Catch and Release Marketing

The world doesn’t require another marketing metaphor, and that is the exact reason why I created The Catch and Release Marketing Framework, because it’s unnecessary. We shouldn’t be forced into changed perspectives, we should choose them.

A few points before we get started:

1 – Easy to find, easy to buy, and easily thought worth it. The marketing mantra behind Catch and Release Marketing. All of the following advice flows through this mantra. It is unassailable advice and applicable to every vertical and industry, so please feel free to ground your strategic focus in this faithful bit of evergreen marketing advice.

2 – Another fundamental principle behind Catch and Release Marketing are the 6 Ethical Principles of Marketing by George Brenkert, which are:

  • Autonomy
  • Freedom
  • Justice
  • Trust
  • Truth
  • Well-Being

Marketing is an anxious profession because “best practices,” even ethics, are seemingly in a state of perpetual flux.

There is typically no standard for marketing activities beyond maximizing value and diminishing costs, which is why the Brenkert principles are more than just ethical woo-woo; when strategically applied, they alleviate marketer anxiety, respect consumers and eco-systems, guide planning, and direct resources and budgets to the tactics that sustainably expand opportunity, awareness, and distinction in your marketplace.

3 – Most marketing and business advice, while trying to be helpful, makes marketers and biz owners feel like shit. Too much marketing advice today is about passion, loyalty, and fanaticism, and the examples extolled are usually from the top 1% mega-brands. For the 99% majority of garden-variety marketers working across every vertical and market-size imaginable, this toxic advice cannot and never will apply to our nuances, niches, and network effects.

It’s my hope that this framework, while giving reliable and well-researched business advice, gives grace to marketers and takes pressure off the business owners that feel “less-than” because of all the highlight reel hustletology that surrounds us about brand loyalty and purposeful passion.

Marketers shouldn’t be made to feel bad if they fail to start a revolution with their brand. Simply selling something well, is good enough. The less puff, bluff, and guff around this stuff, the better for all of us.

“People don’t need gas-burning vehicles, they need transportation. They don’t need a watch, they need the time. The items that create wants & desires come and go, but the wants and desires never go away.”

– George Brenkert

“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man. With his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

– Bill Bernbach

Step 1 – The Marketer and The Brain

The first step to the Catch and Release Marketing Framework, is to appreciate how the human brain actually functions in regards to stimulus, learning, and memory. If you know how information is imprinted and stored in a brain, you’ll create better marketing and messaging.

BRAIN FACT ONE: Your brain does not switch between active and passive, learning and non-learning; it’s recording everything. All the time.

Because your brain is an alarm system as well as a university, your limbic system is tracking your surroundings, even while your conscious brain is not. In case something leaps out, or a twig snaps, you have to be able to respond quickly. Why is this important?

Most marketers believe the only purpose of advertising is to drive direct response, but there are other important functions for advertising, like price elasticity and maintaining market share or share of voice. There are several ways an ad might directly, or indirectly, impact an audience, outlined in this brilliant graphic from Stephen King (not that one.)

Since a human’s brain is constantly recording, effective advertising does not have to be directly responded to, necessarily. Research on the mere exposure effect, that encountering something makes you familiar with it, and that familiarity makes you like it more than you did before you encountered it, has shown how advertising can have a latent and low-level impact. 

Consistent, low engagement, well-branded advertising that is passively experienced can be impactful, particularly if there is an emotionally triggering component that tags/associates the experience with memory. Notice I didn’t say compelling facts, research, call to action or unique selling proposition, concepts that are believed to trigger interest and rationality. That’s because…

BRAIN FACT TWO: Your brain does not separate rationality from emotionality, in fact, instinctive emotional responses shape our rational behaviors. 

There is a common misconception that there are two different types of brains inside us, the rational brain and the emotional brain. Descartes famously separated the two, but Gestalt research and neuromarketing science have proven that rational complex thought is formed out of emotion. There are also more dendrites flowing from the limbic system to the frontal lobe, than vice-versa – meaning, on a physical level, emotions and base feelings flow to rational/complex thought.

Our thinking around how to build memorable experiences in marketing is stuck. We’re stuck in ‘brands transmit/people receive rational messages’ mode, when we need to be thinking about deeper ways to communicate and connect to the human brain through associations and passivity.

Humans tend to remember emotions and forget facts. And the stronger the emotion, the stronger the memory. Is it your hope to be rationalized, or remembered by your audience? Remember the mantra; easy to buy, easy to find, easily thought worth it.  

Marketers would be shocked to find out how hard consumer brains work to ignore EVERYTHING. But if marketers paid attention to the way THEY walk through a store or search for solutions, they’d recognize a huge portion of their potential options are cognitively blinded, perforce.

Imagine the psychological benefit to marketers and brands if they operated from the perspective that most people do not want to see marketing and advertising at all, in fact they actively ignore and disregard it?

MARKETING FACT – The goal of advertising/marketing is to first get noticed and then build and refresh memory structures through relevant associations, not convince an emotional and distracted audience of the rational/unique merits of a product. 

BUT JAKE!? I’m in B2B marketing! It’s different! 

Look, I hear you. You think because your product or service is complicated, and the target decision making audience you need to reach is isolated in an ivory tower, and impenetrably logical, that this all can’t apply to you. 

In a very real way there are differences in B2B, because unlike choosing the wrong granola bar, employment can be endangered by poor, uncalculated, or unvetted decisions in B2B. However, since we’re attempting to be logical, we should recognize what recent research from Ehernberg-Bass tells us about the total addressable market ground reality for B2B marketers;

Add in the statistic of the average lifespan of a tech start-up, which is 8.5 years, and the prioritization of marketing will become clearer; In order to grow, you have to stimulate future demand at the same time you capture existing demand.

The only way brand marketing can ever take off is by building a proper runway for memorability. Walk backwards from “The Close”….people won’t buy your brand unless they’re convinced, they aren’t convinced because they have no brand preference, they don’t know if they like you or not because they aren’t even aware you exist.

So along with short term campaigns that educate the audience and activate sales, long term campaigns that create affinity, preference, and mental salience help generate broad category awareness to help close sales faster, more often.

Wiemer Snijders has written brilliantly about the “differences” between B2C and B2B marketing, and how creatively approaching branding is a distinct advantage, as well as a scientific imperative, for B2Brands. This next fantastic passage perfectly summarizes the Catch and Release Marketing framework;

“It’s all about people buying and people don’t change much. We are still working with Homo Sapiens version 1.0; a cognitive miser, emotionally dominated though rationally capable (in short bursts) and forgetful. This crowded mind needs reminding, steadily, whether it’s about your industrial ducting, electricity supply or chocolate bars. The easier it is to get a place in that memory, the more chance you have of growing, one light buyer at a time, a few of whom will become a bit more loyal, but only for a while, but that’s another story.” 

Step 2 – The Marketer Gets Consumption

The second step in CNR marketing, is to accept consumerism and the mathematically proven power laws of loyalty and influence. Thanks to industrialized consumerism, we are surrounded by more stuff than people.

Look around you. How much of these items are you loyal to? You have loose affiliations and passing relationships to these objects, they signal certain things about you, but loyalty to objects doesn’t define you. Does it?


Marketers will gladly flatten their fellow humans into consumer behavior categories and branded loyalty silos; but if someone told us brands and consumption patterns define our lives, we’d reject them outright as dismissing our complex nature.

If a marketer is in consumer-mode, you’ll say loyalty is a very small part of your life. If the CEO is near, you’ll make up some shit about brand intimacy and how consumerism is central to identity. In a way, we’re right about loyalty and consumerism – but we’re not being realistic.

Among all of the objects surrounding you, it may be true that there are a few brands you are “loyal” to, but the mathematical reality that there can only be a few favorites needs to be perennially at the forefront of thought. 

There will always be fewer loyalists than generalists, and loyalty can shift; what looks like favoritism might be a fluke response curve to a fad, loyalty could be laziness or inertia, habits can appear like devotion.

Is loyalty something marketers should depend on? 

Loyal Flush

Loyalty is an abstraction of a complex set of behaviors. Loyalty is not as dependable for growth as acquisition. The laws of Buyer Moderation and non-binomial Direrchlict have proven that loyalty can only ever mathematically exist in small, precious amounts, and research from MIT has proven that loyalty metrics, such as NPS, have no bearing on anything other than the direct questions posed; recommendation means recommendation, not an indication of future purchasing power or lifetime value.

Even more importantly, recent research from Ehernberg-Bass has shown that changes in customer satisfaction scores have no association with changes in business revenue! 

Cram this simple truth about NPS into your brain: Recommendation intention does not predict loyalty, and NPS does not predict growth.

Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but it’s a mathematical anomaly. Buyer moderation and the concept of NBD is succinctly phrased by Wiemer Snijders as, “a few buy a lot, and a lot buy a little.”


