Bad Marketing Instagram Quote Design

I Kinda Hate It : A Lesson in Critiquing Bad Marketing

My boss was learning to use Instagram for business. She wanted to create some inspirational-quote-style posts and was playing around in Photoshop with surfing stock and borrowed words; you know, something nice and fluffy copy-pasted from Google.

She turned her computer screen to me to show the neat square she had been carefully working on. It included a cropped, pixelated barrel wave, dark text in some awful font (at least it wasn’t Comic Sans), which disappeared, unreadable, into the shadows of the photo. She asked me for my opinion.

“What do you think?”

I squirmed a little in my seat. I was still in my first few weeks on the job and had been the one to suggest playing around with Instagram in the first place. I tried to think of a less patronising way to say, “It’s a great first attempt. Shall we have another go later?” but instead, these words tumbled out of my mouth:

“I kinda hate it.”


Feedback and criticism from employer at work

Did she just say, “I kinda hate it”?

Luckily, my boss is brilliant! She trusts my judgement and has a great sense of humour. We laughed, Instagram was put on the back-burner and those four(ish) words became my catchphrase. In fact, I think I’ve actually been asked for my opinion more since then because my boss knows that I will be honest.

Speaking of inspirational quotes, here’s a great one that always seems to pop up when I’m using Canva:

“There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

– Milton Glaser, Designer.

I would add that there is one more response to add to that: I kinda hate it.

After accepting those fateful words as my catchphrase, I’ve started applying them to more things. I’ve said it about shoddy website design, spammy email campaigns, bad social media practices, that awful McDonald’s TV advert with the grieving boy and that horrendous viral Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner.

I’ve owned “I kinda hate it” and it has been liberating.

And just think – if someone at Pepsi or McDonald’s or wherever had said “I kinda hate it” too, then money and time would not have been wasted on bad marketing that offends and upsets people.


Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad Example of Bad Marketing

The now-banned Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad.

At work, we’re instructed to only offer criticism if it’s constructive, so that we’re sensitive to people’s feelings. We’re also told to give feedback based on the “sandwich method” – you know, the good followed by the bad and rounded off with something else good, so we supposedly don’t notice the bad:

“Hey, great job with *insert client name here* by the way! They were really pleased with *something specific you did*. Perhaps next time we could improve by *doing all these things differently*. Anyway, fantastic job there and thank you for your hard work.”

That’s all very nice, but we also see straight through it, don’t we?

I don’t know about you, but I often feel worse when someone gives me that fake “sandwich” feedback. It feels like they must think I’m too stupid to recognise that it’s criticism. And if my colleagues can’t talk to me honestly, then I feel like I can’t be or even shouldn’t be honest with them either.

Sound familiar?


The sandwich feedback method for criticism

The “sandwich” feedback method.

Basically, we’re all trapped in that space between pleasing our superiors and colleagues by agreeing with them and then challenging them with our own ideas in order to show our worth and also genuinely improve the work at hand.

So, let’s just say it. Let’s just be genuine. Authentic. Honest. Let’s say that we kinda hate it when we do.

That doesn’t mean we have to insult anyone personally or make someone feel bad about their work. You don’t have to break out of your office cubicle, dishing out the reads to your coworkers like a competitor on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

But, next time you’re asked your opinion on a piece of design or a marketing campaign that you don’t think is right, don’t shy away from saying exactly how it makes you feel.

Because the chances are if you kinda hate it, then your clients and customers will kinda hate it too.


Amy Poulton

Social Media Manager, HDK Marketing

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Cover

The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy | A Five Step Process

Technology has changed the way we think about marketing. It’s constantly evolving and progressing and with so many dynamic digital channels out there, we are desperate to sign up to everything quickly just to keep up with the competition. However, I’m seeing more and more businesses get lost in the digital cloud and lose track of the fundamentals of marketing strategy.

Call me a dinosaur if you like, but I firmly believe that before you set up your Facebook page or wrestle with SEO or sign up to MailChimp, you need a firm grasp on the fundamentals of marketing strategy. You need a plan. You need a strong foundation.

Here are five steps to identifying that marketing strategy for your business:

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Why Is Marketing

  1. The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy: What is Marketing?

We talked a little bit about the different definitions of marketing in my last post. Personally, every time I meet with a new client we talk about three things: where are we now, where do we want to be and how to we get there. It’s the ‘how do we get there’ bit where marketing really comes into play.

Marketing is about defining your brand and setting goals. It’s a journey for your customer, from brand awareness to point of sale, but it’s also a journey for the business. It’s easy to get caught up in the instant gratification of digital marketing, but the emphasis should be on progress and growth over time.

