Content Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising


According to the Custom Content Council, in 2012, 68% of CMO’s will be increasing their budget for content marketing. While big and small companies alike are seeing the shift, smaller companies are devoting a higher percentage of allocated budgets toward content marketing:

  • 34% of a company’s advertising budget with ten or less employees goes toward content marketing.
  • 26% of the advertising budgets of companies with 1,000 or more employees is going to content marketing.

blurbThere are numerous reasons for this shift, and one of them is that technology has changed consumer behavior. Consumers today aggressively search out information about your industry online. According to Ryan Northover of, before making a purchase decision, consumers now search out 10.4 sources of information vs. 5.3 back in 2010, when just 30% of consumers had Smartphones. This is rapidly changing the face of marketing and creating the necessity for content systems that engage, inspire, educate and inform information seeking consumers.

Here are 5 compelling reasons why you need a clear and robust content marketing strategy today, in comparison to traditional media advertising :

1. More Trusted 

A Nielsen survey of OECD consumers found:

  •  Only 10% said they trusted messages from display advertising.
  • However, 90%  said they trusted brand recommendations from friends or users they trusted online.

2. More Lead Conversions

Traditional advertising methods are generally directed to a broader audience, while content marketing’s  ‘narrowcasting’ strategy focuses on a smaller, core group of potential, high quality consumers. As a result:

  • Content marketing can convert 30% more organic traffic into high quality sales leads, according to MarketingSherpa (See case studies here)
  • Content marketing is aimed at high value customers who will return for more content.
  • Content marketing produces 3 times more leads per dollar than SEM and costs 30% less, according to Kapost & ELOQUA (ebook here)

3. Greater Influence Over Consumer Decision Making

A study by McKinsey Consulting shows that consumers are already well along in the sales process when they engage directly with a brand. Traditional advertising aiming for brand recognition may occur far too early in the sales process to make a difference at a critical juncture in the decision process. Additionally, heir search is more focused, targeted and active. According to a Roper Public Affairs study cited in Forbes:

  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to access company information via a series of articles over advertisements.
  • 70% of decision makers said content marketing made them feel closer to the brand.
  • 60% said content marketing helped them make better purchasing decisions.

4Enhanced SEO and Social Media Effectiveness

Search engines are steadily improving in delivering the right information to seekers of content. And as today’s search engines heavily weight relevance, social sharing and link buzz, the more engaging, shareable and targeted your content is, the better your SEO rankings will be.

Content is also the basis of social media strategy, because compelling content is what drives consumers to engage with your brand on social networks.

5. Greater ROI

Expensive paid advertising campaigns typically only run a few weeks. Content can last for a much longer time, which enhances your return on investment. Revisions in content marketing can keep it relevant even longer. Content marketing can also generate earned media because users and media outlets may share your content to many more users, potentially producing millions of dollars in free brand exposure.

“Content Is Queen”

Because good content marketing aims to help, inform, inspire and entertain a more skeptical, engaged and demanding audience, it is not experienced as a pressure pitch or disruptive. This is why major brands are heavily investing in content marketing. This helps brands capture mind share and position themselves as leaders in their category.

But if content is queen, it also demands to be treated as one. Content strategy requires many months of planning and strategic development to build the most effective content platforms, inventory and engagement streams.

Overcoming the Challenges

According to a Marketing Profs & Content Marketing Institute study in 2012, the top 5 reported challenges are:

  • Producing enough content: 29%
  • Producing the kind of content that engages: 18%
  • Lack of budget: 14%
  • Lack of buy-in / vison: 7%
  • Lack of knowledge, training, and resources: 6%

Overcoming these challenges requires ownership, consistency and measurement.

1. Ownership: Some committed organizations have appointed a Content Marketing Officer to drive these efforts and to be accountable for their success. As companies are slowly but surely becoming their own media, they will have to appoint an Editor in Chief responsible for overseeing this part of Marketing, and managing internal as well as outsourced resources.

2. Consistency: It takes consistent efforts to build a captive audience through the creation of  a body of content worthy of the attention of search engines and of your target audience. Understanding what content types and what channels create the most engagement and generate leads takes consistent effort and experimentation. Generating interest and engagement for your brand, products and services requires a commitment to sustained and continuous investment in producing various types of content on a regular basis. By way of illustration:

3. Measurement: Naturally, the defined success metrics (KPIs) will vary according to the market, media and product. However, the ROI of content marketing is generally defined not by generic Web activity metrics, but  by a sales conversion funnel.

