I was recently asked to speak at an away day for the marketing team at Ernst & Young. I was delighted to help and was really impressed with the level of engagement and discussion around differentiation and the contribution of marketing to the business. Professional services marketing can often be a difficult area but the team seemed really fired up to make a difference.
If you have any thoughts on professsional services marketing or any of the themes in the presentation then please reach out to me or comment below. And if you want me to speak at your event please email me.
The need for credibility is undoubtedly crucial and we need to avoid our industry turning inwards and defaulting to the seemingly age old, “we’re not wrong, we are just misunderstood” excuses. We must not default to the position that the solution to any lack of standing as a profession is solved by just needing to “market” marketing within businesses and “to the board”. We need new ideas and a vision for marketing’s role with the organisation.
As I mused on this I turned to my almost untouched (shame on me!) copy of “The Future of Marketing” for inspiration. This beautifully produced book was recently published by the Marketing Society for its 50th Anniversary. My depression deepened as I read the collected thoughts of 50 CEOs, from the “world’s most successful companies”, no less, in answering the question “What role will marketing play in the future success of your business?”
Guess what the answer is? A lot of “consumer is boss”, a truck load of “digital”, some “it’s all about growth” and shockingly little on sustainability (apart from good old Unilever). Andrew Marsden’s introduction boils it all down to “absolute agreement about one thing that will not change” – the battle for consumer’s trust.
What’s interesting about these snippets from these CEOs is that, by definition, what these CEOs think is the status quo. They extrapolate from the current trajectory of the world and their businesses to predict the future. Envisioning a radical future is hard for anyone but it is impossible for them. Incidentally this is compounded by the shocking lack of diversity in the group. Strikingly there were only 2 women and 2 non-white males in the group of 50!
I think marketing is on a collision course with the future. Our current marketing paradigm is inextricably linked to the driving of consumption and the creation of habits of consumption. This is the economic purpose of marketing: to ensure that demand outstrips supply permanently and profitably in a world of plentiful energy and resources. Economic growth has been the single minded outcome upon which we have built our brands, our marketing models and our rasion d’etre.
But unabated growth cannot continue. Rising populations, increasingly “middle class” and consumerist, means that there will be increasing competition for scarce resources. And marketing is already at some level becoming the thing to blame.
My hunch is that the future of marketing is not merely, or even, a “more consumer focused / digital / growth oriented / sustainable” (delete as appropriate) future but a complete reversal of the current paradigm:
We’ve been used to selling more stuff, the future will be about selling less stuff.
We’ve got great at creating new propositions, the future will be making things last.
We’ve become expert at making people value “goods”, the future will be helping people value what is “good” in every facet of their lives.
We’ve used advanced techniques to satisfy consumer wants, the future will be balancing outcomes for the common good.
And lastly we’ve become hooked on helping our businesses, our economies, often our customers, and in turn our wallets grow “fat”. The future of marketing will be helping people enjoy being “thin” by consuming less and conserving more.
This is an exciting opportunity for those businesses and brands, and their marketers, to move into a completely new and fundamentally more future oriented landscape.
Last week I read a fantastic book called Cradle to Cradle about eco-effective product design. Really easy to read and really mind expanding. Definitely a read for all those involved in designing and delivering products.
Here is a link to it on Amazon (its an affiliate link so you know!) and my two minute video review.
I am thinking of doing a series of these video book reviews. Please give me feedback on whether you think they work and what I should include.
Here is also a TED talk by William Mcdonough on the key concepts.
What do you think? Leave a comment below and share these important concepts.
Last year I recommended the best selling book – Exploiting Chaos – by a friend of mine Jeremy Gutsche.
Jeremy’s website Trend Hunter continues to go from strength to strength. His model is fascinating. He has thousands of “trend hunters” posting interesting content about stuff happening all over the world. But what I really love is the way that they are exploiting and developing insight from this content.
