S02E07 – New Better Best

Talking About Marketing Podcast by Steve Davis and David Olney

With news and events sites like Glam Adelaide and CityMag feeding us a fare of headlines spruiking the new and novel, how do tried-and-true businesses survive and thrive?

Continuing on from our discussion in episode 6, The lost art of delayed gratification, this time, David and Steve ponder the challenges we all face when the marketplace is full of businesses and media working overtime to be "novel".

Despite needing to do some ethical gymnastics, they stumble upon a marketing mix that might help you have your cake and eat it too, without selling your soul (or your business).

You might recall how much Steve fell in love with the classic Russian novel, Anna Karenina, over summer. Well, this time he's fallen for a contemporary novel writting in the sweeping but observational style of Russian literature, A Gentleman In Moscow.

His insight for all of us, related to a particular passage about the twice chiming clock.

In the Problems section, Steve shares some thoughts on when you should or shouldn't consider paying for support for WordPress themes.

And in Perspicacity, the Mastercard Priceless ads are in the spotlight, including a particularly naughty one that might not be safe to listen to at work!

Talking About Marketing podcast episode notes with timecodes

01:50  Person  This segment focusses on you, the person, because we believe business is personal.

A Gentleman In Moscow

The novel, A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles, comes highly recommended by Steve if you have the mindset that allows you to slowly devour a story that is succulent in every detail.

The book revolves around the fictional character, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is a Russian aristocrat. When he returns to Russia in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, his death sentence for being a "social parasite" is changed to one of staying within the walls of the Hotel Metropol in central Moscow, for the rest of his life. To take one step outside would mean instant execution.

Towards the end of the book, having received guardianship of a little girl, Sofia, he is asked by the child why his heirloom clock only chimes twice a day. His explanation is something of note to all of us engaged in our enterprises, either as business founders or leaders.

As you hear in the excerpt, his father wanted the clock to chime at noon as a sign that one's well-earned lunch break is now. The Count's father believed that if you'd been up since sunrise, you should have completed your day's work by noon, especially because the lack of hourly chimes would mean a lack of distraction.

Likewise, the only other chime was to happen at midnight and if you heard it, the Count's father would argue you have not gone to bed early enough to maintain this disciplined regimen.

For us, the notion of hiding clocks or other signals that draw our attention and make us anxious about deadlines, could well be the key to deeper, longer bouts of concentration and productivity.

But what of rewards? The father believed that having worked a full day by noon, one should be able to spend the afternoon in pursuits of interest and curiosity without any guilt.

Let us know what you think about this.

09:50  Principles  This segment focusses principles you can apply in your business today.

I Only Want New

Billy Joel sang, in The Entertainer, that he knew where he stood. He knew he was just another serenader, your current champion, but that if he didn't stay in the charts we'd soon forget him and he'd be "put out the back in the discount rack like another can of beans."

It's a sobering thought but one that is realistic, especially in the fickle sector of fashion and entertainment.

We have noticed the dominant culture in social magazines and sites like Glam Adelaide and CityMag, that headline space only goes to "new and novel" things.

Here's a sampling taken at the time of recording:

  • COMING SOON: Owner's of Ovo Gelato are set to open Adelaide's newest authentic pizza restaurant, Padrino ... bringing incredible Italian cuisine and ...
  • NEW: A river-side pizza restaurant and brewery with cheese and beer-making classes on site? We can't wait! Stay in the loop and subscribe to our…
  • NEW PIZZA JOINT in the western suburbs … Westside Pizza Joint Whipping Up Cheeseburger Pizzas Has Landed ... satisfy all your devilish cravings with a cheeseburger pizza only on offer …

It must be a disincentive to try to craft something of solid, lasting value, when media buzz and energy is constantly focussed on the latest fad; invest money in a new gin bar that serves drinks in glasses made from cardboard from wine cartons, get a hit of publicity, and then never rate a mention again until you go out of business.

It can be a vicious game and soul-destroying if your values are around considerate consumption and enduring value.

That said, while building up a loyal audience through quality and word of mouth is a solid gameplan, occasional flirts with fantasy seem to be wise to introduce you to new people who might then become your loyal tribe.

Listen to the podcast to think this approach through further.