This is another pan-industry, well-researched, irrefutable marketing science fact that can gird your strategic loins. Catch onto the idea of light buyers, and release your grip on loyalty.

You want loyalty from people? No, you don’t – you want more money/yield/gross. One of these perceptions makes you feel like shit, one makes you feel like a cult leader; it’s no wonder where we put our hopes, and no wonder why we’re treated like dopes when the loyalists fail to multiply in droves.

THE HOOK – Marketers hoping to expand their market share must be mentally and physically available and attractive to ultra-light category buyers, and cannot depend on growing through customer loyalty, which is a welcome but arithmetical anomalous abstraction, not a strategic action item.

A note about consumer income level and loyalty: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is research that finds consumer income levels appear to have some impact on preferences and behaviors. The study roughly showed that:

  • Lower income consumers were more likely to be Loyalists and that they value low price, fair treatment and caring staff.
  • Middle-class consumers value a convenient shopping experience as well as VIP benefits.
  • More affluent households tend to be Roamers and look for unique products, status, incentives and VIP benefits.

Also worth noting that ‘lowest price’ ‘good value for money’ and ‘quality of product’ were far and away the top factors driving loyalty at all income levels. 

Understanding how income affects the factors that drive consumer loyalty and engagement can help guide your customer retention strategies. But it also helps if we remove our heads from our Brand Bibles, and recognize the fact that most people simply want a good deal on stuff that doesn’t suck, more than they value a trusted, purposeful, blah blah blah. 

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH NOTE – It is critical to understand your clients & customers as much as possible before you try to apply any persona or growth framework. The single best way to understand your clients and customers is to have telephone conversations with them, ask open questions and actively listen to answers.

Humans generate reality through exchanging ideas, not examining patterns in a vacuum.


Step 3 – The Marketer and The Fish

A lot of marketing advice aims to establish autocratic relationships with consumers and the marketplace, not autonomous ones. 

The Catch-and-Release Marketer believes consumers want autonomy and don’t live to consummate a relationship with brands.

Consumers can be reeled in with hooks, they can be captured, measured, and monetized, but they belong to, and will ultimately return to, the river.

The Catch-and-Release marketer genuinely believes that there are always more fish in the sea, because, there really are. No matter your market size, industry, or vertical, this graphic applies to you. 

Planning Fact – There will always be more clients who don’t know you and you’ve failed to reach & catch, than “loyal” ones you’ve engaged & held onto. 

While it’s good to retain “loyal” customers, it’s more important, and more impactful to the bottom line overtime, to operate from a catch & release mentality and prioritize new acquisition and reach, over loyalty yield and retention. 

The Catch-and-Release marketer understands the consumer is autonomous and is not sad when clients move on, indeed Catch-and-Release marketers anticipate it from the beginning because that’s what consumers do; consume and move on.

If you are lucky to be in business long enough, the amount of clients you’ll have had and lost will be greater than the ones you’ve held onto since the beginning; that is natural and good.

The Catch and Release Marketer does not pine for love from the wild creatures called consumers. They create an environment which welcomes them, respects and treats them kindly like the important asset they are, with an open-exit mentality, not a zero churn policy.

Catching new fish may seem more expensive and costly, but what is the cost of recreating and maintaining an aquarium or a faux-natural ecosystem that’s designed to capture and hold “loyal” fish indefinitely and for your own maximization, not their benefit? 

The cost of failing to run a closed-off loyalty aquarium for your customers has to be significantly higher than maintaining an adjacent-eddy of value they can swim through, give a little and gain a little, and be on their way, right? When it comes to loyalty programs, why are consumers signing up? It’s not to deepen their relationship with the brand and content – it’s to snag deals, today or later.

Worst of all, if you don’t run the loyalty program as a growth center, which remember it contains wild, emotional creatures, then it’s YOUR FAULT. The arbitrary acceptance of marketing is an externality that is absorbed by marketers, not the indifferent marketplace. If they didn’t loyally love it (indeed, most consumers are not looking to fall in love with a brand, and remember NBD), it’s our fault. 

This quest for personalized, loyalty-inspiring marketing is a recipe for mental imbalance/anguish. Why?

Quick tangent on Mimetic Theory…

The Marketer and Mimesis

“Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.”

– Rene Girard

Originating from the French historian and philosopher of social science, Rene Girard, the mimetic theory of desire is an explanation of culture and human behavior and it’s one of the more groundbreaking social insights of the 20th century. 

The name of the theory is derived from the philosophical concept mimesis, which carries a wide range of meanings. In mimetic theory, mimesis refers to human desire, which Girard thought was not linear but the product of a mimetic process in which people imitate models who endow objects with value. Girard called this phenomenon mimetic desire.

Mimesis makes the goal of marketing much more simple – In order for your product or service to become popular, people need to see *other people* using your product or service. 

Another point; if mimesis is a factor, marketers have to recognize that personalized advertising and hyper-targeted marketing is counterproductive at the strategic level, resource-draining at an operational level, and potentially psychologically damaging at the personal level. 

MIMETIC MARKETING TIP – Obsess about being seen, not how you can create obsession from behind the scene.

Another reason mimesis is important, is that it undercuts another big premise in modern marketing; that people want personalized ads. 

On top of this, studies from Dentsu Aegis and Sephora have demonstrated that contextual ads outperform ads based on behavioral targeting.

It’s silly to dismiss the related digital advertising concepts based on personalized data, like retargeting, as useless – indeed these can be powerful branding tools. We should seek to improve the manner in which we perceive the effectiveness and measure the use-cases for personalized vs broad messaging, and always err on the side of autonomy. 

The Marketer and The Empathy Gap – I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to acknowledge that there is a massive gap in what marketers and advertisers perceive to be mainstream values, and what the actual mainstream values are.

Look at the imbalances between adland ‘s perception of mainstream values, and mainstream values!? Advertisers are underestimating the value mainstream society places on things like Universalism, Tradition, and Benevolence and drastically overestimating the emphasis of Achievement, Power, and Hedonism. 

This gap in understanding has drastic effects on the impact of marketing and advertising.

If marketers are pushing a cognitively dissonant framework on customers, there is a significant chance that such messaging might cause a loss in market share, simply because the schism between purported value systems is so unnecessarily exaggerated by marketers. 

There’s also the psychological toll such misconceptions can place on the marketing team. If you are expecting/anticipating/messaging a target audience that values hedonism and striving for power, while in reality they value those things much less, it makes it seem like it’s YOUR FAULT for not turning customers into hedonistic power hungry super achievers. 

ON DIVERSITY – The best way in which advertisers and marketers can correct this issue, is by having more diverse staff (class, race, gender) and viewpoints in agencies and on campaigns. I wonder if a diverse advertising team that looks and thinks like the audience, might naturally lead to more effective and widely accepted work?

The Marketer and The White Whales

By now, we have established that marketers wrongly believe their growth exists in a loyalty-obsessed world where a few white whales can float the whole operation, when in reality it’s the majority of the “small” accounts that keep the lights on. Maybe it’s time we took our hands off our Moby Dicks?

We brag about netting huge accounts, but we’d be embarrassed to admit the outsized client is creating a “eggs in one basket” scenario; so why is it the “smart” strategy to get more loyal whales, when there’s way more fish? It’s a trophy hunter mentality, and it’s unsustainable. 

The Catch and Release Marketer prefers to mitigate risk, secure cash flow, manage capacity, and foster creativity and innovation. They can achieve these things by focusing less on netting whales, and more on netting weight.

A diverse and expansive customer base is stronger than one filled with loyal whales. 

A diverse customer base includes; Anchor Clients, Seasonal Clients, Opportunistic Clients, On-Going Small Accounts.

The way Buyer Moderation works, is that on-going small accounts make up the bulk of the clientbase, with a few anchor accounts bringing in big bucks. However, high customer concentration, particularly high value accounts, creates reason for concern.

With a diverse clientbase you mitigate the financial risks, secure multiple pathways towards profit, manage effectiveness and energy levels, and different clients require different innovative go-to-market strategies, a diverse client portfolio guarantees work won’t be stagnant and rote but engaging and creative.


Step 4 – The Marketer and The River

The River

The consumer journey is never linear. “The consumer is in control” is a marketing philosophy *not* created by consumers, nor is it one they adhere to. It’s a total scapegoat mechanism for rudderless marketers, which ends up ensnaring them in their own dreamcatchers.

The externalities of marketing strategy should be designed to be absorbed by the generally disinterested/disorganized/non-linear marketplace, not by the marketer. 

Pathways to purchase will always be non-linear, read: chaotic. One of the latest marketing metaphors to help map out the customer journey, the Hankins Hexagon, does a very good job of illustrating the non-linear pathways consumers might take. 

Rather than existing adrift in the messy middle – effective marketing strategy is all about increasing probabilities that you’ll be chosen, and keeping as many potential customers “in-play” 

“We should be thinking over lifetimes, not campaign windows or quarters.”