A typical conversion funnel could look like:

Step 1: user lands on homepage
Step 2: user reads a blog post
Step 3: user reads a product or service page
Step 4: user fills in a contact form

Defining performance in terms of web activity such as overall visitors and pages views of a website won’t reflect performance as much as much as measuring how many users start at step 1 (arrive on a landing page)  and progress to step 4 (conversion).

Takeaways: As shown above, the realities of today’s markets demand that a very focused and robust content marketing effort is put in place for an organization to position themselves as a thought leader, differentiate themselves in a crowded market space, and  reach the buyer at the critical stage in the purchase decision process to make a difference and drive conversions. Since companies are struggling beneath the weight of the sustained effort needed to become thought leaders through content marketing, investment in dedicated resources is increasingly recognized as indispensable.

Related Post:


My recent dining experience at the Olive Garden drove home an observation that may not be popular among “foodies” – that the Olive Garden brand experience is extraordinary. Having grown up in New York where I have dined at some of the most amazing Italian restaurants, I understand that this is not quite the same experience. Still, the Olive Garden has taken American casual dining to a new level.

The Evolution of a Branded Dining Experience

When you eat at Olive Garden, you are immersed in an imaginary time and place – an idealized version of 1050s Italy. Italian American music from the 50s creates an immediate sense of familiar nostalgia, as if you were returning to childhood roots in and Italian American neighborhood.

Olive Garden president David Pickens, 53, says that the restaurant promises “an idealized Italian family meal, whether you’re Italian or not.”

General Mills launched the chain in 1982 as an affordable Italian restaurant with few surprises. While it grew to hundreds of locations by the 1990’s, the menu had grown stale and sales were in decline. John Caron, Olive Garden’s head of marketing says that it lost its culinary and cultural soul.

The company did extensive research and found that the key consumer insight was that people missed the emotional comfort and connectivity that comes with family. Chief operating officer Drew Madsen, former head of marketing notes that:

People come to a restaurant for both physical and emotional nourishment. The physical is the food; and the emotional is how you feel when you leave.

In pursuit of a mythical Italian family experience, the company adopted the tagline, “When you’re here, you’re family,” designing new locations  to suggest Italian farmhouses with a large family-style table, modeled on one in a Florentine trattoria.

A partnership was formed with the Culinary Institute of Tuscany (CIT), and eleven times a year, the company sends 14 top employees, many of whom have never set foot in Italy, to spend a week in an 11th-century village in Tuscany to learn from Sergio and Daniela Zingarelli, a husband and wife who operate a restaurant, winery, and inn. Since 1999, some 850 employees have attended CIT, and 80% of them are still with the company. Today, many items on the dinner menu carry a CIT logo, designating that they were inspired by a staffer’s experience in Italy.  These experiences and menu items provide a rare authenticity for a chain restaurant  Fast Company provides a good example – risotto:

In a pilot program at a small number of restaurants, diners were initially tepid. As attitudes changed, the test kitchens took on the preparation challenge; risotto requires 20 minutes to cook, longer than customers are willing to wait. Chefs eventually found a more expensive variety of rice that could be cooked most of the way through in advance, finished off just before serving, and still retain the desired taste and texture. Risotto is now part of a CIT-inspired entrée designed to entice more adventurous diners who might not have considered Olive Garden: Chianti-braised short ribs (minus the bone — a concession to American tastes) and portobello mushroom risotto.

Promotion That Isn’t Just Hype

Dale Buss‘s article on Brand ChannelOlive Garden Puts Tuscany at Center of Brand Experience reveals some of the thought that goes into perfecting the $3-billion Olive Garden chain’s brand experience. Of a recent promotion, Dale shows that it far exceeds a sweepstakes promotion on the brand’s Facebook page. It focuses on creating a virtual vacation experience at its restaurants:

With everything Olive Garden is doing — from its new TV ads to a restaurant-remodeling campaign — they want you to whisk you to Tuscany.

The new commercials highlight the fact that Olive Garden sends dozens of its chefs to its culinary institute in Tuscany for training with those who create the genuine Italian cuisine that the brand attempts to duplicate in its US restaurants. The chain also recently announced that it is remodeling 400 of its more than 730 locations over the next two years in an effort to reinforce its Tuscan heritage with consumers. The new look, called Via Tuscany, draws its inspiration from a Tuscan farmhouse, Olive Garden says, and features not only a brick arch and newly planted cypress trees, but also – you guessed it – Tuscan stone.

An Innovative Business Model

Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Longhorn, is the country’s largest full-service restaurant operation, the 29th-largest employer in the United States, and a pioneer of “casual dining,” which constitutes 39% of all sit-down restaurant meals.