19:40  Problems  This segment answers questions we've received from clients or listeners.

Paying For Support Is Wise

We've been working with Donna on a web project and have needed to use a product for her WordPress site made by Radius Themes.

As is common, premium products sometimes come with six months support and just as her allocation of time was up, we had a few more question.

The Radius team was brilliant throughout, sending back helpful, custom videos and instructions to sort our issues.

It was an easy decision to page $20 to extend support for another six months.

Sometimes, in the WordPress environment, it's easy to get stuck in "free" mode and neglect the value that comes from paying for premium services and products.

21:47  Perspicacity  This segment is designed to sharpen our thinking by reflecting on a case study from the past.


Unless you consume zero media, it's hard not to be aware of the Mastercard Priceless campaigns.

These ads usually show the dollar value of certain items but then, when showing how these items were used to enjoy time together with family or friends, the tagline notes that such times are ultimately priceless.

Like this one, from 1997.

You might be surprised to hear that both Steve and David were glowing over the enduring value of the messaging in these campaigns.

This is because they tap an eternal truth; money can't buy you love but it is needed to buy the supporting things that you need to survive so as to be able to love.

In researching this ad, we discovered a strange strand of marketing called subviral marketing, nicely defined in this Guardian article:

Subviral marketing is a topsy-turvy trend that's said to be being pioneered by brands including Budweiser, Ford, Levi's and Mastercard. While traditional viral attachments feature short, slapstick video clips stamped with the brand's logo and web address, subviral campaigns are carefully shot to seem like they were produced by an internet prankster.

The Mastercard reference relates to a cheeky ad brought to our attention by our editor, Tim. This might not be considered safe for work, so watch with caution.

For the record, we are not suggestion you use subviral marketing. The risks outweigh the rewards.

TRANSCRIPT  This is a transcript of the episode. Please note, although checked briefly, this was crafted by an AI tool and will contain errors. For quoting purposes, always check against the original audio.

Caitlin Davis: [00:00:00] Talking about marketing is a podcast for business owners and leaders, produced by my dad, Steve Davis, and his colleague at Talked About Marketing, David Olney, in which they explore marketing through the lens of their own four P's, person, principles, problems, and perspicacity. Yes, you heard that correctly.

Apart from their love of words, they really love helping people. So they hope this podcast will become a trusted companion on your journey in business.

Steve Davis: New, better, best. Never let it rest till the new becomes better and the better is best. Your response,

David Olney: David? I'm trying to work out if I'd want the new, the better or the best. And I've realized throughout life that the new is normally novel, the best is normally [00:01:00] really expensive, and the better being somewhere in the middle.

It's kind of what I normally pick.

Steve Davis: Oh, the Goldilocks choice.

David Olney: Yep. Well. Exactly. The perfect bowl of porridge.

Steve Davis: It's, which sums up our pod, in fact, please leave a review, someone, in your favorite podcast app to say, talking about marketing in the realm of marketing podcasts is the perfect bowl of porridge.

We'll be forever in your debt. You might even see David and I can join you. For breakfast one morning,

Caitlin Davis: Our four peas, number one person, the aim of life is self-development to realize one's nature perfectly. That is what each of us is here for. Oscar Wild.

Steve Davis: In the person segment, I am going to share an addiction. David. It's my second [00:02:00] similar addiction that I've had since 2023 began, and it's the Russian style of novel. I did read Anna Karenina, which actually is a classic Russian novel over summer or listen to it. It was fantastic. I was lost. You remember, I was just...

dribbling on the floor in Gaga land, just swept away by how beautiful the writing was, how all absorbing. Remember that?

David Olney: I do. And I'm a huge war and peace fan. So, you know, I like the even bigger novel, which is probably not a good thing for people who haven't started either of them.

Steve Davis: No, but a gentleman in Moscow is an amazing book. It's actually written by an American, Amor Towles, and he's done it deliberately in the style of the classic Russian novel. So it's, cut a long story short, the gentleman in question is someone of a landed gentry [00:03:00] who around the time 1917 thereabouts, what happens in Russia is the proletariat rise up and they kill some of the, the bourgeoisie others arrested this man.

gets put under house arrest in the hotel he was living in, and he is told that he must spend the rest of his days in the hotel metropole, and that's fine, he can live there forever, but he puts one foot outside that hotel. he will be shot on sight. And it sounds like, well, that's not going to be much happening in that book.

