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How to Grow your Business? 7 Tips for Successful Business Growth

Soldier on manoeuvres WW2 How to grow your business in the most difficult of circumstances

It seems that world economies follow a never ending series of boom and bust. Just when we thought global economies stable and productivity improving along come new challenges. First Covid-19 (2020), and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022), and all that goes with it, including the rise of energy and food prices. However, when dealing with tough times, and particularly recession, if you face declining or flat sales, how do you grow your business? So do you plan cautiously or aggressively? In all situations marketers have a key role to play and you have a choice to view your glass as half-full or half-empty. Here are seven pointers to successful business growth:

1.   Be more vigilant to threats and opportunities

Information is a source of competitive advantage. While tough times present threats, they also present opportunities – a lower cost investment opportunity here, or opportunity to take out a competitor there. Rarely will there be greater opportunities for a smart marketing and research department to prove its worth. So understand changing market forces and customer needs and provide timely intelligence and quality thinking to spot new opportunities. There are many ways to do this. Firstly, empower your sales team to fact-find, talk to, or research customers. Also track media activity on trends and what your competitors are doing; read investment blogs and company reports too. Then take this intelligence, and use scenario planning to think through how markets might evolve, and devise strategies to survive or thrive in each circumstance. This is something most successfully undertaken by Shell to address turbulent oil prices.

2.   Ensure your business fundamentals are sound

The most successful businesses are those that are the most customer or audience driven. So if tough times impede your sales, this most likely indicates a weakness in your offer which needs to be fully understood and addressed.  So first check your market share, and if that has fallen too, it suggests you need to do more to compete. However, whatever the economic situation, clear insights must inform what you do. Your startpoint is to ensure a strong product offer. Then with a sound marketing strategy in place you’ll be in a good position to invest and grow.

3. Reassess your product and brand portfolio

A consequence of the present inflationary times, is that mortgage costs are rising, and so are savings rates. But these changes affect people differently. Those with their disposable income under pressure will behave differently to those who are ‘flush’. For example, they will be more motivated to save money (energy) by switching lights off and perhaps going to bed earlier. Whereas those who are more flush may be more willing to invest for the longer term, by investing in low-energy lighting or extra home insulation.

Fast moving consumer goods are typically the first markets to experience change in buying behaviour. Those under financial pressure may shop around more, switch to cheaper outlets, and buy own label products instead of brands. Those who are more ‘flush’ may pay more to feel better.

The purpose of this discussion is not to predict behaviour but merely to spotlight the ease and speed with it changes. Your challenge is therefore to anticipate and understand change, and react quickly.

4.   Maximise cash

The trigger for business closure is usually lack of cash. As evidenced by the recent administration of much lauded battery manufacturer, British Volt which has just been bought out by new Australian owners. Of course, cash management is the responsibility of all, but as this is a marketing blog, let’s focus on what marketers can do. One opportunity is to devise strategies to bring forward and maximise cash flows, for example, by rewarding early payment. Another is to reduce marketing costs. So seek out more efficient ways to communicate. In a worst-case situation, devise ways to rationalise your team. View change as an opportunity to ‘right-size’. Consider what roles are ‘must’ and ‘nice-to-have’. Also, make sure that the right resources are in the right places and perhaps refresh the culture. This then provides a more robust foundation to on which to build, invest and probe for renewed growth.

5.   Don’t stop promoting your products but do be smarter about how you do it

Some studies that show how the share of advertising voice correlates with market share. There is also evidence to suggest that those who invest in proactive marketing during tough times are the first to emerge from the tough times. Also that they emerge the strongest. So optimise and promote the benefits of your products, and use creativity to maximise those benefits. If you focus on building your brand you’ll help avoid creating a hostage to fortune.

6.   Invest while advertising bargains abound

The media market is in a state of perennial flux. As the share of one declines, often does the cost per impression, rating point or click. So shop around for advertising bargains. Over the last two decades promotional spend has shifted to digital media, most notably, Google and Facebook. Often when data to justify return on investment has been sparse. However, their recent declines in advertising income suggests their bubble is bursting. As money shifted to digital, other mainstream media such as television and radio became relatively better value. New kids offering better value propositions such as TikTok have also joined the block too.

7.   But manage the risks!

Of course there are risks. But think big, and cultivate a mindset of controlled aggression to mitigate the risks. So test, and test your way from low cost to higher cost business building initiatives. Though only when you are sure that investments work, and have the metrics to prove it, should you invest heavily.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. How to grow your business starts with good consumer understanding, and a good product. Then profitable product promotion.
  2. So build your business, product and brand strategies on facts by using robust market research. Also make sure you your have processes in place to identify opportunities and threats. Then you’ll be better equipped to, and more timely in making investment recommendations to your Board.
  3. Focus your resources on making sure your products are as fit and competitive as possible to compete in their niches. Because Darwinist fundamentals apply.
  4. Then, when promoting your products, carpe diem. Take a long and short term view on payback, but make sure you earn more than you spend. To do this, don’t just follow the herd, seek out lower cost marketing opportunities. In so doing you will be able to grow your business while others are worrying or sitting on their laurels.

