Leading legendary lamb leg Linkfluencer looks like losing the lot…

Like many of you, I am always stunned at the audacity of the digital industry’s loose use of the truth, particularly when it comes to the sweeping generalisations used to manufacture credibility.

The early social media ‘experts’ were excellent at faking the truth on things like the speed of internet uptake versus existing media. It was Gisle Hannemyr who revealed the truth about internet adoption rates in his famous essay “The Internet as Hyperbole“.

Internet uptake lagged behind TV and radio…

One area consistently full of untruths, is the statistics used to support the use of online search, in consumer buying behaviour.

A quick history lesson – prior to the internet, the Yellow Pages invited the public to “Let your fingers do the walking“. And when you wanted to buy a big-ticket item, you sought information from friends and colleagues, read reviews in media, walked around different shops and asked ‘experts’ who worked in the stores, or even invited them to your home to explain or demonstrate their wares.

In other words, humans searched for information about goods and services before they bought stuff – a very sophisticated apex primate behaviour.

yellow pages

Today, people still buy using the same habits of searching for information. But as the laziest species on the planet, humans will always travel the path of least resistance for personal gain. So now, in addition to asking others and visiting stores, people also use search engines, websites, reviews and social media to gather information before buying – online or offline.

So there’s nothing new to see here folks. Habits haven’t changed – just the technology available to behave as we’ve always behaved.

nothing to see here
Human habits haven’t changed…

Which is why this week, I was dismayed to see the following headline in a piece of ‘content‘ which was ‘curated‘ in the form a FREE Whitepaper, by a well known brand flogging marketing automation and content marketing. The company claimed:

93% of buying cycles start with an online search, and 88% of clicks come from organic search

To put it bluntly – what utter bollocks.

The truth is entirely the opposite of this claim. It’s more like 96% of all buying decisions never, ever, involve the internet, let alone search engines or organic search terms. And the punters don’t need content to help them make all their buying decisions.

Think about what you buy in a typical week. Let’s start with groceries – there are dozens of buying decisions involved with the weekly grocery purchase. In fact, your weekly grocery shopping involves the largest number (and percentage) of your weekly buying decisions.

Consider your weekly purchases – tinned food, snacks, drinks, pasta, rice, dairy, biscuits, cleaning products, personal grooming, health care, blah, blah. And then there’s your fresh food – fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, deli-items and more. Dozens of buying decisions, most of which are made in-store, or in some case in-online-store – but almost exclusively without search engine support.

Groceries account for the majority of weekly buying decisions…

People also make other buying decisions for things like petrol, newspapers, gifts, flowers, school things, household items, etc. But rarely on a weekly basis, do we make lots of considered purchases – apart from dining out. The majority of our buying decisions are automatic or made at point of sale.

Certainly when we have a considered purchase, like new clothes, furniture, a holiday, or car, we will undertake research and likely use search engines as part of the process. But to claim (without any supporting facts) 93% of all buying cycles start with search engines, is at least dishonest, and is grossly distorting the facts. Or maybe they’re just lousy researchers?

These falsehoods are driving the content marketing boom. Apparently humans have stopped all previous behaviour and now only use search engines and websites or Apps to gain knowledge about brands – so you’d better stop advertising, and start publishing like there’s no tomorrow.

This is obvious when you visit your local supermarkets. As you know the aisles are chock-full of shoppers frantically searching websites for content before they dare purchase anything.


Shoppers stand around with phones in hand, uploading images of products like yoghurt tubs, as the first step in their buying cycle. They post messages to their ‘friends’ such as “help me decide – should I buy the low fat apricot or the sugar-free strawberry? Like my Instagram or Facebook page, so I know what to buy” #whichyoghurtjourney #luvyoghurt #helpmechooseyoghurt #lowfat #sugarfree

I’d better go warn the green-grocer and tell him he’s about to go out of business. He hasn’t any whitepapers demonstrating his thought leadership on corn cobs. Not to mention the tomatoes – surely he can run a simple webinar to add value to his customer’s tomato buying-cycle journey? The silly bugger just has handwritten signs outside his store and at point of sale – signs like “organic navel oranges $3.99/kg“. How will they work in a non-sales, content-dominated world?