– Thom Binding

The Catch and Release Marketer has lures, decoys, bait, and nets in the water, maximizing their chances to catch the interest of slightly more fish at measured expanses along the river.

The marketer’s goal is more fish to catch and release, not “happier” fish in the tank. And, you think that sounds sociopathic, until you pour the hot sauce of marketing science on your plate… 

Customer Satisfaction ≠ Zero Churn

According to customer satisfaction research by Professor John Dawes from Ehernberg-Bass, dissatisfaction is NOT the principal driver of churn. What!!?

In one study, Bolton, a telecomm company, reported an annual churn rate of 30%, yet their customer satisfaction was on average 4.3 out of 5! Plainly, with such a high average score, most customers who left must have actually been satisfied, so satisfaction was not the principal driver of churn.

Think about it in your own world, for real. If you are handed a satisfaction survey, even if you decide to fill it out, how often is it 7-10 all the way down?

So then, are customer satisfaction scores worth anything? Yes, in regards to product and service, but no in regards to forecasting financial growth. 

“The effect of customer satisfaction on business revenue should therefore occur via bolstering (or at least maintaining) a customer’s likelihood of repeat-purchasing a good or service from a provider, or staying with the provider longer.”

Another amazing insight Prof. Dawes illustrates in this paper, is the omitted variable bias that can creep into customer satisfaction/loyalty research if the customer’s past behavior is not known, which is often the case.

“If past behavior is correlated with future behavior, and with current satisfaction, then not measuring it will inflate the effect of satisfaction of future behavior. Despite the intuitive appeal of attitudes as a driving force for behavior, there is considerable evidence that it could be the other way around: behavior drives or reinforces attitudes.”

That last sentence is where things start connecting; emotions drive logic, behavior drives attitudes, we mimetically move with the waves of consumer culture. This is natural. This is Catch and Release. 

SO WHAT GOOD IS NPS, ANYWAY!? – As a tool to improve services and products, NPS is a fine and useful measurement. However, NPS metrics cannot be relied on as a financial predictor of growth or loyalty.

Step 5 – The Marketer and The Lure

By now we’ve established the biological basis for how brains work, how customers and the rivers they swim through behave, and how businesses should perceive, value, and leverage their relationships, we can discuss HOW to apply this and actually catch more customers.

I share the belief that innovation and creativity are the last true advantages in business. I also believe that creativity is not considered “serious thinking” by the business world and it’s the last thing they think about applying to their serious problems, hence “The Cheap Genius Theory”

In my Marketing Metaphorest series, I write extensively and exhaustively on metaphorical approaches to marketing, and two metaphors stand out as applicable to Catch & Release; Mousetraps and Nutrition.

The mousetrap marketing metaphor relates to Catch and Release in a few ways:

  • The job of an exterminator is to catch as many mice as possible, not meet their personified needs individually. Marketers are obsessed over targeted sales personas, rather than obsessed about hitting sales targets. By widening your strategy to include consistent penetration into category audiences, you’ll ensure the supply chain.
  • Since Mimesis is a thing, mice do what other mice do, so one way to bait them with cheese effectively, is to attract them via exposure to other mice eating that piece of cheese. Mousey see, mousey do. Once again, we should obsess more about being seen, not just manipulating personalized loyalty algorithms behind the scenes.
  • And lastly, when baiting a trap, always leave room for the mouse. You never fill up the trap with just cheese. So for us marketers that means, less “WE” in the copy, more “YOU” – marketing has to be relatable, not just bull.

Nutrition, as a marketing metaphor, can help us tactically prepare for Catch and Release Marketing. Like balanced nutrition, a healthy marketing “diet” should consist of activities and practices that fulfill short-term energy demands while increasing brand longevity. Marketing strategy should be a diverse mix of brand growing fundamentals and foundations, and sales activating campaigns and quick hits.

Foundations – Solid 4p framework, great experience, good CRM, strong branded assets
Nutrients – Physical presence/availability – merchandising, search/SEO 
Fundamentals – Mental availability, funnel content, low-engagement awareness
Campaigns – Events, webinars, lead gen, ads 
Boosts – Direct response, gated content
Quick Hits – Discounts, viral videos, paywall content, buying mailing lists

Every marketer and vertical will necessarily have differing definitions for the above framework, but the main point is to metaphorically illustrate that a diverse set of tactics, with the strategic goal of balancing short term activations with long term brand growth initiatives, can keep you strategically focused.

In Summary

The main purpose behind Catch and Release Marketing is giving marketers grace by keeping it simple – be easy to buy, easy to think of, and easily thought worth it. That’s it.

Because of well-meaning but wrong-headed advice, the modern marketer (who would never tattoo a logo on their head) is stressed out because die-hard loyal customers haven’t tattooed their client’s logo onto their heads. We’re out of touch with mainstream values, we base our strategic assumptions off false premises around loyalty and growth and market penetration. We’re eager to collect the wrong kind of market research and even more eager to develop wrong forecasts and predictions off of it.

There’s got to be a better way.

Catch and Release Marketing is your ticket to creating campaigns free of cognitive dissonance, engineering strategies based on research, and implementing effective tactics that successfully operate in the real world. 

Catch and Release Marketing starts and ends with holism. Respect the way human brains operate, appreciate how humans function in society, acknowledge the empathy gap and aspiration window, understand how communities are formed and fed, and finally master an ecological conceptualization for how supply chains ethically connect producers and consumers.

Catch and Release Marketing means to catch the attention and memory of the marketplace, and release the notion of loyalty as a growth opportunity. As gingerly as we reach out to catch customers, we should just as easily release them – this is the only way we’ll be able to catch more. And there’s always more fish in the sea.

Abundance, not scarcity. Autonomy, not autocracy. Ethical actors, not edge lords. Consistency over loyalty. Strategy over tactics. Peace over passion. I hope this metaphor helps and finds you well.

Happy fishing!

The Catch and Release Marketing Takeaways

1 – Easy to find, easy to buy, and easily thought worth it.

2 – Autonomy, Freedom, Justice, Trust, Truth, Well-Being – operate with ethics, always.

3 – Don’t take marketing too seriously; selling stuff well is good enough.

4 – “A communicator must be concerned with the unchanging human.” Bill Bernbach

5 – Brain Facts! a) Your brain does not switch between active and passive, learning and non-learning; it’s recording everything. All the time. b) Your brain does not separate rationality from emotionality, in fact, instinctive emotional responses shape our rational behaviors.

6 – The goal of advertising/marketing is to first get noticed and then build and refresh memory structures through relevant associations, not convince an emotional and distracted audience of the rational/unique merits of a product. 

7 – Mimesis is powerful! Obsess about being seen, not how you can create obsession from behind the scene.

8 – Mind the Empathy Gap & The Aspiration Window – Research has proven there is a gap between what marketers perceive to be mainstream values, and what those aspirations actually are. Get to know your ACTUAL customers by ACTUALLY communicating with them, then you might make some marketing that ACTUALLY works.

9 – “a lot buy a little, a little buy a lot” – remember the laws of Buyer Moderation and NBD

10 – Marketers hoping to expand their market share must be mentally and physically available and attractive to ultra-light category buyers, and cannot depend on growing through customer loyalty, which is a welcome but arithmetical anomalous abstraction, not a strategic action item.

11 – There will always be more clients who don’t know you and you’ve failed to reach & catch, than “loyal” ones you’ve engaged & held onto. Open it up. 

12 – Focus less on netting whales, more on netting weight. 

13 – Pathways to purchase will always be non-linear, read: chaotic. Catch and Release Marketing is all about increasing probabilities that you’ll be chosen/considered/remembered, and keeping as many potential customers “in-play”

14 – Customer satisfaction does NOT mean Zero Churn, nor does it equate to WOM.

15 – NPS is BS in regards to forecasting. As a tool to improve services and products, NPS is a fine and useful measurement. However, NPS metrics cannot be relied on as a financial predictor of growth or loyalty.

16 – Focus on catching and holding attention. Release your grip on loyalty, open up to more opportunity. 

17 – THE MARKETING GOLDEN RULE: Do unto consumers, that which you would gladly do unto yourself. 


“Marketing Ethics” by George Brenkert 
Three Rules For More Effective B2B Marketing from Marketing Week
Ehrenberg-Bass: 95% of B2B buyers are not in the market for your products
“Descarte’s Error” by Antonio Damasio, 2005
“Consumer Society” by Jean Baudrillard, 1970
Info on Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory
“The Advertised Mind” by Erik DuPlessis, 2008
“Eat Your Greens” by Wiemer Snijders, 2018
How Brands Grow” by Byron Sharp, 2010
Loyalty stuff from MIT
“Do Customer Satisfaction scores link to business revenue over time?” by Prof. John Dawes
Buyer Moderation
Low Engagement Model and creativity in B2B by Wiemer Snijders
“Marketers are from Mars, Consumers are from New Jersey” by Bob Hoffman
Do people really want personalized online ads? 
Hankins Hexagon on Marketing Week

The 2,000 Year Old Marketer

HOST – About ten days ago, a plane landed at Denver International Airport. The plane came from the cradle of civilization, the Middle East, bearing a marketer who claims to be over 2,000 years old. He’s spent the last six days in a marketing hospital. He’s here with us today to discuss the past, the present, and the future of marketing.

