Fuck milk

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Business Director at …Gasp!, the proper marketing firm, John Lyons is an award-winning Marketer with a wealth of experience on big name brands, leading commercially successful campaigns for the likes of Deutsche Bank, Manchester United, LEGO and LG.

An experienced keynote speaker, panellist, podcast guest and lecturer, John has also taught Marketing and Digital Marketing at the National Film & Television School in the UK, guest lectured at LSBU, given talks for the Institute of Marketing in Malawi and mentored through The Alliance of Independent Agencies.

Biggest fuck up

That would have to be “fuck milk”.

We had been commissioned by a US promotions agency to design and build a game, which could be played by entering a unique code under the cap of the chocolate milk product it was promoting and giving entrants the chance to win from a range of fantastic on-brand prizes.

Being a stickler for detail, I outlined how we should generate the codes to minimise fraudulent entries. Only it was taking too long to generate the millions of codes required, and so one of my team and the client simplified the code model, and all went out on time, and the promo went live.

Then I got a call. My client told me he was getting his “ass eaten out” (not a term I’d heard in that context, who knew this was a bad thing?) by the brand as someone had written in to complain that there was a curse word in the code her sweet little boy had received. Fuck.

Literally, fuck. Fuck.

This was our first project for our new client and a huge household brand name. I saw all our hard work closing the deal, and all my financial projections disappeared in front of my eyes.

I promised to investigate personally. The new code string was based upon 3 numbers, four letters, then three numbers.

Four letters.

Four fucking letters.

Fuck. 200,000 codes with fuck in them. Another 200,000 codes with cunt in them.

All bottles that hadn’t gone out were withdrawn. Angry mum had to be paid off. But somehow, we retained and grew the client business. Thank fuck.


Men, because they are always men, with single-colour background profile images, usually blue, peddling utter nonsense as marketing wisdom to their huge following of mainly young people in the industry who haven’t had the benefit of a classic marketing education.

And to be clear, I didn’t have a classic marketing education, but did have the benefit of having mentors, peers, and even clients help me understand the difference between effective marketing and self-promoting bluster.

What really, really fucking boils my piss is that these leeches appeal to the desire to learn of young marketers and not only teach them nothing of value but preach entirely incorrect and disproven marketing theories underlined not by any professional excellence but by the survivorship bias of have a billionty followers.

They are a stain on our industry and a shitty stain at that.

Useful advice

Why should anybody care?

Before doing anything related to new business or marketing, ask yourself why anyone should care about what you are about to commit to paper, or more likely, a deck.

Before launching into a 45-minute creds presentation about your manifesto, who you have worked for and campaigns you have delivered, ask yourself why the people you are presenting to are giving you that time and whether this is what they could best spend their time sitting through.

Before devising a cool new campaign or a smart brand marketing strategy, ask yourself why anyone should care about the brand in the first place. Why should they give you their precious time?

You’re not the consumer, and even if you are a consumer, your proximity is too close to have any value. Understand what they want, need and will tolerate, and you’ll be a better marketer.


  1. Love this, John! And NWB has gained a follower.

    Although I do have a blue photo background on many sites and am now quite worried about that. But, y’know, brand consistency and all that. 🤷🏻‍♂️


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