Infobesity – the growing digital marketing epidemic…

I run a copywriting (or should that be called content marketing) training course. It’s called “I type therefore I am…. a copywriter“.

In it, I demonstrate why most people are unable to write persuasively, or descriptively. It’s not their fault. It’s in their DNA. They write from their point of view, not their reader’s point of view.

And the education system has also let them down. People are no longer taught grammar, or even how to structure sentences. And almost none are shown the Flesch Reading Ease tools to help them edit their copy.

You see it every day dear reader. And yesterday I saw it again in one of the publications notorious for appalling writing – the free ebook. These are usually written by self-proclaimed “influencers” or companies trying to flog you a point of view that suits their sales objectives.

This one was published by Sitecore – apparently a very successful business – so you’d think they’d know better.

I received an email with the subject line: Your journey to personalisation – whitepaper.

I opened the message because the subject line was so bad. Am I getting a train ticket to some town named ‘personalisation‘? Any marketing message that starts with “your journey” immediately radiates a body odour that reeks of BS.

And when did “journey” become such a ridiculous part of the vernacular? It’s like people who offer to “reach out to you” – I immediately think stranger-danger. I don’t want to be groped thank you.


The copy in the email says:

“Goodbye, Digital Marketing. But what’s next?

Many marketers realise that we’ve come to the end of the Digital Marketing era. They know that digital is not just a tactic or a channel. Examine how you use digital today. Consumers are the same, but they now use digital to enhance their life, their real-world experiences, from working and shopping to sleeping and eating, even finding a partner, and everything in between. In fact, it’s beginning to be hard to see where digital stops and the real world begins.”

Hands-up those readers who realise we are at the end of the digital era? I mean do they really expect us to believe this rubbish? But it goes on…

“Examine how you use digital today?” Digital is not a noun. It’s not a product. With regards to marketing it’s an adjective.

The body odour got worse…

“They want a new relationship with you. They expect experiences they personally value—connected, distinct, enduring experiences. No one wants to be “marketed at” or stuck in a mass group. You should know all customers as individuals, and you need to deliver these experiences whenever and wherever they want them, since your customers don’t recognise the boundaries between channels. We’re entering the Experience Marketing era.”

Hands-up if your customers are swamping you with messages asking for a new relationship with you? Or if you believe we are entering the “Experience Marketing era”?

And as for people not wanting to be stuck in a mass group – it’s one of the single most powerful human emotions – to feel part of a group. WTF is Facebook but a very large tribe?

So I calmly downloaded the white paper. And then it really started.

war and peace

Here’s the opening sentence, sorry paragraph. Well it is a sentence and a paragraph in one – it’s 50 words long!!!

“Marketers have been at the forefront of the digital revolution, and although it’s been a tough (but fascinating) journey, most marketers feel now as if they understand and are getting results from digital marketing, and many organisations have changed dramatically over the past few years to accommodate the digital consumer.”

While Flesch should be applied to larger volumes of copy, this sentence-paragraph has the lowest score I’ve ever seen – 2.1 – which means it’s close to incomprehensible. Not that any reader needs Flesch to tell them that. While the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level suggest you’ll need a double PhD and 25 years of education to understand it – 25.3.

And what pray tell is a digital consumer? Every person on the planet spends more “offline” than they do “online”. Yes we all use digital channels to buy stuff – whoop de woo. We weren’t labelled “analogue consumers” before the internet, so why manufacture digital labels?

Our physiology hasn’t changed. Our emotional reasons for buying haven’t changed. We just have access to fast order forms when we buy online. Not that we need order forms, or to fill in our delivery details, when we shop in retail stores. We just pay for our goods and walk away with them.

I tried to read further but the second sentence-paragraph was 37 words, while the third sentence-paragraph was 51 words long – obviously been written by a content marketer.

This graph demonstrates why infobesity is now a digital epidemic:

publishing trend

The blue line is the trend in volume of incomprehensible content being published online by brands – usually by their content marketers.

The orange line represents the trend in people qualified as journalists or copywriters who are publishing content online. In the last decade there has been no increase in the number of people undertaking tertiary education to become writers.

But there has been an exponential growth in marketing content – created (or in modern vernacular, curated) by people without the skills to do so.

Anyone can type crap – and sadly, anyone does.

Just because a person can type, doesn’t automatically make them a copywriter – or a content marketer.

The temperature’s dropped in Sydney yesterday. I need kindling to light a fire – where’s that ebook…



  1. Couldnt of said it better meself.

    I agree with Malcolm. Flesch is boss! And methinks we can all do with journeying frequently to for an idiomatic once-over! Laughing!

  2. The real problem isn’t that “Marketers have been at the forefront of the digital revolution, and although it’s been a tough (but fascinating) journey, most marketers feel now as if they understand and are getting results from digital marketing, and many organisations have changed dramatically over the past few years to accommodate the digital consumer.”

    The real problem is that Marketers HAVEN’T been at the forefront — SELLERS who are clueless about anything but SELLING, but who use the word “marketing” as a less offensive, more upmarket synonym for selling, have been right out there, using their old, proven tricks and scams to harvest all the “low-hanging fruit”… the desperate, ignorant, lazy, greedy and gullible.

  3. I love the sentiment, I really do. But by publishing a pseudo-scientific graph don’t you contribute a tiny bit more flab to the infobesity epidemic? A little sketch would be more authentic 🙂

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