Only once you understand what marketing is in essence and what your business is aiming for can you begin to understand what marketing can do for your brand.

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - 4 P's

  1. The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy: The 4 P’s

So, where do you begin with marketing? Now that we’ve defined a direction and a target, how do we start to build a ladder to get there? Next, we consider the “4 P’s”, otherwise known as Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

Product: figure out your USP’s, the features and benefits of your product, your branding and why customers should choose you as their personal preference.

Consider your smartphone. With so much competition out there, why did you choose the one you’re holding in your hand? Brand loyalty? Physical attributes? Performance and quality? Why do your customers choose your product?

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Price

Price: this can be tricky because a product is not the value of its sum parts. Think of haggling in a market or flight prices that fluctuate up and down. You’re not paying the actual cost of the product, you’re paying somewhere in the grey area between what you are happy to pay and what the seller is happy to receive. Are you willing to pay more because of the reputation of the brand?

With pricing, you need to consider value, perception, competition and what you brand stands for. Take a look at this diagram and think about where your product fits in. Or, if you fill in this diagram with your competitors, can you identify a gap in the market that isn’t currently being filled?

Place: Next up is place; essentially, where you’re selling your product. Is it a service? Can you buy it online? Do you have a shop premises? Are you selling through distributors? What does all of this mean for your brand?

I’m sure you could buy some nice sparkly earrings at George at ASDA, but can you buy Goldsmiths brand earrings there too? No you can’t. Although Goldsmiths earrings could sell very well in your local ASDA, this kind of exclusivity defines the Goldsmiths brand and the perception of value as well.

Promotion: the final P to discuss is promotion. It can be tempting to blast every promotional channel available with your product, especially online, but stop before you do it. Think about your budget, the channels that are most appropriate for your business, the content of the promotion and – as always – how this affects your branding.

For instance, you can engage on Pinterest and Instagram with all the necessary bells, whistles and hashtags, but if you’re the local butcher then that global reach is reaching the wrong people. Joe Bloggs living in Hawaii may double-tap that picture of your roast dinner, but he won’t buy from your shop.

Similarly, if you’re an online shoe retailer that distributes worldwide, you don’t want your jingle played on local radio. In fact, if your shoes are chic and sophisticated, then you don’t want a jingle at all! You want visual impact and global brand awareness. Even then, you social posts may fall on deaf ears, so perhaps approach fashion blogging influencers to promote your products instead.

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Cover

  1. The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy: Your Marketing Plan

Now that we have all of that in place, we can start building up our marketing strategy – our ‘how do we get there’ plan. Try and squeeze your target and rough plan into one ‘elevator pitch’ sentence:

Jet 2: Growth through flights from a growing number of UK airports, offering cheap flights to family-friendly, popular beach destinations.

Emirates: Growth from maintaining a high price and excellent service on long-haul flights to diverse and exotic locations.

Once you have that overarching marketing strategy summarised, then you can remind yourself of it daily and slowly flesh it out. Every time you work on your marketing, ask yourself if what you’re doing is contributing to that overall strategy. If not, then get yourself back on track.

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Research

  1. The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy: Research

You need to do your groundwork. Why research? To gain information about products, competitors, existing customers, new customers, industry sectors… the list goes on. Start by setting objectives, deciding research questions and details to be found, execute the research, identify the highlights, report and then act.

Primary research: or ‘field research’. This is information that you gather yourself, be it through surveys, direct observations, interviews, focus groups and so forth. These methods are great for understanding brand values, brand awareness and gauging customer satisfaction.

Secondary research: or ‘desk research’. This is information gathered from available resources gleaned from someone else. This can be through the Internet, existing market research, your customer database, information from industry bodies, government agencies, libraries and local councils. These are great ways of discovering new customers and better understanding sector information.

Balance your research between these two forms and think of all the insights you can gain from dedicating just a bit of your marketing time and budget to research. You can never do enough research.

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - Communications

  1. The Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy: Marketing Communications

Finally, now we can talk about marketing communications! Once the goals of brand have been identified through strategic planning, the 4 P’s have been considered and the research has been done, now the best forms of marketing communication and promotional practice can be chosen.

Firstly, your two considerations are your budget and your target customers. Then, it’s recommended to choose at least 12 Pillars of Marketing Communication from the table above that are most appropriate for your both your budget and customers (note: not just what is trendy at the moment).

Fundamentals of Marketing Strategy - 12 Pillars

Imagine those 12 pillars holding up the roof of your marketing strategy and continue to strengthen them equally over time. Add many more and all the pillars will get weaker; have any less and the remaining pillars will struggle with the weight.