Direct Response

2,000 Year Old Marketer – Most marketers are ashamed to admit that a ton of “direct response advertising” in the past, was done with swords. Conversion rates go up when you pull a sword out.

HOST – I would imagine so. Any other ancient advice about direct response for the modern audience?

2kM – If you really want to study hard selling conversion tactics, take a look at the Spanish Inquisition….(stunned silence in audience)

HOST – That is considered a human rights atrocity now, you realize?

2kM – Sure, even back then it was atrocious, but the conversion rates were un-Godly.

HOST – That’s barbaric, we aren’t like that anymore, conversions are figurative, not religious or forced through violence.

2kM – So do marketers do any blood sacrifices?

HOST – No.

2kM – Blood letting?

HOST – Definitely not.

2kM – Alchemy, magic?

HOST – No, no, there’s no magic at all in marketing today.

2kM – Well, maybe that’s the problem?

Organic Social

HOST – How do we know you’re a 2,000 years old marketer?

2kM – Because I’ve been waiting that long to make a sale off organic social.

Account Based Marketing

HOST – What is your thoughts on account based marketing

2kM – I think every marketer should be able to count.

HOST – No, no, account, like a –

2kM – Like a duke or a lord, right? A count.

HOST – No, listen – account based marketing is a type of marketing that deals only with certain accounts or groupings of prospective customers.

2kM – What makes one group more special than others?

HOST – High value accounts, well, these are men of means, they are prepared to do business, they wear a certain type of clothing, drive a certain type of…horse.

2kM – Why wouldn’t you sell to everyone?

HOST – To save resources, you only want to be visible to and directly engage with those that have the most means. Not everyone in the market is prepared to buy, so why bother shouting at everyone all day?

2kM – That day. But what about the next, and the days and weeks after that?

HOST – Only the worthy accounts need to hear our message; they will see us as the right choice for qualified buyers, and respond to our calls when we make them.

2kM – How will they recognize your message or anticipate the worth of your offerings, if they’ve never heard of you?


HOST – So what was marketing like 2,000 years ago?

2kM – It was a lot more in your face.

HOST – How?

2kM – Attention. In the ancient marketplaces, the art of grabbing and holding attention was a respected part of the trade. Marketers today are struggling with this.

HOST – Well naturally, there is too much content out there, attention is fractured across channels. Pinning down the audience is a mess. 

2kM – Isn’t this where all your data lakes and warehouses kick in?

HOST – I suppose they should, but it’s not that easy.

2kM – Don’t you have performance data on what types of messages absolutely work? Your computers should have the formula for grabbing and holding attention?

HOST – We use data for different purposes. Marketers don’t have to be in your face, bold and brash; in fact, this is a waste of time if you aren’t selling to people who will buy today. We use data to respect the larger audience, make rational promises only to engaged personas with targeted messaging that speaks to the sensible parts of people and causes a direct response we can measure. Data increases our chances of success.

2kM – No, over-interpretation of data increases self-awareness and limits attention grabbing potential. Because of all the “performance data” modern marketers are too shrewd and keen to avoid scrutiny and a spotlight, so attention becomes unachievable and unfortunately seen as a liability really smart people avoid. So marketers mint less copper into the clang of the bell, thin the fonts on the sign, mumble in the corner, and “hate to be a bother, oh by the way” until sundown….

HOST – Marketers today don’t need to get everyone’s attention. We don’t need to be appealing to anyone else other than the people that match our in-market target profile. Data again increases our chance of success. We reach them with rational messaging that gets a response. 

2kM – Marketers today want to be rationalized, more than they want to be remembered. Maybe data is to blame, but that’s a strawman argument, which was originally called a scarecrow argument, but we changed it in the 200’s because of Pope Zephrinyus, who was woke AF. 

HOST – So is the secret to getting attention shamelessness? You just wear loud colors, clang a bell, and use large type and active language on your signs? People prefer not to do business with clowns.

2kM – How is Ronald McDonald doing, anyway?

HOST – Ha! I suppose pretty well. But most of us don’t sell hamburgers. We sell extremely complicated things that require a ton of content creation and consumer research.

2kM – Can you put all that complicated stuff into a jingle? Something peppy?

HOST – I’m afraid the marketplace has changed. People don’t pay proper attention like they used to.

2kM – These are the same researchers you just spoke of? Maybe marketers stopped valuing the audience’s attention properly?

HOST – I think many folks just want to skip the nonsense and get to the point of things. A lot of old advertising trickery is just creative flim flam and easily dismissable. People want to know what’s in it for them, nothing more. 

2kM – Think about it this way – there are only a few ways to rationalize the benefits of a product, but there are a million ways to irrationalize the benefits. If the marketplace is as competitive as you say it is, and consumers are as distracted as you say they are, wouldn’t rational promises be the LAST thing a marketer would choose to shout out? It’s obvious what software or soap is supposed to do; but what does it make you feel like, what associations does it conjur, what invisible magic can you bring out of the irrational, illogical realms – that’s the sticking point. That’s your differentiation, distinction, the memorable way you grab and hold attention. 


HOST – Let’s talk about influencers.

2kM – Guzuntight!

HOST – No, influential people, celebrities, well known people

2kM – Oh, sure sure – Typhoid Mary, Caligula, Machiavelli, Genghis Khan

HOST – Well, not so much those types of figures, less menacing…

2kM – Caligula was a great entertainer. That barge. If you remember being on Caligula’s party barge, you weren’t on Caligula’s party barge. 

HOST – Ah, so were there any local merchants during Caligula’s time, that made it their goal to get their wine, honey, plain cake on the boat? To be seen on Caligula’s boat must be a noteworthy achievement?

2kM – Buddy, when you’re five papyrus’ to the wind, taking a ram’s horn up the back in a public orgy, you’re not really taking notes.

HOST – Point…taken.

2kM – Literally. For me, the problem with influencers, is the imbalance of interest. Caligula’s influence and interest matters more than any product or brand on his Pleasure Boat. It’s never “what’s the product?” it’s always, “what does Caligula think?” There is almost an influential force field emanating from Caligula that blocks a clear recognition of the products.

HOST – So then what about celebrity endorsements?

2kM – An advertisement featuring a celebrity endorsement is better than using an influencer.

HOST – Aren’t these just the same thing as influencers, only less effective because the addressable audience is so large because everyone knows them?

2kM – That’s the exact reason celebrity endorsement may be more effective than influencers. There’s less distraction.

HOST – Less brands to compete with?

2kM – No, less dildos flying about – remember, this is Caligula’s Party Boat – the influence may cut deep, but anything that happens on that orgy boat is not shareable or useful outside the orgy boat.

HOST – Surely there is some overlap – what we do in private can influence our public behavior.

2kM – For you maybe, for everyone else it’s a matter of signaling that they are keeping up with The Jones, which, having been alive this long, I met the original Jones’, lovely people.

HOST – Back to influencers and the orgy boat, I mean pleasure craft.

2kM – With influencers, the addressable audience is comparing itself to desires and decisions made by, in this case, one horny dude on a pleasure craft that is literally cut off from land, from reality. There is so much emphasis put on the influencer’s opinion and thoughts, that there is no room for anyone else to think for themselves, let alone think intently about a brand or product.

HOST – The audience is waiting to like something, or hate something, because of Caligula’s outsized influence on their reality. 

2kM – Exactly. Endorsement is effective not because we see a vaunted figure behave one way, or use one product, it’s because we see an audience of “other people like us” engage in a particular way in society and shared spaces. This is culture. This is how influence in a marketplace works.


HOST – Let’s talk about personalization. 

2kM – I don’t like to monogram anything, feels too Henry the 8th, you know? You really want to keep your head about that stuff.

HOST –  Not you personally, but other people’s, persons – making marketing personalized to individuals, this is possible now with computers, you know?

2kM – Really?

HOST – Oh sure – You can track who buys a product, you can find out where they live, you can gain access to their habits, net worth, and daily routines.

2kM – Ok?

HOST – You can send thousands of people personalized communication wherever and whenever you want.

2kM – Wow. 

HOST – Even better, once you can keep tabs on every customer you have, you can make them happy and address their needs at an individual level.

2kM – This sounds crazy.

HOST – Craziest part – Once you know them, they know you know them, so they never leave, and will always repurchase and buy more from you. You don’t have to spend money finding new customers. You can surprise and delight them at every unique turn in their life long journey.

