Too predictable. Stale.

Life would be beyond boring if we always knew what was going to happen next.

Failure is acceptable, encouraged even, if you know why and how to get better. 💪💪

Actually, most of the things we try in business or life are unpredictable. That’s what makes them worth investing in.

Anxiety over the end result is worthless if you are trying something bold.

When failure (inevitably) comes, ask:

-> Why did it fail? 🤔
-> Did I impact the end result?
-> How did I approach the problem?
-> What am I going to do differently next time?

Wasted energy is when we can’t answer these questions, because then we haven’t improved.

Dream big. Get better. Repeat.


The biggest criticism of marketers is that we’re fake.

Always looking to sell.

How do you counteract that perception?

Give highly valuable things away for free. Don’t ask for anything in return. Repeat.

This creates a brand. And strong brands are more valuable than any pitch.

Trending in Marketing #14

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Be a small part of something big.

Ambition is admirable but it can lead to disappointment.

We compare ourselves to the high achievers and wonder why we are stuck in the minor leagues.

The truth is that most people are average.

We only ever hear about the top 0.1% of companies, marketers, athletes and celebrities.

Based on probability alone, it’s hard to expect we’ll ever get that good.

What we do have control over is where we hitch a ride.

Do we go all-in on an industry like oil and gas that everyone expects to decline? (please don’t)

Or do we attach our story to the proven winners. Do we look forwards or backwards?

It’s ok to be a small part of something bigger.

Like a barnacle attached to a whale, there are now hundreds of businesses globally that hitch a ride alongside a bigger behemoth. And that strategic decision is their reason for success.

Microsoft, Xero, Atlassian, Github… there are a lot of whales.

You don’t have to be the top 0.1%. You can also be a barnacle. (inspiring imagery… I know)



Be the barnacle

On all of the sports team I follow the players are now significantly younger than me.

After a quick cry, it’s time to accept that I will never make it to the NBA.

What next?

We can still achieve great things, but it’s really hard forging a path from 0 to 100.

Instead of starting from scratch, think about the alternative options:

  • in what world am I not starting at 0
  • where do I have an unnatural advantage
  • where am I already above average
  • who is someone in my network who is closer to 100
  • how can I ‘be the barnacle’ to their whale

Hiten Shah @hnshah



It’s a big quote, but worth reading through to the end:

“To win, your company has to be the best at something. There’s just no way around it. Being “okay” is just not cutting it. The customer has too much choice. You need to be the best at creating winning customer value for a particular set of customers, or you are destined to be overtaken by a competitor who is.
Strategy is about choice: deciding where to play, and plotting a pathway to win in that game. You can’t win without being the best. You need to focus your resources on constantly improving your customer value and refining your customer targeting. Choose your customers, and build “the best” for them. The “best” doesn’t mean the highest quality. The reason for hiring you can vary a lot. It might be to save costs, so best is cheapest. It’s whatever that group of customers you sell to cares a lot about. It’s about being the best for a particular use case for a specific set of customers.
The ability to innovate on customer value at high speed must be a core capability of your company. It’s impossible to do so if your company is targeting all revenues indiscriminately. If you treat all revenues as equally desirable, you don’t have a strategy. This is what separates the winners from the losers.”

-Pep Laja

“Van Gogh averaged one painting every 4 days in addition to his 1100 drawings and sketches on the side. Talent is a gift, but the best pair it with consistent execution.”

-Bri Kimmel (source)

“You can have the greatest product in the world, but if people don’t understand your why or what your product is being hired to do, you aren’t going to go far. The number one skill every entrepreneur needs to learn is how to be a strong storyteller.”

-Harvey Finklestein (source)



Early employees with equity at startup successes like Google, Facebook and Apple are now multi-millionaires. They attached their barnacle to the right whale.

It’s not all about money. You might choose to attach your story to a cause or a community. (electric vehicles, nutrition, solar)

The questions we need to ask are:

  • what trends are emerging
  • what trends are sustainable
  • how can I attach myself

When I asked myself these questions I realised I needed to work for a software company in the tech industry. It might be different for you.

This is Marketing.




Leading isn’t stepping out.