You’re probably using some of them already, so choose wisely. Then, devise a sub-strategy for each one of your 12 to ensure that all the pillars carry equal weight in terms of budget and your time. Return to them often to check progress or swap a pillar for another if it’s not working.

Now you have a full marketing strategy catered precisely to your business needs.


So, there you have it. The bare-bones fundamentals of marketing – the ultimate foundation to your marketing strategy to better grow and build your business. It may sound like the obvious, it may sound old-fashioned, but it’s how our clients have achieved success and reached their targets time and time again.

The fundamentals of marketing strategy are classic – they never go out of style.

Marketing and Communications Lecture at Birmingham City University

Marketing and Communications : a Guest Lecture at BCU

It was an honour to be invited as a guest lecturer at Birmingham City University, at a Marketing and Communications lecture held last Thursday at the iconic Millennium Point building.

The aim of the lecture was to provide Event Management students with an expert insight into marketing and communications, the differences between them and the strategies that they use. It was a great opportunity to open up some discussion about the definitions of marketing and communications as well as bounce ideas off each other.

In light of the experience, here is an outline of what we talked about, some of my thoughts on what was discussed and the reactions of the talented students at BCU:


By Millenniumpoint (Own Work) via Wikimedia Commons

What is marketing?

The question may sound basic, but it’s an important and interesting question to come back to, so that’s why we started with it. When I asked the students at BCU what they thought of when they thought of marketing, they threw ideas out such as: promotion, the power of persuasion and turning products into success.

Dr. Philip Kotler boiled the science of marketing down to this definition:

“Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profile potential.”


My personal definition, based on my own experiences, goes something like this:

“Marketing is a journey. It’s about understanding where your business is now, where you want it to be and finding ways to get there. It’s about goals. It’s about brand.”

As we discovered through our conversation about these very different definitions, marketing is a very broad term, it’s all-encompassing and incredibly difficult to define concisely.

I suggested to them that Marketing is a process by which you analyse your current situation, identify your strengths and weakness and decide upon a strategy to get you to where you want to go, whilst always ensuring that everything you do is “on brand”.

Marketing communication is then decided upon after that process; finding the best channels to use to communicate your message based on your customers and your budget.


How do we access marketing communication?

As we discussed the ways in which we access marketing, our answers differed further. The young students at BCU suggested the newer and emerging channels such as Instagram, and YouTube, but some ‘classic’ channels remain an influence – TV, shop windows, Facebook and branded clothing. We agreed that older generations are still making brand choices based on TV, magazines, radio and websites.

To me, those answers best represent how marketing has changed over time, how it is dynamic in nature and how differently the next generation accesses marketing messages. Technology has changed the way we approach marketing completely.


Which brands you always come back to and why?

Sometimes our brand loyalty boils down to personal taste, but it’s a good exercise to analyse how those tastes have developed.

When asked about which brands they prefer and why, the BCU students could immediately identify their favourites. One student loved the laidback, retro style of clothing brand Stussy, but hated the pretense of Abercrombie & Fitch.

Another compared Lufthansa and Wizz Air; though both are budget airlines, the student held a strong preference for Lufthansa. Wizz Air is the cheaper of the two, but she found the seats small and comfortable, and that the staff were rude.

We talked about the role that pricing perception has and how we expect value, even from the cheapest of products. Plus, what about the consequences of that low pricing? Perhaps cheap flights equate to lower-paid staff, which leads to a loss of motivation in staff members and therefore a substandard service. It’s all connected.

What’s more, something like pricing, which many may regard as coming under the responsibility of product development or finance departments, shouldn’t be underestimated as a strategic marketing tool. When it comes to beating the competition and positioning yourself in the market, pricing is a key marketing tool.



How does ‘marketing communications’ differ from marketing?

Here’s my definition of marketing communications:

“An on-brand, strategic, integrated display via content, images, voice and noise to maximise reaction in terms of purchase and loyalty, using all relevant channels.”

Marketing and marketing communications are often bulked together as the same thing, but we need to be able to separate them to better understand the two. Marketing is a process, as defined above, which ultimately results in a marketing plan. Marketing communications are a result of that plan; they are actions that support the plan and the brand.


By Elliot Brown via Flickr

By the end of the lecture and workshop, students were able to state the difference between marketing and communications, explain what a marketing strategy is, describe research methodologies and understand different methods of marketing communications.

“I just want to say thank you again for coming and teaching us about marketing and communications. I found your lecture really interesting and has taught me a lot more about marketing and the different aspects surrounding it.”

– Zoe Dodd, student

It was a great experience to lecture at BCU and interact with the next generation of marketing and event management professionals. This lecture was also a great way for me to reconnect with the definitions of marketing and communications myself, and discuss the core values that lie at heart of marketing.