The company operates 1,770 restaurants, and generated $6.7 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year. It serves enough meals (more than 400 million) per year to feed the entire U.S. population, with seconds for California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

Although Olive Garden’s 57 consecutive quarter growth streak ended last fall, Darden is faring better than most of its competition in this economy, exceeding analysts’ earnings forecasts. By May, 2012, its stock had tripled from its last November low. And Darden plans to add as many as 55 restaurants in 2o13.

A Visionary CEO

Clarence OtisCEO Clarence Otis, a 53-year-old janitor’s son from Watts, Los Angeles, works in a troubled sector of the economy and has faced criticisms for the kinds of labor issues that plague it. Still, his vision for Olive Garden has been visionary. He told FastCompany that, despite the focus on the sensory side of the dining experience, his leadership of Olive Garden relies on a carefully thought out and executed strategy:

On the continuum of intuitive restaurants versus systematized, analytic restaurants, we’re very analytic. The direction of our business is based on understanding customers.”

Growing up, Otis would escape the racial strife and isolation of Watts through reading. By ninth grade, he had finished nearly every novel and biography there. He earned a scholarship to Williams College, went to law school at Stanford, and at 31, became a vice president at First Boston. In 1995, a headhunter recommended him to Darden, just spun off from General Mills, where he moved up, from treasurer to chief financial officer, and then president of its Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill chain. In 2004, he became one of the few African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500. He plotted a new course for major growth, and began making changes.

Formula For Suceess In A Challenging Environment

 Today, the average American has 16% fewer sit-down restaurant meals per year,than 15 years ago, according to analyst Harry Balzer of market-research firm NPD Group, while the number of casual-dining restaurants has grown at roughly twice the rate of population.

Knowing this, Otis integrated complimentary strategies for success that is at heart a market share drive. The elements include:

  • Leading-edge technology with efficient purchasing practices out of the Wal-Mart playbook.
  • Decentralized brand-management honed over the 15 years that the company was owned by General Mills.
  • Sharing of information between brands.

Consumer Focus: Over the past year, Darden’s 22-member customer-insight team invited 16 million customers across its six chains to answer guest-satisfaction questionnaires, which Darden says predicts shifts in traffic at individual locations.

Synergies: Competitive pressures make it vital for the company’s 180,000 employees and three major brands to to work collaboratively. The three brands operate as “test labs”, sharing best practice ideas and personnel, while still maintaining distinctive identities. At the headquarters in Orlando, 1,400 executives and restaurant support staff who formerly worked in 12 buildings spread out over 2 miles are coming together with  test kitchens that will operate side by side.

Quality: Introducing predictability to a volatile business is a major undertaking. Fast Company points out that Darden is actually running 1,770 just-in-time manufacturing plants, creating in minutes “a wide range of products selected, consumed, and judged by customers who show up unannounced, ” something that requires innovation, creativity, and strict quality standards, with anyone using an outdated item fired on the spot.

Technological Innovation: According to an industry analyst cited by Fast Company:

In every area where technology can be applied, Darden has a considerable lead on other businesses. Darden was computerizing its guest surveys in the 1990s, when other restaurants were relying on comment boxes.

In the 1970s, Darden had worked with Burger King to build the first restaurant point-of-sale system, which tracked sales in real time, eliminating the need for managers to call in the previous day’s results. Today, this has developed into a program called “Guest Forecasting.” Guest Forecasting successfully projects the appropriate staffing and food preparation required each day, including how many orders of each menu item to expect, and how much sauce to make in the morning.

The result: Over the past two years, Darden has reduced unplanned hours by more than 40% and trimmed excess food costs by 10%. The goal isn’t “zero waste” because the restaurant doesn’t want to run out of anything on the menu, but no more than 9% waste.

A recently introduced program called “Meal Pacing” displays the optimal work flow for each party on eight screens in the kitchen and monitors each station’s progress, with color-coded warnings when one falls behind. It ensures that the staff meets Darden’s one-minute rule: Food should arrive at the table within one minute of being ready.

The result: The program takes much of the guesswork out of juggling  simultaneous orders, allowing the restaurant to turn tables faster at peak times, increasing revenue and driving guest-satisfaction scores up.

“Not everybody’s a gourmet, but everybody can tell time” ~ Bill Darden

The next technological frontier is to address wait times. While the restaurants don’t accept reservations, it’s not ideal for business to allow guests to wait an hour or more. One pilot program is using handheld devices to speed things up, enabling waiters submit orders and payments at the table, eliminating lag time.

Another project shares wait times across restaurants to allow hostesses to direct customers to nearby Darden establishments that aren’t as busy. Ultimately, customers could be given online access to that information.

