The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the lives of us all. So many businesses have been adversely affected through seemingly no fault of their own. But let us look at this a little more closely. To the true marketer there may be more going on than first meets the eye. No doubt opportunities beckon; some you would expect but others you may not. So with plans to ease the restrictions announced (1) now is the time to plan your lockdown bounce-back.
Sales of high heeled shoes have fallen dramatically (2) notwithstanding the staying at home, health and fashion memes that are already taking hold. Car usage has also declined due to concerns about climate change and healthy living. And sales, by uncertainty and lack of understanding about electric and hybrid.
However, these underlying shifts are merely being magnified by the C-19 pandemic. And the biggest shift of all … to a digitally dominated world …. is facilitated by evermore smarter phones with increasing accessibility and more acceptable access cost.
The shift is most obvious in retail (3). Whilst many retailers bemoaned the health crisis and gobbled up the Government grants, this merely diverted attention from their inability to anticipate and position themselves to compete in a digital world.
Consequences flow from the inflexibility of Marks and Spencer, to the ubiquity of Tesco, to the profit squeezing of fund-owned brands such as Boots and Debenhams. Also the fall from grace of wheeler dealers who grew fat on the glories of pre-existing brands. All of course were further compromised by greedy local government making it difficult and costly to visit any high street.
As the UK Government recently announced plans to lift the lockdown, now is the time to plan your lockdown bounce-back!
Firstly it is important to consider the overall trends; what are the underlying forces, and what do these mean for your future? This is key to devising effective business and marketing strategies.
A recent CEO survey suggests that 77% of UK CEOS are increasing their investment in digital transformation as a result of the pandemic. So work out the best balance and inter-relationship between on-line and offline, and invest accordingly. Many recognise too that the balance of office and home working has changed forever. This is an opportunity to boost staff morale, as well as improve efficiency, and enhance sustainability credentials. We certainly feel this way. And we’ve heard anecdotal tales of staff at some businesses being told to work more slowly because they were getting more done at home!
Remember too that managing marketing in a digital world contains lots of traps for the unwary. So tread carefully. The quickest wins are likely to come from your core target market. So focus on the ‘sweet-spot’, and promote in tones that reflect the circumstances in which we live.
Lockdown bounce-back also means recognising the long term benefits and the importance of your brand, as well as giving attention to your detailed product and service offering. So remain true to and clear about what sets you apart.
Going forward retailers must pay more attention to the shopping experience that they control rather than hand it over to the brands they stock and don’t own. John Lewis, and many garden centres, for example, have long realised the appeal and profitability of restaurants.
And finally the Government must step-up too. And strike a fair playing field in terms of taxing the High Street, and on-line pure plays. It is time to change the rules for those who are based in, or channel revenue through, offshore havens.
(1) Press release from The Prime Minister’s Office February 22 2021
(2) Glossy.co (2020)
(3) A record 35% of sales were online (January 2021 – ONS)
(4) CEO survey (PricewaterhouseCoopers March 2021)
There are many myths about the role of marketing. Some perceive marketers as customer champions, growth drivers and highly creative. Yet others see them as ‘fluffy’ and lacking in commercial nous. A glance at the back pages of many newspapers or online marketing posts also reveals a variety of different titles for the job of marketing director. Including customer, experience, digital, direct, brand, communications, commercial and so on. Thus it is no wonder there are differing and sometimes contradictory perceptions. All underlines that a successful marketing director requires a combination of skills and expertise.
It never surprises how few really understand marketing. So go out of your way to explain what marketing is to your colleagues. In particular, how it works, and adds value. This will help win their trust.
At the same time, steer your business to a more successful place. Success will follow not just from what you do, but also how you do it. So manage the day-to-day and set the tempo for the business. Get what needs to be done done, while looking to the future. In particular, develop and express a bright and motivating future and work to win friends and influence.
