fill the shelves with any old small brand for a little while, and that became a wonderful part of Sephora's DNA. This incredible range of big and small, new and old. and they realized that at some point, but you mustn't underestimate the power. I've seen that literally a hundred times a brand does something by chance or because it has to, and it becomes something very attractive and then they realize it and then they enshrine it.
And I think that's, I'm a good example of that in a small way. I lost my temper a few times, and I'm from a background, which is very Northern and straight English, call it what it is. And when I did that, I went, Oh, hang on, people really like that, and no one else does it, or very few people do it.
And I'll tell you the best thing, Louis, which you'll really like is when I do these conferences now, people are... There's a great column, which is about Gary Hamel. Have you ever read that column of mine? You'd love it. So I give a talk with Gary Hamel, who's a famous strategy professor and I start off and then Gary Hamel takes over after me and no one remembers me or even notices me, even though my talks way better than Gary Hamels, because Gary Hamel is Gary Hamel and everyone in the audience has come to see Gary Hamel and I'm like, fuck, what is he doing that I'm not doing?
And the answer is. He's being paid to be Gary Hamel and I'm being paid to give a speech on branding and open up for Gary Hamel. And it's at that point, I go, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm going to, I've got to make myself what I teach, to some degree.
Louis: So that surprises me then that you answered saying if you don't, it's not that you have regrets, you can't just go back in the past. That's not what I mean, but it's surprising then to me, that you would under advise your younger self to, to take more risk and be less bullshitty or, being a bit more, I don't want to use the C word but.
Mark: Yeah, but it's a function, it's a function of time. I think it would be false to do it. I think the joy of it is that it happened for a reason. If I went back in time and advised myself to be like that earlier, it would be fake. Do you know what I mean? I think that's really important, right?
You can't fake it. You can exaggerate it a bit, but it has to be born of... when I say to someone, I think you're full of shit or something, I'm not doing it for a fact, I'm mostly doing it cause I think they're full of shit. Do you know what I mean? And people can smell it a mile away.
Do you know what I mean? But I was going to tell you is, what's great now is now that I've got to, I'm not as famous as Gary Hamel, but I've got to that place where occasionally I get hired to give a talk because they want me to give a talk right, in my style. The conference organizers will always say to me, we want you to be provocative and we want you
to push it. And I say, are you sure? Because when people say that to me normally, and I do that afterwards, they really didn't like it and they go, no, we want you to be there. And every time after it's too late, that was a bit strong, but that was a bit inappropriate, and I'm like, fuck, you told me to do it.
You know what I mean? I checked twice and that now you're ready to go. And then afterwards after a while, they're happy because rather than eight people and a dog watching it, we got a decent audience. That's the other part you've got to give people something that's new and interesting or no one's going to bother, Like fuck the number of conference sessions that are just dog shit boring, it's stunning, you know what I mean? It's stunning. It's not even that hard to be good at these conferences, you've just got to be like normal and there was a great one in Prague. My favorite one is, it was in Prague a couple of years ago.
They do this massive conference, about three and a half thousand people with the Cheqs and the Slovenians and Slovaks, not the Soviet union. So, I always get them wrong. They get pissed off and the conference was just full of brilliant audience members and shit speakers. And I was the last guy on, and I said to these guys, I said, I think it's been pretty bad
hasn't it? And I said, let's go into brands. And then I said, afterwards, we'll go and get shit faced in the bar. I said, I won't be able to stay. there's 3000 of you and there's only me, but I said, I'll stay out for a couple of hours until I pass out. Let's get fucking hammered afterwards,
all right? And everyone just went, yeah, because we then had nine hours of here's how you do brand purpose and 80, 20, 60, 40, is it about creativity or is it science? Yeah, it's just, talk about the work. Do you know what I mean? Here's some good work now let's have a beer.
You know what I mean? It's not that hard, really. Especially if you're in with Cheqs, it really likes beer and talking about marketing.
Louis: So what still is not a hundred percent clear to me is what to say to you listening right now to just put it to the guys who're struggling to understand. Okay. Do I need to wait until it becomes natural? And I pay off my mortgage to say what I think if it comes to me naturally right now, because to give my, to get my example just briefly, right?
