Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

Whose baby is it anyway?

Small business owners developing new and exciting Brands to bring to market, have an ownership which comes from being present not only at the launch of a brand and execution of a strategy, but at its very conception.  “It’s our baby”

Phot of Pickle Jars © ShutterstockAs marketers, it is very easy for us to assume that we know what’s best for our clients.

I met an interesting gentleman from New York this week who is proposing to launch a range of artisan craft pickles into the UK, made using the finest carefully sourced ingredients and traditional salt-brining fermentation methods without the addition of vinegars associated with mass produced pickles.

These particular pickles are jewels to adorn any platter, or to be held aloft and admired before crunching through their delicious flesh, delivering a burst of salty joy alongside a refreshing craft ale.
And yes, of course, they can be used to invigorate the simplest of sandwiches.

Mr. Pickles then showed me some of his original home grown design ideas for his new brand – Quirky and authentic, the design draws cues from the traditional provenance and features a tongue-in-cheek black-&-white picture of the man himself holding up a large jar of his first ever production.

So, a great product with a charismatic brand owner and light-hearted, entertaining and engaging positioning, this could be a marketer’s dream brand to work with.

And then for the first time in our conversation, I saw his face fall.  “Could you take a look at this for me?” he asked, It was a brand activation proposal from a marketing company he had been talking to.

Of course, I wasn’t present at the original briefing, and so much can be lost in translation, but it is quite clear that the presentation completely missed the point.  Falling into the trap of rehashing a variety of PowerPoint slides, (and clearly from different presentations), I had lost interest within the first two pages.  More fundamentally, the presentation focused completely on sandwiches in every shape and form and barely mentioned the hero of the piece, the beautiful pickle.

As marketers, it’s very easy for us to assume that we know what’s best for our clients.  But it is essential that we recognise that our role as consultants is to help the business owners realise their dreams and passions for their brands.  These individuals have an ownership which comes from being present not only at the launch of the brand and in the execution of the strategy, but a at its very conception.  In very real terms “it’s their baby”.

Of course, it can be very useful to help identify a key usage occasion, and to focus on how the pickle can bring extra flavour to a boring sandwich occasion, but to fail to extol the virtues of said pickle, to fail to recognise that this is the hero that needs to be stood upon a pedestal, is completely underwhelming.

It’s no wonder that many businesses fail to recognise the benefits of employing experienced marketer to help them realise their dream, when the brand owners feel “they simply don’t get my brand”.

As marketers, we are passionate about the Brands that we work on,-it’s in our nature; but in the final analysis, we have to recognise that for our clients, it’s their baby and not ours.

Chris Collis is Managing Director of Marketing Walk Ltd,  and proud parent of Elfie Drinks Co

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Why only “Commercial Marketing” makes it to the board-room.

The role of a commercial marketer is to join the dots …its the difference between being the support act or the leader.

Following Asda’s appointment of Barry Williams as Chief Customer Asda HQOfficer, the marketing press this week has been angsting about the rise of marketing leaders without “a traditional background in Marketing”.

Rather than see this as usurping some natural right of brand marketers to progress to global leadership, perhaps the “traditional Marketing” community should take a closer look at the key drivers of any business in which they wish to progress (-generally that’s profitable growth); and whether they are developing a skill-set to deliver those needs.

The real question here is “What is the role of the Marketer in a commercial business” ? The CIM definition  calls marketing a “management process… to satisfy customers’ requirements profitably”(*¹). This definition recognises marketing’s role as fundamentally “Commercial”.

The truth is that too many so called “traditional Marketers” have been brought up in a silo of marketing communications: developing creative advertising and other collateral, recently obsessed by the shiny new toys of digital media. While nowadays this comes with an expectation of a return on investment calculation, there remains a perceived disconnection from the commercial realities of the business.

Sales teams are famously suspicious of Marketers and a few weeks ago, the press was reporting that many CFOs see Marketers as weak and fluffy(*²). This comes as no surprise, when many marcomms specialists fail to demonstrate the success of their activities in commercial language and measures that are easily understood and accepted by the rest of the business.

So,  Perhaps it’s time to call time on “traditional marketing” and time to start thinking, “Commercial Marketing”.

The role of the marketing team is not simply to make stylish advertising and a face-book page, nor just to support sales with trade stands, leaflets and  POS ; but rather to take the lead in driving the business forward: –

  1.   to identify the consumer segments with the greatest potential for profitability  and do a proper need-states analysis.
  2.   to engage production, technical and supply chain, and take the lead in developing  relevant, viable, commercial propositions, which meet those consumers needs in the channel and occasion of their choice;
  3.  to engage internal sales teams and provide stories, rationales, and if necessary, resources they can use to drive Presence and Availability in those channels;
  4.  to develop relevant and engaging consumer positioning, tone of voice, advertising and promotional messages which remain consistent at every touch-point; and finally to choose the right media mix for that core consumer and those messages.
  5. to be meticulous in creating consumer measures which the CFO can buy into, and collecting evidence which demonstrates that your actions are effective and efficient, which can be used to support future proposals, and which you can prove to be drivers of value over time.

