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To Market is Human

Musings on Modern Marketing

Watterson’s Southern Lexicon

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the written word gripped attention and wedged itself into the fault lines of powerful economic and political debate among Americans (in new and more concentrated ways from the days of marketing the American Revolution to colonists). Henry (Marse) Watterson, the foremost opinion-shaper of the post-Civil War South, stepping into the breach between personal and commercial journalist, used his understanding of international influence on regional events to shape Southern discourse and politics, manipulating his readership to favor free trade and what has now become known as globalization. Bell Telephone Company and its subsequent iterations acted as opinion shapers through aggressive advertisements and timely re-imagining of the Bell brand during a period when the company was desperate to maintain its dominance in the market. The company pivoted from serving an audience of elite captains of industry to an inclusive populist vision.

Historian Daniel S. Margolies, identifies Henry Watterson (editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal from the 1860s through WWI and proponent of free trade, globalization, and sectional reconciliation) as one of the most significant journalistic voices in American history.  A strident but effective self-marketer, Watterson used the written word to sway public opinion towards his particular “post-Civil War development.”[1] While fomenting “economic modernization and industrialization, a strong union with sectional equality, and social tranquility free of radicalism from both the left and the right, [Watterson and his aligned New South editors] created a vital connection between the reading public and the policy elites, giving a national voice to southern concerns.”[2] Watterson demonstrates the significance of a newspaper editor’s role in the interpretation of regional versus international significance of events. The popularity of Watterson’s writing and persona illustrates how a familiar face and reputable name can create a brand, complete with accompanying fans.

Watterson tried to “reshape southern politics and economy within a strong national union” and through an irrepressible written voice.  He adopted the title of “Marse” (Master) and used it in his own autobiography Marse Henry as a way to exploit the southern, “bon vivant” archetype through which the national press continually depicted him: “playing cards, smoking tobacco, playing the banjo, brandishing pistols…cutting shady backroom political deals.”[3] This caricature catapulted Watterson to celebrity status and “allowed him a certain freedom…in the political arena” from which others could not have profited. In 1908, one journalist wrote of Watterson that for thirty years he had been “the most widely quoted newspaper writer of the country.”[4]

Henry Watterson knew how to play to his audience, so he would write in a style which became known as “southern journalism,” putting a heavy emphasis on southern nationalism and encouraging southern ideals. “He framed the practical benefits of his ideas on all political and economic matters for a descending list of preferred constituencies: Kentuckians, southerners, Democrats, and Americans.”[5] However, whereas southern editors built themselves two sets of vocabulary to use in their publications—one for southerners and one for northerners—Watterson had one vocabulary that united southern and national interests with international affairs.  “He distilled his three major goals into an evocative holy trinity of southern freedom and national glory: ‘Home Rule, Free Trade, and Sound Money.’”[6] His global perspective on regional affairs “captured the seamless connections he made between domestic and foreign affairs.”[7]

Watterson’s lack of a split vocabulary indicates that he understood the importance of segmentation, where the one attempting to influence public opinion identifies a target market, determines the likelihood that potential customers outside that market would buy his product, and then proportionally focuses his efforts directly on the primary target.  Watterson was not necessarily aiming to develop a readership in the North, therefore he only wrote with the intention of moving the southern voter base. It just so happens that Watterson’s polemical writing was appreciated by both North and South. “There hasn’t been a day in forty years when ‘Marse Henry’ could not wire a signed editorial to any representative newspaper in the country and have it appear on the front page…The New York Herald even ran a column called Wattersonia, which was simply a collection of particularly trenchant quotes from him on a variety of subjects.”[8] The fact that Watterson segmented his audience does not mean that he did not have to sell and persuade that audience, which, in the nineteenth century, was often not as enthusiastic about free trade as he was.