It’s not making yourself different.

It’s gathering.

It’s unifying.

It’s guiding others forward.

Taking them with you.

You don’t leave others behind.

Instead, you prop them up, push them forward and applaud.


Invention requires failure.

“To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.

Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

-Jeff Bezos

Trending in Marketing #13

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The world is changing.

Traditional industries are becoming democratised, opening up access to all of us. The normal ones.

On Wednesday I saw that a company I have long admired, Gumroad, was opening a crowdsourced funding round.

For as little as $100 you could invest in a real tech company and own a part of something that usually only Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists have access to.

It took off, and I snuck in a small investment in time before they reached the $5m max raise.

It made me thing of disruption coming in other industries, which leads me to today’s Idea.



What does disruption and democratisation look like in your industry?

Take education. A prime example where the traditions of reputation and location-based learning have long been the status quo.

Platforms like Teachable, Udemy and Gumroad have exploded as individuals seek expert instruction remotely during the pandemic.

These platforms also make education more accessible to a more diverse range of people. You only need internet.

Forward-thinking institutions like the University of Illinois are disrupting the graduate degree market using technology that reduces faculty labor to scale programs to thousands of students at a discounted cost of $22,000 for an entire M.B.A. — leading to the retirement of its traditional residential degree offering. Source

Smart marketers see the future of their industry :

  • what happens if the status quo is disrupted?
  • what if everyone had access, not a select few?
  • what if we had 1,000 competitors flood the market? and,
  • what do we do to keep up?



“…people don’t buy products because of what those products do, they buy products because of what they can do — or what they imagine they can do — with them.”

-Zander Nethercutt (source)

“Instead of focusing on content for each phase of the traditional funnel, marketers need to create content at three depths: conceptual, strategic, and tactical. Keep in mind, however, that customers won’t necessarily go through these stages in order.”

-Ashley Faus (source)



Sitting still is going backwards. This is because the world keeps spinning.

Innovation is happening around us whether we can see it or not.

The question is: can you keep up?

The first thing I say to Marketing graduates is that they need to learn marketing again.

Unfortunately, Universities can’t keep up with the trends in the industry.

No marketing textbook will mention NFT’s, and very few will mention TikTok influencers simply because they were printed in January 2021. Too late.

And it’s no easier for those of us with a few years under our belt. We need to keep up.

Though, for me at least, that’s what makes this whole career choice rather interesting.

This is Marketing.



P.S. Prioritise

P.P.S. Wistia created this TV-quality series, One, Ten, One Hundred, to discover the relationship between money and creativity. Enjoyable watch for marketers (and awesome brand content).

Customer First

In 2003 Amazon noticed that some of their customers forgot what they had ordered.

Without realising, customers were accidentally ordering the same product a second time.

There weren’t many complaints, but for Amazon, this wasn’t good enough.

Amazon are obsessed with the customer experience and wanted to fix it.

In 2003, Amazon introduced ‘Instant Order Update’, a simple notification banner that would alert customers when they had already purchased something.

This feature cost Amazon money and sales dropped, because customers didn’t buy as much by mistake.

Amazon doesn’t win design awards for the prettiest website.

Instead, they focus on being genuinely helpful.

They prioritise long term customer relationships over short term revenue.

They prioritise what’s right for the customer rather than turning a blind eye.

They prioritise the experience over the latest design trends.

This feature is not the reason Amazon is a successful company.

However, the decision to prioritise features like this reflects the attitude that has made Amazon successful.

Customer first.

Do we have the guts to do the right thing, obsessing over customer problems – even if it costs us time and might even cost us money?

Trending in Marketing #12

You can subscribe to my email newsletter, Trending in Marketing, right here:

Before you read any further I wanted to say thank you for subscribing to Trending in Marketing in 2020.

This newsletter started as an experiment and a way to share some of the best content out there to make us all better marketers.

I really appreciate you opening this email and sharing it with your friends and colleagues.

I’m going to be simplifying the format of this email going forward to make it easier to read.


Time Anxiety

According to Anne-Laure Le Cunff, time anxiety is the fear of wasting your time.