Related Articles:


Declining Investment

Investment in social media marketing by financial services companies has declined sharply since the end of 2011, according to Fourth Source. While in the last quarter of 2011, 22% of companies in the financial services sector were investing in social media, this fell to 8.5% in the first quarter of 2012 and 6% in the second quarter. This is a marked turn around.

A More Cautious Approach in 2013

study commissioned by Pitney Bowes Software and conducted by Vanson Bourne shows that, compared to other industries, retail banks and credit unions are beginning to lack confidence in the effectiveness and business value of social media, and plan to invest less in it in 2013.

This independent study compares social media marketing trends among marketing directors to consumer attitudes about social media marketing in The US, UK, Australia, France and Germany. It analyzed seven business sectors: fast-moving consumer goods, insurance, the public sector, retail, retail banking, telecoms and utilities. The results for retail bank marketing:

  • Decision-makers are split 50/50 in their confidence in being able to link social media spend with their organization’s profitability.
  • Just 53% are confident that their social media campaigns are effective (Only the insurance sector came out lower in terms of rating their campaigns as effective  at 49%.)
  • 31% rated them as not effective.

Early Adopters

The survey also showed that retail banking has consistently ranked among the earliest and most aggressive industries to adopt social channels. In fact, 

  • 74% of retail banking marketing directors in retail banking saw a greater emphasis being placed on social media in their external communications, which is significantly higher than average (69%), and second only to the telecommunications sector (81%).

Expect Modest Spending Increases

The research shows social media spend in retail banking, as a share of marketing budgets, will still increase incrementally over the next few years:

  • Spending was 16% in 2011, when banks were among the biggest spenders on social media.
  • It is expected to climb to 22% in 2013.
  • By contrast, other sectors like telecommunications will be committing over a third of their marketing budgets (36%) to social channels.

Consumers Haven’t Been Enthused

The pullback in retail banking can be seen as a realistic assessment of the risks of and consumer responses to social media marketing.

Risks – 65% of consumers surveyed say that they would stop using a brand that upset or irritated them with their social media behavior. According to Kieran Kilmartin of Pitney Bowes Software:

It is not surprising that retail banks have been keen to jump on the social media bandwagon early on, but are now taking a step back to evaluate this new channel more thoroughly,” says The continued use of old-school broadcast marketing models in social channels is likely to turn people off, and at worst, trigger them ultimately to become ‘brand blockers’.

Consumer Response – The response to bank social media marketing has been less than enthusiastic, showing a lack of desire among consumers to engage:

  • Only 26% of consumers use social media to follow and keep up-to-date with companies or brands.
  • Banks and credit unions don’t rank high on their priority list.

Top Challenges for Retail Banks

Pitney Bowes finds that the greatest challenges for retail banks are:

  • Dealing with all the data being generated as the number of customer touch points increases (50%).
  • ROI, and connecting online engagement with new customers (42%)
  • Managing the amount of time and money spent on social networks (42%).

Consumer Disconnects

Identifying which social media channels to invest – Beyond  Facebook (considered to be the most popular and trusted social media site) marketers disagreed about other social media outlets, and appeared slightly out of step with consumer sentiment. They indicated that they devote most of their remaining spend on:

  • Twitter (57%) and
  • Google+ (51%)
  • Marketers rated YouTube as only fifth.
  • Yet consumers prefer YouTube over Twitter and Google+ .

Conflicting Perceptions about Brand Interaction – The study shows some disconnects about the reasons that consumers interact with brands on social media:

  • Consumers are most interested in discount or money-saving vouchers, new products and services, and upcoming sales and events.
  • Yet fewer than 10% of marketers surveyed mention this.
  • Marketers highly rate the effectiveness of newsletters, information about their organization’s social responsibility and customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Yet these were least interesting to consumers.

Opt In is important – The study shows that building trust and familiarity over time is vital:

  • 48% of social media users who choose to follow brands  are positive towards receiving their marketing messages.
  • Yet 40% say communications from companies they don’t follow are annoying.
  • They rated unsolicited marketing (‘spam’) and pop-up advertisements as the lowest form of social media marketing.


The research would appear to suggest that it is challenging for financial brands to engage with social media consumers in emotionally meaningful ways. Of course, this has always been a challenge for financial services marketers, given the often cold and transactional as well as complex and confusing nature of their products. Another observation is that marketers have been quick to embrace new social media, but have not been as adept at gleaning the behavior and attitudes of social media users.

Some companies – notably in the property and casualty insurance sector – have been more successful than others in transitioning to the moving picture. Alstate, Geico, Progressive come to mind. In the banking sector, only Ally Bank stands out for their clever vignettes.