I'm not fucking playing a game here. I'm literally just myself. I just ask the question. I want to ask. I created this podcast for myself. I'm not faking it right.
Louis: So what's your, this is I'm not too sure what advice we could give them then.
Mark: It's bigger. I'm with you now back up past the honesty and calling it in a straightforward way. That's not what people should do, That's what I did in my little place. if you look at what I believe brands are, they are a synthesis of two or three things wrapped together. And one of my things is, I don't know, bullshit, whatever it might be, why that's one of my genes yeah,
in the brand, not in me, but in the brand. It doesn't mean that your listeners should be going right, so when should I have that no bullshit thing? That's not that's not what we're saying. What we're saying is over time through accident and through birth and through weird stuff and synchronicity, you may have got two or three things which are marketable in a certain category at a certain time.
Those three or four things aren't necessarily probably, definitely not what I've got. What you've got is something else. Work out what they are mostly by listening to other people, cause you won't be aware of them. And then you can solidify and use them as a base. One of my biggest insights and it sounds so obvious is there's no such thing as brands in general, whenever you see brands, small B plural S you've made a mistake.
The whole point of a brand is it's capital B no S there's nothing you can generically learn from me about what to stand for, right? To your excellent questions. You can learn about the process and so forth, but where you end up should be in a completely different place from me and hopefully somewhere, even more lucrative and better.
So the danger here is you listen to someone like me saying, look, what I am is this and this, I think and that's what's worked. You will be something else. You need to be something else. And it's a different combination. And that sounds real obvious, but it's really turns out very hard for people to grasp finding the special genes and then driving it the way you need to drive it.
Very tricky, you know what I mean? There are no trains. There are no train tracks and you see it with brand managers. Brand managers often switch from one brand to another and they can't manage the process of changing what they do because they don't get that this brand is a totally different brand than the previous one they worked on.
There's only about 20% of marketers in my experience, step back, do the diagnosis, get a new set of coordinates, blah, blah, blah. It's a real skill to be able to drop one thing and move to another, and that's the point here, the process and your questions are getting at that, and that's great, but the outcome and the product and all of that needs to be completed, it should be smooth.
All the things are not, it could be smooth and gushing and, elegant, that might be it. And that's the point. You've got to look hard at A: what you've got and B: what will work and wrap it up together. And it's particularly important because what we've been saying throughout this podcast, I think is, for those first four or five years, the brand, does it stand on its own two feet?
The founder holds it up and at some point the founder becomes the brand, right? And then the brand will take off and that's cool. But until that happens, you've got a carrier. And I think that you have to be that authenticity is important, but can also be a little bit gamed and focused as well.
Louis: So you need, to your point earlier, about accidents and just things happening and serum PDT and all of that, you just have to be willing to test shit and just throw things at the wall and see what sticks, see what doesn't and make me stay, it's realizing that's a nice lesson, double down on it.
Mark: The only one they're against is this making the mistakes thing becomes a bit of a mean. But when I was teaching at MIT, it was really big at MIT, and I made mistakes. It's great to make mistakes. And I did, when I did this Ogilvy taught this year for the marketing society, one of their questions was, tell us about the big mistakes you've made.
And I haven't made any . I've made some small ones and I thought I could make something up about getting something wrong, which would be like, it would make me look humble and it would make people go, Oh, he's learned a lot there. And I thought now, fuck it. I'm just going to say I haven't made any big mistakes.
I never intended to. So I didn't, and I don't intend to in the future. And that mistake. I'm not saying it's unavoidable. What I'm saying is that kind of pornography where we say, Oh, I want to make mistakes so I can learn. Yeah, great in a fucking theoretical universe. But when there's money and time involved, I'd much prefer not to make any fucking mistakes and learn from my successes.
And that's super uncool and super untrendy. But I think the point is it's better not to really make mistakes or if you are making them stop making them real quick and not go, Ooh, I learned from this big mistake, that changed my life. Yeah. Okay. But bear just to get it fucking right and learn from the research as much as possible.