I tell you, every page is succulent. However, from us in the person segment, looking after the person, there's a quote in this book, a passage in which he explains to a little girl who he has to take responsibility for why the grandfather clock he's inherited from his dad is a twice chiming clock. It only [00:04:00] chimes at midday and midnight.

Let's have a listen to this passage.

Book: Quite simply, the Count's father had believed that while a man should attend closely to life, he should not attend too closely to the clock. A student of both the Stoics and Montaigne, the Count's father believed that our Creator had set aside the morning hours for industry. That is, if a man woke no later than six, engaged in a light read past, And then applied himself without interruption, by the hour of noon, he should have accomplished a full day's labor.

Thus, in his father's view, the toll of twelve was a moment of reckoning. When the noon bell sounded, the diligent man could take pride in having made good use of the morning. and sit down to his lunch with a clear conscience. But when it sounded for the frivolous man, the man who had squandered [00:05:00] his morning in bed, or on breakfast with three papers, or on idle chatter in the sitting room, he had no choice but to ask for his Lord's forgiveness.

In the afternoon, the Count's father believed that a man should take care not to live by the watch in his waistcoat, marking the minutes as if the events of one's life were stations on a railway line. Rather, having been suitably industrious before lunch, he should spend his afternoon in wise liberty.

That willows. Read a timeless text, converse with a friend beneath the pergola, or reflect before the fire, engaging in those endeavors that have no appointed hour and that dictate their own beginnings and ends. And the second chime? The Count's father was of the mind that one should never hear it. If one had lived one's day well, [00:06:00] in the service of industry, liberty, and the Lord, one should be soundly asleep long before twelve.

So the second chime of the twice tolling clock was most definitely a remonstrance. What are you doing up, it was meant to say? Were you so profligate with your daylight that you must hunt about for things to do in the dark?

Steve Davis: So there we have it. I wonder how that advice holds that you should be up early, be industrious, and by the time it's midday, you should have done a solid day's work with that sense of satisfaction that you've earned the right to enjoy your lunch, and then you can have Bye. Bye. Lovely pastimes in the afternoon, and you should be, if you are up early, and you are being industrious, then there's no way you should be hearing the midnight stroke.

You should be fast [00:07:00] asleep. Is there some enduring value for us out of that philosophy, David?

David Olney: I think very much so from the personal perspective, and it is that there's a time of day where it's totally fine to work hard, but we shouldn't work hard all day. And our lives are run by the clock. Again, the number of times in a day I touch the screen of my Apple Watch to make it save the time.

I would hate to know how many times I do that in an average day, seeing my life is so governed by a clock. But part of the reason I try and do it too, like in the book, is that so by 7 p. m. I don't have to know what the time is anymore.

Steve Davis: Yes, and that's a liberation that comes with that.

David Olney: Exactly. It's knowing that at a certain point, even working in multiple time zones like I do, that it comes to an end.

And if you want to enjoy the work and, you know, be open to tomorrow being an exciting day, rather than a, a drudge of a repetition of today, Then you need some time [00:08:00] off at the end of every day, some time to do something you enjoy with the people you care about, otherwise... The days become indistinguishable of just work for the sake of work, and that is a real risk for people in small business, that they always know what needs to be done tomorrow, and they think thinking about it all the way until bedtime today is somehow going to make that work go faster tomorrow.

And in my experience of mentoring people, that's just not the case. What they tend to do is get stuck in an anxiety loop of thinking about it. Not really define what they're going to do, think about it again. Not really define what they do until the whole day is gone and the minute they get to work tomorrow, they still really haven't decided what they're going to do with the issue.

And yet, they wasted the chunk of yesterday that could have made all their efforts more worthwhile.

Steve Davis: Yeah, so perhaps the thing we take away from this segment At this time is there's possibly [00:09:00] some wisdom in the way that the father said, you get the industrious stuff done first, because then you can release that handbrake and.

