The Invisible Market

Could it be that the very way marketers think about marketing blinds them to certain market opportunities (and threats)?

If you think (for example) that marketing is about changing and influencing consumer purchasing decisions, you are not going to look for, or see, a new market of decision support services emerge – a market for services that actually transforms the way consumers make these decisions.

I’ve been looking into the origins of this invisible market, how it connects with the ways current markets work, and why it’s emerging now. The really big question is still to come however: how should marketers respond?

  • Nick Georgaidis

    I would like to apologise to Chris
    and anyone who is upset or offended by this mailing. Cancer Research UK is
    always trying to help people to understand the importance of research and
    highlight the fact that there is still so much work to be done to beat cancer.


    Un-addressed public mailings like the one Chris received are
    a proven, cost effective way for us to raise these vital funds to help us
    continue to beat cancer. With this particular appeal, we have tried to inspire
    people to consider helping fund our research, by representing the anger people
    feel towards this terrible disease. Our work has been at the heart of the huge
    progress made in doubling survival rates over the last 40 years. Every
    pound more we are able to raise will help us to continue this progress for everyone
    who has been, is or will be affected by cancer in their lifetime.  Nick Georgiadis, Head of Direct Giving, Cancer Research UK


      Thank you for the apology, Nick. It is good of you to come on to the blog and make your case. However, I note that there is no acknowledgement that you may just possibly have made a misjudgement? That worries me.

      At the very least, bearing in mind the contentious nature of the content, there should have been the standard rider included “We’re sorry if this mailing arrives at a difficult time etc etc”. Was there a deliberate decision to omit it? Or did no-one think of it?

      As part of the conceit, there is also a deliberate attempt on the outer envelope NOT to reveal what the subject matter is inside. So a cancer patient, or a member of their family, is not given a clear chance to decide whether to open it or ignore it.

      I would urge anyone reading this, patient or family member, who is finding it hard to cope with cancer to contact Macmillan (tel: 0808 808 00 00) or Breast Cancer Care (tel: 0808 800 6000) as appropriate, for emotional support and advice. It really does help.

  • Tod Norman


    I think you are very lucky that Chris is being so professional and restrained and that this response hasn’t gone viral and ballistic.  

    I have not seen the original piece, but can visualise it from Chris’ description. From my professional experience of researching work for ICRF and my personal experience of friends and family living with, in remission or dying from cancer, I can imagine how it might have made people feel.  

    But that is not my point. 

    Your response to Chris is reflective of a very corporate, impersonal, and traditional mindset; it lacks any empathy or sense of responsibility. 

    In this world of social media, it could be seen as arrogant at best and down right  inflammatory at worst.

    May I strongly suggest that you get some PR/social media training before you respond again.

    (No, I don’t sell this type of training; yes, I am a supporter of CRUK: no, I have no intention of pushing this out to the wider public.  I really am trying to be helpful)

  • Consuela Marcotti

    I’m sorry this isn’t my real name – I need to protect someone else’s identity:

    A dear colleague of mine has just been diagnosed with cancer, too late. She has yet to
    tell our other colleagues so I can’t betray her confidence, but I’m watching her wait to learn how long she’s got. She’s waiting to hear whether she has a few years, months, or weeks. I don’t know whether I’ll see her after Christmas.

    Cancer is terrible. Not only because it mutilates and kills but because the fear of the disease is so profound. Why else do we in the UK present so late and therefore have worse outcomes than we could? 

    And it’s the fear of cancer that this piece plays on and amplifies. “Every two minutes I take hold of another person”. I feared it but never imagined its scale was so great. My mum, dad, grandfather, godmother and two uncles have all had cancer. It’s killed three of them. I was frightened already.

    Maybe this is why I felt sick when I saw it. And this feeling’s lasted days, like a burglary, like my home was invaded. I don’t feel like giving. I feel angry with the charity which has a mission to cure this disease. This isn’t how I want to feel about them, having supported their work for years. 

    The people above are more positive than me – I can’t see how the piece can be modified to prevent distress. How much collateral damage is ok? Where should the line be drawn? Their TV ads were sad and moving – the old man with the empty place on the couch beside him – yet perfectly acceptable. Emotion is fine but scaremongering is irresponsible.

    The work this charity does is great but this campaign is ill-conceived. It must be horrible for the people who delivered it to read this blog but I hope they can find it in their hearts to re-consider and find other ways to carry out their important work.

  • Charlotte Parker

    I’ve not seen the material myself so I am admittedly just commenting here on what you have said, but based on your description this sounds like an utterly crass piece of marketing that has totally missed the mark so to speak.

    I understand that different people feel inclined to give to charities for various reasons, but for me, threats just will not work. Something as distasteful as this would actually make me reluctant to give to CR not just in this campaign, but in any future campaigns. I want to give to a charity because I believe in the cause rather than because I feel obliged because of a ‘death threat’. The last thing this pack would make me feel would be ‘inspired’ to give - which according to Nick his comment was one of the aims of the mail out.

    There are so many charities out there all battling for the same funds so I can understand why CR have wanted to do something attention grabbing, but I just don’t think that this works. I can’t believe the term ‘death threat’ was every allowed into the piece – almost everyone knows someone affected by cancer, we don’t need this stark reminder.

    I work for a charity that deals with life and death every day (The Air Ambulance Service) and I know all too well how hard it can be to judge the line between being sensitive to people’s feelings while at the same time generating much needed income, but I think Cancer Research UK have really misjudged this. It seems ill thought out and just not considerate of people’s feelings, and at the end of the day, if someone is not considering how you may feel, why should you impart your hard earned money to them?

  • Nick Georgaidis

    Thank you to everyone who has posted on this forum
    since Chris’ original blog.  It’s great to hear how passionate you are
    about beating cancer and to get your opinions and thoughts of how we could do
    things better.  I really appreciate your taking the time to do this.


    I just wanted to say again that it was never our intention
    to cause any distress or upset and I would like to apologise sincerely to
    anyone who was offended by our test mailing. We’ll carefully consider all your
    points alongside the other feedback we’ve received and the results before
    deciding whether to use the pack again.  One thing I can assure you now is
    that we will re-introduce the message which apologises to people who receive
    this at a difficult time on future appeals for new supporters.  We should
    have done this in the first place so I’m sorry we didn’t.


      Thank you, Nick. I am very much reassured by your reply.

      With cancer, you don’t really have to persuade people about the need to beat it, you just have to persuade them to part with their money to do so.

      I wish Cancer Research UK great success.


    And you are making a very valuable contribution to that debate, thank you. I do think there is a substantial difference though, in using shock to shake people out of complacency for causes that may not directly affect them and shock in the context of cancer, which has unique and often serious emotional consequences for the individual concerned.

    Cancer is an emotive subject that directly affects far too many people. It doesn’t need “bigging up” as an issue to get people to give. Much of Cancer Research UK’s past TV work has been very effective and moving, without scaring anyone or talking directly of ‘death’. It can be done.

  • Consuela Marcotti

    Hi Ali

    It’s enormously kind of you to reply so personally, thank you. 

    I never saw myself as needing support but I’ll give that serious thought – I felt tearful when I thought of someone listening to me explain how sad I am for my colleague, and perhaps that’s why I felt so acutely distressed by what felt a malevolent item. An over-reaction, I know logically, but I found it so difficult to shake its impact emotionally.

    Best wishes to you too, and thanks again.

    ps thank you Chris for writing about this and to the other contributors for their thought-provoking contributions.

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