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. Thus 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 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, articulate a bright and motivating future and work collaboratively with your colleagues to win friends and influence.
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
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’. However, history suggests that the most successful are those that best understand their customers. As a result this is not something just to pay lip-service to.
You’ll also make better decisions based on facts – who customers are, their needs, attitudes and behaviour. This is particularly true in our increasingly digital world. A world with more and more data, yet that is sadly lacking in insight.
Thus accurate and comprehensive understanding on customers and their needs is vital to optimise products or services, and communications. Specifically this means understanding the ‘why’s’ behind that ‘what’s’?
This also means investing in processes and people to do this. So do this yourself, and also encourage 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. Those that failed died an untimely death.
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.
Marketers can and should be the eyes, ears and ‘early warning radar’ of the organisation. This fits perfectly with helping everyone understand and focus on customers. However, don’t do this on your own, nor view this as a power grab. Moreover, an exercise to empower your teams’ eyes and ears to feedback to the 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 stakeholder 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 so that any deviation can be understood and addressed.
In managing the numbers, also understand the relationship between customer and financial outcomes. Thus the ability to justify where to invest in, or fine-tune, your marketing activities.
So get your CFO onside. The more heads on the case, the better the ‘measurement’ solution.
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 this challenge also starts by helping them understand. And in particular, to establish ‘why bother with your brand?‘
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Second, to enhance value (brands command premiums) and shareholder value. Also, to align hearts and minds and deliver consistently over time.
While the management function to boost brand stand-out and appeal is marketing, you’ll also need help from other functions to deliver your brand.
In particular 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. It therefore requires effective management of the customer touch-points or underlying processes to deliver a great brand experience.
Influencing brand delivery also requires you to influence in parts of the organisation beyond your responsibility. So work with your colleagues to identify issues, and deliver a more distinctive and appealing offer to your customers.
In highly competitive markets, both strategy and execution make a big difference to the results. Misplaced or poorly articulated words in a strategy also risk confusion or mistakes in product development or marketing communication. Sub-optimal products, positioning or communication also risk missing the ‘target’ or ‘need’. All risks wasted marketing investment.
The devil is therefore in the marketing implementation detail. Even a tiny improvement in response could add millions to revenue or your bottom line.
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 promotion work thus far 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. Even if the problem lies outside of your functional area, the health of the business remains your prime responsibility.
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! If needed, also bring in some external help. An even more objective approach could also help you unite and align your colleagues.
1. In short, you want to be a great marketing director not just a good marketing director. Greatness comes through business success. Then, as a result personal success will follow.
3. So put yourself in the customer’s shoes (and thus understand him or her) to make the best decisions.
4. Success will also follow through your ability to persuade others. In other words through your personal skills and relationships. Sometimes this is more important than technical excellence.
5. If in doubt, sleep on it.
6. If still in doubt, then ask round and about.
7. While it is lonely at the top, remember you are not alone, and don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask for help when needed.
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 aspects of the role. It is also a ‘must-read’ for all business owners, directors and a ‘must-keep by your side’ for all marketers. So read the FREE introductory chapter, reviews, and then order your copy.
It’s available at all good bookshops. These include Foyles, Waterstones, Blackwells, WHSmith, the Chartered Institute of Marketing bookshop, JS Group, university bookshops, Amazon, The Book Depository, The Marketing Director’s bookshop and many more.
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.
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 are left with 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 also 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’?
Here’s a summary of three marketing functional characteristics that correlate with business success:
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).
Yet, 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. While far from easy, success requires measuring and proving marketing activities drive sales and profits.
In some organisations, marketing operates solely as a communication or promotion department. In others, as a management ‘gopher’, responsible for tactical initiatives, and also reactive to management demands. Organisations with marketing functions that work closely with the CEO, work 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. In particular, grasping customer insights quickly, and communicating and making decisions based on those insights across organisation boundaries. Thus better engaging management and employees also enables out-performance.