One of the major concerns of the day for the South was the push for free silver. Free-silver proponents worked to sway public opinion towards unlimited coinage of silver to create a more malleable and forgiving monetary supply that proponents believed would lead to greater economic egalitarianism and, in the process, help the nation’s farmers. Farmers (like those in the Cotton Belts of the South) proposed that money be inflated to help them access easier credit and elevate crop price. Watterson, however, decided to vehemently express a view unique to the South, by railing against free silver in order to help elect William McKinley as president—an odd choice for a free trade advocate, but better, thought Watterson, than free silver proponent, William Jennings Bryan whom Watterson was sure would topple the national economy.  “The top-loftical, high-falutin, free-silverites…We consider the whole riff-raff of them a lot of crazy children astride a spavined, broken-winded, wooden jackass.”[9]

Watterson was evidently confident in his ability to manipulate southern opinion away from McKinley’s protectionism (tariffs) and back towards free trade.   As a free trader, Watterson believed that the future of the South was bound up in the global interaction of free trade. He wrote with a unique view point for the late nineteenth century—linking the events of Europe or Asia with the economic prosperity and future security of the South. In that spirit, Watterson used his columns to exploit any opening in President McKinley’s slow experimentation towards creating a “system of world market expansion”[10] during 1898-1901. Although the McKinley administration tested ideas like: “colonies in a scattered island empire, closed trading systems, or managed free trade,”[11] Watterson saw the answers to both the South’s and the Nation’s prosperity in “the uniform application of the free trade and home rule ideas.”[12] Watterson’s energetic prose sought to persuade the southern voters that “Free Trade would enlarge our markets by a system of international exchange and barter…which Protection has driven off, and give us an equal showing in all the neutral markets.”[13]

Although Watterson relied on pompous language and grandstanding like that which he utilized to sway public opinion against free silver, he always returned to the concerns of southern nationalism—framing his argument from the southern, regional perspective.  This unique style earned Watterson the label of “the last of the personal journalists”[14] at a time when commercial journalism was on the rise. Watterson’s focus on the issues pertinent to his regional group encouraged the development of what one might call an “echo-chamber.” The members of such a group re-circulate their leader’s message until it becomes their message.

Though Watterson knew his readership was interested in local affairs, he maintained a solid focus on international affairs and their effects on local events, developing for himself a unique place in the newspaper’s readership. So, when a trade agreement or treaty was signed internationally, for example, Watterson would ask and respond to how it affects the South. Understanding that rhetoric is so much more persuasive when one’s target audience actually wants to be persuaded by the speaker’s platform was a powerful engine for Watterson. He made people believe that he was their mouthpiece. From his position of authority and with his dedicated reader base, Watterson created a new lexicon of southern prosperity.


[1] Daniel S. Margolies, Henry Watterson and the New South: the politics of empire, free trade, and globalization (Louisville, KY: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2006), 8.

[2] Ibid p. 8

[3] Ibid p. 6

[4] Ibid p. 2

[5] Ibid p. 10

[6] Ibid p. 12

[7] Ibid p. 12

[8] Ibid p. 2

[9] Ibid p. 63

[10] Ibid p. 110

[11] Ibid p. 10

[12] Ibid p. 110

[13] Ibid p. 110

[14] Ibid p. 8

Marketing In Politics

A lot of people don't know this about me, but my major is in History. Specifically an area Princeton calls "Intellectual and Cultural History" - which basically means I majored in English without having to study Shakespeare or Poetry.

When I was in college, I wrote essays on literary analyses of historically significant work. It always seemed that in one way or another, the author had drawn significant inspiration from the Bible. So I ended up with the informal catchphrase of "Everything is the Bible."

As I started to explore more of Marketing outside of its most traditional forms, that catchphrase changed. No longer was everything the Bible. Everything is marketing. And politics are no exception.


In Marketing In the Post-Printing Press Era, I talked about Samuel Adams' "man on the street" approach to colonial politics, as well as Ben Franklin and his "Join or Die" flag.

There are many more examples like these, but the point I'd like to bring forward here is that this is marketing. This is personal branding - the same way I'm using this blog to establish myself as someone who knows what they're talking about, Adams and Franklin used their positions and their personal brands to make themselves the obvious mouthpieces for their respective communities on the political stage.

This hasn't changed. We talk about political platforms and positioning a person or party so that their audience wants to learn more from them. 

Political Identities are the subject of much discussion for strategists, historians, and journalists.

Author Yuval Levin, in his 2020 publication "A Time To Build", explains that institutions have become platforms. Specifically, he calls out Congress, the Presidency, and Journalistic institutions. To avoid getting overly political, let's look at Journalism:

Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite's "And that's the way it is." [1] Now, we exist in a world where news and newscasters are politically charged - stories are told to sway opinion rather than report reality.