For personal advice and support on how to grow your business just give us a call.

Business Survival; Understand the forces for change

Sales of high heeled shoes are down through the lockdown. Now's the time to plan for a lockdown bounce-back

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the lives of us all. And the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Hamas attack on Israel also continue to rumble around the world. Many individuals and businesses are adversely affected through no fault of their own. But there is always more going on than first meets the eye. There are always a myriad of macro and micro forces that change customer behaviour, markets, and point to new opportunities as well as threats.

What are forces for change?

Sales of high heeled shoes fell dramatically during the pandemic (1) notwithstanding the staying at home, health and fashion memes that took hold. Car usage also declined without a need or opportunity to travel. And today, the sales mix of cars continues to change due to concerns about climate change, pollution and healthy living. In the UK, most notably, also due to legislation, extension of low emission areas and the associated cost drivers and barriers.

Sales of high heels are down in the lockdown. It is time to plan a lockdown bounce-back

Pandemic magnification

Some shifts were magnified by the C-19 pandemic. And the biggest shift of all … to a digitally dominated world …. was also facilitated by smarter phones with increasing and lower access cost.

The shift is most obvious in retail (2). 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.  

Identify or face the consequences of shifting markets

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 were further compromised by greedy local government making it more difficult and costly to visit any high street.

Marketing Inspiration

To survive and thrive at all times, there is a need to remain vigilant to both macro and micro forces affecting your business. Then, and only when, you understand the forces, can you figure what these mean for your future. This is key to devising effective business and marketing strategies.

Every force has an opposite though not always equal reaction. For example, for many the balance of office and home working changed. This continues today suggesting it is a long-term behavioural shift. Underpinned by an individual’s ability to save travel costs. And also to boost business productivity. There is evidence of increased staff productivity, as well as well-being and health. Businesses participating in 4-day working week trials consur! (4) So on one hand, expect a further shift to 4-day from 5-day working weeks and all that that brings. And on the other, expect more incentives to entice staff into offices.

While 77% of UK CEOS have increased their investment in digital transformation (3), we suggest you work out the best balance and inter-relationship between on-line and offline. Certainly there are pitfalls in managing marketing in a digital world as we’ve warned for years. However, they are only coming to the fore as evidenced by recently announced layoffs by the likes of Meta. Though those of you with longer memories will remember the Internet boom and then bust of nineties. So tread carefully and measure and manage promotional effectiveness across all media.

A counter force, as confirmed by our recent Buckinghamshire High Street survey, is that High Street businesses must pay more attention to the customer experience to win custom back from online. Some places, of course, already do this, and the likes of John Lewis, and many garden centres, for example, have long realised the value of combined shopping and eating/ drinking experiences.

Governments and councils speed or impede change too. By enabling a fairer or laissez-faire playing field between the High Street and online pure plays. For example, by easing High Street access, parking, reforming property charges, and taxes, shifts demand and supply-side economics. All is fair-game for the lobbyist. 


(1) (2020)
(2) A record 35% of sales were online (January 2021 – ONS)
(3) CEO survey (PricewaterhouseCoopers March 2021)
(4) 4-day working week trials (Feb 2023)
(5) Seven perks to entice staff into offices, BBC (March 2023)

How to be a Great Marketing Director; Seven Essentials for the Role :-)

How to be a good marketing director

Marketing myths

A glance at the back pages of many newspapers or online reveals a variety of different titles for the job of marketing director. Including head of customer, demand, experience, digital, direct, brand, communications, commercial and so on. Yet there are many myths about the role of marketing. Some perceive marketers ‘fluffy’ and lacking in commercial nous. Yet others as customer champions, growth drivers and highly creative. Thus it is no wonder there are differing job titles and sometimes contradictory perceptions. However all of this underlines that a successful marketing director requires a combination of skills and expertise.

Seven essentials to being a successful or great marketing director or CMO (Fig 2.1)

How to be a successful or great marketing director
The Marketing Director’s Superior Performance Model’

1. Explain, influence, manage and lead your colleagues

It never surprises us how few really understand marketing. Also how many fail to think from a marketing viewpoint. 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 engage your colleagues and set the tempo for the business. Work to win friends and influence, manage the day to day, get what needs to be done done, while looking to the future. In particular, develop and express a bright and motivating future.

As Jack Welch once wrote in a letter to shareholders:

“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

2. Be a disciple of customer understanding

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’.   But remember that you’ll make better decisions based on facts.

