Monday, 11 October 2010

Marketing first? Not a chance.

In return for speaking at an evening they had arranged, the Marketing Society recently gave me a copy of their book on the Future of Marketing. It was a nice gesture (and some compensation for a trip to Coventry...) You can read an excerpt from it here.

Reading it on the train on the way home, it had the usual contributions from the usual contributors, including Sir Martin Sorrell (of course) with his standard essay on how it's all about the growing markets - Asia and South America - and how measurement is the way forward. Measurement is the way forward and it's great to hear somebody with that kind of profile banging the analytics drum, but even as an analyst, I can't help feeling he puts a little too much faith in numbers.

To be honest, even with a train journey to kill, I skimmed quite a lot of it.

Two contributors stood out though, as interesting pieces written by people that I find inspiring, and also for the fact that neither are primarily marketers.

When asked "What is the future of marketing?", James Dyson and Richard Branson both replied (essentially) "Product". Then added, "It's always been product".

Get the product right and people will come back. They'll also do a lot of your marketing for you. Ask any business traveller who they most like to fly with and in my experience the vast majority immediately start singing the praises of Virgin. These companies advertise, of course they do, but it's secondary to the business of making products that work.

I was reminded of those two articles this morning by a Guardian interview with Jamie Oliver. Have a read, it's got a couple of cracking rants in it and is refreshingly sweary.

One point stood out for me.

"You know that government advertising campaign, Change4Life, cost £20m on billboards? I could have built over 100 Ministries of Food in towns all over the country for that. The public doesn't need to know that we're in a fucking state, that we need five a day. What it needs is skin on skin, it needs beacons locally where you can find out stuff for free, and have lessons. It's the only way forward"

Change4Life is a classic case of advertising without a product and it's throwing money away. He's a marketing genius that Jamie Oliver, mainly because he's not trying to do marketing.

As part of the public spending bonfire that we're about to experience*, I'd like the Tories to instil a new advertising principle. Government departments can't advertise until they've got a product. One that is already selling. Launch with a huge marketing campaign and it's too easy to take your eye off the ball and to concentrate on that campaign. Especially when (God forbid,) it's the biggest line item in your budget.

* Labour had a public spending bonfire too, but theirs was different. They just burned cash. In large part by funding daft ad campaigns.

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