2kM – So no more advertising needed?

HOST – Well, not really, but essentially…yeah! It’s exciting. 

2kM – And how do you keep track of all the information and preferences of these customers?

HOST – That’s called data, and it’s all kept in something called a CRM tool – Customer Relationship Management – it’s a computer.

2kM – A computer? Some kinda astrolabe?

HOST – Yes, no. A high powered piece of software and probably some people to run it.

2kM – Sounds like it involves elves. Right? So – Imagine traveling back to a busy ancient marketplace in Mesopotamia…

HOST – I can smell the spices!

2kM – Right – and in order to sell effectively to people, we’d have to track them, put stickers on everyone who buys,

HOST – A great idea!

2kM – Sure. We also have to know where they live, what they do, what they like, and surprise and delight them whenever they show up at my stall, and, even at their house, unwanted, especially on Black Friday?

HOST – Yes. It sounds like a ton of intrusive work, but if you had the information, there would be no other competitor, they would always choose you.

2kM – What if someone rolls into the market with my product, but at a crazy lower price?

HOST – You can offer incentives and discounts to match for certain customers that seem like they might try the competitor, but the real loyal ones will stay with you.

2kM – Why is that?

HOST – Because of the personal touch, you are at the top of their mind and your product is deemed superior.

2kM – If we followed everyone around with stickers and specials and monogrammed sweaters, did we spend all our time and energy on making our product better for every customer, and even future customers? 

HOST – Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what future customers think, as long as the customers you currently have love you, that’s all you need. 

2kM – I dated Cleopatra for a while, and believe me – Just because they love you and they let you call them by their first name, doesn’t mean you’re irreplaceable. Incidentally, Cleopatra’s first name was Patty. Patty Cleopatra. 
HOST – That’s odd. 

2kM – What’s weirder is this – I told this same personalization scheme to Jesus while he was writing the Bible!

HOST – Oh, sure!

2kM – I’m serious. Back when Jesus had the first draft done he handed it to me and said, “take a look, tell me what you think?” And I read it and, my God does he talk about himself a ton! It’s just his name everywhere. So I asked Jesus, “what’s the point of this book?” And he says, “I wanna start a religion.” So I tell him, “if you want people to pay attention and be loyal, you gotta put their name in this book.“

HOST – Well, actually, I don’t think that’s how that would work.

2kM – What do you mean? I told Jesus, “Hey man, you’re the hero here, but listen – Rather than share a single version of the Bible, you personalize the story for the congregation, replace your name with every congregation member, and hand out individualized Bibles! There would be no way to secure more loyalty and faith.”

HOST – Besides this idea feeling sacrilegious, what you’re describing is just not how people get inspired by stories or any kind of content.

2kM – What do you mean?

HOST – The personal connection people make with loyalty inspiring content, doesn’t come from a story that features us directly; it’s much more powerful to craft an impersonal story with indirect features the audience can see themselves in.

2kM – Oh…that makes sense….so what were you saying about personalization?


HOST – How do we know you’re really a 2,000 year old marketer?

2kM – I’m still waiting for Hubspot to turn a profit. 

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

HOST – Yessir, a lot has changed in marketing in the last 2,000 years. ROI, USP, LTV

2kM – OMG, LOL, love the abbreviations. 

HOST – No, no, no – those are acronyms, Return on Investment, Unique Selling Proposition –

2kM – Now there is a silly idea.

HOST – Which one?

2kM – You see – you had to ask! Unique Selling Proposition. What is it?

HOST – It’s a widely accepted theory, made famous by Rosser Reeves building off Claude Hopkins, that in order to command a marketplace of common goods, a competitive brand should establish a unique selling proposition in the minds of the consumers, something distinct.

2kM – We tell people what to think?

HOST – Indirectly. People are precious about their individual routines, prefer unique things, handcrafted for them particularly.

2kM – Lemme ask you a question about cowboys – what was their favorite drink?

HOST – Well, I suppose it would be whiskey, some kind of hard liquor. 

2kM – You’d be right. And now, think back to the late 1880s, Dodge City, Kansas – a chaotic atmosphere, literally the Wild West. Now, how many saloons serving whiskey do you think they had in this small town, of less than a thousand people?

HOST – Probably one or two?

2kM – There were six. And each of them had the same whiskey on tap. Why were there so many saloons selling the same whiskey?

HOST – Well here is an example of a failure to develop a USP – if one of these establishments sought to corner the whiskey, and be the best in town, the competitors would have to scramble for different spirits, try to establish their own USP. It’s a good thing really. Diversifies the marketplace.

2kM – But these cowboys aren’t developing a taste for Moscow Mules or pina coladas – they want whiskey. They want the whiskey the other cowboys are drinking. And there are six saloons because of the natural churn rate of customers – saloons lose and gain bar flies from each other, they are 86’d and then welcomed back in a cycle across the establishments, and the fact that they can get the same whiskey here, as over there, keeps them in the town, and in the seat, and in market.

HOST – So what is the lesson?

2kM – Thinking a USP is the key to a successful product that customers love, misses the reality of why customers are in a marketplace to begin with. There can be MANY of the same types of establishments, and the fact that they are COMMON is the reason why they are FREQUENTED – Consumers, people, everyone loves to NOT THINK and would rather make decisions accordingly. What if a Common Selling Proposition is more appealing than a Unique one?

Fame / The Crowd Is In Control

2kM – It’s amazing hearing about the future, but I’m glad that certain fundamentals don’t change. 

HOST – Like what?

2kM – Like fame. Marketers still think being famous is important…right?

HOST – I think it’s become more scientific, thankfully because of all the information we have access to – marketers and consumers behave differently now, they do the research on which product or brand to choose. Consumers are more savvy than ever.

2kM – Ok then – If everyone does their own research, then there should be hundreds of distinct brands in the top of every category, based on the fact that one consumer’s research and experience is not homogeneous with another, and people seek to have their individual needs addressed. Right?

HOST – Kind of. The marketplace is much bigger, but there are still dominant brands.

2kM – Why is that?

HOST – Because a conglomerate or a huge brand can outspend, outadvertise, and outshelf competing brands.

2kM – Then why don’t they buy up ALL the shelf space? Why leave any room?

HOST – I suppose to leave room for options?

2kM – Do you think that’s a choice they make?

HOST – Then it’s a question of stamina.

2kM – A functioning marketplace has consumer-side dynamics that can’t be 100% dominated by conglomerates. Consumers may be in control, not as savvy researchers, but as an easily distractible force unto themselves, looking for what others are looking for – the human is a social animal, when in crowds or communities, we have a logic that inspires individuals to make choices that align with peripheral vision, not direct line of sight. We gravitate towards things we recognize, not things we rationalize.

HOST – In a way I suppose that’s true, but it still doesn’t explain fame, or category domination by one brand.

2kM – Then reverse the question – does everyone choose a dominant brand because they rationalize it and research it?

HOST – No. They choose it because it’s there.

2kM – And, they choose it because they don’t have to rationalize it. They’ve seen it before, it’s recognizable in their mind. We parse the present moment’s decisions through our memories, not via an actuary table that calculates the odds of an improved future version of ourselves.

HOST – I think I get it – if the marketplace was a brain, the goal is to be in easy-recall memory, not in their analytical brain?

2kM – Precisely. This is why fame and recognition amongst crowds can cut into conglomerations. This is something marketers were taught 2,000 years ago, because some of the first really effective advertising came out of China, from a guy that played the hell out of the bamboo flute, sold a ton of candy because of it. Great jingles. And this was 3,000 years ago.

HOST – This is all well and good, but marketers today have to do a lot more than stand up and play a flute to be noticed. 

2kM – But didn’t we agree that the goal is to be recognized, not noticed. 

HOST – Yeah, what’s the difference? The crowd is distracted either way.

2kM – I thought you said they were savvy? Why don’t we throw some research on them? Surely, they’ll notice a really good webinar? Look, the point isn’t fame – fame has it’s roots in rumor and report, reputation & recognition among the commoners. This is where creativity is a distinction, in messaging, in price, in product, in placement. If you focus on generating fame and memorability, you may find doors opening more easily and more often. If you focus on generating a ton of convincing research, you may find your doors closing sooner than you’d like.

Efficiency VS Effectiveness

2kM– Things are so different these days, but marketers still have to deal with werewolves, right?

HOST – Well, not really, werewolves aren’t real – one of the benefits of science and history is that we can gather facts and so we’ve proven werewolves are just a myth.

2kM – So marketers don’t believe in myths anymore?

HOST – No – we have to report on things with metrics, strategize and be data-driven. Marketing is too expensive to rely on myths, so we have tactics to focus energy for consistent outcomes. Channel specific campaigns, targeted audiences, personalized cadences, keyword content; none of these are silver bullets, but they might help you kill a werewolf or two, figuratively speaking.