Fundamentally, the role of a commercial marketer is to join the dots between all parts of the business and the consumer you’re championing;  its the difference between strategy and tactics;  between working in a silo or being a team player;  between being the support act or the leader.

As far as non-marketers reaching leadership positions, this isn’t new. Marketers have reported to ex-sales “Sales and Marketing Directors” in many businesses since time immemorial. Indeed, the CIM name itself included “Sales Managers” for its first 60 years. Unless we take the lead, meet the needs of our internal customers and demonstrate our worth to the business in a language they understand, then as marketers, we are never destined to get “intergalactic president” onto our business card.

Finally, I don’t know Barry Williams personally , but his history in Asda (and Musgraves) gives him a clear view of the expectations of the business and its place within Walmart’s global business strategy. His lack of traditional Marketing skills have undoubtedly been compensated by bringing in Claire Harrison-Church as VP of Marketing from Premier Foods. Claire herself  has risen to leadership not just as a marketer, but as a woman too; so rather than snipe from the sidelines, perhaps the marketing press should be congratulating the new team, and asking the key question, “How will you bring profitable growth to Asda?”

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Chris Collis Marketing Consultant UKChris Collis is an award winning Chartered Marketer and  Director of independent consultancy Marketing Walk.

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(*¹) CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) Definition: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.

(*²) I won’t enter here what many marketers think of CFOs, because it’s probably unprintable – I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some exceptional finance directors over the years, but I’ve also seen my share of grey-uninspiring-unimaginative-bean-counters along the way. It’s always tough when you’re in a room with five other people, where all six think they can “do marketing”.

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Marketing Walk – an independent marketing strategy and out-sourcing house

1_300NamePlateMarketing Walk is an independent marketing strategy and out-sourcing house formed in 2009 by Chris Collis.
Chris is a successful professional Chartered Marketer with heaps of experience in UK and international business, from giants like Diageo,  Whitbread, and Friesland Campina; through CSER led businesses such as Alpro Soya; to quirkier more entrepreneurial outfits such as Pwani Kenya and Gü Puds. We hope you find this blog and comments relevant, interesting and occasionally insightful.

Please note that while Chris undertakes contracts for various clients and employers, these thoughts are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of those businesses.

Drinking Aftershave

Haig Club
Diageo’s Haig Club Single Grain Whisky

I can completely understand the temptation for brand owners to borrow packaging architecture from another category, but I believe Diageo decanting whisky into an aftershave bottle – and licensing David Beckham branding to try to make Whisky “cool and trendy” for a new generation – betrays a triumph of opportunism over consideration, which can only destroy brand value.

Putting aside whether it’s a good idea for children to see their dad pouring out a drink from an aftershave bottle (while their mum dabs a bit of Dior “Poison” behind her ears), Haig is one of the oldest and best known Scotch whisky brands in the world with one of the most recognisable bottle shapes in its Haig Dimple.

Diageo owns an enormous portfolio of Whisky brands, and it is certainly tough to balance the need for innovation, consumer acquisition, and the responsibility to preserve its brands’ heritage and authenticity for the next generation. Haig has always been a very accessible, easy-to-drink whisky so this Single Grain variant makes a good choice to target new drinkers.

In this case however, the company appears to have abandoned hard earned brand equity in the hope of a quick win. This new bastard son of Haig goes far beyond “pricking the pomposity” of the old school and “having a bit of fun” by associating with those well known brand gurus David Beckham and Simon Fuller. Beckham of course is famous for being happy to put his name to brands – from underwear to phones to hair-gel – whether relevant or not.

The one bit of good news though is they may get some extra PR – as a new generation try to emulate England Rugby’s Colin Smart and his infamous 1982 after-shave-drinking episode.

Chris Collis is a CIM Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk Ltd

Where Digital meets Marketing

Looking through recent articles, I’m always amazed how much emphasis is put on “the role of digital” in Marketing, So many arguments are rehearsed about SEO SEA CPC and CPA ; the value of a fan on facebook or of a pinterest page, and how to measure response on Social Media. Every company seems to jump on the latest “viral” bandwagon, like the recent spate of “Harlem Shakes” virals, and I have heard numerous “digital managers” admit, “we just try lots of different things and see what works”. (- dancing puppies apparently). In January 2013 there were 775,000 Apps in the i-store. Research by Analytical firm Avenden shows that 60% of these are never downloaded… not even once! Senior Business Directors bring in recent graduates who may be great at the technogeekery, but without clear direction, it’s like trying to herd cats.

