This year was different: back to basics
This edition (October 2022) was different. It was about marketing, entrepreneurship, market orientation, brand building and sales activation. It was about the long and short term, about efficiency and effectiveness and about marketing’s collaboration with other disciplines. Marketing in other words, and indeed the basis of marketing.
It can hardly be any different if you start with a presentation by marketing professor Mark Ritson. The essence of his speech was: ‘No one cares about your brand’. More nuanced: Marketers think too little from the customer’s perspective. Another theme in his speech was rising inflation and falling spending. In Ritson’s words: ‘We’re screwed’.
Then add that the best way to deal with the current economic situation is to maintain budgets and marketing communication activities. A statement that he substantiated with an argument about the importance of share of voice and the creation of additional share of voice, resulting in a greater market share. If all brands follow his advice, then of course nothing will happen, but the practice is that many brands reduce their budgets and reduce advertising activities. Keep doing what you’ve already planned and your share of the vote will grow.
Ritson concluded his presentation with his marketing checklist:
- Stay market-oriented (but actually: finally put yourself in your damn customer’s shoes!)
- Keep the strategy simple (goals, targeting, positioning)
- Combine sales activation with brand building (the long and the short)
- Pay attention to differentiation and distinctiveness. Be different, but above all strikingly and recognizably different
- Keep your communications budget on track.
Plan B and C
Another interesting session was the conversation with the CMO and CFO of On the beach, an online travel company (onthebeach.co.uk). The topic: How do I ensure an optimal relationship with the CFO? The crux of the whole story: talk to each other… It sounds a little silly, but these two people had a healthy professional relationship. They had a clear and shared strategic framework, talked regularly without an agenda, and the CMO felt co-responsible for the P&L. The CMO left the geeky marketing shizzle to the team and talked to the CFO about goals (in terms of increasing average cart sales and market share) and how she would achieve them. No, not that complicated, but apparently (and this is also my own experience with the companies I see inside) a huge challenge. Organizations still work in silos. One of the things I got from the conversation was the CFO’s advice: come up with a plan B and a plan C. If it goes better than expected, what do we do? And if things go down, what’s the plan? Especially the first one, being prepared for success and being able to scale when needed, I think is a good idea.
An engaging group discussion was about Heinz and was held with the marketing officer and agency side team working on Heinz. The conversation itself was not that interesting. It was about the brand’s legacy and how they are now building on it. So with respect for the past, but with a new impulse for the future.
The interesting thing is that Heinz has an innovation team that does nothing but come up with new product ideas. Beanz burgers, Beanz meals, Beanz stuffed hash browns. So much for beans, because Beanz means Heinz. But it has now been supplemented with a new ‘platform’ (…) Beanz means more. Still less strong I think.
This only works from a holistic approach. You can come up with delicious Saucysauce and Spaghetti Junction, but you still have to produce, sell and put them away through your distribution channels. It is only possible if the entire organization is willing to think in that direction and cooperate. Not so from a company with silos.
What I found a bit difficult was the role that Heinz appropriates from his new ‘platform’ in the problem of children going to school without breakfast. A campaign is asking people to donate £5 a month so a child can have a proper breakfast. Heinz doubles every donation. To me it feels more like a clever advertising campaign than a company doing it right. Difficult to find the right balance.
I was looking forward to the session with Jenni Romaniuk. Not because it was mainly about champagne, either, but mainly because I think the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute is an important voice in the marketing landscape and that their theory of brand growth and the role of distinctive brand assets is important. note of. For anyone working for brands: Romaniuk outlined her ‘laws of growth’ system (see image).
This system revolves around mental and physical accessibility and the specific interpretation thereof on various factors. In the session, she discussed the importance of category entry points, the entrances to the brand. Many brands assume inputs that are obvious, but what happens when those inputs change? And what do you do if it changes the competition area? Is the way you present your product still adequate? With a different theme and in different terms, it was again about the customer’s perspective. And once again, it turned out that organizations and brands handle this too easily.
The penultimate session I would like to mention is the latest market research session. Participants noted that research is increasingly conducted in-house and that research appears to be becoming a commodity. Jo Blundell of Papa Johns International identified a more holistic approach to research and generating insights: not so often for each business unit separately, but more often based on the collective interests of the organization with insights in specific areas. The panel emphasized the importance of a good balance between researching the big issues for the organization, in addition to the quick smaller research for short-term issues.
I heard ‘Long & Short’. They saw a relevant collaboration between agencies and internal researchers, but also noticed that these researchers often did not know exactly what their internal clients wanted to know. They advocated putting more effort into better understanding what exactly is the question behind the question. This inadvertently referred to Ritson’s morning session conducting research with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) on the quality of briefings among marketers and agencies.
The result of that research was quite shocking. In 55% of the cases clear objectives or desired results are missing, in 34% a clear strategy and/or problem definition is missing and in 30% of the cases the orientation was not clear at all.
This year’s Festival of Marketing was about marketing, the foundation of marketing. And if you think about it for a second, it’s pretty serious. Around a thousand attendees listened attentively to a few recurring themes:
- Think from the customer’s perspective
- Work together in an organization based on a common strategic framework
- Communicate and work together.
The last speaker was Steven Bartlett, a well-known Brit. Successful entrepreneur, podcaster, investor and TV personality. I have rarely heard anyone speak so persuasively, sincerely and passionately. Inspiring to the core.
But just as fallible as everyone else. Sometimes he catches himself or his teams getting complacent, and then comes the moment when he calls out to Jenny: How do we make Jenny care? Jenny is standing on the side of the road with car trouble, in the pouring rain. She wants to go home, her phone’s battery is low, and the very, very last thing she does is with your brand. What can you do to make sure you get Jenny’s attention? What is that little thing, that message, that hook that makes her forget for a moment what she was doing and think about your brand?
The tip Bartlett concluded with when asked what to do in these times of recession if you still want to be successful: focus on the most obvious idea, what others are leaving behind. He believes: there are opportunities there. I wonder if we can do it. Because the most obvious thing for a marketing employee is to think from the customer’s perspective. And we don’t do that very well. To quote Ritson: ‘We’re screwed’.
This article previously appeared on MarketingTribune.