And that's not a bad thing. Reporters tell their stories to the people who want to listen - and people listen to the reporters who say the words they want to hear. It's no secret that Fox News is the Republican bastion, while CNN caters largely to democrats.

I believe that “Good Marketing” is the act of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. It's the foundational principle behind Seth Godin's idea of 'Tribes,' or more broadly, the most fundamental element of audience development for marketing.

If you can drive a wedge between your consumers and people who aren't your consumers, you can speak to people who are going to buy from you and exclude those who won't.

And it's just the same for reporters and politicians. By speaking to the most loyal baseline of their following, those people can build loyal audiences - which grants them influence and makes it easier to get buy-in for future projects.

So I'll end this post with the question - if we look at the world through a marketing-focused lens, what else relies on the principles of modern marketing?


[1]I say "gone" are those days, but that was really a brief window of time. In this week's column on the History of H2H Marketing, I'll be talking about Henry (Marse) Watterson, whose writing style and very specific lexicon shaped the post-civil war South.

Generational Memories

I couldn't tell you why this conversation started the way it did, but I recently sat down to a conversation with my mother about my grandfather - her father, who I've always called Zayde.

In our conversation, it came up that my memories of him - shortened as they were by his Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis - were just a small sliver of who he'd been in my mother's eyes.

My grandfather was George Bedor, a Certified Public Accountant, a Sergeant in the 2nd Engineer's Special Brigade deployed to New Guinea during the last years of World War II, and an armchair historian.

But I knew him as Zayde - the Yiddish word for Grandfather. It became his name and the summation of all the things I knew about him growing up.

He died in 2005, when I was just nine years old. So the things I knew were limited by the conversations I knew to have with him.

We shared a love of history, of flight, of ginger-snap cookies, and of all things unusual. A love of Useless Knowledge - the sort that created this section of the blog. 

My mother knew him as someone with an unending work ethic. A man who left the army after the war, took a job packing boxes throughout the day so he could pay his way through night school while studying to be a CPA.

At one point in our conversation, my mother said: "When I die, he'll be forgotten and die as well."

Of course, my grandfather wouldn't be forgotten by me or my brother. But my mother is an only child - the last person alive who lived a life with him.

It's often said that someone does not die until they are forgotten. 

I can never hope to remember all the things my mother does, because I didn't live through them. 

So, I could tell people the story of Zayde's time in WWII: unwrapping and sharing care packages of kosher salami with his army unit sent to his station in New Guinea from his mother on Park Place in Brownsville. I could tell of his fight against Pancreatic Cancer, working on his clients’ tax returns through the pain and chemo so as not to leave anyone in the lurch. Or, I could memorialize the weekend afternoons spent crossed-legged beneath his desk as a child, listening to talk radio programs on history (is it coincidental that my major at Princeton was Intellectual History?) and conspiring with him about creative ways to keep his cat, Tevye, from mindlessly (or perhaps in full complacent consciousness) swatting his client folders off the desk on a regular basis. But most of that would be second hand, and inaccuracies would creep into those stories until they weren't the true stories at all.

This is a post about Generational Memories, and the real question that sparked it was: "What if Humans remembered everything about their ancestors?"

I've thought about this a fair bit and it's my understanding that we'd be miserable.

To remember the loved ones we've lost is to remember their joys, fascinations, and fears; to be overjoyed or saddened again and again by our interactions with those things in our own lives.

So why do people die? Not the actual death of their bodies - but the death of their memories? Maybe it's because we can't handle remembering everything they went through. 

What if we remembered all of the stories, attributes, and predispositions of every one of our ancestors? We could, of course, try recording voices, videos, stories—their images and words. But for how long could we hold onto and store things like olfactory cues: the way their house smelled or the cologne or perfume they wore? Visual cues: the way they sprinted across the lawn to catch the ball you threw and the way they shuffled breathlessly through the house when the cancer returned. How long until we remember so much about each person in our lineage that we have no room left to craft our own idiosyncracies, opinions or stories?

Would our senses ever allow us to achieve generational memory?

How long until the senses have no future?

Marketing In The Post-Printing Press Era

Direct Marketing after the Rise of the Printing Press

Leaping forward approximately 275 years, on April 11, 1744, Benjamin Franklin fashioned the lucrative marketing vehicle known as the mail order catalogue, and propelled the 250 year evolution of direct marketing. Through his A Catalog of Choice and Valuable Books,[1]

Franklin sold books and other wares, bringing vitality to his position in 1775 as first postmaster general of the united colonies.  Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which began publication and dissemination on December 28, 1732 and continued for 25 years, has been recognized by the Direct Marketing Association as the first in-house publication.