“In the old culture, managers got their power from secret knowledge: profit margins, market share, and all that … In the new culture, the role of the leader is to express a vision, get buy-in, and implement it. That calls for open, caring relations with every employee, and face-to-face communication. People who can’t convincingly articulate a vision won’t be successful. But those who can will become even more open – because success breeds self-confidence.”Jack Welch
No matter how sophisticated organisations might seem on the outside, it’s amazing how many hire and expect marketers to make decisions based on their own ‘gut-feel’. You’ll also make better decisions based on facts
This is therefore not something just to pay lip-service to. This is particularly true in our increasingly digital world. A world with more and more data, yet a world that is sadly lacking in insight. So understand who customers are, their needs, attitudes and behaviour. Accurate and comprehensive understanding on customers and their needs is vital to optimise products, services, and communications.
This also means understanding the ‘whys’ behind that ‘whats’? And investing in processes and people, and encouraging colleagues to do likewise.
The nature of customers, markets, and technology, also means that new opportunities and threats are emerging all of the time. Yet history is littered with organisations that failed to adapt or change to new threats.
It is also easy to become ‘blinkered’ by corporate cultures, and trapped by a ‘flimsy’ job specification. Someone in the company therefore needs to look outwards, and challenge and reinvent the ‘wheel’ to grasp new opportunities and anticipate and head-off threats. That someone is you.
Becoming the organisation’s ‘early warning radar’ fits perfectly with helping everyone understand and focus on customers. However, don’t do this on your own, and don’t view this as a power grab. Simply a way to empower your colleagues to feedback to your organisation’s brain.
By knowing most, and what’s going on first, gives a competitive advantage. Some also call this foresight.
Attracting customers and making money are common business goals. This is where marketing makes its most important contribution. However, only marketing directly fuels growth. Other functions fuel efficiency. So combining both leads to more profit, and better returns.
Effective management is only possible by measuring ‘key performance indicators’ (KPIs). So as you have growth objectives, and responsibility for marketing initiatives, it is natural that you measure and manage the numbers. Simply to understand and address any deviation.
Then you’ll be better able to justify where to invest, and fine-tune, your marketing activities.
The more heads on the case, the better the ‘measurement’ solution. So get your CFO onside.
A quick win is to work with your CFO to establish a marketing and financial dash-board. This will also boost your Boardroom credibility.
If your colleagues do not understand marketing, you can be sure they do not understand brands. So addressing this challenge starts by helping them understand. And in particular, by helping everyone understand ‘why bother with your brand?‘
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Second, to enhance value and shareholder value. Third, to focus effort to deliver a consistent brand experience.
While marketing is the management function to boost brand stand-out and appeal, you’ll also need help from others to deliver your brand.
Particularly in service companies, where the good work of an advert in raising expectations is sometimes undermined by a surly customer service agent, or poor system. So effective management of the customer touch-points or underlying processes is vital to deliver a great brand experience. The devil is in the detail. Even a tiny improvement in response could add millions to revenue or profits.
So work with your colleagues to identify and overcome issues and deliver a consistent and high quality service.
Both strategy and execution also influence the results more so in highly competitive markets. So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order. And then test and test again from low to high investment.
Through your great advertising and promotions you’ll build a reputation for being creative. So use this strength to help colleagues and the business as a whole. Also think about it this way. If the CEO’s role is to manage the big picture and the financial director’s is to manage the numbers, then the task of creating ideas lies with you.
So take the lead to solve problems that your business faces. Also bring colleagues together to this end. With the right skills, resources and creative tools no problem is insurmountable. And if bravery does not come naturally, remember that it is a just state of mind. So go for it! Even if the problem lies outside of the marketing department, the health of the business remains your prime responsibility. And if you feel trapped by ‘politics’, bring in external help. A more objective approach could better help you unite and align your colleagues.
1. In short, you want to be a great marketing director not just a good marketing director. Though greatness comes through business success. So if you imagine your marketing job responsibility as a ‘box’, whatever the official prose, aim to ‘punch’ through that ‘box’.
3. Success will follow through your ability to persuade others. In other words through your personal skills and relationships. This is often more important than technical excellence. Especially in these Covid times.