2kM – Why would you want to kill a paying customer?

HOST – It’s just a figure of speech. We quest for silver bullet fixes to make sure and fast work of execution, it’s about optimization, efficiency is the goal.

2kM – But what about effectiveness? What if a marketer’s goal was understanding larger forces at work, how to be effective, not just efficient, on the chosen channels?

HOST – What are you saying? 

2kM – Marketers seem to be always searching for silver bullets, but they’re never interested in the full moon. 


HOST – I assume you’ve noticed how fast things move in the marketplaces of today, I wonder how that compares to the pace of ancient marketplaces?

2kM – About the same.

HOST – *pfft* Come on now! The internet, telecommunications, peer-2-peer networks, credit and banking, there have been massive improvements to the speed of business. 

2kM – But there hasn’t been improvements in effectiveness, just efficiency.

HOST – Again, I’d disagree. A/B testing technology, for example.

2kM – You have to test the differences between letters now?

HOST – No, between two things, concepts – When you come up with ideas for an ad or a tagline, you used to have to commit to one, and ignore the potential of the unused ideas. With A/B testing you can separate audiences so one group sees tagline A, and another sees tagline B.

2kM – So you say two different things to people at the same time?

HOST – You can test thousands of different iterations. And what’s best is test groups don’t know they are being tested, nor would they ever compare thousands of different messages.

2kM – So the total group lacks a shared experience, on purpose?

HOST – Yes. It’s brilliant, because you take the results and use the winning idea on the next campaign or iteration.

2kM – Why not test it again? Forever?

HOST – You certainly can, but there is a point where you should aim for consistency.

2kM – When is that point? When should you retest the A/B and C D results?

HOST – Well I guess around 6 months?

2kM – So every 6 months, what you say or sell might change appearance and be slightly unrecognizable, and that’s the point?

HOST – In a way, but there still needs to be consistency – testable, iterations, endless optimizations, that’s what is possible these days.

2kM – Right – I knew a lady once, in a marketplace near Cairo, had one sign, one tagline, and never changed it for all of the 50 years. 

HOST – With A/B testing she could’ve improved her performance significantly.

2kM – She was a massive success because she figured out what worked and left things alone. She owned her corner, she commanded her spot, and her presence became a tradition.

HOST – Traditions change, they have to be challenged.

2kM – Says who? The community? Everyday people that perform the rituals and are held together by tradition? They want to change things every 6 months?

HOST – People are drawn to what is new, they ignore things they’ve seen a bunch of times.

2kM – I’d say people are drawn to things they don’t have to consider, tradition establishes this in daily life. Tradition is just a series of unchanged behaviors; the goal of a marketer is to tap into, understand, and become a part of these behaviors. By flip-flopping the messaging and packaging and brand, there is no ACTUAL consistency being perceived by the marketplace, and there is no commitment from the marketer.

HOST – So testing things is bad?

2kM – Not necessarily. Experience and time are their own laboratories, everything gets tested in the end. I think your A/B testing leads to homogeneity, not distinct harmony. There is no style in a lab environment, because the germs aren’t left to marinate on the petri dish; everything is sterile, testable, fungible, uncommitted to and up for debate. If modern marketers practiced patience and consistency as much as they practiced on their campaigns like patients, then patterns and data sets which reveal natural style, strength, and stamina would be easily evident.

ROI or Die! | Where Terrorism and Marketing Meet

Whether it’s domestic, global, or on your social media feed, it’s hard to ignore the fact that theatrical terrorism and hateful outrage has penetrated into the 21st century ideological marketplace like never before. Why is that?

Research shows that along with the traditional terrorism PR playbook, the overly-complicated modern marketing and advertising ecosystem has created perfect, murky conditions for hate to flourish, proliferate, and economically thrive online.

Terrorism is essentially concerned with marketing and promoting violent/hateful political ideologies in ways that minimize resources and maximize attention.

Typically small and state-less entities, terrorists cannot traditionally garner any political recognition on the world stage, so they opt for small, extremely violent acts that focus the world’s attention on their agenda.

Along with traditional media and PR avenues, today’s terrorists have discovered how to troll & manipulate social media, hijack adtech, crypto, and the overly-complicated modern digital marketing ecosystem to create online havens and hatcheries for their piece of shit fanaticism.

Just me being crazy. Nah…

There have been plenty of articles written about this link between terrorism and marketing, (linked at the bottom and above) how ad fraud helps terrorist launder money, how social media and algorithms radicalize people; but there hasn’t been any meaningful attention or action on the part of the marketing industry to curb this or intervene in anyway.

Inspired by the concept of Useful Fiction, which author Peter Singer describes as “working at the intersection of strategic foresight, technology discovery, and narrative…” I asked myself; “who would ever agree to help a terrorist organization with their marketing strategy?”

And so, I’m proud to present; ROI or Die!” a ‘choose your own adventure’ story about a marketer that is kidnapped by a terrorist organization and forced to handle their marketing strategy.


illustration – IAMNEONBROWN

Hopefully, the story gets the marketing and advertising industry thinking about ways to confront and disrupt terrorism, online hate, and prevent dangerous ideological concepts from gaining access to the general market.

Below are links to insightful books, helpful articles, and important organizations working to both combat terrorism and bring attention to the fraudulent and abusive practices hidden in the complex modern ideological marketing ecosystem.

Two important books on how online terrorism & hate marketing is irrevocably impacting the offline world; “LikeWar” by Singer & Brooking and “Messing With The Enemy” by Clint Watts

Research into marketing & terrorism:

Important Resources

Check My Ads – An awesome site run by Nandini Jammi & Claire Atkin, helping marketers understand the modern marketing ecosystem, disrupt ad fraud, and maximize their budgets by working with sites and publishers they trust.

Fou Analytics –  Another amazing site, run by Dr. Augustine Fou, helping educate marketers about better ad buys, stronger strategies, and ways ad fraud is used by criminals to launder money, disrupt society, etc.

UN Office of Counter Terrorism – The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) leads and coordinates an all-of-UN approach to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism.

The Marketing Metaphorest – TREES

Looking for a better way to describe and define marketing to clients, or for your business? Well then, step into the Marketing Metaphorest w/ Jake Sanders! The POSMarketer, musician, audio illustrator, and content strategist mixes metaphors & marketing science, to demystify this important business development function.

In this episode we talk: TREES. A single acorn contains the mighty oak, depends on a diverse forest ecosystem for distribution, and if the rate at which trees are planted, is slower than the rate at which you cut them down, then trouble starts.

ONE – Like tiny acorns contain all the information required to grow a forest of full blown oaks, a marketing campaign should 1) seek to condense required brand messaging into small, distinct, easy to ingest packages, that are 2) easily replicable, dropped by the thousands, and spread by a variety of category buyers in the audience, 3) with the knowledge that without broadcast awareness, singular behaviors will never take root.  

TWO – Like a tree can become a forest, effective marketing strategy takes a while to grow business into self-sustaining cycles. 

And if the rate at which you plant the long term strategy seeds for new business, outpaces the rate at which you seek short term rewards, (i.e. cutting down trees for fire) progress will be unattainable.

THREE – Like an interdependent collection of diverse trees & shrubs, ensures holistic health and progress for an entire forest ecosystem, marketing strategies must be diverse in tactics/methods/applications/settings, because business development that relies on a single cash crop is waiting for famine. 

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The Marketing Metaphorest – WATER

Looking for a better way to describe and define marketing to clients, or for your business?

Well then, step into the Marketing Metaphorest w/ Jake Sanders! The POSMarketer, musician, audio illustrator, and content strategist mixes metaphors & marketing science, to demystify this important business development function.

Dive into the latest episode of the Marketing Metaphorest – WATER!

In this episode we talk: WATER. Water is everywhere, but it’s quality (drinking water vs salt) and conditions it exists in (ice, clouds, liquid), can vary greatly, without ever changing it’s substance.

How else does marketing relate to water?

Marketing is like WATER in a few different ways


Just like rivers and oceans were the connective tissue for thriving port-towns throughout history, developing business effectively through marketing, depends upon understanding and viewing your audience through the natural pathways that brought them to the marketplace, not just as consumers in a decision vacuum.

Too many marketers think about their product only in context of it’s relationship to their buyer, but never consider the things outside of that relationship, behaviors in the buyer’s busy life and brain, which impact a brands chance of sticking out.

When you understand the tides & behaviors of your marketplace, research the rivers your buyer crosses everyday, you create more effective, resonant marketing.

To learn more about taking a behavioral approach to marketing & advertising, I recommend  “Competing Against Luck” by Clayton Christensen and CO. and “The Advertised Mind” by the brilliant Erik DuPlessis.


The quality of water in the river, leading up to a spring, isn’t equal to the water you’d drink from it – and yet, both types of water, potable and non-potable, are necessary for survival.