Whereas I'm not sure it would work the other way around because you'd always be thinking or it's my free time over yet Whereas in his model the free time is over He's just starting to get a bit droopy and a bit tired and nature takes it takes its course

David Olney: And we have enough listeners who are farmers and they all know you do the work first

Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps number two Principles. You can never be overdressed or overeducated. Oscar Wild.

Steve Davis: I think Billy Joel is singing the Truth and he sang that truth back in the 1970s. [00:10:00] about how fast paced fame is. I mean, Andy Warhol talk about spoke about 15 minutes of fame back in that era. And here he is saying, look, if I, I might've won your hearts today, but you'll forget my name. If I don't stay on the charts, I'll be gone.

And I think that's eyes wide open, but my sense is that whole process of chewing up. And spewing out our favorites, our affections we have for stars is probably at a faster pace. Might not even have the same deep or intensity as it used to, but that's a little bit of a generalization. I'm sure there are still people head over heels for Taylor Swift in that classic way, but for us thinking about this from a marketing perspective.

This seems to be a curse that we have landed on because it's not just the, the Billy Joel's of the world who have to stay in the charts, but how business has a battle to stay top of mind. And we're doing this at a [00:11:00] time where. Most people's minds are buried in their phones, David.

David Olney: Yeah, we are constantly competing with every other thing that can be presented on a small screen with lovely bright colors and nice sound effects.

And, you know, the irony, I think, of Billy Joel's perspective on this is the melancholy of that realization probably contributed to why he's such an amazing songwriter and an amazing performer. He understood the fickleness of fame, but also the drive he had. To keep making beautiful music. So what an irony to know that you've got a drive to keep doing the thing you do.

But that doesn't mean it will necessarily resonate. And that you'll be able to maintain the heights of your fame. That the ups and downs of fame. You know, I'm not necessarily going to parallel the consistent efforts of, you know, your skills and application.

Steve Davis: Yes. Cause the working brief we've got for this segment this time around is that quality is critical in our endeavor, whatever we're doing in our [00:12:00] business where we need to be achieving certain levels of quality, but it's not enough.

There needs to be a blend of novelty in the mix. And what happens is in between those peaks and troughs of novelty, grabbing people's attention, that's where quality sort of fills the gap and it evens things out between them. And depending on what you're in, what segment of society you're working in, of the economy, I think some things are more prone to this passing fancy phase than others, and certainly hospitality is one of them, and fashion.

If I may, David, I've just, a great example of this, it always Troubles me when I see an email or a post from Glam Adelaide or CityMag, or one of those sort of light publications. The focus on the story are things like this. Coming soon, owners of Ovo Gelato are [00:13:00] set to open. Dash, dash, dash. New pizza. Adelaide's newest authentic pizza restaurant Padrino, is set to open its doors this spring, bringing incredible Italian cuisine, blah, blah, blah.

New, a Riverside pizza restaurant. A Riverside pizza restaurant and brewery with cheese and beer making classes on site? We can't wait. And there's one more I found. Glam Adelaide, new pizza joint in the western suburbs. West side pizza joint, whipping up cheeseburger pizzas has landed. Satisfy your devilish cravings with a cheeseburger pizza only, blah blah blah.

The thing we see there is, the new, is often just this random thing that's thrown in to grab our attention. Like a pizza that's cheeseburger style. Another one. That pizza place that just does cheese and beer making classes on site. Random [00:14:00] stuff, David. Maybe it's the price they feel they have to pay to buy attention.

David Olney: Well, it seems to me they're missing a massive opportunity. For every place they could tell us about is new. They could always tell us about the place that is still going strong. Because it makes a quality product, has great people working for it, and just keeps making little tweaks to make sure that customers have something new to look forward to in a quality place that keeps delivering.

So, to me, there is a short sightedness to this kind of, you know, fast journalism, fast reviewing. New isn't enough. New and quality It means we could talk about the place that survived 10 years, 15 years, and is still finding ways to look after its community.

Steve Davis: My understanding though is most of these stories are paid they're part of an advertising package, so I doubt there's money in the other ones, and I, I imagine that's what [00:15:00] fuels this as well.