4. So put yourself in the customer’s shoes (and fully understand him or her, and how to meet his or her needs) to make the best decisions.
5. If in doubt, sleep on it.
6. If still in doubt, then ask round and about.
7. Remember you are not alone and don’t have to do everything yourself. So ask for help.
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is the definitive guide to being a great marketing director. It is unique in covering both the marketing and management responsibilities of the role. It is also packed with top tips to help you succeed. Structured in five parts and 31 chapters it covers: Marketing essentials, the marketing year, operational leadership, and how to manage key projects. An entire section is also devoted to the role of digital. It is a ‘must-keep by your side’ for all marketers and a ‘must-read’ for all business owners and directors. So read the FREE introductory chapter, reviews, and order your copy today.
It’s available at all good bookshops including: Foyles, Waterstones, Blackwells, WHSmith, the Chartered Institute of Marketing bookshop, JS Group, university bookshops, Amazon, The Book Depository, and The Marketing Director’s bookshop.
Following recent profit warnings (2014), Tesco veteran and CEO Philip Clark has fallen on his sword and given way to an outsider – Dave Lewis from Unilever.
In this article and short video, Tim Arnold and Guy Tomlinson discuss what’s gone wrong with Tesco marketing, and suggest some issues and opportunities for Tesco’s incoming CEO to explore.
Founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen, Tesco is one of the world’s largest retailers. In 1993, facing more service-centric competition, under Lord MacLaurin, the original ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ strategy was replaced by ‘every little helps’. This manifest in improved service as well as low prices. In recent years Tesco has been so successful that it garnered a 30% share of the grocery market.
When you grow so big, growth in core markets becomes increasingly difficult. Tesco addressed this challenge by diversifying into new markets. These include new countries (such as the USA) and new sectors such as telecommunications and financial services. In the UK, Tesco expanded into new neighbourhoods by taking over small high street stores and pubs.
The recession years have seen the rise of lower cost grocery alternatives such as Aldi and Lidl and experiential or ‘quality’ alternatives such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. As customers migrated to these two ends of the grocery market the middle-ground has become an uncomfortable place to compete.
Tesco’s ‘every little helps’ proposition appears to have become increasingly insignificant and meaningless. The price proposition – just a little too uncompetitive and the store experience – just a little boring.
However purchasing influences have changed. There are a growing range of price, experience, personality-rich and digital shopping options and tools. Customers have also become increasingly ‘savvy’. There is more shopping around. The price of loyalty also appears to have exceeded a couple of Clubcard points. Whereby Tesco marketing once had an advantage with the Clubcard and the accompanying big data insights this provided, this now seems eroded. Tesco appears to have failed to understand and adapt to changing customer behaviour and desires.
In a video interview, Dave Lewis also says that staff morale is low. In turn this raises questions about the relationship between the management team and front-line staff, the management ethos and culture.
Between the lines we suspect that Tesco has become a victim of its own success. It has lost its heart. The relentless pursuit of profit has hindered and not enhanced customer, employee, community and supplier relationships. Perhaps by unwittingly creating a cultural myopia. Compounded by an over-reliance on big data systems and analysis. And also prioritising revenue growth and profit over the best interests of customers, employees, communities and suppliers. The £250m profit black-hole due to the accounting of supplier rebates also seems consonant with a less than open culture.
Shopper marketing started thousands of years ago. But in modern times it emerged from the disciplines of retail marketing and trade marketing. It involves “understanding how consumers behave as shoppers, across different channels and formats. And also leveraging this knowledge to target and benefit shoppers, retailers and brand owners.”
Sub-titled ‘Views from a small island’ (the UK) this presentation was delivered at Marketing One’s Shopper Marketing Conference in Moscow in February 2013. It provides insights from one of the most competitive and concentrated retail markets in the world – the UK. The video runs for 13 minutes.