Although built to promote his printing business, the Almanack offered an information hungry populace both valuable content and entertainment—leading to sales of “as many as 10,000 copies a year, making it a bestseller of its day.”[2]  In fact, Franklin made sure his public remained hungry for information by placing his own magazine into the mailing list for every home in Pennsylvania.

As one would then expect, The Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper purchased by Franklin in 1729, “saw a boost in its circulation in 1737, when Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia.”[3] Apparently, Franklin included The Pennsylvania Gazette in mail routes “to be delivered with regular mail gaining a wider audience as well as increasing demand for paid advertising space.”[4]

Franklin kept his book-selling business booming by listing hundreds of the first and second hand titles he had for sale in the pages of the Gazette—but always in a marketing-savvy way. Never allowing the list to become boring to pore over, he juxtaposed unexpected titles such as:  Paradise Lost, Arraignment of lewd Women, Art of Money-Catching, Telemachus. Truly a man ahead of his time, Franklin might have enjoyed knowing the catch phrase of one today’s digital marketing giants: “We believe the biggest marketing sin is being boring.”[5] By the mid-1730s, the Pennsylvania Gazette was the most popular newspaper in the colony.[6]

One can hardly discuss pre-revolutionary war direct marketers without noting Samuel Adams’ talent for disseminating copy damning the abusive control of England over the colonists. Adams’ ardent editorials were published in Boston newspapers, making their way into the living rooms of a preponderance of homes.

In a clever, albeit not altogether transparent marketing move, Adams signed his editorials in both “his own name and in 11 other pseudonyms, to create the illusion that more people supported independence than opposed it.”[7] The purpose of Adams’ marketing was to pivot the colonists from seeing themselves as English subjects to believing themselves to be Americans.

In the clearest attempt at direct marketing for a cause, Adams took to the streets of Boston “six days each week, speaking face-to-face with anyone who would listen about the English crown’s wrongdoings.”[8] Engaging his audience directly about unfair taxation and abusive acts, Adams understood, was the most powerful and efficacious way to promote revolution.

When we think, today, about what it is that makes the best direct marketing successful, it is not only the fact that one is reaching a potential customer each time a marketing Email is opened, it is also the crafting of phrases or subject lines that grab the audience. “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,” warned Franklin. “Give me liberty or give me death,” proclaimed Thomas Paine in his wildly popular pamphlet, Common Sense, (January 1776), arguing persuasively and passionately for why independence was necessary and sensible.  

“Join or Die,” wrote Franklin, in the wood-cut engraving of a snake in eight pieces that was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette (1754) as the first political branding graphic demonstrating an eternal truth of marketing: that a powerful graphic can make your product legendary. In moments, colonists understood that uniting would be the only way to attain freedom and wholeness. The image helped spur on a movement. Today, when we think of Apple, Coca-Cola, or Facebook, we remember the logo or image associated with each.

For much of the next hundred years, advertising and direct marketing did not advance very far. It was not until the late 19th century that major changes came to light. The 1880s saw the expansion of direct advertisement as manufacturing techniques developed efficaciously—increasing output and decreasing cost of consumer goods production. Bringing the goods to a wider audience became the job of railroad networks, and with the piqued interest of an amalgam of curious consumers with cash to spend, advertising agencies grew up to shape and capitalize on the  of direct marketing.

Now, with the increased circulation of magazine and newspapers, advertisements reached customers directly through these publications. The more money marketers made from the sale of magazine ad space, the more money was available for creating further publications of interest to the expanded audience at the end of the next railroad track.

Mail-order shopping of consumer goods entered a period of growth in the 1880s, when mail-order houses began to fiercely compete with local stores. Their marketing contest centered on three major issues—price, inventory, and assurances—the very factors that made mail-order houses successful.

