Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sustainablility as a Marketing Ploy

On BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" yesterday there was a phone-in on Sustainability. There was a great deal of support for Marks and Spencer's Plan A campaign. For those are unaware of it, Marks and Spencer have produced a successful campaign to improve their sustainability which has also been successful in reducing costs within the business.

All well and good but things started to go down hill when a succession of callers called these initiatives "marketing ploys" and that most of these companies were, essentially, spinning a tale rather than taking it on board.

As a marketer, I feel that, if a business takes on board marketing, they will be embedding the concept in the culture of the business. Thus any marketing campaign cannot be a "ploy". There is a world of difference between a promotional campaign (where the campaign is outward facing) and a marketing campaign (where it is inward and outward facing).

We must protect marketing from this misuse. Too often people say marketing when they mean advertising.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Am I becoming invisible?

Iím rapidly approaching a landmark birthday and am becoming convinced that Iím becoming invisible to marketers. Iím not a ďgrumpy old manĒ (although some of my friends and acquaintances may disagree!) but I start to get dissatisfied when businesses no longer appear to either want or value my custom.
I live near Darlington. If I want to buy a suit from the likes of Marks & Spencer I have to travel to Newcastle. If I want to buy a pair of shoes or a shirt for business use I have a very limited choice of outlets.
The over 35 market is stable, loyal and relatively affluent. They are willing to spend money on quality items. Why arenít we being targeted? Most of the adverts in the mass media are aimed at 18-25 year olds Ė and those aimed at me seem to be like ďJust for MenĒ (which is an appallingly dubbed version of an American advert).
Martin Runnacles (ex-BMW) said at a CIM Durham Tees Valley event that ďAdvertisers deserve the advertising they getĒ. They donít understand their market, they donít understand the advertising industry and they donít understand how to properly brief the agencies. As he pointed out, most of the creative staff in an agency are under 30. The creative staff write copy which appeals to them. This is only natural. The problem is that copy that appeals to the under 30s may not appeal to, or be even understood by, people outside that age group.
Do people over 30 drink Tango or Budweiser? Of course they do. But if you look at their advertising you may doubt that Tango or Budweiser think they do. How many men over 30 would buy a Lynx product? Do they think that men over 30 donít need deodorants?
I have nothing against targeting specific age groups per se. But why are advertisers producing adverts which seem to actively alienate certain groups? Do Phones4U think I donít want a mobile phone? Why don't they produce inclusive adverts which appeal to a wide audience?
Part of the answer lies in what Martin Runnacles said. But some of it may boil down to laziness. Laziness on the part of the advertiser who find it easier to target the 18-25 age group rather than understand the over 35s. And laziness on the part of the agency who find it easier to produce copy for the 18-25 age group.
When I was thinking about this piece I looked at what I buy now compared to what I bought 25 years ago. I was surprised to find that there are only two businesses that I use now that I used then Ė my bank and my life assurance company Ė and Iíve stopped using the insurance company for my car insurance because they no longer sell to me.
The businesses that I do use generally use broad based advertising campaigns. Advertisers forget that, if I see an advert which alienates me, I may not want to give them my business because I may not want to be associated with that campaign. With an aging population this is a potential time bomb for them.
The head of IBM said once, ď50% of my advertising is wasted Ė I just donít know which 50%Ē. Some advertising is wasting significantly more than that because of its targeting. That isnít just bad marketing Ė itís bad business!


Thursday, 18 October 2007

Marketing, Politics & BBC Today

Yesterday I swore at the radio!

Apparently, a British University is about to run courses on Marketing for MPs. Nothing wrong with that. The interviewer, talking to the lecturer, said, "The cynical view is Marketing is just about spin". That's when I swore at the radio!

Why do the BBC persist in this attitude of presenting Marketing in this cynical way? The "cynical" view of journalists is that they are lazy drunks and no doubt they would get upset if everyone said that about them.