Do you know what I mean? I think that's key. So I'd say, yeah, you need to test and learn. Embrace serendipity, but the big skill I would suggest most people need is you need to know when the big fucking moment is upon you. A lot of people don't know. I'll give you my, one of my favorite examples. They did an article years ago about people that had survived massive
accidents, right? Lone survivors, fascinating article. They all told the same story. So it was a guy for example, and we had a terrible tragedy in the UK, the Zebbrugger tragedy. So a ferry going across overnight from England to Zebbrugger, to Bruge, sank. The car ferry loaded up with water, it sank, like a hundred people died. And the one guy that survived
was like walking around the ferry and the ferry was listing and he said, look, this is fucking crazy. This is fucking, this fucker's going down. And his cars there with all these possessions and everyone's having a beer. And what he said is that he said that you don't get the dramatic music like you get in the movies. So if that was happening, in the movie version of the Zebbruger disaster, you'd start to hear that 'dumb'. And he said there was just people laughing and joking, but he thought, he said, look, it's fucking going down. So he got a ring and he jumped into the North sea and even when he jumped in the North Sea, I can remember him saying, I think I'm having a breakdown because I've just fucking, I've just jumped into the fucking sea, telling people like you're fucking mad. So he jumped into the sea. Sure, the fucking ferry went down and he was one of the few guys to survive.
And I think that concept of being able to see big moments when they come, when everyone else isn't noticing them is definitely something I've been conscious of. like when I went to Wharton on a postdoc, I remember thinking. Oh, no, this is fucking it, now, if I screw this up, I won't get another chance, but if I knock this one out of the park in the next year
It'll be the making of me and looking back on it, 30 years later, that's absolutely the case, right? If I hadn't been 25 years later, if I hadn't have made that Wharton postdoc work, I wouldn't have got to Minnesota. I wouldn't have got to LBS. I haven't always been successful. Don't take it the wrong way. but I've spotted a moment, but I haven't failed much. And I've certainly spotted moments where right, we're going to triple down on this fucker because if I don't, this one will pass me by like a ship in the night. And I think that's a key one for your people is spot the... you're going to get six or seven moments.
You will get some failures and how you handle them, defines you as a person, yada. But there's going to be six or seven opportunities that everybody gets dealt. That if you spot them, you're going to get, Oh fuck, hang on. This is one of those. I think that's a real skill.
Louis: You know the question I'm going to ask you,
Mark: Oh. back to duck penises and duck pussies at this point, right? Yeah. This is back then. Men spotting airplanes in the sky. Yeah. You get a tingling, you get a tingling in the loins that goes, Oh, hang on a minute. Like the guy on the ferry, this is something, yeah. There's something else going on. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, you're right. We finally got back to your original chicken sexing forward slash strange thing. Yeah, you're right. That's the moment, you've got, yeah. You feel like, hang on a minute. this is it. You feel it. You do feel that's fair.
Louis: Like a butterfly in the stomach type thing. Like it's, to me, I'm not talking about big moments necessarily, but when I know there's something out there that could be interesting. I'm scared, first of all, and I have this yeah butterfly in my stomach before publishing it or before doing it or, and feels shit.
But then if it's much better, once you took the decision to fucking do it, and it's definitely.
Mark: You do while you're on it, so it's not just going, this is a big moment I've got, I'm nervous. It's also being, find the runway to go, not only is this a big mountain, I'm nervous, but I'm going to put five times the effort in, because I said, when I got LVMH and I didn't want LVMH, I took the Eurostar down to Paris that first time and they were late picking me up from garden or station.
I remember thinking, wow. If they don't come in five minutes, I'm just going to fucking go home. Cause I don't want the gig. I don't even know why I'm here. I'll go. And then they turned up, but then I went, Oh, hang on. Yeah, this is massive. I'll quadruple down in these first early stages of it. You know what I mean?
It's not just not being nervous. It's been like, Fuck everything else. this is the one I'll tell you a good
Louis: You have this energy.
Mark: This energy, and when I did a video case about the tide campaign that won the Superbowl advertising thing last year, and it was the Saatchi North America campaign briefed in by Procter and Gamble.
And the thing that Proctor and Gamble did was such, they briefed them very well. Saatchi came back with three different creative options, and Saatchi said that one, the first one. It's a tie that, that's the one, the other two burn em, that's the one. That's what I'm talking about. It's being able to spot and then double, triple down on that one and just get everything else out the way and not waste your resources on it.
That's a rare skill, I think that if you get it right, those four or five times, it pays you back. And if you don't, you miss them and you never realized you missed them.