It was a typical Manchester day as we drove north to my old University town. But a rainy day tinged with excitement at the invitation to listen to the University’s astrophysics professor, and particle physics researcher at the Large Hadron Collider (1) near Geneva, Switzerland, Brian Cox to speak on the subject of ‘A Scientist in the Media’.
His BBC tv series mesmerise – The Wonders of the Solar System and The Wonders of the Universe. Also, a physicists take on The Wonders of Life. As Brian explains “It is what hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years”.
Astronomer, Carl Sagan was one of the first scientists of the television age. His award-winning 1980s series, Cosmos – A personal voyage, opens with the stirring words.
“The cosmos is all it is, or ever was or ever will be. The contemplations of the cosmos stir us. There is a tingling in the spine, that catch in the voice. A faint sensation as if a distant memory of falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries. The size and age of the cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home, the Earth. Our future depends on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a speck of dust in the morning sky.”Carl Sagan
Underlining that science not just about creating a few smells and bangs, but a cultural endeavour to understand and also shape our futures.
More recently Jim Al-Khalili‘s (Professor of Physics, University of Surrey) BAFTA nominated series on Chemistry: A Volatile History and Alice Roberts‘ (medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor at the University of Birmingham) The Incredible Human Journey have won widespread acclaim. Both series have powerful narratives. As testimony to their abilities, both are now Professors in Public Engagement in Science at their respective Universities.
But the promotion of science predates the television age. The Royal Institution of Science first championed public interest in science some 200 years ago. Started by Michael Faraday in 1825, they are most famous for their Christmas Lectures. Situated in Albemarle Street in London, this is also the site of the first one-way system – established to marshall gentry in their horse-drawn carriages to and from the Royal Institution.
With applications for 2012 entry down by 7% vs 2011 (180k) to 2.37 million (1) it is a difficult year for Universities. Further, against the backdrop of up to £9,000 fees introduced this year this is hardly surprising.
Yet what about science specifically? University applications for sciences held up better than the UK average for all subjects and therefore accounted for 33% of 2011 applications compared with 31% in 2010. Biological science applications are also 4.4% (9k) lower. While physical sciences are just 0.6% (546) lower and medicine and related sciences are 1% (4k) higher (2). Applications to the University of Manchester are 10% (5.3k) lower vs 2010.
Looking at another measure of public interest, the book best-seller lists; the hardback of Brian Cox’s The Wonders of The Universe sold over 100k copies in 2011. This was one of only two science related books in the non-fiction hardback top 20, along with David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet (2). In addition, Amazon reported sales of telescopes were up 500% following the airing of Stargazing Live.
So what’s the report card on the marketing of science? Shows much promise; has successfully increased appeal to more than just spotty geeks.
The media, and television specifically, are powerful means to promote all subject-matter, products and services. Also to win hearts and minds. Use them if you can!
Universities can and should also think like media brands to drive awareness, interest, and demand for their services. Their offerings comprise more than courses, but principles, beliefs and sheer force of personality to inspire and empower. Thus far overall 2011 University of Manchester application figures suggest ‘could do better’ but the 2012 Cockcroft Rutherford lecture is an example of the University at its best. Watch the lecture, be inspired by the answer to life the universe and everything – and the small blue dot that we call home.
I hope that this blog-post makes a small contribution to the University’s aims!
What enables some businesses to weather the changing economic climate and the cold wind of market forces, while others wither? The most successful grow income and budgets steadily, while the weakest experience diminishing income and budgets. Or none at all. Just as Darwin observed, the fittest survive or thrive, and the weak die. While research by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1) revealed the benefit of an ambitious, engaging business strategy, however, the role of marketing has received less attention.
Business strategy and marketing were first recognised as important in the middle of the twentieth century.
The role of marketing is also best understood by leading consumer goods companies. It is most influential in the most successful businesses, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. By contrast the discipline plays second or third fiddle in companies in sectors such as business-to-business (b2b) and utilities.
The effects of marketing communication campaigns are well documented. Some show positive results, yet some, negative. Though it is difficult to find empirical evidence to prove how or what aspects of marketing drive business success. Or explain what businesses should do strategically. So we’ve done some research and thus, here, we summarise some ‘hard’ evidence to spotlight the role of marketing.