History suggests that the most successful organisations are those that best understand their customers

This is therefore not something to pay lip-service to. Though while our increasingly digital world begets more and more data, it remains a world that is often sadly lacking in insight. So focus on understanding who your 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.

3. Be the eyes, ears and ‘early warning radar’ of the organisation

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.

4. Measure and manage the numbers

Attracting customers and driving demand 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.

Also to plan with confidence

To do this understand the relationship between customer and financial outcomes. 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. A quick win is to get your CFO onside. Work with your CFO to establish a marketing and financial dash-board. This will also boost your Boardroom credibility.

5. Develop and deliver your brand or brands

If your colleagues do not understand marketing, you can be sure they do not understand brands. Addressing this challenge starts by helping them understand, particularly, ‘why bother with your brand?

Reasons to bother with brands

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.

Implications for marketers

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.

6. Both strategy and execution make a difference

So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order. And then test implementation and test again from low to high investment.

7. Use your creative skills to solve problems

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 in place, no problem is insurmountable. And if bravery does not come naturally, remember that it is a just state of mind. So go for it! Remember too that 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.

Marketing Inspiration

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 the scope of your marketing job responsibility as defined by a ‘box’. Then whatever the official prose, aim to ‘punch’ through that ‘box’.

2. Communicating AND also managing the effective delivery of the business plan and marketing strategy through the business is key to being a successful marketing director.

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.

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. Because help is always at hand.

Introducing The Marketing Director’s Handbook

The Marketing Director’s Handbook is the definitive guide to being a great marketing director. Uniquely it covers 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.

The Marketing Director's Handbook Volumes 1 and 2
The Marketing Director’s Handbook Combined Edition

Tesco Marketing; Can Big Be Beautiful Again?

Tesco marketing | Tesco store

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.

The Tesco success story in brief


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.

Big is not necessarily beautiful

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.

What’s gone wrong with Tesco marketing?

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.

The challenge for Dave Lewis is to trace and understand the reasons behind these issues.

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.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. There will always be a limit how big a brand can grow before the benefit of big becomes a liability.  Success is culturally reinforcing only to the point when something goes wrong. Then is the time to understand, challenge and redefine the cultural norms.
  2. Customers are not all the same. Thus one ‘size’ no longer fits all.  However, markets grow by adding new segments so by understanding and revealing new segments could reveal new growth opportunities.  This will therefore require creativity and research to understand and tap into customer needs, attitudes and motivations, not just big shopping and purchasing data analysis.   
  3. Over-reliance on one form of intelligence gathering and managing a business also risks myopia. Big data analysis is also limited in being just that – big data analysis. It risks ‘failing to see the wood for the trees’. It is also a rational activity, run by computers – with rational outcomes. Relying on rational analytic methods alone thus ignores important emotional drivers.
  4. Customers are human. They have emotional needs as well as rational needs.  When Tesco originally introduced their ‘every little helps’ strategy’ this added an extra ‘nice touch’ to their earlier wholly rational offer. A new way of connecting emotionally with customers therefore needs defining. The value proposition also needs strengthening and sharpening. In particular, the brand needs to become more human, personality-rich and experiential. Humans and human common-sense should take back control from computers and data management systems – and thus deliver the brand.
  5. Can big be beautiful again? There are precedents for success in Archie Norman’s revitalisation of Asda in the 1990s. Understanding customers and their needs via market research and then putting them first is a good place to start. The reward will be their loyalty. We wish Mr. Lewis every success.

Shopper Marketing: Context, Trends and Ideas to Help You Gain Competitive Advantage

Shopper marketing

Shopper Marketing; views from a small island

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.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. It is often quoted that 70% of brand selections are made in-store, however a similar proportion of buying decisions are unplanned. To make wise investment decisions, it is important to understand the entire retail buyer and shopper journey. In particular, understand what triggers a consumer need, drives product awareness and consideration, selection, purchase, usage, loyalty and advocacy.
  2. How much, and where or how to invest also depends on the competitive context, brand life-cycle stage and the marketing and promotion challenge your brand faces. So consider who is the customer? Also whether to drive awareness, change brand perceptions, reinforce brand stand-out or added-value? Or increase purchase or usage frequency or volume, gifting, or pre-empt a competitor?
  3. Increasing in-store distribution and display drives visibility. So consider marketing strategies to do this. Should you be more trade-marketing led or more consumer-marketing led or both?
  4. Devise and use qualitative research to reveal new insights and gain an advantage over your competitors. This require both creative and commercial research approaches.

The Marketing of Science

Professor Brian Cox - A Scientist in the Media

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’.

Professor Brian Cox - A Scientist in the Media
Professor Brian Cox – 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”.

The Cockroft Rutherford Lecture 2012 | Brian Cox
Brian Cox delivers The Cockroft Rutherford Lecture 2012 at the University of Manchester

Marketing science in the tv age

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.