In this metaphor, the spring is a marketing source for clear, quality sales, and the river is a pathway that ensures traffic. Business owners need to cultivate marketing activities which secure traffic as well as leads, and should respect the differences in quality.


Like water, marketing effectiveness fills the strategic vessel you pour it into. You could be under a torrent of leads, but if you only have a teacup commitment to marketing strategy, you’ll be sipping progress, when you could be chugging it.


Like water, effective marketing strategy needs to be able to change and adapt, based on environmental conditions. Marketing should be lithe enough, and supported by a strong enough brand, to shift easily through varying mediums, lengths, and tone. 

Like water can become ice, liquid and vapor, while remaining water, marketing must be able to phase shift through mediums and messaging, without sacrificing brand ethos.

From email to billboards, from one-line-copy to 3,000 word white papers, and ranging in tone from boardroom-buzzwords to borderline bawdy, the execution of your marketing strategy needs to contain an element of adaptability to survive, and thrive, as the environment of your marketplace changes.

Interested to learn more about this metaphor, want to pile on your own version, or find ways to apply it all in your business? Hit me up on the POSblog, follow me on social, and until next time – I’ll see you on the internet!

The Marketing Metaphorest – NUTRITION

In this episode we talk: NUTRITION. Like balanced nutrition, a healthy marketing “diet” should consist of a balance of activities and practices that fulfill short-term energy demands, while also increasing brand longevity.

The latest marketing metaphor from POSMarketer, Jake Sanders.

Marketing is Nutrition – Like balanced nutrition, a healthy marketing “diet” should consist of activities and practices that fulfill short-term energy demands while increasing brand longevity.

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Marketing Metaphorest – INTRO & FUNNELS

Looking for a better way to describe and define marketing to clients, or for your business? Well then, step into the Marketing Metaphorest w/ Jake Sanders!

The POSMarketer, musician, audio illustrator, and content strategist, mixes metaphors & marketing science, to demystify this important business development function.

In this opening episode we learn why metaphors, and why now, and then we dive into the first metaphor:


Marketing is a funnel; first goal to broadly reach potential buyers with Awareness, which narrows into Consideration for a smaller group of buyers, which then shrinks into a Decision set of buyers.
In regards to prioritizing budget for marketing activities, turn the funnel upside down to get a sense of how to properly fund marketing.

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How Brands Grow – Byron Sharp

It seems like every book available on marketing today promises a bunch, vows to be different & useful, but then delivers little in the way of truly unique & applicable advice.

Most marketing books are tactical in nature, focusing on segments, specific channels, drilling into smaller and smaller arenas of activity, until the expertise acquired from the book is only applicable under the tightest environmental conditions….. I am now an expert in demand generation from specialized microsite SnapChat retargeting campaigns for 30-34 year old art school graduates concerned about credit liquidity, living in/around Baltimore with cat allergies.

While we are awash in advice on tactics, marketers are SUPER THIRSTY for strategic advice on how to properly employ such activities.

That’s why Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” kicks every other marketing book in the shins.

Let’s jump right in with this graphic, I’ll explain Byron’s Old/New World vision as far as I can, but in the end, you have to read this book to feel it’s healing waters quench your parched marketing soul.

The book starts off like a goddamn birthday party for a creative like me – “Marketing is a creative profession and one of the main jobs is to get noticed!” — That sounds like my entire schooling history and explains why I was in trouble a lot as a kid!

Supported by mountains of evidence from the work of Ehrenberg-Bass and the IPA, Sharp details the benefits of marketing from a “new world” perspective, that is juxtaposed against an “old world,” Kotlerian (Philip Kotler) view of the profession.

The “old world” view of marketing, which many hold up as the current paragon of the profession, emphasizes segmentation, brand loyalty, and persuasion as the hallmarks of good marketing & advertising. No qualms there, right?

Zero in on loyal brand audiences who are viewing your ads in a rational capacity, teach them the messages, convince them of the uniqueness, and show them you are different and create conversations and then they will crave your marketing!

Adding technology to this only makes sense; digital ads and the concomitant surveilling opportunities, social ad stacks, A thru G intention testing capabilities, dashboards aplenty – find the exact people, at the exact location, at the exact moment, serve them the quantum slice of advertising that fits their unique persona, funnel them in, measure it all…now we’re marketing!

Sharp sees things a little differently in the “new world”….

You advertise in a crowded world and very few people pay attention to messaging, indeed, the large portion of a consumer’s purchase decision is actively ignoring a vast majority of labels to find a small set of recognizable and salient brands to make a choice from.

So the good news here – no one truly gives a shit about your UVP, USP, merits and benefits – not because these things aren’t there or meaningful to you, but because consumers just don’t even know your brand exists in the first place!

The goal of advertising is to first get noticed and then build and refresh memory structures through relevant associations, not convince an emotional and distracted audience of the rational/unique merits of a product.

Marketers build brands with advertising by getting noticed, and not just to brand loyalists, but to everyone in the category because, there is no such thing as 100% brand love.

100% loyalty is a dumb thing to quest for in marketing because consumers are brand agnostic, and metrics-wise, focusing on a smaller slice of any market segment, no matter how loyal, caps your potential for actual growth. (This is so painfully eloquent it hurts)

Huge successful brands like Coke & Dove – the majority of their buyers are not Brand Loyalists that hoard these precious brands in their underground bunkers.

No, the goal in big brand ad campaigns is to rope in Ultra-Light buyers, because that is the overwhelming majority of the brand buyers.

Meaning, 50% of all people who buy Coke, in one year, buy it once or twice.

A whopping 87% of all Dove buyers bought the brand only a few times…in five years. Take a look from this chart from “Eat Your Greens” –

That 20+ bump on the far right are the “loyal purchasers,” the Valhalla for most modern marketing strategies. And the huge bars to the left are brand buyers who bought Dove once, and the shaded bar is people who knew the brand, but did not buy it.

Look at the potential for growth here – where could it possibly come from?

Does brand growth mean getting more & more of that small bump on the right, or, does it happen by capturing a few of the category buyers with distinct, branded, salient and broad reaching marketing campaigns?

What else?

  • Pareto’s Law is bullshit, for the most part….
  • Your customers are not unique, they are your competitor’s customers.
  • Segmentation isn’t reflected in buyer behavior
  • Branding lasts – differentiation doesn’t

I could keep going but at some point you’re gonna have to cough up the money and BUY THIS BOOK!

This book is amazing for several reasons, but the most profound to me is this seemingly old school advertising advice somehow feels new.

As marketing interfaces with digital culture, we’ve become so entranced by behaviors, segments, and finding ways to hack into psychological consumer models, that we’ve left the heavy, brand lifting activity behind us in favor of whisper-thin bullshit tech fixes that have zero (or negative) consequences for the companies we work for. And so, the average lifespan for a CMO is dwindling down because from them upwards, no one has a firm grasp on what the marketing department ACTUALLY DOES IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Any other profession would see people up in arms, taking to the streets, demanding that we save our industry and jobs, hitting the books and finding answers – but in marketing & advertising today, the highest-rewarded minds are working on CTRs, crowd-sourcing taglines for personas, making apps that are more addictive than the last; all focused on creating smaller and smaller pools of loyalty in an ever-expanding desert of consumer interest.

ROI: The Musical



A time-traveling, genre-spanning, thought-leading comedy musical podcast experience about marketing, sales, and ROI, that’s sure to enchant anyone in business that’s ever asked, “RO-Why are we doing this?


“If you’re living life by the measurements,
you’ll never do something for the hell of it!”

The Trailer


A musical audio drama, in which, the leadership staff of a fictitious company, after a journey of transformation, discover that investing in marketing the business isn’t about ROI, it’s about RO-Why.  

The question business leaders should ask in regards to marketing & ROI is not “what will we get out of marketing,” but “why are we even doing this?” 

Beyond just getting more leads & business, why choose marketing?

The WHAT of marketing, the tactics & measurements of marketing can be mishandled, misinterpreted, crammed into square holes; you want ROI, I can get you ROI.

The WHY of marketing, the strategy, is about more than a return on investments, it’s about the purpose for being in your brand’s marketplace. RO-Why.

With a marketing strategy strongly focused on WHY, the tactics, expectations, and measurements of marketing are aligned, so the way forward becomes clearly defined.

So when it comes to marketing, it’s RO-Why, before ROI. Or else, you endlessly chase more metrics that prove more things that are disconnected from the value you create and offer in your marketplace.

The Soundtrack

The Credits

Ryan Wallman as The CEO
Scott Monty as Donaldson Brown
C. Vincent Plummer as the Marketing Director
Casey Clark as Head of Sales
Jeremy Most as The CMO
Paul Julius as Paul Julius
Neon Brown as Jeremy Bentham
and Jacob Sanders

Written, Scored, Produced, and Directed by Jacob Sanders

Want a custom musical or podcast experience for your company or business? Get In Touch.