Successful business development requires deep business, customer and strategic understanding to design, promote and deliver experiences that customers want. Outperforming organisations also invest much more effort in capturing and using customer information to make decisions and foster customer relationships. A further CMO study confirms that market research is the single most important source of information influencing strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs). It is therefore reassuring that 63% of CMOs believe they can grow their influence by being the voice of the consumer (5). According to CIM, marketers’ influence is also greater when competition is intense and the market turbulent (6).
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, and should be in the future. From The Marketing Directors’ research (7), 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 to drive business growth is widely misunderstood.
Effective and superior marketing involves understanding customers and accumulating facts. Also using facts to influence colleagues and make better decisions to advance growth and profitability. Marketers should therefore view themselves as the voice of customers and directors of growth. They should also explain what marketing is, and measure and report on how it drives business growth. Successful marketing simply justifies a marketers’ place in the boardroom.
(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) 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.
(6) Argyriou Dr. Evmorfia, Leeflang Prof. Peter, Saunders Prof. John, Verhoef Prof. Peter, Paper: The Future of Marketing, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009.
(7) Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, 2008.
Researching the Halloween market we discovered the market is not as shocking as it might first seem. While the tradition of Halloween originated on this side of the pond, the United States commercialised the event. As a result Halloween is now the third highest revenue producing US event, representing around £4 billion pounds a year.
This equates to a mean household spend of £34 (1). Further, the UK Halloween market was worth a modest £310m (2011), with average UK household spend at just one-third of our US cousins. Yet the UK market has grown at twice the rate of the US since 2005 (1). So what market and product development lessons can we learn in order to grab a slice of the market pie?
Understanding the cultural context and origin of Halloween, different consumers, their needs, drivers and attitudes to Halloween, and the range and nature of Halloween offers and promotions around the world reveals new market and product development opportunities.
Halloween is an abbreviation of All Hallows Even, the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day). It started out as the Celtic celebration of Samhain when the Celts believed that the border between this world and the ‘other world’ became thin and allowed spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. All Saints Day was founded by Pope Gregory III (690-784) to remember saints and those that died. It is recognised globally as a time to honour ancestors and departed souls. In addition, wearing costumes and masks originated as a custom to copy or placate evil spirits. Begging for food also dates from the Middle Ages when the poor went door-to-door, seeking food in return for prayers for the dead. So called ‘souling’.
Awareness and interest in Halloween is fueled by popular culture, such as Hollywood movies, The Hollow and Halloween, and cultural crossovers such as Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight – driving interest in the ‘undead’ amongst teen girls and middle-aged mums.
US corporations including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Disney and Wal-Mart embrace Halloween as their own. Making it more appealing and accessible to customers. They built Halloween into an event to fill the relatively ‘dead’ period between the Summer and Christmas. In the UK, Asda Wal-Mart developed the Halloween market and remains market leader with around a 50% market share. Asda’s Halloween event runs for 6 weeks from late September. Much of their merchandise is also ‘own-brand’.
So how can you grab a slice of the growing Halloween market pie?
Consumers include both adults and children. Both seek a Halloween emotional experience. Beyond the traditional activities like carving pumpkins or turnips, and apple bobbing, needs include a ‘scary’ experience and to ‘trick or treat’ friends and neighbours. Also to socialise, look cool, be a good host, and of course, entertain. Adults seek gifts to satisfy trick or treaters, items for children’s and their own parties, or a day or night out. Children seek fun ways to spend their pocket-money.
Uncovering, defining and delineating needs, reveals new product opportunities. From confectionery, food and drink, scary stuff to entertainment, games, dressing-up gear and make-up – to go with the pumpkins, skeletons, turnips, and party fare.
Understanding and building on the rituals, such as pumpkin and turnip carving sparks needs for design inspiration, cutters, carving kits, tea lights and other decorative or special effects.