Where science marketing started?

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.

The effect on University science applications

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.

Marketing Inspiration

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.  

Prof. Brian Cox delivers the Cockcroft Rutherford Lecture 2012

I hope that this blog-post makes a small contribution to the University’s aims!


(1) UCAS 2011 in The Guardian

(2) Nielsen BookScan 2011

The Role of Marketing in Driving Business Success

Marketing strategy | Popping the cork to celebrate marketing success

What enables some businesses to weather the changing economic climate and the cold wind of market forces, while others wither? The most successful businesses grow income and budgets steadily, while the weakest experience diminishing income and budgets. Or die. Just as Darwin observed, only the fittest survive and thrive. While research by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1) revealed many successful business essentials, however, the role of marketing has received less attention.

popping a cork on a champagne bottle as a metaphor for business success

Business success factors

Business strategy and marketing were first recognised as important in the middle of the twentieth century.

Though the role of marketing is most recognised and best understood by leading consumer goods companies. It is also 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.

Marketing is a business success factor

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’?

Three marketing prerequisites to drive business success

1. Ability to measure contribution to business growth

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.

2. Deep customer understanding

Organisations that invest more effort in capturing and using customer information to make decisions and foster stronger customer relationships outperform others. This is endoresed by a CMO study confirming market research as the most important source of information influencing strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs).

3. Broad strategic role, supporting and influencing senior decision makers

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.

Marketing Inspiration

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.

While the ability and role of marketing is widely misunderstood, and not recognised, recognition is growing. As more and more sectors, and more and more organisations face the colds winds of competition, more are embracing the benefits of marketing.

Deep customer understanding is necessary to reveal both strategic and tactical business opportunities. These insights enable colleagues to make better decisions and design, deliver and promote products and experiences that customers want. Thus offering more customer benefits and advancing 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, champion and understand customers, and measure and report on business performance and business drivers.


(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, 2021.
(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.

Must-Read Marketing Book – The Marketing Director’s Handbook (CMO’s Handbook) Reviewed

Sharon Wolf, MD, QualiData Research Inc., USA. Marketing Book Review - The Marketing Director's Handbook

Sharon Wolf reviews The Marketing Director’s Handbook

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.

marketing book review, Sharon Wolf, MD, QualiData Research Inc., USA

Sharon Wolf reviews The Marketing Director’s Handbook

Who should own this book?

  • Aspiring and practicing marketing directors and CMOs
  • Account planners
  • Brand, product and marketing managers
  • Marketing research agency executives
  • CEOs and CMOs of tech, biotech, not-for-profits or any industry sector where the marketing discipline is new to your organization


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.

Experience-based advice

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.

Practical brand support

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 Director and market research

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.”

Dealing with tricky marketing challenges

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-read” marketing book for those who care about best practices. Also those who want to learn how to succeed as managers and change-makers in their organisations.

About the author

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,, Foyles, Waterstones, and all good local book stores as well as this website.

Great Marketing Communication Campaigns: Some of the Best Outdoor Campaigns

Great Outdoor marketing communication. Aquasun - UK

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!

Some Great Outdoor Marketing Communication Campaigns

How great is your marketing communication?

Here’s a checklist to consider when creating your next advertisement (poster or otherwise):

  • Cut-though; does it command attention, and engage or involve?
  • Comprehension; do you understand the message?
  • Benefit driven; does the message suggest a clear and tangible benefit? Does it meet a relevant need?
  • Credible; is the benefit message believable, justified by one or more facts?
  • Provoke a change in perception or behaviour; are you motivated to think about a brand, think differently about a brand or more inclined to try, buy or repeat buy?

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Consider posters or billboards as a way to pressure test your marketing communication strategy or advertising campaign before investing heavily. If your poster or billboard campaign arrests in a second or so, then you could have a winner on your hands. Conversely, if it fails to arrest, consider that a warning for other media.
  2. Remember Vance Packard’s words – ‘the medium is also the message’ (1). Outdoor  lends itself to high impact, creative executions which say something extra about brands. It’s also highly relevant to brands that target an outdoor, travelling or car driving demographic, and those purchased more frequently. In other words where daily ad viewing could quickly boost purchase.
  3. Finally, posters attract media attention. So consider investing in a single poster site to catalyse extra publicity via public relations. To make sure your message goes ‘viral, also try to find an unusual creative idea or ‘angle’. Thus, try to challenge conventional wisdom, surprise, shock, entertain or amuse.


(1) Packard, Vance; The Hidden Persuaders (1957)

Briefing, Selecting, and Managing Marketing Agencies

Briefing marketing agencies

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.

Be frank about your marketing and brand objectives and challenges

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.

Understand the agency landscape

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

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.

Great campaigns are underpinned by a great strategy

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.

Build good agency relationships

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!

Briefing marketing agencies

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.