The guys have launched a new service called TrendHunter Pro Trend Reports. These are great syntheses of what is hot from all the content posted on Trend Hunter. If you are in consumer insight or want to know about the real cutting edge trends happening now then they are worth looking at. Trend Hunter is great example of how powerful the democratisation of the creation of content is to delivering insight and value.
[Disclosure: If you buy through the above link then I receive a commission on this sale. This does not affect my recommendation of what I think is a good product. If you prefer not to recognise my recommendation through a commission then you can use this link: www.trendhunter.com]
I’ve been thinking about the new stuff that companies do.
Innovation. Too many projects in businesses are given that title. It devalues the word and what it should really mean. It leads to that sad statistic that 80% of new products launched don’t survive….which given companies are generally very risk adverse is a pretty pathetic hit rate.
Unfortunately most companies believe that implementing anything new is innovation, which is more a reflection of how difficult they make it to get stuff done rather than anything that would make a real person go “wow – that’s neat”.
That’s not to say that a whole range of things can’t build your business but if we are honest with each other most of it isn’t innovation. Try this simple categorisation test for the new stuff you or your company are working on:
CATEGORY 1: Stuff your customers think you already do because you are behind the curve or is so obvious that you should do like….
An innovation CRM project that allows your company to know when a customer has called (all service companies want this and most don’t have it covered yet)
An innovation IT system that allows your company to see a single view of a customer (i.e. you know what products I have from you) (all the big banks want this but most don’t have it)
Servicing your account online or opting for e-statements (Barclaycard have been pushing this to their customers in the last year or so as they played catch up)
CATEGORY 2:Stuff your customers think you should do already like…..
It’s the last category of course that are real innovations requiring significant investments and creative thinking rather than battling with internal restrictions and bureaucracy.
How much of what you are working on that is called “innovation” could really be placed in the last category? If it’s lots that’s great – I can’t wait for these new breakthroughs to get to market! If it’s lots in the other categories (as I suspect it will be) that’s not necessarily a bad thing but make sure you don’t believe your own “innovation hype”- because it’s your customers that really know whether what you’ve just launched is new, truly different and worthy of lasting.
As ever I would love to hear what you think. Get involved, share your ideas, comment below – every comment wins a personal thank you from me!
> In his speech to the Financial Services Forum dinner in December Nigel Gilbert the outgoing Chief Marketing Officer of LloydsTSB talked about the role of marketing and the consumer in banking. He also talked about an initiative that LloydsTSB ran last year called “A Crocodile for Billy”. This is a book / ebook about saving and spending for parents to use with young kids.
His themes about the role of marketing and brands in financial services echo my own thoughts around the rights and responsibilities of marketing departments. I outlined some of these in my Battle of the Big Thinking presentation: Escaping The Matrix. Undoubtedly there is a massive need for more human understanding in business with its overfocus with quantitative analysis and comfort with people who are technically gifted but less comfortable with vision and working in our very human and emotional world.
When operating well marketing should be the “heart of an organisation” – and I mean that not to indicate its position but to capture its unique added value. Businesses and brands, the great ones anyway, are full of heart, vision, ambition and human understanding. They are often driven by a passionate leader who captures the heads and hearts of employees and customers alike. Marketing and the brands they develop have the ability to inspire and energise even when a charismatic founder or CEO isn’t available.
And there is something here that is at the core of why our big banks are not great businesses or brands. They have little heart, vision, ambition or human understanding. They can’t understand why people are appalled at billions sitting in bonus pools after the past two years of bailouts. They don’t have a vision for the role that banks and financial institutions need to play in our society. A senior executive at LloydsTSB recently said to me that their vision was “to become the UKs most recommended bank”. If that is the extent of their collective vision for a business that has been given near monopoly share levels and billions in state money (your money, my money) then my vote would be to break it up – they don’t deserve to exist with that little ambition or understanding of their responsibilities in society.
