Should You be Confrontational as a Marketer?


“What’s the goal of email marketing?”

Joanna Wiebe’s question hung in the air. Blame it on being starstruck by a copywriter of her stature or the simple human desire to avoid the line of fire, but all that followed was an uncomfortable silence.

“Okay, let’s make this a bit easier. What was the goal of the last marketing email you sent?”

Again, silence. Then a voice.

“I suppose,” began Jordan Simas, previously a growth marketer at Shopify where Joanna’s event was taking place, “my goal was to figure out what pain my audience was already experiencing, show it to them in the subject line, and then jab them with it over and over inside the email until they got so uncomfortable they had no other choice but to click my call to action.”

Slowly, a smile stretched across Joanna’s face. “Yes!” she exclaimed, “I might not have said it quite like that, and there are other approaches than fear and pain. But yes! And not just for email. To convert — to get someone to take action — marketing has to jolt people out of their inertia by a force stronger than that inertia. Unfortunately, most marketers are afraid to pick a fight.”

A Brief History: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Whether or not you’re familiar with Joanna Wiebe or Jordan Simas isn’t the point. The real question is: Are they right? Should marketing be confrontational? Should you be afraid to use fear in your advertising, or should you embrace it, wield it, and drive it home?

The relationship between fear and marketing has a long and storied history. In 1931, Robert Collier — one of the founding fathers of modern marketing — put it like this:

“There are only two reasons why your reader will do as you tell him to in your letter. The first is that you have made him want something so badly that of his own inertia he reaches out for your order card to get it. The other is that you have aroused in him the fear that he will lose something worthwhile if he does not do as you say.”

In his 1966 classic, Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz identified fear as one of the driving “mass desires” that fuels all successful marketing:

“Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears, and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copywriter’s task: not to create this mass desire — but to channel and direct it.”

More recently, Joe Sugarman — one of the first marketers to use toll-free numbers and process credit card orders by phone — echoed the same sentiment:

“Fear is one of the great motivators that will cause us to take action. Give a person a reason to act based on the fact that they may lose the opportunity to buy something and they will usually act in a positive way toward your offer.”

And lastly, Dan Kennedy — the writer behind campaigns for brands as diverse as Proactiv and Tony Robbins — called fear, in the form of the problem, agitation, solution (PAS) template, “the most reliable sales formula ever invented:”

“Once the problem is established, clearly and factually, it’s time to inject emotion… Tap their anger, resentment, guilt, embarrassment, fear — any and every applicable negative emotion.

Of course, stacking up quotes from marketing legends only gets us so far. Perhaps a better question than “Should marketing be confrontational?” is “How can you infuse fear into your eCommerce marketing?”

The Case for eCommerce Antagonism

In the friendly, shiny world of eCommerce — particularly in industries where social media dominates — fear, confrontation, and antagonism can feel incredibly out of place. That’s why I’d like to look at three very recent examples of fear in action.

‘Is Your Best Friend in Pain?’

Big Barker, as you might expect, operates in the highly competitive pet industry. The company sells veterinary-endorsed, American-made beds for large breed dogs:

The marketing copy continually confronts dog owners with two realities: (1) the dangers of beds made with sub-par materials, and (2) the myriad health issues large dogs experience.

Big Barker’s crowning content piece is an infographic article titled: Is Your Best Friend in Pain? Joint Pain in Big Dogs.

The content works through statistics on the:

  • Most common and serious conditions
  • Symptoms of big dog joint pain
  • Average cost of care by size
  • Preventative measures
  • Bedding solutions

The page, which ranks high on Google search results for the phrase “joint pain in big dogs,” culminates in this CTA for Big Barker’s “Big-Dog Guide to Alleviating Joint Pain”:

It’s a fantastic piece of confrontational eCommerce content that deals with fear in an ethical and effective way, while also leading visitors directly into Big Barker’s email-led sales funnel. But can we apply that same principle to the even more competitive people-bedding industry?

‘Mattress Stores Are Greedy’

Throughout 2016-2018, a series of mysterious billboards — all bearing variations of the phrase “Mattress Stores Are Greedy” — went viral and made some waves:

The billboards’ URL led to mattress company Tuft & Needle and dovetailed with both paid social media campaigns as well as an ominous six second YouTube ad:

The initial campaign was so successful that it continues to this day, while Tuft & Needle keeps the spotlight on customer frustrations with traditional mattress stores and the buying experience:

Not only that but its onsite pop-up — “The 12 reasons you haven’t bought from us… yet” — leads to a page that directly confronts the 12 most common objections to buying mattresses online as well as getting in bed with an industry upstart (pun intended).

‘It doesn’t even have to be hot out. My armpits are always wet.’