In 2006 Booz & Company (2) identified that businesses with ‘healthy marketing DNA’ were almost 60% more profitable than their competitors. Further, that those with ‘super DNA’, some 9% of the sample, were 20% more likely to show superior growth. But what is ‘healthy marketing DNA’ and how can it be ‘bottled’?
Many organisations hire marketers with lots of experience in a business sector and then rely on them to ‘judge’ what to do and where to invest. This compounds a perception that marketers are ‘fluffy’. It also compounds that they are unworthy of a seat at the board-room table.
In 1955, Peter Drucker wrote ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (3). Yet, in 2005, a CMO Council study of US CMOs (4) revealed that over 80% of organisations had yet to develop meaningful and comprehensive organisational measures or metrics.
However, the 20% introducing useful measures substantially outperformed their competitors in terms of revenue growth, market share and profit. Thus, around two-thirds now believe that measuring marketing ROI will be the most important measure of success in the next few years (5). So while far from easy, marketers must measure and prove marketing activities drive sales and profits.
Organisations that invest more effort in capturing and using customer information to make decisions and foster customer relationships outperform others. This echoes a CMO study confirming market research as the most important source of information influencing strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs).
In some organisations, marketing operates solely as a communication or promotion department. In others, as a management ‘gopher’, responsible for tactical initiatives, and sometimes reactive to management demands.
Organisations with marketing teams structured to work closely with the CEO, across the organisation, and also assume broader strategic responsibility, are more successful. Their roles include business analysis and development, product innovation, and also approving large investments. Also gathering customer insights and communicating and making decisions based on those insights across organisation boundaries. By better and more quickly engaging management and employees also drives out-performance.
So what to do? Unlike the DNA of living organisms, organisational DNA can change. So start your business strategy process by understanding where the business and marketing capability is now. Then where it should be in the future. From The Marketing Directors’ research (5), there are just 14 executive marketing directors on the main boards of the UK FTSE 100 companies. This therefore suggests that the role of marketing is relatively unimportant in 86 of those companies. Or that competition is benign.
Yet the ability and role of marketing is widely misunderstood.
Deep business, customer and strategic understanding is necessary to reveal business opportunities. In turn these insights enable colleagues to make better decisions to design, deliver and promote experiences that customers want. Thus to advance growth and profitability.
Marketers should therefore view themselves as the voice of customers and directors of growth. This is endorsed by 63% of CMOs who believe they can grow their influence as the voice of the consumer (6). According to CIM, marketers’ influence is also greater when competition is intense and the market turbulent (7). Thus, explain what marketing is, how it works, and measure and report on how it drives business growth.
(1) Porras Jerry and Collins Jim I, Built to Last, 1994, based on research and analysis of pairs of companies in 18 industries.
(2) Landry Edward, Tipping Andrew, Dixon Brodie, Six Types of Marketing, Booz & Company and the Association of National Advertisers, 200, based on an online survey with 30,000 responses.
(3) Drucker Peter F, The Practice of Management, 1955.
(4) The CMO Council, Assessing Marketing’s Value and Impact, 2004.
(5) Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, 2008.
(6) Korsten Peter, Heller Baird Carolyn, et al, From Stretched to Strengthened, Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, IBM, 2011, based on face-to-face conversations with 1,734 CMOs in 64 countries.
(7) Argyriou Dr. Evmorfia, Leeflang Prof. Peter, Saunders Prof. John, Verhoef Prof. Peter, Paper: The Future of Marketing, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009.
Arnold and Tomlinson’s book, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, fully delivers on its subtitle’s promise: “The definitive guide to superior marketing for business and boardroom success. Comprehensive, yet written in a lively, jargon-free style, the Handbook offers practical advice on topics ranging from setting objectives, planning for the year ahead, measuring marketing performance, managing teams to building brands and succeeding at new product and service development.