Wasted time leads to a wasted potential. Wasted potential is a wasted opportunity to make an impact.

How can you combat time anxiety?

  • define your mission
  • focused prioritisation
  • defend your time ruthlessly
  • get 1% better every day

Read more about Time Anxiety.



“If it’s easy it isn’t worth doing. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Nick Huber

“Product Market Fit isn’t a thing. I’m not even sure it’s a useful concept for startups.”

-April Dunford (source)



What are the hard things you’ve been putting off?

There are pieces missing that would make you a better marketer.

How are you going to tackle those this year? How will you resist the distractions?

Your potential is too valuable to waste.

This is Marketing.



P.S. Optimise or Build

Small things

“People spend too much time doing and not enough time thinking about what they should be doing.”

-Naval Ravikant

Do you ever stop and think: is this the right thing to be working on?

Do you make time to prioritise?

Life is short – time spent on the wrong thing is waste.

Be ruthless. Cut the busy-work.

Pick one important thing and do it well.

Storytelling and Bunnings Warehouse

In Australia we all love Bunnings.

Bunnings Warehouse is where you buy anything you need for your home.

You can buy Christmas lights, herbs and a waterslide.

You can support your local football club by purchasing a sausage.

The staff smile at you and say hello each time you walk past, almost like they mean it.

For a wholesome business, they make a lot of money.

In FY20, Bunnings did $14.9 billion in revenue, up 14% YoY. They have 50% market share of all DIY-related spend in Australia.

They are owned by Australian conglomerate Westfarmers, who also own Kmart, Officeworks, Target, Catch, and, oh yeah, Coles.

What you may not realise is that the Bunnings brand and in-store experience is meticulously crafted.

It’s no accident that you feel the way you feel when you walk through the front doors.

Every time you step into any of the 300+ stores you will find that your experience is very similar.

Every time you hear the ‘Lowest prices are just the beginning’ jingle on TV you might think of hot summers, building things in the backyard or how you really need to buy a new BBQ.

The team behind Bunnings are master storytellers.

This brand didn’t evolve by accident. Every touch, smile and smell is produced on purpose, designed as part of a narrative to forget the reason you came and keep you coming back.

The story that Bunnings are trying to tell us is that they are the cheapest place to buy the things you need and the staff are local, friendly people just like you.


  1. The warehouse

Bunnings is not a warehouse. It is based on the American ‘mega-store’ strategy, where it feels like prices are cheaper simply because there is so much stock.

The sheer scale of choice and space makes you think that this is the place Bunnings have chosen to store all their spare products and as a result you’re in for a bargain.

Of course this is not true.

The space, smell and dirty floors are all psychological tactics to draw you in to get you to spend more than you intended.

Some mega-store executives have joked that it costs more to keep the floors dirty than clean.

Cleaners are probably instructed to keep the floors just the right amount of dusty.

It’s all part of the narrative.

2. Pricing

Bunnings often choose to price stock using irregular numbers. For example, they sell hammers for $8.45, $37.97, and $62. 

Apparently the theory is a that by using specific numbers it will make customers think the price has been lowered to warehouse level prices.

Every price in the store is intentional. And they are constantly experimenting with stock placement, pricing and merchandise to find what works.

Most things you need are intentionally located towards the back of the store, to get you to walk through as many aisles as possible. (also the same reason why milk is at the back in the supermarket)

3. Staff in ads

Bunnings staff are trained to smile and ask if you need anything. This is good old fashioned customer support.

They also use real staff members in their ads, instead of paid actors, to give off the vibe that they are an authentic, local shop run like small business.

Bunnings don’t want to give the impression that they are wasting money on flashy ads, because this could mean prices are inflated.

It’s all part of the story.

Cool story, what does this mean for me?

Everything we do tells our customer a story about who we are and who are products are for.

Every bug

Every support request

Every podcast

Every blog post

Every release

Every email

Every interaction is a signal to our users about who the product is for, or should be for.

If we don’t control the story, we leave it open to interpretation. (think Westworld)

Two questions to reflect on:

  1. What story do we want to tell?
  2. Are we telling a consistent story?

In other words; if our floors are dusty, let’s make sure they are dusty every day.