Having begun with Joanna Wiebe, it’s only fitting we end with her, too. To test her commitment to confrontation, Joanna and the team at Copyhackers set their sights on a page they’d already optimized with a 108% lift in revenue: SweatBlock

Their task? Apply the problem, agitation, solution (PAS) formula to an otherwise emotionally positive homepage.

You can read about the thinking and research that went into this test, but the outcome was the creation of two variations that centered on fear. In Joanna’s words, “From there, we started to bring in much of the page that had already won.” Here’s what changed:

  • We revised the hero to more seamlessly connect the new PAS top with the rest of the page.
  • We added more proof points, like “4 million towelettes sold.”
  • We removed the 4-step “demo” because I wasn’t entirely sure prospects needed to see that in order to buy. It may be worth testing the addition of it later.
  • We changed the use case area (i.e., where we wrote about nervous sweating) to a 4-column area. This area didn’t make it into the final version we tested.

The first of the two variations looked like this:

Image via Copyhackers (full-pages of the three variations can be seen here)

The result?

  • Variation B (PAS, woman) produced a paid lift of 49%, with 99% confidence
  • Variation C (PAS, man) produced a paid lift of 46%, with 99% confidence

And remember, that was tested against a page that had already achieved a 108% lift in revenue.

Walking the Line

Going the way of confrontation, antagonism, and pain is dangerous work. Walking the fear line in marketing demands two non-negotiable ingredients: first, the hell you’re offering salvation from has to be real and, second, so does the salvation your product is offering.

When those two come together, jabbing your audience over and over until they get so uncomfortable they have no other choice but to click isn’t only effective — it’s an act of genuine kindness. Just be sure to use the power of confrontation wisely; otherwise, you may find yourself with an uncomfortable confrontation all your own.

The post Should You be Confrontational as a Marketer? appeared first on Post Funnel.

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Marketing Strategy And Planning Has Changed So Dramatically You Won’t Recognize It


Gone Are 12-Month Plans, Dedicated Strategy Time And A Defined Set Of Deliverables

For 15 years prior to Square 2, I worked in corporate marketing.

Every October and November, we cleared the decks and worked on the upcoming year’s marketing strategy and plan. It took weeks to get the plan together, it was comprehensive and then it required a presentation to the management team for approval.

Once approved, the book went on the shelf, and I admit that I rarely looked at the plan again.

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Why An SOW Is NOT What You Want From Your Digital Marketing Agency


Simply Put: Do You Want Work, Or Do You Want Results?

I get it: A statement of work (SOW) clearly defines what you’re buying. But is that the best way to get what your company ultimately needs?

Do you need work, or do you need results? What happens when the scope of work has to change (because SOWs change 95% of the time)?

A lot of agencies will jump at the chance to put together an SOW and get it over to you. You review it and it looks like it’s what you need.

But how can you be sure? How does the agency know it’s exactly right? What happens when you learn something new, change the requirements or together decide that you need different work, different tactics or an altogether different strategy?

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14 Surprising Stats About Digital Advertising


To more effectively reach consumers and interact with them in a one-on-one manner, businesses are increasing their digital advertising spend. Some predict global digital ad spend will rise by 17% to $327 billion in 2019. In fact, spend will likely cross the 40% mark this year for the first time. Keep these eye-opening stats and takeaways in mind as you continue refining your marketing strategy this year.


  1. 80% of marketers plan to increase their Amazon ad budgets in 2019.

Takeaway: While Amazon Advertising may fall behind Google and Facebook in the search world, the fact that consumers use Amazon for product discovery gives the company an advantage as an advertiser and ad network. To maximize visibility on Amazon, adopt a mix of organic and paid campaigns and pay attention to product description details. Keep your eye on conversion, customer satisfaction, and velocity, as they all influence rankings. Amazon Advertising is constantly updated, so stay in the loop and tap into vendor expertise to overcome platform challenges.

  1. Google Shopping Ads make up 76% of retail search ad spend and win 85% of all clicks.

Takeaway: To find success with this platform, segment by search query and product ID, place keywords within the product title, and keep your pricing competitive. Google tends to favor ads that deliver engaging experiences. Make sure your ads lead consumers to products and landing pages that are relevant, useful, and easy to interact with.

  1. The query “___ to avoid” has risen by 150%, and the query “is ___ worth it” has risen by 80%. 

Takeaway: Research-obsessed consumers are actively looking for the worst rated brands to help them make informed buying decisions and avoid purchase mistakes. To find out what consumers discover when they search for brands, Google’s VP of Global Marketing, Lisa Gevelber, suggests you take a walk in their mobile footsteps by seeking out the most dismal of your online reviews. This will help you catch issues and identify areas for improvement. If you discover that consumers are questioning whether your brand is worth their money, create and promote content that shows them why your brand is valuable or how you’ve fixed their complaints.

Video Advertising 

  1. 73% of U.S. adults who watch streaming video say they watch ad-supported over-the-top (OTT) video.