Louis: You know what I think in these moments, when you have three ads to pick from, and you just pick the one and it works out, but it feels like sometimes it's just a fact of actually believing in it and tripling down on it, giving it all of your energy and saying no to the rest is actually what matters the most.
And yeah, you might say creativity as a bit, blah, blah, blah. Do you know, even a shit, not so good idea that you fucking triple down on is better than it, it's a very good idea that it's done almost full on.
Mark: I think that's right then there's a third level. So just committing to something makes it better. You're absolutely right. But then there's that extra level I'm talking about, which is committing to it. And it's a giant fucking thing. If you keep going there, That's the extra, I don't think you're wrong, but I think there's that extra bit, which is we're talking in a lifetime, these four or five things come along, that you should spot three or four of them and go, this is crazy, but this is the one I should do.
I think that is the thing. That's your chicken sexing moment, but it's not just going, Oh, I can spot this, it's then going, and I'm going to put it. The reason I use example, the guy in the ferry is because he jumped in, fucking, he jumped in and I think that's the moment where you go, right?
I'm going to not just think of that. This is important, but I'm going to act on it and go hard. And I think that we're talking about a moment that happens every five or 10 years or something. If you're lucky, I believe in that. And I also believe that when you do get punched in the balls by life, The Americans are right.
I do love the Americans for a lot of the things they believe. They're the moments that define you as a man or a woman, right? Not the victory, not this stuff we're talking about, where you make the most of your opportunities, how you handle those inevitable moments, where you do get kicked in the balls and whether you can take it and wherever you can almost enjoy it and go,
This is, I remember when I was knee deep in, two we're, two properties, we were, I was consulting like mad. we weren't running short on money, but it was like, fuck, this is hard. And I took a job where I had to get up at 3:00 AM and fly to Sydney and, do a really shitty job for a really quite shitty client and get home two days later, miserable work in a very uninteresting category. And I can remember getting up each morning and walking through the rain to get a taxi to the airport, thinking this is, ah, this is the bit where you find that if you're a man or not. And I don't mean that in a sexist way, it could be a woman, but this is where you're going to find out
if you've got, the stuff, cause this isn't fucking easy. This is really hard to do this on such little sleep, but I'll get to find out. Now if I've got, if I, this test will prove to me that I'm. I made it, the stuff I think I made of, I actually enjoyed that. the Americans say you do, you should enjoy that feeling of, ah, this is the test.
And if you feel that way, you can never really go wrong, because the bigger, the kick in the balls, the more you're like, I'm going to prove it.
Louis: And to your point about the ferry. it's a nice analogy because when you jump, you can come back. Like you don't have fucking wings or anything. You jump your jump,
Mark: That's right. Your whole life.
Louis: Fucking sea.
Mark: Yeah, that's right. and you can control it a little bit with Mini MBA. I was still good. I didn't leave business school until it was very successful. There's two years with Mini MBA where I'm still teaching at business school. So I'm all for hedging bets, if you can, but yeah, nothing's going to be the same at some point.
Yeah, absolutely. But then look, I think you meet these guys that have built these incredible brands at a billion dollar level and what you learned from them is, like John Kristoff Baban, right? So John Kristoff was the CEO of Tag Heuer and is now the CEO of Bulgari. I learned so much from Baban because he's first of all, a sensationally, nice person, not nice in a, like a book,
I just fucking great guy. He's got, I think he's got five kids, a fantastic wife. He goes skiing every weekend. He's never, he's rebuilt Tag Heuer. He's done a brilliant job on Bulgari. he likes having a beer, he likes buying Porsches, not expensive ones, just like Porsche's, he's just a fucking great guy.
And what you get from these guys, these proper winners is, stable, lovely to everyone, is life's short man. And just go for it because if you don't, what's the point. There's this, there's a sense of that feeling that I get from a few people I've met and you're just like, you get an almost energy from them.
Which is, if you don't do it, man, what are you going to do? Just get on with it. And if you fuck up, you'll fuck up. But if you trust yourself a little bit and you're a little bit knowledgeable, you'll be alright. You'll probably call it, you know what I mean? You've got to back yourself.
Louis: You mentioned the long game. side of it, with LinkedIn podcasts, removing the payroll. I don't see you that much anywhere else. or am I missing you? Do you do anything else? Top of the funnel?