Trick o’treating, prompts needs for mixed bags of sweets. An area increasingly served, for example, by Swizzels Scary Mix, Cadbury Screme Eggs, Haribo and more. Thinking about combining needs, accentuating the emotional experience, stimulating or depriving the senses, inspires more product ideas. For example, the sense of touch can add intrigue, shock or surprise to the sweet selection process. Using sound, light, colour or special effects adds decorative drama to a room or walk up a garden path.
Emotional and self-image needs such as socialising and looking cool are increasingly important. This is evidenced in, and suggests demand for products for sharing/making together. Also having a laugh, surprising and bonding to more dramatic make-over solutions. Thinking about the broad range of markets where needs could be fulfilled, such as food and drink, games, entertainment, mobile telephony prompts more ideas.
Being scared is fun, creating an adrenaline rush is like riding a roller-coaster. Most retail displays incorporate colours and symbols associated with the harvest (orange, pumpkins) or death (black, skeletons, bats). Adding more vibrant colours tones down the scary nature of the offer while providing a cultural signpost inviting people to explore the Halloween aisle. For example, greens, yellows and purples are colours that occur in nature, and cuddly ‘full-of-life’ characters. This year’s Asda theme is ‘Party time’ and ‘trick or treating’. While bats and skeletons abound, the aim is to engage and encourage partying rather than frighten away.
Looking overseas to mainland Europe, parts of Asia and Latin America provides further Halloween market insights and product ideas. Auchan in France takes the ‘fun’ a step further by hosting live entertainment – both to attract traffic as well as enhance the brand.
Successful Halloween marketing and product innovation requires clear understanding of the market, cultural and psychological variables. Using market research or alternatively, a few simple thinking tools helps better understand and interpret what consumers think and feel. And thus better reveal new needs and product opportunities.
Utilising Halloween colours, symbols, artefacts and rituals further helps match deep cultural and emotional needs. Thus stimulating demand, and enabling more inelastic pricing.
The insight and ideation tools applied to understand the Halloween market apply any market, occasion or consumer experience. Try them out and you may even shock yourself ;-).
(1) The Marketing Directors’ secondary research and analysis based on various trade sources, the ONS and US Bureau of the Census.
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)
Should writers and illustrators lead tv programme development? Or researchers and marketers who know what sells best in the crazily competitive world of children’s media? According to Simon Cowell, “Research just kills creativity because people lie or they say things they think the person wants to hear, or they over think it”. But is he right? Here’s a summary of the debate at The Children’s Media Conference (1). Moderated by Guy Tomlinson, Managing Director, The Marketing Directors, the session involved John Rice, CEO at Jam Media, Esra Cafer, Vice President Brand Management and Marketing at Chorion Ltd and researcher, Shari Donnenfeld.
According to John, the ideas behind Jam Media’s successful children’s programmes emerged in different ways. By serendipity – happy accidents!
PICME started out as a multimedia invitation for John’s daughter Rebecca’s two year birthday party. One friend was so enthusiastic about it that he even offered to pay for it.
Roy, the Badly Drawn Boy was created in the opposite way to PICME. The film originated by John’s partner as a parody of his life; as a bitter 28-year-old who couldn’t find work in animation because he was so badly drawn. A CBBC development executive spotted the idea and thought that the fish out of water theme appealing to the CBBC audience. In the tv series the bitter 28-year-old is turned into fun loving everyday boy.
Tilly and Friends evolved from a series of stories by Polly Dunbar. By bringing in a child psychologist the story world expanded from 16 pages to 26 episodes!
Shari argued that research should support the creative process, as the process is complex. There are also lots of fingers in the creative pie, and it is easy for creatives to be removed from a child’s world.
Many creatives think they know kids, yet they are adults, who use razors and drink alcohol. Some are also parents who care for kids. There are however also some creatives who act like kids, but even if they do, they still don’t necessarily know what kids are about.