In writing a reader-friendly book, Arnold and Tomlinson practice what they preach. Chapters are amply illustrated with useful charts and tables that succinctly highlight key points made or that explain ideas visually. These tables and charts relieve the reader of wading through lengthy explanatory text. Page graphics help this book truly function as a handbook. Icons appear in front of topics through out the text. For example, an auto key symbolises “Where to start” topics. And a wrench appears when a chapter discusses “tools and techniques,” and a star graphic always accompanies “best practices” or examples.
I recall a feeling of total paralysis during my first week on the job as marketing director for an international accountancy firm. The marketing discipline was new to the organisation and I was the firm’s first CMO. There was so much to do and I didn’t know where to start. The authors acknowledge this paralytic feeling in Chapter 1, “Starting Out.” Their experience-driven advice and counsel will help newly appointed CMOs start out on the right foot. This first chapter defines the CMO’s role and offers concrete advice about what to do first. Whom to know in the organisation and how to build the right team to get the job done.
Chapter 10, “Structuring the Function” builds on this advice and further defines key marketing roles and relationships. Another chapter, “Day to Day Management” offers insights based on organisational dynamics and describes best practice processes and protocols. For new marketing directors, these chapters are among the most valuable in the book. They could well justify the book’s purchase price alone.
The authors have both client-side and marketing agency experience in brand planning and services marketing. This know-how is clear when they discuss the essentials and nuances of brand management and positioning. And also well as when they address the marketing and organisational issues related to new product and service development.
When it comes to corporate branding or repositioning, Arnold and Tomlinson offer a nugget of advice that sounds a bit simplistic and a bit hackneyed. Yet, nevertheless, represents a key challenge for CMOs, “Ensure top-team management and buy-in so that brand strategy weaves into organisational strategy.” Although it is left unsaid, without buy-in, even the most talented CMO will hit his or her head against a brick wall. The authors make sure that readers learn both strategies and tactics for achieving top management buy-in for their plans. These chapters are also useful for both seasoned marketers and researchers who wish to quickly refresh their branding and product innovation knowledge. Overall, the authors provide exhaustive detail on branding and product and service development.
The marketing research discussion focuses, as it should, on issues such as selecting and managing marketing research agencies. Also how to prepare proper briefs so that everyone involved in the project understands the study’s objectives and research questions.
As a qualie, I was particularly interested in how the authors address and explain various qualitative methods. I was happy to see a useful chart that provides an overview of the pros and cons of the full range of the qualitative methods for marketing. They include a similar, handy chart for quantitative methods. Ethnography, pre-task diary homework assignments and semiotics are absent from the pro’s and con’s chart and, instead, appear on a different chart called “Qualitative research strategies and methods.”
For better or worse, Chapter 26, “Rationalisation or Downsizing” will be useful to CMOs charged with the unpleasant task of laying employees due to downsizing. This chapter outlines pitfalls to avoid and stresses the importance of being compassionate to both survivors and leavers. This chapter also discusses downsizing strategies in-depth as well as morale-building approaches for employees who survive staff cutbacks. The massive layoffs associated with today’s global economic recession make this chapter required reading for both practicing and aspiring CMOs – and for anyone else in the organization involved in staff lay-off decisions such as HR and operations executives.
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is a “must have” for those who care about best practices. Also those who want to learn how to succeed as managers and change-makers in their organisations.
Sharon Wolf is Managing Director at QualiData Research Inc., of New York and San Francisco. An expert ethnographer, moderator and workshop leader, Sharon translates research-based insights into powerful marketing, branding and product innovation strategies for QualiData’s global clients. Her sector specialties include personal care, fragrances, food, cosmetics, electronic media and mobility. Previously she was a Marketing Director in professional services.
Sharon launched and served for three years as voluntary Editor-in-Chief for QRCA Views magazine, an award-winning quarterly publication for the marketing research community. She also served as Program Co-Chair for ESOMAR’s 2002 Global Qualitative Conference.
Look inside The Marketing Director’s Handbook. Copies are available at Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, and all good local book stores as well as this website.