Most Hated Advertising Slogan:

smuckers slogan

Best Selling Jam!

jamSmucker now owns the No. 1 brands in coffee, jams and jellies, peanut butter, and cooking oil.

According to Fortune, the secret of Smucker’s success is keeping it in the family.  Contributing editor Marc Gunther fills in the blanks: here’s a synopsis of Marc’s article:

Since Ohio farmer James Monroe Smucker began selling apple butter from the back of a horse-drawn wagon in In 1897, the company has had five chief executives, all named Smucker.

Sales have skyrocketed from $632 million in fiscal year 2000 to $4.6 billion in 2010, as the company acquired iconic brands Jif, Crisco, and Folger’s and profits grew from $36 million to $494 million. Shareholders have received a total return of 309% over the past 10 years, compared with -15% for the S&P 500.

Their secret ingredient? Al Yeagley, a vice president who has been with Smucker for 36 years says:

“The real secret is the family. They treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s the old golden rule.

In fact, Smucker ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For in 2004.

Brand Integrity

According to Richard Smucker:

We’re really all about managing and marketing brands.

Smucker’s family-friendly values are its brand, its philosophy and its practice. Smucker won’t buy TV commercials on shows with violent or prurient content. It sponsors the birthday greetings for centenarians on NBC’s Today show. And, moreover, Smucker spends more than industry rivals on advertising and promotion. Its slogans are as iconic as its brands:

  • “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good”
  • “The best part of wakin’ up is Folger’s in your cup”

Ascending the Brand Pyramid

Smucker wasn’t always as brand-centric. It originally focused on buying jam and jelly companies in Brazil, Britain, and Australia and producing fruit for products like Dannon yogurt and Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts.

The company undertook a sweeping strategy review in the mid-1990s, involving top executives, middle managers and factory workers, and shifted its focus to brands. Smucker understood that “real money in supermarkets is made in the middle of the store, where processed foods and well-known brands reign supreme.” Richard Smucker summarizes Smucker’s brand-focused strategy:

To own and market No. 1 brands, sold in the center of the store, in North America

This drove the company to numerous acquisitions including:

  • Jif
  • Crisco
  • International Multifoods (including Pillsbury and Hungry Jack)
  • Folger’s

Businesses that were inconsistent with the company’s core were sold, including its ingredient businesses, overseas operations, and weaker brands. For instance, on the theory that Smucker can have an impact on what Americans eat for breakfast and lunch (PB&J), but not at dinner, it kept Hungry Jack pancakes and syrups , but sold off dried potatoes. Coffee has become the company’s biggest segment.

And now you know why with a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.

Online and Offline Marketing Are Merging

According to New Media and, an online survey of 1,500 holiday consumers conducted by market research organization Ipsos OTX and Google conducted show that that online and offline shopping are merging into a new consumer buying process.  According to the study,

  • 51% of surveyed consumers intend to research a product online and visit the store to buy it.
  • 32% plan on researching an item online, inspecting it in the store, and then completing the transaction online.

The study attributes this largely to the comfort consumers now have about buying online, including the convenience of shipping and not being greater faith in credit card information security, and the desire to make a more educated purchase. Increasingly, rather than go to the store to get educated, they want to go to the store already educated.

The Growing Role of Social Media

The study finds that consumers are seeking recommendations, but social media adds a personal touch to support a buying decision:

  • 24% of consumers will turn to social media for their holiday shopping this year.
  • Only 11% will rely on blogs or message boards. Although both sets of

It Depends on the Product

This doesn’t apply for all products, including everyday groceries and impulse items, where few consumers would bother to do extensive research.  The rule of thumb:

  • The higher the cost of the product the more time online or the more the product requires a change to behavior the more time they will spend researching it online.

Companies like Target do merchandising well, and should continue focusing there. However, for products like those offered by Apple, the web presence is integral, and Apple’s website is ranked one of the top eCommerce sites within the US.

This infographic from Infoys shows  the strength of offline marketing and how an offline strategy can run in conjunction with an organization’s online marketing efforts:

You Have To Pay To Play

Pamela Vaughan  of Hubspot writes a post titled Facebook Rolls Out ‘Promoted Posts’ to Extend the Reach of Your Page’s Content. It explains Facebook’s new tool that enables you to extend the reach of your Facebook page’s organic content through Promoted Posts. This is a paid offering that allows page admins to promote recent posts and extend their reach beyond the normal exposure they’d get in fans’ news feeds.

