Three lessons about good marketing that Scott Morrison forgot

federal-budget marketing

Former prime minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Beef Australia Expo 2021 in Rockhampton, Queensland, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Source: AAP Image/Steve Vit.

What can you, a regular business person, learn from the recent federal election? Things! And we will get to them shortly, but first some pure self-interest.

I’ve got to say I’m relieved that election is over. Because I was sick of it and also now my old profession can start to rebuild its tattered reputation. It’s taken a battering, thanks to the whole Scotty From Marketing thing.

I’m not keen to bring politics into a business blog. You can read that elsewhere, I don’t want to bore international readers, and my own politics are of no interest to you.

Yet whichever way you lean, Scott Morrison is a product you only buy once. Like Dr Pepper cola or iSnack 2.0, Kraft’s nightmarish Vegemite-cream cheese experiment. One-off purchases are not the pathway to a happy, profitable brand.


Dr Pepper cola

I did a picture search and discovered unexpected copywriting gold. Hats off to you Woolworths! Source: supplied.

The Morrison user experience really cemented the public impression that marketing people are all message and no delivery. Spinning out snappy slogans and nice pictures to trick you into buying products that will ultimately disappoint you.

And that’s a shame because decent marketing is nowhere near as shallow and dodgy as most people think it is. I’m not a full-time marketing guy now, but I loved my time as a marketing creative, and it’s fun and profitable to bring that approach to our businesses.

Marketing: A mildly-embarrassing career

Yes I know, marketing isn’t a prestigious profession. Your parents don’t want to tell their friends you’re in marketing. It’s easy fodder for standup comedy routines.

Marketing rarely gets a board seat in listed companies next to the grown-up finance and law folk. Because they view us as the people who make pretty pictures. It’s a brutal bit of irony that marketing is the worst part of business at marketing itself.

Marketing guy

How corporate boards see marketing. Source: supplied.

There’s also deep shame when the word gets adopted by some of the worst businesses you can think of. Plenty of times I’ve been at a party and someone would ask me what I do.

“Oh, I’m in marketing.”

“Wow, that’s a coincidence! I’m in marketing too!”

“Cool, where do you work?”

“Well I don’t work at a specific place. I’m in (insert repellent multi-level marketing brand name here). Have you ever wanted to be your own boss?”

It’s bad enough having MLM types trying to lure you into their pyramid at social events. But to have them suggest they do the same thing as you is the final nail in the coffin.

Yet, marketing has many reasons to be proud. It’s what delivers the margins that most in your business take for granted.

Marketing all the time is not good marketing

At the core of the Morrison situation was the belief that everything is a marketing angle. The wiser approach is to shut up, listen to your customers, and improve your product. That’s what a good marketer would do.

I wrote of this look-at-me marketer syndrome a couple of years ago in peak COVID-19, when Virgin Australia fired 3000 staff and gave them each a picture autographed by Richard Branson.

When you’re all about the marketing messages all the time, even when the situation calls for the exact opposite, people grow tired of you real fast.

Here are three things about marketing that Scotty forgot, and that might help your business.

1. Marketing is not promotions

The popular image of marketers since the Mad Men days is making ads. It’s easier to understand and people think you spend all your time doing photo shoots in exotic resorts, hanging out at the pool bar with the models while the crew sets the lights up.

That’s just a part of it. I’m not going to bore you with the four Ps of marketing but your product is as important as the promotion.

Much as I love writing ads and a good resort photo shoot, as a business owner I’m repulsed by the idea of luring customers in with a clever message then giving them a shitty experience.

It’s a real P.T Barnum carny trickster approach. It’s great if you’re moving your wagons from town to town in a time when messages travelled by telegram.

It’s amazing that so many hustlers still think it’s okay today.

People can see that you’re just saying whatever transactional stuff you think might score a quick sale.

Ads work, but the most important element of a brand is reliable delivery. Customers come to you to minimise their risk. It doesn’t have to be the full Rolls Royce experience, but it has to be something they can rely on every time.

Carny tricksters

Don’t be a carny trickster business. Source: supplied.

2. Marketing is not a one-way broadcast

To be good at marketing, you have to be obsessed by what’s on your customers’ minds. That means talking to them, and more importantly, listening. And not just direct questions about your product.

Yes, you need data. There are lots of ways to interpret data though. If you’re not directly in touch with the people who buy from you, you can build all sorts of confirmation biases into your conclusions.