Considered the first cataloguer of consumer goods, Aaron Montgomery Ward began his business with a one page catalogue marketed directly to consumers in 1872. Shortly thereafter, Richard Warren Sears followed, sending out his first direct mail flyers during the 1880s. Consumers were no longer shackled to the limited goods available at the local store. In fact, people no longer had to pay the higher prices of small town stores either just because suppliers’ large volume discounts were not available to small town vendors. Operating nationally through the postal services gave Sears the ability to undersell local store rivals through economy of scale.[9] Direct mail catalogs made “consumer choice” available and powerful. Consumers now had access to variety, volume, and lower pricing, regardless of where they called home.

In the 1890s, “Sears was able to sell high quality treadle sewing machines for between fifteen to twenty dollars, far less than the forty to sixty dollars that retail dealers charged for equivalent models.” Sears could offer such value because, unlike the local store, it sold thousands of sewing machines each week. Of course, there was a certain degree of faith required to order from a catalogue when it was far easier to return shoddy merchandise to the local store. Both Montgomery Ward and Sears offered potent promises: Montgomery Ward was among the first to offer a money-back guarantee, and Sears-Roebuck promised "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back”—a lasting marketing and ethical business commitment among many businesses to this day.[10]

Among the most successful catalogers of the early 20th century was Leon Leonwood Bean, who propelled L. L. Bean of Maine to success in 1913 when he mailed his first flyer advertising his Maine hunting boots. Bean used targeting to mail his flyers solely to consumers with hunting licenses. The purpose of the cataloguers’ thoughtful marketing technique was the same as the purpose of direct marketing through mail or Email today: to seamlessly connect the advertising message for one’s product to a prospective and targeted audience in order to receive on the spot or subsequent action. As Jim Kobs writes in Profitable Direct Marketing, “Direct marketing is really the straightest line between you—the advertiser—and the action you want those who receive your message to take.”

------------------

[1] Benjamin Franklin and Carl Van Doren, A catalogue of choice and valuable books: consisting of near 600 volumes in most faculties and sciences, viz. Divinity, history, law, mathematics, philosophy, physic, poetry, & c (Philadelphia: Meriden Gravure Company, 1948).

[2] "Pennsylvania Gazette," Benjamin Franklin History, accessed January 19, 2017, http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/pennsylvania-gazette/.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] DigitalMarketer, "We Believe," advertisement, We Believe, February 10, 2016, accessed January 13, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvlf0Wg37N4.

[6] "Pennsylvania Gazette," Benjamin Franklin History; J. A. Leo Lemay, The life of Benjamin Franklin, volume 2: printer and publisher, 1730-1747 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005

[7] Samantha Berkhead, "Four Revolutionary Lessons the American Revolution Can Teach Us About Online Marketing," HubShout, February 20, 2015, , accessed February 19, 2017, http://hubshout.com/?Four-Revolutionary-Lessons-the-American-Revolution-Can-Teach-Us-About-Online-Marketing&AID=1622.

[8] Ibid

[9] Economies of scale" refers to economic efficiency that results from carrying out a process (such as production or sales) on a larger and larger scale. The resulting economic efficiencies are usually measured in terms of the costs incurred as the scale of the relevant operation increases

[10] "Sears Roebuck and their Sewing Machines," International Sewing Machine Collectors Society, accessed February 05, 2017, http://ismacs.net/sears/sears.html.

What Else Could Go Wrong?

You've already removed the text from your image. Now it's time to turn to ad copy and something we call "Vanity Metrics" - two of the top three reasons ad campaigns fail.


2. My Copy Should Speak Directly to My Audience

Every piece of advice you get about writing copy and headlines is going to come back to speaking to your audience – and that isn’t a bad thing. Speaking directly to your audience’s concerns and fears, then explaining how your product or service overcomes those fears is the cornerstone of modern copywriting and advertising.

However, something you should keep in mind about advertising on Facebook is hidden inside their Ads Policy documents.

Facebook restricts any copy or images that make assumptions about the people viewing them – Instead of asking the question: “Are you X?” Facebook would much rather you make the statement: “For people who X.”

It’s a thin tightrope to walk, but the ads policy page does a pretty good job of making the lines clear.

3. Any Engagement is Good Engagement

Facebook has recently reinforced its commitment to showing people the content they want to see – which means they’ve doubled down on their content moderation policies.

In the last few months, you may have started to see a new trio of columns showing up inside of the Facebook Ads Manager, which the platform is calling “Ad Relevance Diagnostics.”