David Olney: There, there's two sides to that. They're paid for, yes, but are they going out and looking for, hey, your thing's been successful for 10 years. What's the secret of your success? That's a great story, it wouldn't have a huge impact, and it's probably more persuasive to the person for whom that is the new place to go.

They just didn't know about it. So I still think here, it's an incomplete recognition of what we need to balance, and that is the quality that often takes time. And the new, which is adapting to make sure that people find you, people appreciate you, they see the subtle changes you make to make it even better or slightly different to engage a new audience, but without sacrificing the quality that got you there.

Steve Davis: It does make me. Recall the wisdom, I mean Seth Godin talks about it a lot, about getting the hundred people or the thousand people around you, or your remnant people who love what you do. [00:16:00] Because they're the ones who will be steadfast and look after you without... The panic and the expense of trying to chase, say, a Glam Adelaide story or a City Mag story, et cetera, because you might have to sell your soul at all to chuck cheeseburgers on your pizza just to buy that fresh bit of attention, and...

What's happening to those locals who are your loyal people who are hopefully staying with you. It's a, it's a weird dynamic that we've come to be. It must be hard if you're going to open up a hospo place, but in particular at the moment, I think there needs to be some deep thinking about there. And I think.

All we get is maybe, if you think of setting a fire, these sorts of stories are kindling. They burn bright for about three minutes and then they're gone. If there hasn't been the wood put down that can gradually grab that [00:17:00] flame and turn into an enduring coal it's just going to be heartache of always being in first gear.

revving your heart out to try and keep up with the changing needs of attention. It's, it's, it's bleak if you're trapped in that cycle.

David Olney: Yeah, it's a very destructive cycle and it really ignores that fact that if the hundred loyal people Bring a friend in every six months, and it's their first time they've been to your venue.

That's all you need to keep growing at a sensible pace, and then you can just gradually be responsive. And that, that kind of big fire that can be seen from distance, that is attractive because, well, guess what? It's now got logs around it, and stones around it, so you can't accidentally burn yourself. But you can sit on a log and watch the big fire, because the big fire's been going for a long time.

That's very appealing, because it then starts to have more of a community about it, rather than just novelty. So it seems to me [00:18:00] that in the era of less community connectedness, novelty has got a disproportionately high impact. And that there is a real chance to rebalance this with the long term thing of people who love what you do, bringing people for whom the first experience is novel.

But after that, they go on and become irregulars and then bring their friends along. That's a far better model to be aiming at.

Steve Davis: So taking a measured approach at playing them at their own game. Exactly. Mm. I think I need more Billy Joel.

They're getting put in the back of the discount rack like another can of beer.

Caitlin Davis: Our [00:19:00] four Ps. Number three, problems. I asked a question for the best reason possible. Simple curiosity. Oscar Wilde.

Steve Davis: Looking at problems now and things we talk about with clients from time to time, just one thing I wanted to mention briefly and that is there are some themes or plugins you buy for your WordPress website that you've actually paid for and sometimes they offer a paid Support plan. I've long been suspicious of many of these because I've very rarely ever needed them.

However, we're working with a client at the moment, Donna, and we're using a plugin from Radius Themes. And it did have some challenges in setting it up. And I must say the. Support was brilliant. You bundle together your email, you send it off to the support people. And typically in 24 hours, a detailed reply, often with a video to a company came back [00:20:00] and when our six months was up and they said, look, would you like to extend your Support, even though having come from small to medium business land, and we always look for everything for free, I've said to Donna, she agreed a hundred percent, let's pay that as 20, I think us to get another six months of support.

And especially at this point, while we're still just getting the final bits and pieces done, it's been valuable and helped us take it from being a pretty decent plugin we were using to really ticking all our boxes. In fact, Donna emailed me earlier this morning. She's just stoked. Over the moon with delight.

So I think do it judiciously, but don't dismiss when plugins do offer support. It can be worth it, especially if it's going to be a challenging one. And in the initial support period, they've proven themselves to honor what they've promised they would do.

David Olney: We need to remember that the economy of scale of development means that us spending a little bit of money can help the development curve [00:21:00] work so much better, and therefore the support curve works so much better.

Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps, number four, Perspicacity. The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it. Oscar Wilde.