You create confected ideal customers who you reckon love your product. Quiet Outer Suburban Families and so on. Businesses love a good PowerPoint mythological tribe from their consulting firm.

Turns out if you’d listened better, you’d learn they’re buying someone else’s product now.

Listen more. Alert marketing (and sales) people should become the voice of the customer at high levels that stops your company being too out of touch or greedy.

3. Spend less time staring at “the competition”

Business people are naturally competitive and it’s tempting to focus on your direct competitors. They’re a favourite topic in internal meetings.

When you hear about a customer they let down or their new product that divebombed, you cannot wait to tell your workmates. You roll the story around like a fine vintage wine, savouring each detail. It’s that finest of German compound words: schadenfreude. The pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

When you think that way for decades, you start believing your competitors really are as shit as you want them to be.

  1. Customers do not think they’re that bad; and
  2. You don’t notice other, different competitors coming in. Or you dismiss them as being beneath industry standard. And one day they whup your ass.

Because you weren’t listening and the model you always took for granted just changed.

And you, a self-supporting business person, won’t have a generous parliamentary pension to cushion the fall. Be careful out there.

This article was first published on the Undisruptable website. Ian Whitworth’s book Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths for Thriving in a World of Non-Stop Change is out now from Penguin Random House. 


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F.C. Smith
F.C. Smith
24 days ago

“The Morrison user experience really cemented the public impression that marketing people are all message “and no delivery”. Spinning out snappy slogans and nice pictures to trick you into buying products that will ultimately disappoint you.”

Really Ian ?
Job Keeper and Job Seeker programs are “no delivery” ?
One the best performing economies and lowest unemployment in the world is “no delivery” ?
One of the lowest Covid infection and death rates per capita in the world – is “no delivery” ?
Setting aside large budgets for mental health at the start of Covid – is “no delivery” ?
Allocated large investments for a locally developed vaccine – did not happen but at least the initiative was there..
One of the highest per capita solar panel installations in the world.
There are many more significant achievements but I think the point is made.
Hardly a balanced observation from a “professional”.
Scott’s failure was he did not communicate the government’s achievements well enough

Adam Ren
Adam Ren
20 days ago
Reply to  F.C. Smith

No ICAC, one of many broken election promises. Vaccines late, it went from gold medal run. to “I never said it was a race”. Scomo is classic failing upwards personified. Left us with housing bubble and inflation due to their budget and minimal status quo policies or culture war rubbish like religious freedom to discriminate against those that aren’t pale, stale, straight male like them.

Sometimes doing nothing, she’ll be right mate can work for the lucky country, but not always.

Pretty sure the solar panels had little to do with Scomo, homeowners wanting cheaper greener energy just sells itself. Scott said it’d ruin the weekend and tradies utes remember?

F.C. Smith
F.C. Smith
14 days ago
Reply to  Adam Ren

Adam, no government ever achieves everything that todays society demands. Even the high performing Keating Government had the “recession we had to have”.
Ian Witworth made the statement as quoted above claiming Morrison was ” all talk and no action”.
On the contrary Morrison’s Government has been the envy of the World for professionally managing and unprecedented unknown unknown. So this is where Ian’s glib comment/observation is so unbalanced and why for the sake of his professional image the article should be scrubbed.🤦‍♀️
Also Governments cannot isolate an open economy from international inflation and wars as the Albanese Government is finding out.
Do you think all these unheralded events just perhaps may have taken up some time away from what Governments normally are expected to do?

Re renewable energy, yes contrary to you view the Coalition has made a very effective impact on Australia’s success in reducing our emissions to 1.0% of world carbon output. For a start look at the Coalitions carbon reduction buy back scheme. ( Why does the ABC never mention this_ inconvenient information that did not suit the ABC banter ).
Emissions Reduction Fund ERF (
This scheme encourages me to put 10Kws of panels on our roof.

But this was not the Coalitions only initiative. Have you any idea how much of the coal fired energy grid was closed down between 2011 and 2022 ? This decarbonization of our energy system and replaced with renewables is a big part of the current problem now faced with shortages and blackouts. And no the bulk storage batteries that are now being installed were not available until several years ago. As I understand it batteries are subsidised under the ERF.😎

F.C. Smith
F.C. Smith
18 days ago

Hello Ian,
As you have not replied to this criticism that your article on Scott Morrison is unbalanced and lacks perspective, or facts, can I strongly recommend that you delete it

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