I love posters! They epitomise great marketing communications. Like all communications they must clearly impress. However if viewed from a speeding car, the message must be recognised and understood in milliseconds. From a technical point of view this therefore requires a single-minded (and hopefully matching) marketing communication strategy and execution. Engaging and motivating via this medium also presents a myriad of creative opportunities.
With consumers exposed to an increasing panoply of media, and over a 1000 messages a day, the task of developing great marketing communications is more challenging than it has ever been.
There are two key elements to great marketing communications. The first is the message, and the second is the medium through which to communicate the message. Here we’ve gathered some of the best outdoor marketing communication campaigns. Why? Simply because they can be easily illustrated, reviewed and used to make a point in a blog!
Here’s a checklist to consider when creating your next advertisement (poster or otherwise):
(1) Packard, Vance; The Hidden Persuaders (1957)
Marketing agencies can transform the performance of your brand, your business and yourself. They will be the bane and boon of your life. However, whether you are selecting a new agency, or have a good agency on-board, the process is similar. It all starts with a clear brief. Yet there are a number of other things you can do to create great work and drive business results.
When briefing marketing agencies be as open as you can. The more an agency understands your needs and issues the more they should be able to help you. Start by preparing a written marketing agency brief; the process of doing so will help you clarify issues and opportunities and engage and gain agreement and support from your colleagues. A common problem is to write fuzzy objectives. So pay attention to both your marketing and brand objectives. Consider, for example, whether you wish to attract more customers, increase sales per customer. Consider also whether you wish to raise awareness, change perceptions, or …. It often helps to reflect on your current situation, weaknesses or problems that you wish to address, and then redefine these as future goals.
The agency landscape is constantly changing. At one end of the spectrum, there are the agency groups owned by the likes of WPP and Omnicom. At the other, there is an ever-changing mix of independent and up and coming agencies. Some firms or firm groups comprise a mix of disciplines, or technology skills, some don’t. Keep abreast of the changes. And ask around.
Monitor the people moves especially if it is happening in one of your agencies. Check out the odd new agency that catches your eye. The nature of the profession means that there are good people to be found in many places and those that are most vigilant stand to benefit the most.
In terms of cost, understand how remuneration works. The more intellectual or consulting agencies work on a mainly time cost basis. Database marketing and campaign communication agencies tend to be time and/or cost-plus. Marketing implementation services are more price list driven, for example, pay-per-click plus fixed fee. Overall, expect to pay more for those with London offices and less in the suburbs or rural areas. Expect to pay more for a heavy duty management team, those with an overseas management structure and those that belong to a quoted group. Fewer layers and complexity means less cost.
Selecting marketing agencies starts with your brief. So as well as your marketing aims and needs, include your selection criteria in the brief. This helps agencies put their best resources on your case both to meet your needs and also demonstrate they can meet your needs. Then seek multiple and diverse responses to your brief, and make sure you meet the team. When you do meet the team, ask who does the work, and be wary of agencies who just use front-men for the pitch and who you may never see again. Finally give clear, comprehensive and timely feedback to all. To do otherwise is disrespectful and lessens your good name.
Campaigns fail for either strategic or executional reasons, and sometimes a lack understanding between the relationship between both, or a failure to manage the relationship between them both. Great communications stem from a clear and compelling brand strategy underpinned by robust insights. So you need to provide a strong foundation of insights to inspire good work. You’ll also need to be clear, firm and vigilant to manage the process and give sensible feedback. A consequence of the creative process is that it can be an accidental or deliberate attempt to reinvent your strategy. Which may be fine if your strategy is ‘built on sand’, but not if it is built on hard-won facts!
Further, while all agencies say they have planners to create the strategy – creating great brands requires specialist positioning skills which are uncommon in creative agencies. And this is not something to be considered lightly or dealt with in a ‘black-box’. So seek specialist brand strategy help if and when needed. Further, if you are working across multiple media, use your management skills to set the tone and define, manage demarcation lines, and get the most from your team.