  • These three metrics are
    “Quality Rank”
    “Engagement Rate Rank”
    “Conversion Rate Rank”

This may seem like a change out of the blue, but it’s grounded in a much older metric called the “Relevance Score,” and these three new Quality Rankings are just providing advertisers with greater transparency into the way the algorithm works.

I just threw a lot of words at you, so let’s break down how these mechanisms affect you:

When you publish an ad, it becomes visible to anyone within the selected target audiences, some of whom will engage, and some of whom may not want to see the content of your ad. Facebook picks up on both of these groups through signals including:

  1. Click-through rates (CTR)
  2. Time spent on screen
  3. Number of Likes/Reactions/Shares – which we call Engagement Metrics


Higher CTRs, Longer Time spent on screen, and more likes, reactions, and shares reflect as “positive” signals

Conversely, lower CTRs, shorter time spent on screen, and fewer likes, reactions, and shares reflect as “negative” signals.

Following this logic, it’s pretty easy to see how Facebook is evaluating these signals and combining them into the overall metric of Relevance Score.

So why does this fall under the heading of a half-truth?

Signal number 4: Ratio of Positive to Negative Comments

Facebook looks at the type of language being used in your ad, on your landing page, and on the comments that have been left. If most comments are single words, low effort responses that just say “yes!” or something similar, or if they contain certain keywords that Facebook considers negative, then the platform will reflect this as a highly detrimental factor when calculating your Relevance Score.

Relevance Score operates on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the absolute most relevant content you can deliver and 1 is the kind of content people scroll past or actively report to Facebook.

Relevance Scores themselves don’t mean much, but they reflect general sentiment about your content, and are a great way to get an at-a-glance understanding of the health of your ads.

It’s also important to note that Relevance Score is a living thing – As your ads run, their scores can increase or decrease depending on the way those signals we talked about earlier change.

A fluctuation of even two points can result in changes of 100-200% in your ad costs, and sudden changes of four or more points typically indicate that something has gone horribly wrong and it’s time to rethink your ad strategy.

Tiny Decision Logic

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

"Tiny Decision Logic."

Like it's some kind of magical solution to a problem you're facing.

Maybe it is. 

I want you to take a moment and think about a circle. Even the letter O will do.

When you draw a circle, you make a sweeping curve with your fingers or hand depending on the size of the circle.

It's one fluid motion.

But what about your computer? Does it draw a sweeping curve? Your printer? Your phone? 

They don't. Because they can't.

Computers, phones, printers - anything that has to translate data from digital to visible are making a series of decisions.

Everything I just mentioned has to make decisions based on pixels.

We're all vaguely familiar with pixels, but to take this example to its most simplistic extreme - let's treat a pixel like a small square with two possible states. 

In our example, a pixel is either on or off. It either shows black or white.

When a digital device draws a circle, it has to choose which squares become black, and which stay white.

So how do we get from the blocky zero of your alarm clock to the circular zero of the modern computer? We increase the number of pixels.

And by doing so - we increase the number of decisions that have to be made.

But if we want to show a small curve, we have to shrink these pixels. The decisions get smaller and smaller and smaller. And the end user? We make one decision. Type the number zero.

And why am I talking about the number zero? Because each one of those little squares get smaller and smaller. If you take a screenshot of this and zoom in on one of the curves, you'll see small square-shaped steps of various shades of grey. 

Each one of those squares is a pixel. And the higher the resolution of your screen, the closer you'll have to zoom in to see anything except the smooth curve.

So our "big decision" to type the number zero is translated into the dozens of tiny decisions made by the computer to turn on each necessary pixel.

Now how do we apply this to decision making in life?

Life is made of little steps - decisions made at such a fine scale that we can’t see the difference between making the sixty decisions that get us to breakfast every morning and making the one decision to have breakfast.

Yes. That’s a microscopic example of a decision, but most decisions are just that small.

If you want to make something happen, the only thing you really have to ask yourself is: “Do I want this enough to make the next decision?” And if you do, then the question that gets asked is -“Do I want this enough to make the next decision?”

An Example:

A huge goal is: "I want to make this blog successful."

The tiny decisions that get there:

1) Start reading - Anything will do.

2) Find inspiration - Walk, listen to music, talk to people you haven't talked to.

3) Write - Just make the decision to write. Rain or shine, put pen to paper, or hands to keyboard.