Why is it offered? According to Ms. Vaughan:

Traditionally, the reach of the organic content you post to your Facebook business page has been limited by the scope of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. In other words, when you posted an update to your page, that update would only reach a limited number of your fans’ news feeds, because Facebook’s algorithm ranks and shows content based on the likely interest of a given user.

Promoted Posts now increases the percentage of fans your Facebook page’s organic content reaches, but only if you pay for it – a new strategy to monitize Facebook. However, Facebook isn’t revealing exactly how much more that percentage is. They will only say this:

Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your Page than would normally see it. It will also be seen by a larger percentage of the friends of people who interact with your post. – Facebook

How It Works

For a fee, you can promote a post on your Facebook Page, including status updates, photos, offers, videos, and questions. This generatse sponsored stories that get delivered to  desktop and mobile news feeds, rather than the right-hand sidebar where ads are normally displayed. They are seen by people who are already fans of your page and friends of people who have liked, shared, commented, or claimed an offer from the promoted post.) These promoted stories are marked as “Sponsored” in news feeds, and run for up to 3 days after the post is  created. The tool is reportedly being rolled out to all Facebook pages that have at least 400 fans.

Uses for Promoted Posts

Promoted Posts can help marketers get more exposure for organic Facebook content, since, according to Facebook, fans spend 2x more on average than non-fans. Ms. Vaughan recommends this form of paid offering for the following purposes:

  • Posts about lead-gen marketing offers such as ebook landing pages.
  • Posts about marketing events such as webinar or live event registrations.
  • Posts about specials, discounts, or Facebook Offer coupons to drive in-store or on-site ecommerce sales.
  • Posts about new product or service launches.
  • Posts about important company news and other updates.
One of the advantages of this is that Facebook ad Manager provides robust tracking tools to measure the success of your efforts, which are explained in this post.

promo stats

promo stats 2

Hubspot provides detailed instructions on how to use Promoted Posts.  Facebook has also produced an overview video at

Many Voice Objections

Many object to the slick and surreptitious manner in which a supposedly free social network is being monetized. Here are some of the criticisms people are raising:

This comment appears on the Yoga for Cynics Facebook Page:

Facebook is now pushing administrators to pay to promote every post/update from their page. In an attempt to make page administrators pay for “promoted posts,” Facebook will now only let 7% of you receive each update we post, meaning that now, in order to receive all our messages/posts, you must do the following:

1) Go to the Yoga for Cynics page. Note how clever and insightful the contents are.
2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “ADD TO INTERESTS LISTS”

By doing this, you will be able to see all of our posts in your news feed.

Bonnie Sandy provides the following frank feedback to Ms. Vaughan’s article:

Am I the only one that takes issue with an algorithm that controls your post views, followed with a package to have those post appear higher! Brooklyn hustlers have nothing on these guys! That just sounds like highway robbery.

Facebook…turned off the features that allowed us to communicate with [fans] then changed [the] algorithm so a 28-30% interaction is now down to 7% (overnight) now the ask to Promote post… seriously! –

Tony Argyle writes:
The fact that Facebook already censors information to page Likers because of what they deem ” relevant” is unacceptable – now they are suddenly prepared to make it relevant because you’re prepared to pay them?..and it appears to not even be pay per click. We’re about to discover less and less people will see anything on our pages until Facebook gets money. The fact that, in many cases you’ve already paid for a Facebook ad to generate the Likes doesn’t seem to stop Facebook from charging – a Like will soon be practically worthless.

 Bars4Bikers writes:
I noticed this yesterday, and I have a huge problem with it. We’ve all worked hard to get our “likes” and now Facebook is saying that they’ll let more of the people who already like our page see our posts for a fee? If it would impression on people who don’t already like the page, I could see where it would be great. This is extortion.

And Lee of the Buddhist Humor Page writes:

Last spring people saw their exposure rates plummet from 20 – 30% down to 7% due to the newsfeed algorithm changing. So under the old model, you posted a status update and if you had 1000 “talking about” regulars, you could pretty much expect 200 – 350 of them would see that post. Now, it’s capped at 70 unless you PAY.


Facebook’s IPO offer didn’t inspire much confidence, and their business model as an advertising platform has raised questions. I have already called attention to a little-known problem with their pay-per-click model – a problematic algorithm that in effect overcharges for clicks that have little or no expected engagement or conversions. The lack of fairness and transparency means that you should closely evaluate the return you are getting from your Facebook marketing.

Related Post


, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley has written an article targeted at people like me (maybe you, too?) – independent thinking, but cynical thinkers tired of political rhetoric from either side.