Takeaway: If you’re struggling to reach young high-income earners, keep an eye on OTT video. OTT advertising allows for hyper-targeting that delivers more relevant ads and a better viewing experience. But before including OTT in your media plans, first educate yourself about the landscape and its best practices. Also, when developing an  OTT strategy, focus on enabling personalized interactions, giving consumers control over their experience with interactive ads and the ability to select what they want to watch.

  1. 64% of consumers take action after seeing an ad during a live video stream. Brand recall, clickthrough, and site visitation are the primary actions provoked.

Takeaway: Because consumers are drawn to raw, real-time footage, live stream videos have the power to help build brands. To prevent your ads from being seen as intrusive, deliver relevant ads to the right audiences on the right devices while maintaining the integrity of the viewing experience for each user.  Keep in mind that pop-ups, pre-roll, and sponsored-by ad units are the ads most visible to consumers.

  1. Consumers are 67% more willing to buy a product after seeing a mobile video shoppable ad with an invitation to ‘Learn More.’

Takeaway: Merging commerce and content is a strategic way to engage consumers. Encourage consumers to take action when viewing your shoppable video ads by using creatives such as CTAs, which prompt consumers to learn more about your product before facing ‘shop now’ language. Allow consumers to learn more without leaving the page. Let them directly shop for products from your ad and limit your mobile video ad length to around five seconds.

Mobile App Advertising

  1. In 2019, the number of apps using in-app advertising will grow by 60%.

Takeaway: Leverage existing apps to get your brand in front of new customers and provide additional touch points for existing users through paid placements. Partner with brands that offer app promotions or content, can provide a safe environment for your creatives, and understand your KPIs.

  1. More than eight of 10 mobile ad dollars in the US will be allocated to in-app advertising by next year.

Takeaway: This stat indicates increasing competition in the mobile app landscape. To deliver an engaging ad experience, use artificial intelligence tools to gain real-time insight into your ad performance. And when crafting ad formats, make user experience a top priority.

  1. Users who had never made an in-app purchase were four times more likely to make a purchase after engaging with value exchange videos.

Takeaway: Place your video ads in apps that your target audience engages with the most, showing them only resonant personalized video ads. Keep your ads short, and have them fill the screen so that users must view to continue.

Digital Audio Advertising

  1. Podcast ads deliver significant lift in purchase intent and brand recall, outperforming digital display ads by almost five times.

Takeaway: Podcasts are an emerging marketing medium that have the power to reach on-the-go consumers in ways traditional media cannot. Before advertising on podcasts, identify the products your target podcast audiences spend their money on and find out which podcast genres are a good fit for your campaigns.

  1. 60% say they have purchased something after hearing it advertised on a podcast.

Takeaway: Podcasts deliver a “lean forward” listening experience that leads to strong responses. When advertising on podcasts, use host read ads and experiment with ad types such as pre-roll, mid-roll, and end-of-show ads to see which drive the most results. Use measurement tools like promo codes, vanity URLs, and checkout surveys to understand the impact of your advertising efforts.

Digital Display Advertising

  1. The share of digital spend allocated to display advertising is expected to remain flat over the next four years.


Takeaway: While display advertising may not be drawing more money in marketing budgets,  it’s safe to say that marketers still find value in it. Utilize the medium by incorporating retargeting techniques and maximizing ad placement. Additionally, combine search and display advertising to drive maximum results from your online marketing efforts.

  1. Banner ads are 120% more effective than video ads when it comes to mobile advertising.

Takeaway: Though banners ads aren’t as glamorous as video ads, they remain an important component of marketing. To encourage consumers to click your banner ads, stick to simple design and messaging, and test your creatives.

  1. Programmatic is projected to represent over two-thirds of all digital display ad spend worldwide in 2019.

Takeaway: While programmatic advertising may be the future of media buying, a large portion of ad fraud occurs in programmatic marketplaces. To defend yourself, employ ad verification tools and analytics, use trusted platforms, and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Challenge agencies and your partners to improve their reporting and level of transparency.


As the digital advertising world spins madly on, these stats present some ideas on how to spend your marketing budget and effectively reach today’s consumers. Pay attention to how brand partnerships and product placements work together. Consider hiring a brand safety officer to deal with safety issues. Finally, data privacy concerns are still on the rise, so inform customers on how you’ll use their data, give them control over their data, and treat their information with care.

The post 14 Surprising Stats About Digital Advertising appeared first on Post Funnel.

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NEWS // New Representation: Tea & Water Pictures


I’m pleased to announce that I am now represented by Tea & Water Pictures in New York, London and Beijing. They are an exciting agency that have a some great production experience and a team with really diverse but complimentary backgrounds, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together over the next few years!