4) Make Time - Three hours out of every day must be dedicated to the process of reading, listening, and writing. No distractions.

5) Publish - All of the previous decisions are null and void if the articles don't go up on time.

At its core, Tiny Decision Logic, or TDL can be summed up as:

"Just keep deciding you want it, and you’ll get there eventually."

To talk about the new, Look to the Old

From papyrus to clay tablets to the Gutenberg printing press to seed catalogs to persuasive conversations at taverns and street corners to the internet’s first Email in 1971, marketing vehicles have existed with the imperative to communicate something of value for an audience and to use human to human trust and storytelling in order to sell that product of value.

With the exception of one lengthy academic work on Spam, there is no unified scholarship on this area of contemporary history: the common thread which pervades human to human communication in direct marketing. There is, however, a plethora of inaccurate information about early spam and spammers dispersed across multiple sources, published both online and in print—many of those inaccuracies perpetrated by the spammers themselves. This thesis does its best to rectify both of the aforementioned concerns, drawing upon a compilation of personally conducted interviews, print sources, and webpages devoted to the curation of the history of the early internet.

 There was not one “aha” moment when direct marketing was born; no moment when an industry was formed out of chaos. The concept of distributing novel products, monetary reward, or even persuasive political jargon that moved the tide of revolutions in history evolved as direct marketing alongside the development of civilization.

 Whereas the channels for direct marketing have clearly changed through the years, and evolution of innovation can bring abuses (like spam), the purpose of direct marketing—communication of value, engaged through a human to human process[1]—remains the same. No matter how consumers use technology in the future, marketers will be aligning their communication efforts with that behavior. In the pursuit of sharing products that can change a life or simply make one easier, direct marketing had already spent upwards of $153.3 billion by 2010… which accounted for 54.2% of all ad expenditures in the United States…these advertising expenditures generated approximately $1.798 trillion in incremental sales.”[2] According to Michael Brenner, direct content marketing will generate $300 billion by 2019.[3]  Direct marketing is about human to human communication; it began that way—personal, interactive, and value-oriented. Understanding the evolution of the benefits and tactics involved in direct marketing as well as its growing pains crystallizes the impact such outreach has had on civilization and provides a lens through which to understand the future of marketing-consumer behavior.

We cannot view direct marketing and spam in a vacuum. It is not that some advertiser came up with direct mail spam when the internet exploded. The kernels, psychology, and understanding of a need to communicate in order to sell one’s products existed long before networked computers. It was, however, the advent of cross-network computing that enabled what we now call spam, and which has been leveraged by modern marketers to deliver their sales messages directly to people who want to receive them. This survey seeks to demonstrate the evolution of digital sales techniques, starting with their humble analog origins, and ending with the demise of “big spam” in the early 2000s.

The more things change the more they stay the same, and one need only visit the British Museum to note how this concept applies to direct mail marketing: there, on a papyrus dating back to 1,000 BCE, a landowner advertised a hefty gold reward for the return of his escaped slave. Although the address of origin is foggy, the papyrus turned up in Thebes, Egypt before being placed behind glass in London.

There is no record as to whether this landowner was actually successful in his marketing endeavor, making the endeavor inherently different from most direct marketing attempts that we know of today because those who market directly are usually able to quantify the response to their offer. However, the concept of direct marketing via papyrus is not so different from modern marketing tactics.

The merchants of Babylonia were no strangers to direct marketing either according to the stories their brick and stone tablets tell. Apparently, merchants inscribed a list of their products on tablets and hand-delivered them to the interested people of each town through which they passed—not as tidy or labor-savvy as clicking SEND, but inventive, nonetheless, and, without question, direct marketing. It is also recorded in A History of Advertising that during the first century C.E., poets “disperse[d] prospectuses”[4] in an effort to glean clients. As writing was considered a scholarly endeavor, such direct marketing pieces were seriously regarded. Although today the printed word arriving in one’s Email box or at one’s doorstep is a common occurrence, the perceived value of direct mail is still a powerful motivator to action.

With the appearance of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440, direct marketing emerged in Europe. By 1480, a printer by the name of William Caxton established the first printing press in England at Westminster Abbey, and proceeded to engage in the production of hand-bills or advertising leaflets. Direct marketing was off and running. Merchants routinely utilized flyers to hand out or post on walls—an effective advertisement for both their wares and their guilds. The symbols of the merchants’ guilds were always in plain sight on the advertisements so as to credentialize the merchant.