And I feel sorry for my local butcher – he’s so silly, he tries to sell things instead of just publishing secret sausage content. Yes folks, he sells for a living – how quaintly old fashioned. Hasn’t he heard the social selling mantra “selling is dead“? You no longer have to sell – just publish and all will be well.

He’s not a Leading Legendary Lamb Leg Linkfluencer…

Here’s how stupid he is. Today he has a sign outside his shop; “Legs of lamb only $19.99/kg – save $5/kg”. What is he thinking? Nobody will buy his lamb legs – he’s not supporting them with any video or ebook on the benefits of eating lamb. He has no content to position him as a leading legendary lamb leg Linkfluencer. The poor sod, he’s going to lose the lot.

And the local baker hasn’t even got a website – she relies on the location of her store, the quality of her pies and pastries, as well as word-of-mouth to make a living. What kind of fool is she?

All this talk of food has made me hungry. I might pick up a couple of meat pies for lunch. Shame the baker won’t be there to chat – she’s made so much money she’s holidaying in Europe.

Just imagine if she had the time to do content marketing…



  1. Love it Mal. Anything I try to add would be mere content overload! Keep telling it like it is, but I suggest you don’t walk down any virtual dark alleys in Content Land…

  2. So much to love about this blogpost ..

    ‘Id better go warn the green-grocer and tell him he’s about to go out of business. *He hasn’t any whitepapers demonstrating his thought leadership on corn cobs*.


    And I feel sorry for my local butcher – he’s so silly, *he tries to sell things instead of just publishing secret sausage content*.


    *And the local baker hasn’t even got a website* – she relies on the location of her store, the quality of her pies and pastries, as well as word-of-mouth to make a living. What kind of fool is she?

    Top form Malcom. 🙂

    Kind Regards

    *Naomi Blacker* Director

    *Woof Media* *Your marketing partners in web and print*

    *office*: Shop 7, 80 Tasman Terrace *mail*: PO Box 2740 *where*: Port Lincoln SA 5606

    t. 08 8682 6093 f. 08 8682 2445 e. naomi@woofmedia.com.au web. http://www.woofmedia.com.au

  3. Malcolm,

    As always, a much needed dose of sanity and common sense. Been commented on before but it seems like in every new generation of marketers there are some who think that everyone before them were complete idiots and that they have discovered the “secret”. Of course, like John Snow “they know nothing” 🙂

    At the risk of being shot down, I would suggest that your local baker and butcher might well benefit from some “content marketing” carefully applied…based on building a list of their happy customers. No great insight on my part, but retailers in general have relied on their location for “traffic” and rarely do they have a customer list. As a results, the business is more fragile than might appear. Even your successful baker might do even better with some form of customer newsletter or preferred customer program…to build that oh-so-precious asset of the list.

    Great post as always. Thanks!

    • Thanks Kevin, yes most retailers could do better by just having a database of their customers. Unfortunately they never consider themselves marketers, rather they define themselves by their trade – butcher, baker, candlestick maker:)

  4. I loved reading your article, I love your common sense approach and I totally agree with everything you say. Thank you

  5. Silly sausages aside, content marketing isn’t exactly new.

    Just listen to the language the digikids use to describe it: “Write epic content, tell a good story, get followers, get evangelists, have regular get togethers.”

    Sound familiar?

    Most religions have been using this model very successfully for about five millennia.

  6. Another great post Malcolm…..We moved recently…the nearest supermarket is Aldi and its in walking distance….we shop there…..at our last place the nearest supermarket was IGA….we shopped there…..before that Woolworths…..we shopped there. From my extensive research ( Helen Wellings on the nightly news) we are saving up to 18.6578% on a typical basket of goods each week by shopping at Aldi, albeit having the lowest % of Australian produced goods. ( Sorry but I cant save our Primary Producers single handed). I also saw on the news last night a Thought Leading Futurist who is producing totally synthetic food….now that is something that might take some content reviewing.

    • Thanks Damian – our wonderful grocer just closed after 25 years. The owner of the property sold it to developers, which is just what we need, more home units! A Thought Leading Futurist – I might write a white paper on stupid job titles:)

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