Steve Davis: For the first time since we began this podcast, the post Bercasside y segment we're about to play has an adult only, not safe for work warning. Oh, I'm a bit nervous going forward, David, but I suppose you're just taking this in your stride, aren't you? Indeed. Because the concept, the ad that we're looking at to then ponder, would that work today, is the MasterCard priceless ads.

Again, late 90s. A lot of the stuff we look at often arose around the 1990s, but this is the classic. They had many variations. This is the baseball version of MasterCard.[00:22:00]

That is so good, David. That is such a beautiful message. The actual monetary cost of some of those things. Yeah, you know, that comes and goes. But the memories of that time he spent with his son at that game. That is priceless. I think this is one of those rare moments where the boffins and the advertising suite have actually really nailed a human truth.


David Olney: And why these ads continue to be relevant to this day.

Steve Davis: Yeah. Amazing stuff. And I think they would be. I think, I'm not sure if they're still running them, but I think there'd be no... Even with increased levels of cynicism, that's probably the only challenge, is making sure the stories they choose have relevance.

Would that be fair to say? Absolutely. Now, that's the [00:23:00] proper ad. But David, there is a, I don't want to call it a conspiracy theory, but there's a discussion within the realm of advertising that sometimes these brands, what they do is they make a spoof version, a mock up version of their ad. That is naughty, that pushes the boundaries because they know it will get shared and shared forever and be talked about and they do it at arm's length so that they can say, no, no, not us nothing to see here, move along.

And there's a Guardian article, we'll put the link in the show notes, where this is argued for quite forcefully that this is the case. It's a clever bit of subversive marketing that these brands get involved in. Are you comfortable with that approach to marketing, David?

David Olney: I'm not surprised it's happened, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am.

It's very clever, but I don't know if in the end it's good [00:24:00] for the brand or actually undermines the ad like we just played that anyone could hear. And unless they're very cynical, go, that's really well constructed ad and would make me think about, Hey, actually, maybe it is worth spending the money to do some things.

So I'll pull out my credit card.

Steve Davis: Well, let's have a listen. To a version of an ad that is still played many, many times on YouTube. It's the Mastercard, how do we say this? It's the blowjob commercial.

There you go. Now look, David. That is just, I think, comedy gold because of that slapstick thing, leaning with his hand on the intercom.

David Olney: Yeah, it's fantastic. Look, when it gets to that point, you just find yourself nearly crying from laughter. It's so good.

Steve Davis: Because it's a human foible. It's the accidental moment where you hit your head with your palm and go, what [00:25:00] have I just done?

David Olney: Yep. And it proves he's so focused on what he wants, he hasn't realized his hand's on a button.

Steve Davis: Yes, probably the better place for it to be. Now, David, do you think MasterCard made that ad?

David Olney: I think the agency quite possibly made it and then showed it to a select group of people at the company and said, you know, this could just go out in the wild if you want it to, because it would seem to me.

The people who could make the good versions of the ads from years ago could go, Hang on, we can flip this in a way where it will live forever, appeal to a different audience. And what's the wonderful description they're using for this sub viral? Like, it does sound like the kind of thing that a really slick, big agency could have up their sleeve going, If they like it, we use it.

If they don't, well, it was still a fun thing to make.

Steve Davis: Well, there you go. It's, I [00:26:00] believe the spokesperson from MasterCard has actually denied the fact that they had anything to do with it, but they would wash their hands of that particular topic, wouldn't they?

David Olney: Precisely, and that's the point. Them denying it helps, you know, keep it going strong on YouTube, if indeed it was related to them.

We really are back to Oscar Wilde here.

Steve Davis: There's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's not being talked about. Yeah. I think you're dead wrong. Precisely. Yeah. On that note, I mean... What they're showing there is the show goes on. That's a fantastic bit of show business, a great insight. In fact, you might even say it's priceless.

Caitlin Davis: Thank you for listening to Talking About Marketing. If you enjoyed it, please leave a rating or a review in your favorite podcast app. And if you found it helpful, please share it with others. Steve and David always welcome your comments and questions, so send them to podcast at talkaboutmarketing. com.

And finally, the last word to Oscar Wilde, there's only one thing worse than being [00:27:00] talked about, and that's not being talked about.

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