Children inhabit a different world, a more digital world than their parents. They are exposed to multi-million pound movies, games, e-books and ipads. It is hard to know what’s in their heads at a point in time. The sons and daughters of creatives inhabit an even more different world to ordinary kids. A world where words like 3D and CGI are regularly passed over the dinner table. As a result these children are neither normal nor representative.
Further, unlike live entertainers, tv programme makers are unable to adapt to live audience responses. A clown, for example, can easily change his or her act if he dies on his feet. However, programme makers can’t. So programme makers need to think like the clown and go and talk to children first.
Doing research with kids is like inviting them to the board-room table. They can help create a programme, while not heading the table. However, even though children are a worthy audience, research should facilitate creativity rather than act as a barrier to creativity or simply to ‘green-light’ programme development. Kids are naturally created and enthusiastic – so involve them as partners in the creative process.
Esra argued that there is a value in using brand management in the making of tv programmes. Brand marketing is a process to define the target, the programme and product offer. Also to communicate that offer to audiences and forge an enduring relationship. In other words to create brand love!
Chorion starts with characters, settings, worlds and stories already in place. It aims to understand, create, update, and extend brand properties to make sure that audiences love them. Rather than just translate the written word to the screen, research understands and defines the brand, the brand DNA, i.e. what makes it unique and appealing. Rather than dampen creativity, brand thinking reveals new opportunities and maximises relevance.
Make Way for Noddy has a traditional preschool audience of 3 to 5 year olds. So when developing Noddy in Toyland, research verified the audience, who they are and what they want. Findings revealed an audience that was growing-up and moving on to competitive products, such as Moshi Monsters, sooner than thought. This insight focused programme development on 3-4 year olds.
Research also spotted opportunities to extend the brand. It revealed that Noddy is a safe brand, to use in home, and not to show off to friends. This provided the confidence to focus on developing home products such as bedding and pyjamas, rather than lunchboxes or coats.
Each programme development project is different. Some require more creativity and others more research. What’s right depends on the stage of development and whether more or less is known about the intended audience. Thus use creativity, research and marketing together – they are fine bedfellows!
Get this right to establish a foundation for success. Further, for every show in production, have several in development. As innovation is a numbers game, this allows some to fall by the wayside.
Also create the right conditions for creativity to flourish. While great ideas occur over a pint of Guinness or through sheer hard work, creativity is not limited to writers nor bottled and poured on. So prefer a more inclusive approach involving different disciplines.
In other words, enable your audience to fuel creativity and be the main arbiter of choice. You’ll find this liberating!
First, adapt the research process to reflect property origins, differences, challenges, risks and rewards.
Start by involving marketers and researchers at an early stage (via a short low-cost meeting). This will better represent target audiences’ needs, eliminate biases and also generate more saleable ideas.
Next, conduct informal research with family members and friends by showing programme materials before more substantial laboratory-esque research. And then talk to the trade and licensing people, for example, to understand cultural issues and what works in certain territories.
Finally, design audience research to fuel the creative process rather than evaluate or dampen it! Avoid closed questions such as “don’t you love this green dress?” as this invalidates the results.
Also use research to shape the brand strategy or ‘brand book’ and guide writers, illustrators and animators. Help all know the audience, and their needs. This empowers creatives to make the pilot and develop the series while retaining management control.
Create two scripts, a ‘brand book’ and a pilot to justify brand stand-out and appeal and also woo co-funders. While every tv programme development differs, the end game is the same – to secure funds.
(1) The Childrens Media Conference takes place annually in early July in Sheffield.
It is a downer returning home from your holidays. You know all good things come to an end. You also expect a tedious wait at the airport and a tiring journey home.
So it was with squeals of delight that we discovered the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at our departure airport. “That’s the company founded by Forrest Gump” shouted the little one. It is a fabulous brand development story.
The neon sign first caught the eye. It shouts all American and come and look at me.