They’ve also done a little interview with me which, if you’re interested, you can read here 

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NEWS // New Representation: Tea & Water Pictures


I’m pleased to announce that I am now represented by Tea & Water Pictures in New York, London and Beijing. They are an exciting agency that have a some great production experience and a team with really diverse but complimentary backgrounds, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together over the next few years!

They’ve also done a little interview with me which, if you’re interested, you can read here 

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How Automation Opportunities Are Shaping the Hospitality Industry


Businesses across a wide variety of verticals have embraced automation to easily manage time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Yet many sectors haven’t fully taken advantage of these technological opportunities. One prime example is the hospitality industry. Although there has been some implementation of automation in hospitality, a closer look reveals countless opportunities where automation could benefit its day-to-day operations.

Bookings and Check-Ins

Most hotel brands utilize one kind of automated process: online bookings. Already, we take apps that display room availabilities, make bookings, and customize our stay without a human representative for granted. Automated emails could further support the industry by reminding customers about check-in times and dates closer to the booking.

Hospitality is now shifting towards automating the check-in experience itself. Hotels located everywhere from North America to Europe have check-in kiosks that supplement the front desk, enabling customers to access their room. Beyond hotel arrivals, kiosks also allow guests to print new room keys if they lose the original.

Eventually, automation may render check-ins obsolete. Some hotels have started experimenting with keyless entry options where customers access their room using an authenticated mobile device. These digital room keys are available at seventeen Marriott Hotel branches and within the Expedia app. If this trend continues, we could soon see hospitality smartphone apps serve as room keys for standard hotel visits.

Enhanced Guest Room Experience

After checking in, guests can take advantage of automated experiences from their room. The Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi offers “Guest Automation Systems” that regulate lighting and temperature from a central station. These platforms detect when someone enters the room and adjusts the settings to comfortable levels. Once the guest leaves the room or steps out onto a balcony, the sensors switch to standby mode. These settings are both a convenience for the guest and an energy-saving measure for hospitality companies.

Guests can also control automated hospitality services. Mobile devices or room key activated tablets grant users control of temperature settings, TV controls, or the ability to request concierge orders, which is normally processed by telephone. For guests who prefer to be hands-free, voice activated technology similar to Alexa or Siri is an alternative interface.

Inter-Departmental Communication

Unlike the previous examples, many automated hospitality services aren’t customer-facing at all. Several tasks require coordination between reception and housekeeping, and automation streamlines the responsibilities.

Reception and housekeeping staff must constantly update each other to monitor room availability, guest checkouts, and overall cleaning progress. Traditionally, this communication took place via walkie-talkie, but automated services can better track progress by updating a central database that staff can review via smartphone app. The Mews PMS activity report does exactly that, providing hospitality staff with an overview of each room and minimizing the risk of miscommunication.

Soon, robots will attend your hotel’s breakfast buffet (Shutterstock)

Robot Deliveries

When most people imagine automation, they usually picture robots completing tasks typically handled by humans. While the automation examples mentioned so far are software based, there are examples of actual humanoid robots used in the hospitality industry.

Most notably, hotels in Singapore have embraced the technology to the point that guests could share an elevator with a concierge robot! Their designs and responsibilities vary depending on the hotel, but they can handle a variety of basic tasks. Some clean rooms to prepare for a new guest, while others deliver food or toiletries. Even hotel breakfasts are automated in Singapore, where robots prepare meals without the need for a full kitchen.

This level of automation is rare in hospitality so far, but it can be effective, especially in countries where the workforce is in decline. Even where employment rates are strong, housekeeping labor has a high risk of musculoskeletal damage, with 40% of injuries related to back pain. Despite these benefits, robotic hospitality technology is far from perfect; some reports noted that bots were at times confused about directions. Yet, we can expect the technology to improve and that other hotels will follow in Singapore’s footsteps.

What Automation Can’t Yet Do

For all its benefits, automation cannot be applied to every single aspect of hotel operations. Companies like Yotel have tried full robotic implementation with mixed results, often coming off as out-of-touch or impersonal. In an industry that hinges on providing comfort, that’s something businesses cannot afford.

Any technology will have mishaps – such as the guest whose automated lights turned off while he was still in the room – but most systems will improve over time. It’s important not to forget the personality behind your service, which can require a human touch. Real-life employees can also address situations that software cannot, such as special cultural needs or unforeseen scenarios. Most importantly, hospitality should never overlook the fact that many guests often welcome face-to-face interactions as part of the experience.

The ultimate goal of hospitality is to offer a positive experience for guests. By association, automation succeeds when fully aligned with high-quality services, from smooth check-ins to optimized daily operations. Keeping this principle in mind is the highest priority for any business looking to add automated systems to their guest relations processes.

The post How Automation Opportunities Are Shaping the Hospitality Industry appeared first on Post Funnel.

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