Mark: Look, I'd say, occasional talks in different countries, where we can get a decent audience, which then goes online. we get about, what's a good example. we should get between five and 10,000 views of a talk. Podcasts like this fine one here, you can do too many of them, but a few podcasts or yours was great by the way.
Alan Hearts one has got good content too, but yours was the one that got, continues to get cited. You know what I mean? Like the one we did fucking two years ago, it still does get cited. Like we pick up sales off that every quarter, everyone
Louis: I wonder, where is my check? Because I sent you the
Mark: Yes, it's here with me.
Louis: Tell me more about, tell me more about how, how, so you still hear people saying the episode two years ago, you're still getting fucking sales from it.
Mark: I'm not making it up. We still get people saying, Oh, you heard your episode on everyone hates marketers. And then I signed up for Mini MBA and then this has been great, blah, blah, blah. We get, I get that quite a lot. it doesn't seem to be wearing out either. So you've obviously got a decent, it's not to say you're at an impact, but you're getting no syndication.
People are still listening to it. You know what I mean?
Louis Are we going to use the B word to describe Everyone Hates Marketers? Is it the brand yet?
Mark: No, I think, here's your problem, right? And it's not your fault. The podcast industry is back to my point about private equity boys. So the thing that blows my mind about private equity boys is they find a category where there's lots of potential for margin and growth, blah, blah. And then they look for a brand exact opposite of what marketers do.
You've got a great product here, right in your podcast, but the podcast marketplace is clearly insanely bad. You've got Joe Rogan and then everyone else, that's it. And the barriers to entry are low, everyone starts apart. I never mind Everyone Hates Marketers. Everyone has a podcast.
And what's interesting is everyone you've done it well, Louis you've done it for a long time. You're very good at it. It's not going to help you because the category sucks. But. If you look at that whole thing, everybody wants to be like the host. Do you know what I mean? And you actually do it really well.
Most people do it really badly, but they all have the same format and pretty much the same guests instead of me. So the category is fucked before you begin. Do you know what I mean? Like literally it's fun and I don't know. Do you monetize it? What do you do with it then? What's your plan?
Louis: So I've quit my job. as of tomorrow I'm going to work full-time on it. And. I'm going to double down on, not like the podcast is the channel, but Everyone Hates Marketers as a business. I think has legs towards helping people to fucking fight the bullshit, get sales. By radically standing out, which is funny because it's never been engineered this way and never thought about it this way, but naturally the game, some getting people I'm talking, the subjects we approach always seem to gear towards this idea of the positioning, understanding the radical differentiation.
I always naturally just, and it's just, I've realized, this is what I want to do. This is what I need to do. and. I'm going to develop it further. I want to talk to people who are not marketers. I'm fucking sick of talking to marketers, to be honest. and I want to talk to, you mentioned, fuck, I'm going to forget his name.
Fashion guy, Largerfeld. yeah. I want to talk to people like that. I want to talk to artists and filmmakers and those people would actually do marketing without cutting it this way, because that's the essence of it. Like this fucking taking risks, creating shit, seeing if it works as we get better.
Mark: So I'll give you, I'll give you good advice, then live on your podcast. You ready? Here's the whole thing, right? Everybody's got the same fucking format, right? Everyone's a fucking talk show host. And even when you're good at it, which you are, there's a limited amount of potential in that what you should do is you should do case studies on marketing, that lasts about 12 to 15 minutes, which is about the right length.
And you should make lots of them about these topics because. Again, I've listened to your episodes. I do like your stuff, but it's all, it's still as good as it is similar to everyone. Else it depends on the guest. What you need to do is zoom into this topic and say to these fashion guys, take me through how you made a product or, there's room for that in this world. That's what's missing right now. You know what I mean? I think. Who, you everybody's market is definitely in my list. Alan Howard's podcast. I listened to Galloway obviously, but that's about it. I'm with you. Marketing is very boring and very repetitive.
You're far more into, remember that thing recently where everyone sent out their top five books. there's five marketing books. What the fuck? You know what I mean? What the blazing fuck was that right? Here's the five books that I like. It's like the five marketing books. You fucking losers.