The media is constantly bemoaning the fact that the British public has become "disengaged" with the political process. Unfortunately, the media and the politicians are to blame.

Last week's PMQs was a case in point. The politicians thought it was wonderful, the media thought it was wonderful, I think "This bunch of wallies are (or hoping to be) running the country?".

Take a leaf out of the marketing book
  1. Talk about what your customers are interested in. Do they really think that we are remotely bothered about the "Westminster village" trivia?
  2. Don't knock the competition. Tell us what you're good at and what you can do. How many businesses' only marketing message is about rubbishing the competition?
  3. Sell the benefit - not the features. How is what you want to do improve the quality of my life, my future, etc?
  4. Put yourself in your customers' shoes. Take time to find out what it's really like out here.
  5. Finally adhere to the ASA guidelines. Make sure that everything you say is "Legal, decent, honest and true"!

Unfortunately, I don't think they'll listen!

Friday, 5 October 2007


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Tuesday, 2 October 2007

To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question

You wait for ages then 2 come along at once!

Just got back from the CIM Durham Tees Valley meeting about Blogging which has filled me with another surge of enthusiasm. The speaker was Stephen Davies of webitpr. His down to earth approach and obvious enthusiasm for the topic won over the audience and I expect a surge of marketing blogs now.

A word of caution though about the "can of worms" syndrome. Blogging may, indeed, open the can of worms but, as Lorraine Davidson of Freelance Marketing pointed out, "It's better to be blogging and being seen as pro-active and responsive than to be blogged about and having no control at all".

So accepting that blogging is important what do we, as marketers, need to be aware of how to make it work? The challenge for marketers is twofold.
  • We need to produce interesting and thought provoking copy so that our customers will respond in kind
  • We need somebody to be tasked to actually do it so that, as Stephen said, "it's a marathon not a sprint".

It's no good if we pay lipservice to it. We must grasp the nettle and devote time and resources to it. But this is an opportunity. In some respects, marketing has allowed the website to become the domain of the IT department. Blogging is an opportunity for us to grab the control back and allow us to build a worthwhile, 2-way communication with our current and potential customers. Our customers who think that we're wonderful won't just tell us but they'll tell the whole world - something that Sara Fryer of Ewall raised - and, although she was worried that potential issues and niggles may also be published to the world, isn't it better that we know that there's a potential problem (so that we can fix it) than carrying on in ignorance?

Another issue is that of "corporateness". For a business blog to work it has to be personal - a dry, corporate message will turn the readers off. They want to be entertained, amused and informed. It must be able to admit mistakes, take criticism on the chin and have power to change things within the organisation. If it appears just to be a corporate mouthpiece it will disappear into the cyber junk heap and not be taken seriously. Be prepared for a tough fight with the corporate hierarchy but it will be worth it - listen to 27 September edition of Radio 4's In Business to hear how just pursuing the bottom line and not listening to customers is, ultimately, bad business.

So get out there and start blogging - you know it makes sense!

2012 and all that

It's 5 years away but the controversy over the London 2012 Olympics is only going to increase.

There have been arguments over the costs - this partly seems to stem from deliberate disinformation being spread by certain newspapers - but whatever the truth it's clear that they are going to cost a lot of money - but we'll come back to this later.

Then there's THAT logo. Personally, I have no problem with it - have a look at the Beijing ones and some of the logos in the past - to me it looks like a 1500m runner at the start of the race.

The real issue for us as marketers are the laws surrounding the games. There are 2 Acts which cover the games

The Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act 1995 &
The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006

The Olympic Symbol Act prevents business from using Olympic and its variants in your business name or brands. So if you want to call yourself Olympic Marketing forget it!

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 is a lot more stringent. Firstly, it prevents the use of the following
Any two of the words in list A OR any word in list A with one or more of the words in list B
A - Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve,

B - London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, bronze

Thinking of organising a marketing show in London in 2012 or sponsoring some summer pub games in 2012? Forget it - it's not worth the £20000 fine!