HDK Marketing


January Update | What’s New at HDK Marketing

It’s a new year and a new start, so let’s talk about what’s new at HDK Marketing.

We’re ringing in 2017 with a lot of big news: new changes, new additions and new improvements to the team and our services. We’ve brought onboard a Social Media Manager, we’ve upped the ante on our Website Designs, we now boast top-quality Video Services and we’re all settled in to our New Residence in Wylde Green.

We’re incredibly excited for what we have planned this year and we thought we’d take a moment to share with you exactly what we can do for you in 2017.



New Social Media Hire

We’d like to officially welcome our new Social Media Manager, Amy Poulton, to the team! Amy is Birmingham born and bred, but boasts international experience when it comes to social media marketing; in industries as diverse as education, publishing and property investment.

She will be cultivating social followings for our clients, sharing and creating social posts as well as assisting with blog content.

“I’m really excited to get stuck into social and digital marketing with HDK. It’s a great company to work for and I’m eager to bring my knowledge and experience to the team.”

Welcome to HDK, Amy!



New Website Designs

We know how important it is to have a website that speaks for your company as well as about your company. We can provide you with a sleek website design, yes, but we can also offer an in-depth knowledge of how to make your website accessible to visitors.

That means making your website mobile-friendly for users who are browsing on their devices and ensuring that your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is top-notch, so that Google will rank you higher on their search engine.

We are now providing such services, so get in touch if you want your website to grow.


New Video Services

Video content is the most in-demand type of marketing content at present. No wonder, as it’s the type of content that users engage with most online. People want to see how your products work, the past projects you’ve worked on and what your company brand stands for; all through the medium of video.

We can now offer such professional video content services for your brand. From filming to editing to sharing your videos on social media sites such as YouTube, we’re with you every step of the way.



New Office Space

Of course, we have our priorities straight offline as well. Our new swanky premises on the Birmingham Road in Wylde Green is right up our street (pardon the pun). A new office space means that we are now in a central location that’s convenient for you to visit.

(But, more importantly, it’s next to all the best coffee shops, so we can grab a nice cuppa when you come for a chat!)

The new address is: 2nd Floor, 420 Birmingham Road, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, West Midlands, B72 1YJ. Look out for the big pink sign. And don’t hesitate to swing by if you’re in the area.


So, what’s new with HDK Marketing? Quite a lot, actually. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to our core values. Our trademark still rings true:

Our Business is to Build Yours.

We wish you all the best with your endeavors and adventures in the coming year, and look forward to helping you achieve your goals in 2017.

HDK Marketing


6 Reasons why you should ignore Twitter for B2B Marketing (if you are crazy)

We’re not saying you should use Twitter for B2B marketing. In fact, you should definitely skip it… if you’re crazy, that is…

  1. Because you DON’T want to utilise a free network that allows you access to over 300 million active WORLDWIDE users, many of whom are your existing or potential customers.
  1. Because you DON’T want to drive valuable traffic to your website and lead potential customers to your products and services.
  1. Because you DON’T want to build an Internet presence and grow a reputation for being an expert in your field.
  1. Because you DON’T want to connect with other industry experts and learn from their practices to better inform your business.
  1. Because you DON’T want to connect with the buyers of the future who will be choosing between your offline company and another who has a social media presence and something to say.
  1. Because you think Twitter and other social media platforms are just a fad and preparing expensive, detailed paper catalogues is more effective.

Twitter for B2B Marketing

Having read this – have you changed your mind?

Here are some facts on Twitter for B2B marketing that you might find interesting:

  • 87% of B2B marketers use Twitter to distribute content.
  • Nearly 13% of social media leads come from Twitter.
  • B2B companies who use Twitter generate twice as many leads as those who don’t.
  • B2B marketers are no longer compelled to use “stunts” to gain engagement, as these tactics do not have much impact in the context of complex B2B marketing decisions. Therefore social media marketing is becoming more businesslike.
  • 65% of millenials say they stay updated on brands through social networks
  • 46% count on social media when buying online.
  • People who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to buy and recommend the products of these brands.
  • 67% of Twitter users are far more likely to buy from brand they follow
  • Younger buyers and business owners are more likely to check your social media status as well as your website to gain an impression of your business and decide whether you would be a trusted supplier. This trend is unlikely to change in the future.