And Crocodile of Billy is a neat example of the practical impact of this lack of vision and “head beneath the parapet” attitude that most of our banks are operating in currently. Its cute, I like it, I’d like to get a copy (although I can’t see how? You can’t buy it anywhere?), and I’d like to read it to Luca and Daniel. There is no doubt that we need desperately need more financial education in our society. But Crocodile for Billy is a tiny, albeit positive, effort in this regard. Why doesn’t the financial services industry realise that they have a massive responsibility and the resources to fill this gap? They could work together, invest the hundreds of millions needed and ensure that every child gets the information they need to make informed decisions in their financial choices.
That would be a vision. That would be added value. That could be transformative to our view of financial services brands. Until they realise that we demand more as their customers and as members of our society, especially in the light of the last two years, financial brands will remain in the gutter, actively distrusted and disliked.
Get involved in the debate – comment below. Do you work for LloydsTSB or another UK bank – are you brave enough to share your view?
Happy New Year! I hope 2010 brings you all that you need.
A quick post to share a presentation that I put together for the UK Marketing team for Carlsberg. An old friend of mine (Ian Hannaford @ihannaford) is now a Marketing Manager at Carlsberg and he kindly extended an invitation to talk through some thoughts on brands and marketing with the team.
It was great to meet the team and I really enjoyed the session. Some really interesting ideas surfaced which provoked lots of discussion. I learnt alot about Carlsberg including the fact that it is run as a trust contributing to Danish projects and the top board is scientists and artists. How differentiated is that?
I was impressed that the team was open to hearing ideas and thoughts from other marketers and categories – I wish all teams were as open. Thanks also go to the Director of Brands Paul Davies for allowing me a slot at his meeting.
Do you want me come to your team meeting and provoke some thinking and discussion? Email me – I might just take you up on the offer!
As ever – if you have any thoughts, disagreements, energy and passion to share about brands and marketing then please comment below or drop me an email.
Update on Battle of the Big Thinking (for those that have been following my frustrations on Twitter) – I finally have a stable draft of the presentation. If you are attending see you there and if you aren’t you will be able to take part because I’m going to extend an invitation for you to join the debate!
In reality the presentation took about 45 mins so I’ve had to rush to crunch it down to 17 mins. You can just click through the slides if you don’t want to listen to me!
And for those that don’t even want to view the presentation or listen to the audio here are the key conclusions:
1. There is a brand bubble being created between valuation and consumer value 2. Consumers are increasingly getting frustrated with brands and business 3. There are disruptive changes which are causing this: 4. Consumption based economic growth is now compromising our well being 5. Consumption based economic growth is unsustainable 6. Connectivity and access to information can help facilitate change 7. Social and power structures are changing
The opportunity for brands and their businesses is:
1. Engage in the debate 2. Adopt a point of view and foster conversation 3. Be points of consistency in a changing world 4. Become the ideas around which businesses can adopt a more balanced approach to delivering not just for shareholders but for the common good 5. These social imperatives are a powerful way to deliver a brand’s commercial imperative – and this will constitute brand leadership going forward.
There are lots of big themes and trends here – get involved – please comment on this blog.
What do you think the future of brands is? Comment and share your ideas.
Justin (and Tom Farrand)
P.S. Apologies for the silence from my blog over the past couple of weeks – I’ve been working on various ideas which took my focus away from the blog.
I was at a seminar last week organised by the Financial Services Forum where I was lucky enough to hear Lucian Camp talk about his take on the current crisis and how it challenges advertising and commuication. I agree with him that something fundamental has changed and we are moving away from a predominant focus on “Greed” to needs around “fear”.
However I don’t particularly like the concept of Greed and Fear since I have rarely heard consumers talk about these words directly. I prefer to think of it as “gain” and “protect”. Over the past 20 years the prevailing mood has been “gain” – gaining goods, houses, wealth, quality of life, happiness, health. This doesn’t mean we have achieved any of these things but we have experienced the advertising of aspiration.