If the five, if the five books you want to boast about a fucking, How brands grow and, from good to great and fuck me, you fucking losers, but the Old Man and the Sea, do you know what I mean? Jesus Christ put something decent in there. I'm with you. So I think a bit more, a broader view and more about the work is definitely, would be all good.
Luckily I think if anyone can do it, you can . but obviously you're shitting yourself right now, which is great, and that's a good feeling. 31 shitting your pants, that's about how you should be. How's your mortgage?
Louis: Just starting
Mark: Ah, you're a better man than me. You're a better man than me Louis
Louis: What's the worst that's gonna happen? It fails. I found a new job.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Does your wife work?
Mark: Okay then that's the one. As long as she doesn't leave you'll be fine.
Louis: Yeah. I can go back to my folks.
Mark: Yeah, that sounds great. That would be, 32 living with your parents divorced.
You're a little bit too old. Yeah, no, look seriously. I think it's great. I'll be honest at 31. Yeah. You have to go for it. Yeah. You have to go for it. It moves pretty quick.
Yeah. It moves pretty fucking quick. 30 to 40 is the blink of an eye man, it's a blink of an eye. So if you don't go now you'll never go. And the one certainty is you'll regret it if you don't. So yeah. GodSpeed. I think that's great, it's, I did it much later in life, obviously with my Mini MBA.
It is a lovely feeling when it works. The only thing I'd say to you again, is you end up just doing more work though. I've managed to lock down to be the busiest I've ever been because we have 3000 students. Do you know what I mean? So it, if you're successful, it's not like you go Woah, success, what happens is you go, Oh.
Louis: It's another mundane. There's a fucking mountain to climb and then there's another one. And then there is another one.
Mark: And I met the guy that had, I might have told you this before, but the guy that founded Belvedere Vodka when he was creating Belvedere Vodka in Minneapolis, and then when it was acquired by Miller Tennessee, 20 years apart, and I, it was a fascinating chance to get literally there the two times I saw him when he was creating Belvedere.
And then when he was selling it for whatever, it was three in a million Europe. And I asked him about that journey and he said, all look, he said, look, I had this idea. And then I worked really hard. And now here I am. And I don't think there are many moments where you get to sit back and ruminate or look back on it.
You just keep working and then. You stop, do you know what I mean? Like again, capitalism is brutal in that respect it isn't poetry. Do you know what I mean? If you are successful, I just think there's no such thing as an easy win. Do you know what I mean? Everybody works hard. I think that's the other part that people often miss in order to be successful and, or make money, you have to work harder than other people and get up earlier.
And I think that's something that, again, doesn't get said enough at the moment. You know what I mean?
Louis: To go back to your case study idea, one of the, one of the key thing that I do differently than most is the fact that we spend a long time talking. Like I see a lot of marketing podcasts talking about stuff for 15 minutes and then that's it. I never wanted to do that cause you don't go deep enough.
And, this idea of doing case studies with people. That's exactly what I had in mind, to be honest, but not 15 minutes, because I think you're missing the, the details that actually make the whole fucking thing. And sometimes it takes two fucking hours to get there.
Mark: If it's a good enough story. Sure. yeah, I don't disagree. It's just, again, how many can you make two hours? I remember when I did Mini MBA, for example, I worked with a wonderful woman called Dan, she filmed me in the green screen studio and we were like, two thirds of the way through.
And I said, fuck Dan, I said, I'm exhausted. I don't know about you. I said, I don't know why I'm so tired. And she's made nine hours of movie now. there's fucking three Gone with the Winds. I'm not saying we're making Gone with the Wind, but that's a lot of content, right? That's a lot of content.
And in the same way you start making two hour podcasts. Why do you think everyone does the podcast format? Because again, you're good at it, but you can just sit and have a chat, do a little bit of prep, but then chat away. Two hours of a case study is a lot of fucking work, right? A lot of work. Now you might be up for it,
like when I'll tell you a good example, I did those little Effie case studies. Remember last year I did those and I did them and it was real, it was a real pain in the ass for me, because I said to LinkedIn, I was going to do it via LinkedIn learning. And then I found out it was just all shit.