Twitter for B2B Marketing

So, if you’re not using Twitter for B2B marketing yet – and you now realise that the time is right – here is some advice to help you get started:

  1. Define a social media strategy in line with your overall business goals.
  2. Make a plan to maximize seasonal or product benefit specific messages.
  3. Ensure you have suitable content on your website to satisfy engagement.
  4. Show who you are as a brand.
  5. Tell stories and show commitment to customer satisfaction or technical excellence – qualities that make you attractive to do business with.
  6. Engage with followers and retweet relevant content.
  7. Remember, it’s not about the number of followers, but the right followers.

To learn more, to set up your own Twitter for B2B marketing, or to work on your social media strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us at HDK Marketing.


Segmentation My Favourite Marketing Tool


What is Segmentation?

Marketing guru Philip Kotler describes Segmentation as “..the sub-dividing of markets into homogeneous sub-sections of customers, where any sub-section may conceivably be selected as a market target to be reached with a distinct marketing mix.”

In practice, I have found that:

  • Segmentation is an effective marketing tool, which allows companies to divide their customers and prospective customers into smaller groups so that a more tailored marketing message can be used to attract each customer type to buy their products or services.
  • Segmentation is key to understanding your customers and working out what aspect of your product or product range will appeal to them.

An example here is Kellogg’s! Everyone likes cereal right? But not everyone eats Frosties. Older people and people watching their weight or on a fitness drive will be seeking cereal with more health benefits such as Special K.

Why do it?

  • Segmenting your customers provides you with the opportunity to “knock on an open door”.

For example if you have identified that you have a group of customers in the “Heavy duty vehicle” market and you sell fasteners – you can target these customers with the benefits of high strength fasteners. Similarly if you have customers in the electronics sectors – target them with the benefits of lightweight, low profile fasteners.

  • Segmenting can also save you time and money because you won’t waste time writing, printing, sending and processing marketing material that is irrelevant.
  • It also protects your customers from “message fatigue”. Because your messages to them are always relevant, they will be inclined to read your messages in future, rather then consigning you to the “unread trash bin”.


  • Keeps your message relevant
  • Helps you understand your customer groups and business model
  • Help you understand your customers needs and what will attract them to your products or services
  • Might identify a gap in the market for you to pursue

Potential pitfalls

  • Segmenting customers may blind you to the fact that the people within each segment are still very much individuals with their own personalities and agendas.

So for example – if you have identified a group of engineers you want to target with a technical product, you may assume that they will respond to a technical data sheet about your product, when in fact some of them may respond better to a more amusing article or a video.

  • It may lead you into a false sense of security and stop you seeking relevant and lucrative customers.

If you segment by region, for example, and find you have 50 customers in one region and only 3 in another – then you will be inclined to try to target and gain customers in the region with less customers. But it may be that the ideal new customer may be in the region where you have plenty of customers already.

How to do it?

First decide what you want to achieve.

  • Are you seeking to:
  • Promote a certain product?
  • Launch a new product?
  • Put on a sale?
  • Enter a new market
  • Expand in a certain region?
  • Attract a certain type of person to your product?

Having decided, you can then take your customer data and analyse it to find a list of the suitable target customers who will respond positively to your message.

The analysis itself will take you so far but it is also wise to use your gut feel and personal knowledge of your customers and add or remove any from your list.

For example, Mike Jones of Fabrication Ltd has never bought your soft setting rivets but you know that he has started making aluminum fabrications and, therefore, he may now be interested. 

Segmentation vs. Mass marketing

When we talk about mass marketing, we often think about B2C. But just because you see adverts on the TV sometimes, that are totally not relevant to you, it doesn’t mean that the advertiser has mass marketed his products or services.

An example here would be adverts during the football. There is always a heavy slant on adverts for Masculine products – such as Gillette, Carling and Bet Fred.

During “Big Brother” – more feminine products are advertised.

That’s segmentation for you!

Probably the only mass marketing we see will be for things that we ALL need. Such as banking, water, insurance etc.

B2B Segmentation vs. B2C segmentation

In my experience B2B segmentation has more likely been about customer sector, size, sales, products purchased, and regions.

B2C is generally more concerned with age, sex, marital status, literacy/education, employment status, and occupation, and geographical location and socio-economic groups.

However the bottom line is that segmentation is a powerful tool to have in your marketing armory.

5 top tips

  • Do Segment – Don’t send every campaign to ALL your customers
  • Decide what your campaign aim is before segmenting your customer / sales data
  • Be prepared to double segment to give you ideas for a more targeted campaign (So by region, then by sector etc.)
  • Use your gut feel and knowledge of your customers and market to add customers to the segmented list if you feel the campaign will interest them
  • Keep track and report on which segments are responding best to your campaigns. This will help you to find out what is working and also where you need to improve either your segmentation or campaign messages.

Get in touch now to discuss