[1] Here, value means the ultimate effect of the advertised product, and “human to human” refers to a marketing philosophy which treats potential customers like new contacts. In a human to human process, advertisers create customer journeys meant to build trust and cultivate genuine relationships between brand and consumer.

[2] The Power of Direct Marketing: ROI, Sales, Expenditures, and Employment in the US (New York, NY: Direct Marketing Association, Inc., 2009).

[3] Michael Brenner and Liz Bedor, The content formula: calculate the ROI of content marketing & never waste money again (West Chester, PA: Marketing Insider Group, 2015).

[4] Stéphane Pincas and Marc Loiseau, A history of advertising (Köln: Taschen, 2008).

Half-Truths of Facebook marketing

Digital Marketing is a strange and ever-changing field. Industry best-practices one day can get your account flagged and restricted the next.

With that in mind, here are three half-truths you’ve probably heard about advertising on Facebook.

  1. The Image of My Ad Is A Great Place to Put Copy!
  2. The more targeted I can get my copy, the better my ads will perform.
  3. Any Engagement is Good Engagement

I say half-truths because there’s a kernel of correct advice to each one of these statements. For today, let’s break down #1.

The image is the most visible part of your ad, and it is the best chance you have at stopping someone from scrolling past your ad. However, it is also dangerous to put too much stock in your image to convey everything you need your consumer to understand.

Facebook recognized that they would be granting images additional space in their newsfeed, and put a few restrictions in place – the most notable of which is the 20% text rule.

Put simply, Facebook limits delivery of ads where more than 20% of the available image space is occupied by text.

The more text you include past that 20% mark, the lower the delivery of your ads.

Personally, I’ve seen ads cut to 30% of the total delivery they would have had, just because Facebook recognized almost 40% of the image as text.

If you want to check your images to make sure they abide by this 20% rule, Facebook provides this handy tool:

So how do we get around this?

A] Visually arresting images.

B] Clear Calls to Action

C] Near-Square Aspect Ratios

Back in 2013, Curata Inc. published a content curation study that reported a 47% increase in click-through rate (CTR) for articles with images over articles without.

Since then, entire ad firms and design agencies have built their careers around the core competency of eye-tracking studies and identifying what design elements will stop the scroll of a potential customer and convince them to click through.

6 ways to 80/20 your visual marketing

The Nielsen Report, Venngage, and Fotor have all written extensively on the subject, and I’d advise you to check out those articles if you want further clarity on image design – but here’s the 80/20.

  1. Use recognizable images – People instinctively anchor to the most recognizable part of a brand they respect.

    If you’ve built your brand around a single personality or authority figure, make sure they’re present.

    If you’ve built your brand around a logo, make sure it’s in any image you’re putting into the public eye.

  2. Use darker colors – Facebook is built on a color palette of blues and whites. Black and Orange tones will make your image stand out.
  3. Include a CTA button – Yes, Facebook will give you the option to add a “learn more” button or a “shop now” button to the post, but the image is what people will see first, and it’s what people will recognize most.

    Make sure you aren’t wasting this precious space by not providing people with clear action steps.

  4. Keep your CTAs consistent – This isn’t really about getting people to click through the ad. It’s about what happens once they’ve clicked.

On your landing page, once someone has clicked, they’re going to be looking for the next step. Keeping your CTA consistent is the best way to make sure someone follows through.

Here’s an example from a recent campaign: The landing page’s CTA was: “Register Now,” but the image read: “Join Today.”

Changing the image to read “Register Now” instead of “Join Today” produced a 20% lift in lead conversion rate.

  • Start using square images – Facebook allows images in several aspect ratios, from 16:9 to 1:1 to 9:16. While 16:9 may be the most common image format, it also takes up the least space on the screen, which means it’s the least likely to stop people from scrolling. 1:1 aspect ratio images can be far larger and will inevitably take up more space in the newsfeed, giving you even more time to get your image in front of your prospective leads or customers.

Finally, TEST – I can’t stress this one enough. Nearly everything I’ve written in this article so far could just as easily apply to your business as not. Your audience may be in the extremely small minority of people who respond better to pictures of forests with no text better than they respond to pictures of your brand with clearly denoted CTAs.