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5 November 2016

What Good is Marketing?

Tag(s): Worshipful Company of Marketors, Marketing
Last week the Marketors held our fifth and final Great Event of the year, the Bowden Charter Dinner. This dinner is our opportunity to both commemorate our foundation in 1975 and the granting of a Royal Charter in 2010. We chose to hold this in the beautiful Ironmongers’ Hall. The Ironmongers’ Company is one of the Great Twelve and can trace its origins back to the 13th century. They purchased their first hall in 1457. This was rebuilt in 1587 and survived the Great Fire but their third hall of 1745 was one of the few buildings to be bombed in the First World War. The present day hall was built in 1925 in a Tudor style. Much of the fantastic craft work was done by hand. The banqueting hall is of double height with Waterford chandeliers of 1803 from the previous hall. The hall featured in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The dinner is customarily an opportunity to have a guest speaker from the top of the marketing profession. Our speaker Liveryman Martin Riley has had a hugely successful career in the drinks industry. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford University he worked successively in marketing for Sandeman, James Burroughs plc, Whitbread, Allied Domecq and then Pernod Ricard where he rose to be Global Chief Marketing Officer.  In 2015 he stood for Parliament as a Tory in the safe Labour seat of Stalybridge.

Martin said:  “‘Now the theme of this year’s Master is ‘Marketing for Good is Good Marketing’. I was very pleased to attend the conference in New College, Oxford in September where this theme was debated and discussed.  I am 100% in agreement with the premise.

As President of the World Federation of Advertisers, I was involved in Project Re-Connect which brought together some of the world’s leading companies and Marketing Professionals to seek to ensure that marketing and business remains understood and valued by people in all types of communities.

At Pernod Ricard we devoted one day per year to working with local communities on a variety of projects to improve people’s lives – in the 85 countries in which we operated.  Chivas Regal devotes $1m a year to support social enterprises.

But I asked the Master if I could provide a ‘twist’ to this theme.  Being in the drinks industry, you will understand that we often take our drinks – and our subjects - with a twist.

My twist on the theme is ‘What Good is Marketing?’  Is the role Marketing plays in business today fully understood?  How has it evolved over the last 20 years?  Does the public understand it, and do people in other disciplines in business, even CEOs, understand its potential contribution today?

Do the fundamentals still apply?  Our Master has written on the subject of Marketing, notably ‘The 20 Ps of Marketing’.  Philip Kotler, now in his 15th edition of ‘Marketing Management’, is still a key reference for many.  More recently Byron Sharp has made impact in some major companies with ‘How Brands Grow’.
So I set out to find how Marketing and Business people regard the fundamentals today.  Are the key principles of brand positioning, differentiation and targeting promoted by Kotler still relevant?  Or is the Byron Sharp proposal of owning space – whether physical space on shelf or mental space for your brand – one that is gaining momentum?

I went to Paris to ask two leading French experts for their view.  Jean-Marie Dru, worldwide chairman of TBWA and champion of DISRUPTION reassured me that in his view Marketing remains the driver of business, bringing innovation and creativity and always representing the consumer in the Boardroom. 

Jean Noël Kapferer, the Marketing Professor of Paris Business School HEC, was strong in his belief that Marketing is the only defence against commoditisation and, although financial measures and data have come to influence Marketing, what matters is using data to assist consumer insight and understanding.  The goal is about making brands relevant, and becoming a ‘high involvement brand’, in the lives of people (who are more than just consumers).

I had the chance to put my ideas and all their thoughts into practice when selected as Conservative candidate in the 2015 General Election. Although I had no previous involvement in politics at any level, I had the opportunity to experience the thrills and spills of a General Election close up and to play a front line role.

It was four months to Election Day.  The Constituency, east of Manchester and held by Labour since 1945, had a declining majority.  It was where I had grown up – but I had been living away from there for many years. So how should I begin to shape my campaign?  What could I bring?  What did I know?  Well this is where Marketing fundamentals really do help.

As a General Election candidate you are squeezed between the perception of the national party and the effectiveness of local party politicians on the Council.  You have to create your own SPACE and distinctive positioning and appeal within that context.

Positioning of yourself as a brand is required.  So what are the tools needed? 

1)      Brand positioning, which requires differentiation, targeting and establishing your own brand values and vision.
2)      Answering the question ‘What do you believe and why?’
3)      Identify your target.  You want to influence those whose votes can make a difference – not those who are already committed to you, or somebody else, but those who are ‘potentials’, ‘floating voters’ – a little bit like brand switching.
4)     What tone of voice will you adopt?  What is your “brand” personality and how distinctive is that compared to your Party Leadership?
5)      What is your brand promise?  What is the answer to the question ‘What will you do for me, the voter?’
6)      Can you summarise it in a SLOGAN? As David Ogilvy said ‘On average five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.’  I adopted the slogan ‘You deserve better.’
For election campaigning is a form of DIRECT MARKETING, possibly the most direct marketing there is.  On the doorstep, or face to face with your voters in Hustings alongside the competition, or being interviewed by the media.

And of course social media has a key role to play. Byron Sharp recommends that you occupy Mind Space as well as Physical Space.  So creating a website with video blogs, a Twitter account, Facebook page and email correspondence is essential.  All of which must maintain and project a consistent tone of voice.

So in conclusion, I would say to the question ‘What Good is Marketing?’, that Marketing provides NOW what it always has done – insight and a framework, structure and toolkit where all brands can be promoted, and made relevant and desirable – even if that brand is Yourself!”

In my speech I addressed the issue in this way:

“Next year our Company will celebrate 40 years of being a Livery company. It seems that every forty years or so, a big shift takes place and we enter a new age of political and economic thinking. These are turbulent times with strange developments in the political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, the British people have taken the momentous decision to leave the European Union, an action generally referred to as Brexit but one which I prefer to call Brenaissance.

But we can see several signs that change is required. Here are three examples.

First the middle class can’t buy their own homes without government subsidy. Housing in our capital is now unaffordable unless you work in finance. The housing market no longer works and something else is needed. Policymakers have no idea what.
Second, public services can no longer run without mass immigration. We can simply no longer afford to pay or train our own people. This is another sign of the need for new thinking.

Finally, ministers defend indefensibly bad services. When Southern Rail began to unravel due to indefensible incompetence, the rail minister’s only option was to defend the managers responsible, just like the 1970s when ministers had to defend bad services simply because no other option seemed available. A private monopoly is just as bad as a public one, maybe worse.

These signs taken together suggest we’re out of ideas – 2016 will go down in history as one of those watershed moments when everything changed, dogmas are cut through and a new economics rises to take its place. Last month we held a very successful conference at my alma mater, New College Oxford to explore my theme Marketing for Good is Good Marketing. We assembled a high quality group of speakers from different sectors to address the question; ‘Is Marketing for Good the Future of Marketing?’ I closed the conference by putting that question to the audience. 100% of attendees voted yes. Job done.

So I believe that marketing can take the lead in addressing these questions. People often talk in a confused way about so-called free markets. The only free markets I know are the illegal ones. All legal markets are regulated in one way or another. But the point about marketing is to understand what the consumer, user, customer, patient, or passenger needs and ensure you give it to them within affordable budgets. Marketing for Good is Good Marketing and that can be applied in every sector of the economy, in every stratum of society.”

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