How MacGyver Ruined Marketing or The Cheap Genius Theory

“Time and budget are tight for this project. You’re creative, you’ll think of something. What we’re looking for Jake, is ‘cheap genius.'”My Life

As a creative person, my ability to think fast and make connections has helped advance my career, propelled me from gig to gig. Along the way I’ve been haunted by the spectre of MacGyver, the resource-strapped (read; alluringly cheap) genius of 90s American TV, because I think he personifies a few things wrong with marketing and business.


Think about this…

  1. Of the first companies that appeared on the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 53 held a place on the list in 2018 (-89.3% success rate)
  2. A business culture obsessed with risk and cost management, rife with rampant short-termism and shortening CMO lifecycles
  3. The crumbling foundations of ‘expertise’ and break-up of industrial knowledge silos
  4. The ‘gig’ economy filled with entrepreneurial DIY-life-coaches-gurus-hackers
  5. The belief that the next big platform or IPO or genius idea will come like it always does, from a random, scrappy teenager’s garage;
  6. and MacGyver….

Mix it all together and it’s plain to see, the belief that MacGyver-like-business-saving genius is cheap, widely available, and flourishes during to-the-wire timelines, is a bad brew for marketing and business to be sipping on.

I’ll first explain who MacGyver is, unpack what I’m calling The Cheap Genius Theory, and then we’ll explore ways to define and disrupt this damaging trend.

Who is MacGyver?

A bent paper clip can defuse a ballistic missile. A potato and some cigarettes are all you need to thwart a high-tech prison’s security system. Chewing gum alone can defeat an entire militia.

These aren’t just thought-exercises, these seemingly implausible scenarios all played out during the 80-90’s TV action/drama MacGyver.

There are MacGyver fansites dedicated to celebrating the genius of MacGyver, featuring full breakdowns of all the problems he’s applied his time-strapped, cost-effective, MacGyver-ness to, in all seven seasons on CBS from 85′ – 92′.

While MacGyver seems to portray creativity very favorably, it’s my belief that MacGyver perfectly personifies the perceptual problems around what creativity and “cheap genius” is, where it comes from, what resources it needs, what it’s worth, and how creative ideas can be best applied in business and life.

The Cheap Genius Theory (CGT) explains why business leaders approaches problem solving, creativity, advertising, and marketing the way they do – which is hoping MacGyver shows up, or worse, thinking they’ll pull a MacGyver and cut the right wire once the countdown on the bomb begins.

There are five concepts that add up to The Cheap Genius Theory….


Although a premium option exists for almost every good or service, (the best house/car/President, the best advice, the best hummus!) humans will almost always choose the least-crappy, less-likely-to-fail option. Not the worst, but the least worst.

It’s called ‘satisficing’ and it’s an irrefutable part of human behavior, it’s based on strong empirical data, and it’s the best explanation around for why people make decisions that don’t make sense in the long run.

Sure we could defuse the bomb a traditional way, but let’s try this paperclip first.


With so many brainstorms and Post-It Notes and examples of startups with humble-and-hooded-sweatshirted beginnings, genius ideas spawned from simple creative thinking are seemingly everywhere.

Many are the professional articles outlining how managers just need to unleash their team’s creativity to solve their issues.

That creativity is widely available changes the way creativity is incentivized or incorporated into strategic thinking.

If we solved the last emergent problem cheaply, in a tight timeline, with a potato, then why budget in experts, time, or resources this bomb around?

If MacGyver can’t disarm the bomb in time, after this next brainstorm, I bet Glen from Accounting might be able to pull it off.


The myth that creativity is bolt out of the blue stuff and must always arise spontaneously is pernicious outside of the creative community.

There’s a belief out there, no thanks to MacGyver and college term paper deadlines, that creativity is best catalyzed by time and resource constraints, and it’s usually only when your cognition is pushed to the wire do the explosively successful results take place.


The true skill to develop in creativity is not time-constrained improv, but strengthening the mental muscles that connect threads between disparate channels of thought.

The results of creativity may be experienced and sharpened most thrillingly at the drop of a hat, but the skill that connects creative conclusions takes a long time to strengthen for ideation at a rapid pace to take place.

So in training for creativity it isn’t about developing quicker reaction times, but rather increasing mental flexibility in making farflung connections between wide swaths of human experience, accrued knowledge, cultural/social consciousness, and expressing it all through the chosen medium.

Just because someone HAS defused a bomb with a shoe in under 30 seconds, doesn’t mean that’s the most effective way to train for defusing a bomb.


Creativity is an observation made in the minds of those that connect a creative action to genius, not in the action itself.

Creativity is judged not by the act, but by the audience, the norms it upsets, the expectations it disrupts – cheap genius is only good when someone is there to see it as genius, otherwise it’s just cheap.

Or worse.

CGT enthusiasts wrongly think the purpose of creativity is to solely manifest actionable ideas, missing the point that the true measure of a creative idea is the interpretation and accepting ingestion of it by the target audience, not just in the idea itself.


Creativity is not a groundbreaking shattering of molds, but the art of combining recognizable molds in unexpected ways.

Something that had never been seen or experienced before would not strike a familiar chord in our souls, and so, it would just seem chaotic or out-there. You’ve heard Coltrane’s SunShip, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not down, it’s a tough hang.

The Cheap Genius Theory highlights the skillful usage of a paper clip to defuse a missile, overshadowing the true skill/ability in need of nurturing praise in creativity, which is a deep understanding of pre-existing concepts, in this case metallurgy and electricity, and how to quickly combine and apply them in novel ways/situations.

Ingenuity and spontaneous invention is only possible on the shoulders, brains, backs, thoughts, legends, laws, and expectation of the rules that have come before.

You can only cleverly manipulate the law of gravity once you understand the underlying concepts and expectations, concepts that Newton teased around hundreds of years before your trick of cheap ingenuity came to be.

You can defuse the bomb with gum and its wrapper because you know about microchips, friction, the chemical properties of saliva, and the electrical conductivity of metallic substances. Without Galvani, Lavoisier, Curie, Jack Kilby, Wrigley, the ancient Aztecs that found chicle – all of that cheap genius wouldn’t be accessible.

Why this is bad, and what to do about it

Since creative thought is widely available, potentially cheap, and the product of chaotic spontaneity, businesses don’t plan, budget, or schedule for it, let alone reserve creativity a seat at the strategic table.

That’s bad.

Along with cheapening the importance of creativity and devaluing it’s place in business development plans, The Cheap Genius Theory’s most destructive influence is on strategy.

As disruption threatens every established business model, stakeholders across the world run their businesses knowing that companies don’t last as long as they used to.

But rather than strategically approaching changes to their business model, or solving business problems with creativity in the front end, CEOs are relying on MacGyver’s to save the business as is, they’re cutting costs where they can, and focusing their marketing campaigns on higher conversions with shorter observational windows.

Whether it’s Byron Sharp, Binet & Field, Mark Ritson, Rory Sutherland, or any of the other great minds in marketing today, the smartest people in the room agree, there is a rampant disease of short-termism with drastic side-effects on strategic, creative, long-term thinking in businesses today.

I think there needs to be a perceptual shift in the way we view creativity, and it starts by admitting the truth of The Cheap Genius Theory, and realizing our business development strategies are not strategies at all, but rather a string of implausible MacGyver-like fixes.

We have to admit CGT throws off our sense of how creative thought is best curated, generated, and applied to researching business problems. And we have to change the way we apply creative thinking to the research and diagnosis of solutions that aim to fix the business problems our companies face over time in a competitive marketplace.

Oh, hi marketing.

And then, once we understand creativity, I think we need to dial it up!

Creativity is far-and-away always voted as the most important factor in effective marketing and advertising. But because of The Cheap Genius Theory, creativity is paradoxically the first thing everyone relies on to solve a marketing issue, but the last thing anyone plans on paying for.

Rather than relying on more MacGyvers to show up, I’d like to see creativity given it’s proper respect, timeframe, and proving grounds to demonstrate it’s ability to guide business development strategy. Businesses should curate a place of deep thought and research, develop the atmosphere of a mental gym that strengthens the connective and creative muscles in your team to saturate themselves in your most pressing problems to come up with slow-cooked, ingeniously-marinated marketing solutions that fall off the bone. (…who’s hungry?)

Without exercising both the fast and slow twitch muscles of creativity, research and execution, the impact of continual cheap genius fixes, no matter how ingenious, will yield ever-diminishing returns.

No one is arguing that resourceful creativity isn’t important to business development, but rather than utilizing creativity to strategically adapt our business models and marketing plans, we’re praising/seeking/utilizing versions of ‘genius’ that imprison us, and keep us mucking about with the same type of short-term fixes and cost-effective disarming methods, for a bomb that’s killed 89% of the last MacGyver-dependent businesses.

Here’s to all my cheap geniuses and business owners the world over;