Secondly, it limits the advertising and marketing activities at the venues and their vicinity. Any advertisement or marketing activity which is not associated with one of the sponsors can be removed and, again, the people responsible fined £20000!

These regulations may seem to be excessively Draconian but ask yourself why they are in place? The sponsors are essentially paying for the Games - a lot of the expense we talked about earlier will be refunded by the IOC. If you were paying several million £s to sponsor wouldn't you want protection of this investment?

At the Cricket World Cup in the UK a few years ago all advertising from non-sponsors was removed. Names on ashtrays in the bars were taped over and snacks and soft drinks from non-sponsors were confiscated at the gate.

These may seem extreme but consider

At one London Marathon a "clever" marketer from a rival company paid students £50 to hand little flags to the finishers just before they crossed the line.

A "clever" marketer from a rival sneaked into a bar at an event and replaced all the ashtrays with their own

A "clever" marketer from a rival handed out crisps and soft drinks outside an event

We've actually brought this on ourselves by being too "clever" by half.
However, when does it become a restraint on legitimate trade? At the Athens
Olympics, only credit cards with one logo could be used for purchases. I think
that is taking it too far but perhaps they have been hijacked in the past as well.

A lot of this comes down to our own ethics. Before you do something "clever" ask yourself "How would I feel if someone did this to me?".
"Do as you would be done by" seems to be still an appropriate maxim to live

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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Is PESTLE grinding you down?

We started with PEST, moved to SLEPT and have ended up with PESTLE but none of these fully cover the external factors we need to take account of in our situation analysis. Philip Kotler, in his book Marketing Insights from A to Z (Wiley, 2003), suggests we should be less concerned about the internal factors and be looking outwards. In fact, he suggests that our typical SWOT should now be TOWS, putting even greater emphasis on the external factors. So where do we go from here?

To help with this external environmental audit a new model COMPLETED may be useful.

Some of the factors remain unchanged. The PLETED section is the macro environmental forces. The PLETE part is the Political, Legal, Economic, Technological and Environmental factors from PESTLE. The S of Sociological has become the D for Demographic as the emphasis needs to change to look more at the impact of the changes in the make-up of society rather than society itself, although the sociological issues are still important.

This leaves the three new factors which are in the micro environment
Other (indirect) Competitors


It's surprising the number of marketers who fail to take their competitors into account when carrying out their analysis. If one of your competitors suddenly changed their strategy and started to attack your business would you just sit there and take it? So why do you think that they will if you do the same?

At the very least we should be continually monitoring what our competitors are doing (and it's never been easier thanks to the internet). We should also attempt to predict what a competitor's response will be to any moves we make. For instance, if we reduce our prices by 10% to gain market share, it may well be unsuccessful if our competitors do the same!

Other (Indirect) Competitors

Monitoring direct competitors may be difficult but monitoring other competitors may well be impossible but must not be ignored.

We do not just compete with our known competitors but also with those companies which offer similar or substitute offers. Thus GNER compete with coaches and the airlines. Local shops and businesses now compete with international businesses through the internet. A local bookshop wouldn't look on Tesco or ASDA as a direct competitor but they can't ignore the fact that they sell books.

However, it is not just similar products and services we compete with, we also compete for spend of the customer's hard earned money. If an average teenager has £20 to spend on a weekend, New Look are not just competing with Dorothy Perkins and Etam but also with Justin Timberlake and Busted through Woolworths and HMV, and Diageo through the pubs and clubs. In the older market DFS are not just competing with IKEA but also Thomas Cook and Sony.


It's obvious that we need to be aware of the changes in the market. What will the customers want from us in the future, how are their attitudes changing and what do they think of us now?

When was the last time you actually asked your customers what they want and what they think of you and your competitors? Have you asked them why they buy from you in preference to somebody else? The answers may surprise you!