So what could a company that originated in shrimp fishing possibly have to offer? Lots more than we imagined. Firstly, merchandise. The little one tried on a snug- fitting t-shirt emblazoned with the company logo. In a trice she became a cool able seaman on Bubba’s boat. Then we found some shrimp plush toys. And lots of sporting goods including football jerseys, water bottles and also table tennis bats. All stuff connected to the Forrest Gump film. And also based on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. As a result, the miscellany of stuff and colourful displays were irresistible.
So we had to discover more. The diner itself was like a shack. Wooden beams held up a corrugated iron roof. In addition, three different ‘rooms’ decorated with US car number plates and signs also outlined simple morals or beliefs:
“When all else fails, try doing what the captain suggested”
“A promise is a promise”
“If the customer wants vanilla, give him vanilla”
To get the waiters’ attention, we waved a “Stop Forrest Stop” sign. And when we were happy, we then displayed the sign “Run Forrest Run”. We ordered “Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Heaven”. The choice was essentially shrimp or shrimp. Either boiled, broiled, fried, baked, sauteed, steamed or barbecued. But hey that’s the difference. The coconut shrimp were divine as were the shrimp balls.
With the family engaged, we enjoyed a happy hour reliving and conversing about the film. As the little one remarked; “this would be a great place to go with a first date.”
Turn ideas in a winning brand by evolving a compelling brand story, and delivering a great experience
Every great business or brand starts with a great brand strategy or idea. The idea behind the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company are the characters and also the content of the film and novel. From the Forrest Gump story thus emerges a heart-warming and distinctive business and brand proposition.
Experiencing the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the magic of the brand within. Through attention-getting signage, to the fun physical environment and displays, to products and then the people.
Combining lots of little things adds up to a memorable experience – one that you want to tell your friends about. The staff were part of the fun – hence the reason they appear in our photographs!
Founded in 1996, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co was proven in the US before expanding to Mexico, Asia and now the UK. At the time of writing there are 33 sites with sales per location of c. $5.5m per annum. Merchandise sales add value beyond expectations of a pure-play restaurant. As the company’s website says, the idea was inspired by Paramount Pictures, and turned into a concept by Rusty Pelican Restaurants. This then led to a ‘licensing agreement’ based on the motion picture property.
And as Forrest would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
All photographs © Guy Tomlinson 2010
There is widespread recognition among children’s tv producers that income from tv programme sales is seldom enough to cover production costs so brand licensing is often centre stage to increase revenue. However, if you start by thinking about brand innovation the upside is even greater.
The current brand licensing process is typically an auction. A producer makes a show. It’s then sold to broadcasters and aired. Production of a ‘style guide’ follows, with a synopsis of the show, the key characters and design elements. It’s usually an impressive tome, a wonderful work of art. This is then sent to potential licensees with a brief asking them to come up with new product ideas. The product rights are then sold to the highest bidder.
But the current model often leads to little more than putting a label on a product. While there are a few bucks in adding a logo to a pair of pyjamas, pencil-case or rucksack, the benefits seem marginal. Does the label aid brand recognition, stand-out or value? More likely it relegates your brand to a commodity found in cheap and cheerful stores. Thus undermining the brand.
Therefore thinking from a supply-push product development mindset alone isn’t enough. It’s akin to throwing mud at a wall – and hoping it sticks.
Moreover, markets are increasingly competitive. Media owners compete against retailers, and consumer goods companies. These businesses are amongst the most sophisticated organisations in the world. So, learning from, and out-thinking them, is helpful.
Consumers choose based on their needs; whether an offer meets their needs, and also by weighing up the benefits of competing offers. They subsequently buy when their ‘needs’ become ‘wants’. The retail trade also buys and stocks-up similarly. Based on what sets their store apart, and also drives store traffic and meets their customer’s needs.