We have now been shocked into a different mode – that of “protection”. We have all been given pause for thought on whether our jobs, our homes, our families, even the system we rely on, are secure and around for the long term. Products and messages that talk about protecting and sustaining what one has now are more in the current zeitgeist. These messages are also more in tune with the global sustainability issues that we are all facing.
Here are 5 rules for marketers to think of as we ride this trend:
1. Invest more time in understanding consumers worries, frustrations and concerns. I’ve often seen research spend too much time focusing on what people want, with almost an embarrassment to talk about problems that are more negative. Spend time wallowing in these fears with your consumer. From this new insights will come which might not be positive but will resonate strongly in today’s market.
2. Don’t be afraid to link your brand to these concerns in communication. One of the challenges that many of us will need to battle with is that if your career is less thn 15 years old then you’ve only ever worked in the good times. My generation of marketers have only been used to dealing with positive messaging – I think we are a bit afraid of the brand equity we build by talking about negative situations. The best brands will go with the consumer, build equity of “understanding” and “on your side” by reflecting consumer needs hence Rule#1.
3. Move your product development to focus on protection and design products which are sustainable and thrifty. I blogged a while ago about my adventures trying to fix my toaster. Products which help consumers protect what they have whilst having features which are thrifty and sustainable will better meet these needs. Products such as LCD TVs with “eco settings”, Ariel and its turn down to 30 campaign, or printers from HP which have much lower running costs are all examples.
4. Big brands have a great opportunity to gain market share. Small brands need to be faster and closer to their niche. In this environment there will be a natural move to bigger, less risky brands. The big brands that invest through this period will prosper. Those that don’t run the risk that consumers write them off as having failed during the downturn (even if they haven’t). Small brands need to be faster with new concepts and products and more focused than ever on their niches. Luckily more and more niches are appearing and new channels allow greater ability to connect with these groups.
5. (Small) Moments of pleasure matter more than ever. The protection agenda, and the recent crisis, for all the media’s efforts to persaude us otherwise, doesn’t mean a return to mud huts and sack cloth and ashes. However I suspect the embullience of the past cycle will be more muted for a long time. And that means that moments of pleasure and escape will mean even more to people. We are seeing this with consumer spending moving into cinema tickets, chocolate, staycations, and eating well at home, small moments of often thrifty pleasure.
As always please feel free to comment and share your views. I will try and reply to all comments so please leave one if you have a thought.
Also please feel free to share this blog with anyone you might feel is interested. I really appreciate your support as I build this blog.
Some of Jeremy’s ideas and thoughts are powerful. He has created a good resource in this book of examples, ideas and provocative challenges that will help to inspire and stimulate thinking.
I’ve always thought that we should hold a high bar to what we regard in business as innovation. During my corporate career I seemed to be constantly working on the next “innovation” as were my colleagues. I think many businesses use the word to make people feel better about the work that they were doing! A new ad, a new twist on an existing product, a new concept in an existing category – most likely they aren’t going to be an innovation.
In my mind innovations need to meet at least the following criteria:
2. It delivers something new against a new or existing need meaningfully and for the long term. I think an innovation should have context – it can’t be a good idea for the sake of a good idea.
The Honda hydrogen fuel cell car, for example, I think will be seen as truly innovative over time because it moves us on significantly into new long-lasting territory. Whereas the Toyota Prius won’t stand the test of time because whilst it was a step forward (and a good one), it didn’t fundamentally deliver against the need meaningfully and for the long term (although the harvesting of electrical energy from braking that Toyota developed is an innovation which I suspect will last).
3. It should significantly challenge the existing status quo. The introduction of an offsetting mortgage, much touted as a financial innovation, didn’t meet my bar – it was a good product and clever but not an innovation. Zopa, on the other hand, a marketplace for you and I to lend to each other safely is an innovation – it challenges the exisiting significantly and is truly novel.
The debate over innovation will go round and round. I just hope that more businesses can deliver value against our needs, whether they call it invention, innovation, or just plain old tweaking.
What do you think? As always please feel free to share, retweet, comment and get involved.