How marketing sorts out which are the best businesses.

You can’t have spent most of your working life in marketing as I have without believing that marketing is really pretty important.

Yet part of me,  in sync with the mood of today, is wondering if marketing is all it’s cracked up to be and whether, sometimes, it isn’t just expensive Elastoplast sticking together and promoting defective product.

Think again Richard

Sir Martin Sorrell who runs WPP, the huge advertising group, (and it’s hard to argue with someone so successful) said: “all business decisions are marketing decisions and all marketing decisions are to do with people.” And the point is well made. Good marketing is not about processes like advertising, PR or direct marketing. They are merely promotional techniques. Good marketing is about understanding people, about what they say, think, do, believe and need. It’s about listening, innovating and experimenting.

It’s about what good retailers like John Lewis do all the time. It’s about what all good small businesses do all the time. Businesses like the inventive little retailers in Brighton, Pen to Paper and Daisy-Daisy (respectively a stationers and a toy shop). They are like consultants not purveyors of goods. They scour the world to find stuff I’ll like – seldom what I need so much as what will cheer me and excite me.

How does Britain Limited currently stack up?

On June 20th and 21st  the Times mounted the CEO Summit for Britain at the Times HQ and at the Savoy Hotel. And what a depressing feel the whole thing engendered. The great and the good talked about banks, the 50p tax rate, infrastructure , blah, blah, blah…

The way to transform Britain is through great marketing innovation. Determine what the world’s markets want and deliver it to them better, faster and cheaper. And have the confidence and energy to sound like winners not whingers.

The only conclusion that vaguely smacked of being a real business (viz a marketing proposal) was this one (please forgive their dreadfully dull turns of phrase):-

“It’s time for a step-change for investment in small and medium-sized enterprises.” (good but then spoilt by talking like old trade unionists and saying this would create jobs) ”The Government should stop worrying about lending targets and work with the banks to identify the 3,000 SMEs that have the scope to create the largest number of jobs.”(Doh! We want ideas not jobs!)

Markets don’t always get it right but they are better than politicians

The trouble with that bunch at the Savoy is they were so parochial, it was all about supply, labour, all about balance sheets and “stuff” and it was very little about markets, people, customers and consumers. On the basis of what they concluded Britain will continue to stumble along in the global equivalent of the third division.

One ray of hope was Michael Barber of McKinsey, and I’ll forgive him that atrocious word “benchmark” , said – “we need to benchmark against the best in the world”.

Yes, and tell people that we are and start selling more assertively.

Let’s start a confidence movement right now

Britain is great at the arts, creative marketing, innovative ideas, making things (yes like books, like premium priced clothes, like ready prepared meals, like new technology …surprisingly the list is very long.)

Great marketing creates great confidence creates more ideas because marketing looks to the future and to customers, not to the past and the imprisoning effect of always-done-it-like-that.

We need a bit more swagger and a lot less moaning. Marketing thinking rather than banking thinking will sort out the best ideas and the most exciting opportunities.

After all when did you ever meet a banker who could sell anything?

So vote for the Marketing Party now because ordinary politics just isn’t working.

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