So then I found out, LinkedIn said, you can have a 10 minute upload max. And I'm like, Oh, I can't do it. I can't do these case studies. I was going to do 25 minutes, And then the discipline of producing it. Literally, if you look at them, they're nine minutes and 58 seconds. And there's no, by the way, there's no take, right,
if you look at people's the guy from LinkedIn was like, how do you put the tapes in there? I'm like, there's no takes, it's there's no techs. And he said, how are you? How do you integrate the bullet points with what you're saying? I said, I just stand and talk. And then we drop in the bullet points later on green-screen.
But the 10, 10 minutes literally. It's just me like this blah, blah, blah. And then everything was a bit later, but. The 10 minute episode, I'll tell you it's a powerful thing from the consumer point of view. You know what I mean? I can see your joy of the long form, but I think long form content is 10 minutes now.
You know what I mean? 15 minutes podcasts.
Louis: But so what I mean is more to extract the value. Sometimes it takes a long time, but then you can summarize it and distill it down to this core concept that you managed to get for an hour. Do you know, like not everyone is as good as you are aware. You're fucking telling stories of the stories that are entertaining.
Sometimes I need to dig and dig and dig in and say how and how.
Mark: And ride with it, Louis. You're good at that. That's your strength. maybe what you have to do is do the case study for 20 minutes upfront and then break it out to one of the heroes of the case. Who responds to the case study you've just told. And then you interrogate them in the Louie way. I'd listened to that, you've got to choose brands that are cool.
You know what I mean? That is interesting. Even if I haven't heard of them before.
Louis:Do you know, I want to just double down on brands that are radically different in some ways, right? no one has ever, I've never seen anything like that. I've never seen any theater, tail downs or case studies of that specifically. don't get me wrong. I've seen your stuff, on Lidl and Gillette and whatever,
but you touch a lot on the campaigns and whatnot, but I don't think I've seen anything about
Mark: No that's teaching.
Mark: No. Look, I picked those case studies to tell I started out with the concepts. So I started out with ESOV and then found a case to illustrate it. I didn't start with the case. That would be interesting, that wasn't my intent ever, It was like, I want to teach people about ESL. I want to teach them about distinctiveness.
I want to teach them about, whatever. And then I went and found the Effie cases that fit and tick those boxes. That's, it was completely about helping people understand concepts. What you would do is pick the cases and see where they take you. Which is far more interesting in many ways. I think.
But a little bit more random as well.
Louis: So picking the case study, doing it, me looking at it for 20 or 25 minutes going at it full force, and then potentially having the people who've been involved in it, distilling it down further and say, Oh, you haven't thought about that. Or what you said there is bullshit. That kind of stuff.
Mark: It was what it was actually like. What it was actually like. I think that the combination of you telling the story with a little bit of analysis, but then providing the color. That would be perfect.
Louis: Alright. I think it's a nice way to finish the episode and get some consulting for free. Fuck. I feel very lucky right now. and it's been two minutes to two hours and five minutes. longest episode ever, so far out of 162 hours.
Mark: That's good, man. That's good. if people go jogging and shit everywhere, be dead interesting to see what you have to tell me about the completion rate is right. We'll get a decent number listening at the start, but I wonder how many get to the end,
Louis: Yeah. And then let's look at the number of cells you're getting again from the media to the Mini MBA for years to come.
Mark: I'm definitely mentioning it a lot. You should. Yeah. Yeah. we'll we'll. If you have a pixel, you can give it to me and I'll drop it into the performance marketing machine that I don't understand.
Louis: I'm quite speechless. Thank you so much for spending that much time talking to me and sharing your insights. And I think people are still listening right now. I've got a ton of value mixed taking a lot of emails, a lot of LinkedIn messages to you.
Mark: With the new venture, it's an auspicious moment. So I wonder how this year is. This year and next year is going to treat you. It's fascinating. Most of your questions now have a different dimension because of course, it's partly you are, you're working your own path, right? So it's faster.
Louis: Yeah, that's very true. I do that kind of thing constantly, but thank you. And don't worry. I'll reach out to a few, maybe one or two favors.
Mark: Yeah, my pleasure. always, no problem. I'll stay in touch with my friend. Stay safer. And, so you, in the, so you were down the track for a physio. I always say to people at the end of these things, I said it to a woman yesterday and it went really badly. Cause I said, look, when all this is over, we'll get together and have a proper physical interaction.