Before delving into his advice for us, let’s peer into the mind of a cynic, and show what it is that has turned us into what Professor Reich considers cynics.

Advisory: If you’d like to cut to the chase and see the lessons for Marketing, just skip through to the last section!

The Case for Cynicism

There seems to be plenty of cause for cynicism. For one thing, scholars note that the United States is not a pure democracy, but a polyarchy of ruling elites who believe that we, the voters, are largely ignorant of issues and policies, lack the competence to participate in public life, and do not care to participate in the political process.

Elite Control: One of these elites, Walter Lippmann, wrote In Public Opinion (1922), that a “governing class” must rise to face the new challenges in a period in which the stability of the government was threatened by democratization. According to Wiki:

He argued that distorted information was inherent in the human mind. People make up their minds before they define the facts, while the ideal would be to gather and analyze the facts before reaching conclusions…Lippmann called the notion of a public competent to direct public affairs a “false ideal.” He compared the political savvy of an average man to a theater-goer walking into a play in the middle of the third act and leaving before the last curtain.

Early on Lippmann said the herd of citizens must be governed by “a specialized class whose interests reach beyond the locality.” This class is composed of experts, specialists and bureaucrats. The experts, who often are referred to as “elites,” were to be a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the “omnicompetent citizen.”

Meet the 99%: One isolated quack? Hardly.  An integral part of the power structure, Lippmann was an informal adviser to several presidents, and was presented by President Lyndon Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The views of Lippmann and Gabriel Almond produced what became known as the Almond-Lippmann consensus, summarized on the basis of 3 principles:

  1. Public opinion is volatile, shifting erratically in response to the most recent developments. 
  2. Public opinion is incoherent, lacking an organized or a consistent structure to such an extent that the views of U.S. citizens could best be descried as “nonattitudes.”
  3. Public opinion is irrelevant to the policy-making process. Political leaders ignore public opinion because most Americans can neither “understand nor influence the very events upon which their lives and happiness are known to depend.”

Cynical enough? Certainly no more so than a political candidate who represents the interests of the economic elites, but attempts to conceal it by changing his positions to suit the audience. It might be said that these entitled opportunists are are the true cynics.

So What Does All This Have to Do With Economics?

Framing Reality: Austin O’Malley wrote, “A hole is nothing at all, but you can break your neck in it.” The same can be said of abstract phrases like “liberty,” “justice,” “freedom,” “democracy” and the “free market.” Abstract as they are, elites in the defense, energy and other industries readily use these notions to lead our youth into harm’s way in foreign interventions, treating the public as pawns in a game of chess.

Economic Stockholm Syndrome: Ironically, if you are fortunate enough to have a job, and even more fortunate to have a career, the impulse is to forget that you are dispensable and internalize the values of the elite class, a variant of Stockholm Syndrome. Both the Republicans who buy the theory of supply side economics, resurrected in its current form as job-creator worship, and the Democrats who believe that their representatives will pass meaningful legislation that the economic elites won’t get around, are being systematically hoodwinked. This is the result of a two-party system and media that answers to a common corporate agenda, but shapes public opinion around distracting ideological issues that divide people into opposing left/right camps through bias confirmation.

The sound bites you hear from either political camp, amplified by the media and peer repetition, are carefully sculpted to manipulate and distract you from the underlying fact that corporate personhood has trampled individual rights. Economically, you are a manufactured product, conditioned to find secondary reinforcement in shopping for things you don’t really need, but are taught to desire. Politically, you are a rubber stamp for corporate agendas.

Is There a Way Out?

Meet Marketing’s Evil Twin: As a Marketer, I continue to focus on honesty, clarity and responsiveness to consumer needs. But, as in any discipline, there is a dark side, and Marketing’s evil twin, psychological coercion is extraordinarily effective. Is there a way out? Wiki notes that John Dewey thought so:

Philosopher John Dewey (1859–1952) agreed with Lippmann’s assertions that the modern world was becoming too complex for every citizen to grasp all its aspects, but Dewey, unlike Lippmann, believed that the public could form a “Great Community” that could become educated about issues, come to judgments and arrive at solutions to societal problems.

So the alternative to cynicism isn’t starry-eyed idealism, but education. This has been a continual focus of this blog. Professor Reich agrees. He writes:

This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core…Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all. The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages — all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel. Then America is entirely theirs.