However, having seen the world from both sides of the fence, if you are paying an agency to help you, never be in doubt that they are on your side. But also remember that people are human – they’ll work harder for you if they like you. So build good relationships; let your agency know that you are on their side – and if the work is deserving, say proper ‘thank-yous’. Building good relationships will benefit you in many ways: for example, in terms of a more enjoyable and less stressful life, and potentially profile, and career advancement!
So net whether you have a good agency on board or need a new agency, it all starts with a clear brief. So use our handy one-page marketing brief for both selecting marketing agencies, or your in-house team. and managing them. Then make yourself available to answer questions verbally, help them understand, and stay on-strategy. If you’d like advice on selecting folk to help you, just give us a call.
With around 90% of UK homes (ONS: 2018) connected to the Internet, the Internet is now an everyday part of our lives both at home and work. After search engines, and social media sites, media brands are among the most visited sites on the web. Globally the BBC, IMDB and CNN rank highly and in the UK, the Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Times online newspapers as well as Sky also lead the pack.
So what can we learn from media brands and what are ways to ape them?
In the world of the Internet content is king. Thus, content, or more precisely, search terms should be at the heart of your strategy in order to attract customers to your website. The act of simply embedding keyword friendly code and text into your website drives traffic.
Establishing a blog has a similar effect. Using both keywords and links to websites increases website visitors by 55%, inbound links by 97% and indexed pages by 434% (Source: Chris Garrett)
Broadband and web 2.0 enables rich multi-media offerings including You Tube and the BBC iplayer. Thus the ‘lean forward’ mode of Internet usage no longer dominates, and merges with the more ‘laid back’ mode of watching tv.
This array of multi-media fuels more compelling brand experiences. Experiences that not only inform, but also entertain, and engage. For example, Pampers, the disposable nappy brand, now runs a portal covering almost everything mums need to know about pregnancy and babies. It is a thought-leader in the group and created new ways to interact and build relationships with child-bearing mums through the early years of their child’s life.
By including embedded video, even the most banal of business-to-business offerings now engage more emotionally.
In the world of the Internet, websites are also new routes to market or sales channels. But the difference is that they are sales channels that you can control. We’re all familiar with Amazon. Launched in 1994 Amazon is now a top performing (in terms of traffic) website in most countries of the world. It dominates the book market. Not only is this driven by the wide list of books stocked but also user-generated content such as book reviews and searchable book content.
Of course, media are also means or channels to communicate messages to customers. They also influence, or actually are, the message itself.
As long ago as 1937, P&G produced what became known as the first ‘soap opera’. So called due to the soap powder advertisement that followed the show. Called ‘Guiding Light’ – the first soap opera was a US daytime radio series. It transferred to tv in 1952 and aired until 2009.
The Guinness Book of Records started in 1955 as a marketing give-away for the Guinness brand. It still regularly tops the book best-seller lists. It also spawned franchised museums. The book and museum franchise are now owned by the Jim Pattison Group (Ripley’s Entertainment) being sold by Diageo in 2001. With foresight of the multi-media possibilities, perhaps the book would still be Guinness owned.
Creating ‘genre’ or subject driven websites conveys authority as well as cross promotes brands. In the baby care arena, Pampers is a good example. There are unbranded examples too. For example, Diageo runs unbranded whisky websites to indirectly promote its brands.
According to the IAB, the Internet overtook television to become the largest advertising sector in the UK in 2009. That’s a record spend of £1.75bn on search. This made the UK the first major economy, and the second after Denmark, to achieve this landmark. With the auction model driving pay-per-click price inflation there will inevitably become a point where brand owners scream ‘too much is too much’. So amass your own content to drive a high natural search ranking. And also a safety valve to contain costs.
In the world of the Internet, content is king. So use content to build and promote your brand. Also to add value, build stronger relationships with your customer, and tell your brand story. Create and use content to create more inventive and lower cost promotion vehicles and routes to market. As everyone is jumping in on the act from entrepreneurial bloggers and instagrammers to businesses, don’t be left behind!