So invest in audience or consumer research to make better product development and brand innovation decisions. In particular, invest in meaningful insights on consumers’ needs and behaviours. Also understand what engages and sets your tv series apart. Look for unusual character and personality quirks. Do this at the same time as programme production, in order to maximise both programme development and brand innovation opportunities.
Stimuli (1) brings to life ideas. Thus better enabling consumers to react to ideas, and challenge and build them. It therefore moves conversations beyond the superficial to the detailed. In turn, helping to uncover more insights. In addition, insights become more meaningful and better articulate how to differentiate products and services, and also command a premium. All can then be hard-wired into ‘style guides’ and also brand marketing plans in order to deliver the return on investment you need.
Brand licensing is a valid and powerful means of extending a brand into new markets and growing sales. However there are commercial upsides in thinking beyond slapping your label on a product. So think about what currently sets your brand apart or could in the future, and develop a brand strategy based on these insights.
Extending programmes beyond the tv screen to create brands requires the programme’s unique essence to be truly understood. Do this by seeing through the audience’s eyes. Also by using creative stimuli to explore, and push creative boundaries.
The same thinking process applies to any organisation thinking about how to extend their product or service into new markets. Carpe diem.
(1) Stimuli reproduced courtesy BBC Worldwide. These are just a handful of some 70 plus ideas created in order to explore new product and brand innovation opportunities for The Secret Show. Read more about our approach to brand extension and using creative stimuli in research.
When dealing with tough times, a recession, or recovery from C-19 issues, marketers have a key role to play. So how to take the opportunity to restore business growth. Here are six pointers for a speedy business turn-around:
It has always been the case that the most successful businesses are those that are the most customer or audience driven. If the tough times have caused a sales reduction, this may indicate weakness in your offer which needs to be fully understood and addressed. Whatever the economic situation, robust insights must inform your targeting, products, and promotions. Only when you have a strong offer and sound strategy in place will you ever be in a position to invest and grow.
Marketers can do much to bring forward and maximise cash flows, for example by rewarding early payment. Do your bit to control costs too. Consider using more efficient communications and seeking out smarter and better value agencies. If a worst-case rationalisation is required, view it as an opportunity to ‘right-size’. Also, make sure that the right resources are in the right places and perhaps refresh the culture. This then provides a more robust foundation for renewed growth.
Marketers should lead; in particular to ensure that corporate antennae are installed and working properly. While tough times present threats, they also present opportunities – a weak competitor here, a lower cost investment opportunity there. There will rarely be a greater opportunity for the smart marketing and research department to prove their worth. So provide timely intelligence and quality thinking on how to realise those opportunities. In particular, look to, and try and anticipate the future. Specifically, look for threats and opportunities by talking to consumers and reviewing what your competitors are doing. Reading investment blogs and company reports also provide potential sources of insight. In addition, consider using scenario planning to work through and determine the best business turn-around strategies.
There are many studies that show how the share of advertising voice correlates with market share. Further, those who invest in proactive marketing during tough times are the first to emerge and the strongest when the good times return. Also use creativity to add value to your brand and avoid creating a hostage to fortune.
Test major business building initiatives on a low cost, controlled risk basis to ensure that they work. Only when you have the metrics to prove that they work should you invest heavily.
In tough times those under pressure often cut their prices or become cheaper to buy. So grab bargains, for example cheaper advertising, while they are around. Also consider good value hires or business acquisitions.
1.Darwinist fundamentals apply. So make sure that your business and brand strategies are based on true insight and facts by using robust market research. Only then can you best focus resources on being as fit and competitive as possible.
2. Take a long and also a short term view. Take proper notice of threats and opportunities by making sure your corporate antennae work properly. Thus you’ll be more proactive and timely in spotting opportunities and making investment recommendations to your Board.
3. Grasp lower cost marketing opportunities while they abound. In so doing you will be able to go for growth while others are still sitting on their laurels. Thus ensuring a speedier business turn-around.