Economic Action List

Action as an Alternative to Cynicism: Reich’s alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics to create a progressive force that can’t be ignored. Reich suggests a clear set of demands, to include these:

  • Make it our goal to reverse Citizens United, even if it takes a constitutional amendment. And have public financing of elections (including requiring the media to provide free political advertising as part of their commitment to public service).
  • Also break up the biggest banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act.
  • Put a 2 percent surtax on wealth in excess of $3 million. And a one-tenth of 1 percent transaction tax on every financial transaction. And restore top tax rates to what they were before Ronald Reagan became president. Use half this revenue to pay down the national debt and half to make sure every American has a world-class education.
  • Put a tax on carbon, and use the revenues to reduce or replace payroll taxes.
  • Have a single-payer health-care system that delivers care at far less cost than our current balkanized and inefficient one.

Isn’t Politics “the Art of the Possible?

Reich points out that, no matter how rotten the system now is, we’ve done it before:

I remember when progressives joined with African-Americans to get enacted the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I remember when progressives stopped the Vietnam War. When women finally got freedom of choice over their own bodies. When the Environmental Protection Act became law.

Who would have imagined two decades ago that America would elect an African-American as President of the United States? Who would have supposed gays and lesbians would begin to achieve equal marriage rights? Of course we can take America back. Stop complaining and start organizing.

It Starts With Attentive Research: I suppose I needed that kind of swift kick to awaken me from complacency. What about you? Do you still cling to the artificial and essentially meaningless ideologies used to frame the issues, or do you the research economics outside the box of Fox so-called News and MSNBC to get to the real truths about economics, science and the hidden powers behind the political light show?

The Middle Road Between Idealism and Cynicism Is Attentiveness

Be Attentive: In retrospect, it isn’t me who is the dyed in the wool cynic. The real cynics are the ones who use rhetorical mechanisms of psychological control to promote a concealed agenda. I am just a realist in the face of the ideological canards of supply side economics and libertarianism and the false gods of national defense, finance and energy. I am just barely smart enough to discern that the national budget deficit these interests create is a tactic of control to put forth a false argument for austerity and further the erosion of individual economic initiative.

Engage!: As Robert Reich points out, a vote against a plutocratic candidate isn’t enough;  the corporate corruption is pervasive in both political parties. The necessary second step, according to Reich is engagement:

Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who’s elected, commit at least three hours every week to political organizing and mobilizing. Connect with other progressives in your city and state. Help find and recruit new progressive candidates to run against Republicans in swing states, and against conservative Democrats. Support the members of the progressive caucus in Congress. Raise money. Raise a ruckus.

Execute with Rigor: This is where Occupy Wall Street failed. In contrast to the Tea Party, self-interested business leaders coopting an ideologically conditioned, bewildered citizenry, OWS are educated folks who understand economics, yet underestimate what it takes to counter a massive wrecking ball. The lesson in the way that OWS was denied their supposed right to assembly, and that the Tea Party was coopted by corporate sponsors is that these movements have lacked the organization and discipline to engage in sustained roots-based effort.

So, my corollary to Robert Reich’s recommendation is as follows:

Support the next true grass roots democratization movement – one that represents the economic interests of the 99% in the form of coherent economic policies that:

  • Restrain corporate personhood, big energy and defense’s adventurism in the name of national security and a few temporary “jobs,” large agribusiness, big banking, overseas outsourcing, privatization, and other oligarchic power grabs.
  • Empower small enterprise, equal opportunities regardless of class, gender or nation of origin, through federal investment in education, public projects, immigration reform, and meaningful regulation.
  • Insist on transparency – meaning, primarily, an end to the corporate-controlled media agenda, public campaign financing that excludes corporate funding and outlaws distorted campaign rhetoric. Let’s make honesty a requirement for public office, and the cynical political rhetoric of the spin doctors illegal.

In a word, it’s about empowerment.

Applications to Marketing: Empower the Consumer

Thanks for hanging in this long! Yes, this is all leading somewhere.
The mental discipline required to see through the what you already believe, ie. “think outside the box” is what marketers need now more than ever to be better marketers.  It’s easy to get stuck in the Lippmann-eque elitist rut of treating consumers as impressionable masses who need to be conditioned to desire things they don’t really need. But social media has made consumers more empowered today.
The Door to Consumer Democracy Is Now Open: Advertisements and slogans that tell consumers what to think no longer work. They now interact through social media and know how to research products for themselves. The door to consumer democracy has been opened, and there’s no going back.  Today’s marketing needs to respect the integrity of the individual in an age of consumer empowerment. We can no longer frame the issue, and tell them what they want, but have to listen to them carefully and respond honestly and appropriately. They’ve learned to see through spin and rhetoric. Unless we offer them value in the form of information and superior service, they are fully prepared to go to a competitor. The marketer who learns how they think, and what they require will succeed where competitors fail.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage,” now available in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Next Page »