So …      I have five simple questions for any managers out there commissioning and or reviewing new digital activations…

1.  Who is my target audience (and which segment of that audience will drive the most profit now and in the future)?

2.  Is this activation truly relevant and engaging to that target audience segment?
– (clue: if your target audience is young mums, then your new “star-trek-with-my-product-in-it” app may possibly be less engaging to your audience than to the digital team creating it)

3.  Does this activation give the same key message(s) as all of my other brand advertising and activations?

4.  What do I want the user to do once they have engaged with this activation and how will I measure this?

5.  How will I measure return on investment compared to other activations (- or compared to doing nothing at all)?

Now which bit of that isn’t “Marketing”?

Years ago I remember advocates of “direct marketing”, particularly list-brokers and the IDM claiming that “Marketing is dead, It’s all about DM now”, soon followed by the CRM brigade, and more recently the social media acolytes, “performance marketing” prophets and “big data” disciples . Of course, these are all merely tools within the great marketing toolkit, – all useful but none of them capable of doing the whole job on their own.

If you want someone to work on your new house, you wouldn’t employ a man with just two tools, – a hammer and a screwdriver, – He’ll tell you everything can be done with those two tools. Everyone needs a hammer and a screwdriver sometimes, but they won’t be much good if it’s your gas that needs fixing or a wall that needs painting. Better to get in an expert project manager who will bring in the right specialists, when and where they’re needed, and deliver a complete and professional job that’s right for you.

A good place to start? –  Chris Collis is a CIM Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk Ltd.

Response to question on Experiential Marketing

In response to questions on Experiential with Alpro

… For us, sampling is done to challenge public perception of the brand. Many consumers think Alpro is going to be strange and unusual due to the idea, promoted years ago by the industry, that it’s ‘just like dairy milk’; when it has its own unique flavour.

We have to get the right message and product into the consumer’s hands and do it at the right time. Our morning sampling campaigns in commuter hotspots are all about breakfast so we provide a breakfast bag not just with the product but also with cereal and a spoon and some literature. In the afternoon it’s a dessert occasion so we provide pudding.

We have to provide the whole experience. If we just gave a sip cup from a stand the consumer would walk five yards and forget about it. We have one chance and it has to be a high quality interaction. The team we have working on our stands at Targeting Festival Goers with Experiential Marketingstations or festivals have been doing it for years so they know our brand. We audition them so that they can prove to us that they’re engaging, friendly people who can relate to our audience.

The joined-up campaign is crucial. You have to take the consumer on a journey from the TV ad to the stand, through to engagement and sharing with peers. Feedback through social media is giving people a reason to continue the conversation with us. We use a variety of mechanics and test them all – coupon redemption, competition entries, research on station platforms. Above all, it’s the quality of the experience and the sample that is key.

marketingweek.co.uk/trends/offering-a-bit-more-than-a-free-sample

Don’t be Evil

There’s been lots in the news this week about attacks on Google accounts by unknown hackers somehow linked to Chinese Authorities.

Now I may just be constructing conspiracy theories here, but then again …
chrome logo
Some Facts:

December 2008: Google Chrome web browser launched to general public.

3rd December 2009: Google appoints glue London and BBH Labs to handle global communications strategy and advertising for its Chrome browser. (source: Marketing Week)

16th December: Billboard poster campaign for Google Chrome extended from UK to include other European countries (source: TechCrunch Europe)

December 2009. Google Chrome achieves No3 spot in the market with just 4.63% market share (source: NetApplications)

13th January 2010: Google complains that [Chinese Government or its agents] have hacked into Google accounts of dozens of Chinese Human Rights activists and it is considering withdrawal from China. It made a Global public statement before even discussing this with the Chinese authorities.

14th January: Microsoft accepts that the hackers used a weakness identified in Microsoft’s browser Internet Explorer 6
Microsoft confirms these were “highly targeted and sophisticated attacks … by highly motivated people”. It is working on a security patch, and does not believe this will have major implications for the vast majority of its users.

15th January: McAfee chief technology officer George Kurtz explains that the code required for other hackers to target the vulnerability has been published on the web.

15th January: German Federal Office for Information Security advises its citizens to try another browser until the flaw is patched. This information circulated globally by news organisations.

Some key questions:

How does Google know these people are Chinese human rights advocates? – Has it been reading their G-Mails?

Would it be easy to predict that The Chinese Government would not comment on the hacking allegations, and that (based on prior experience) Western opinion will automatically assume that they are the guilty party.

Who advised the German Government to intervene with a statement advising consumers to trial another web browser, at a time when Google was advertising heavily across Europe?

Would Google have been aware of (or been looking for) vulnerabilities in their competitor Internet Explorer before this attack?

Would Google be capable of a “highly targeted and sophisticated attack by highly motivated people” on its number 1 competitor?

Would Google risk its position in China to generate huge trial of its new Browser in the rest of the world?

Conclusions

It must be very difficult for Google to persuade consumers to switch from their usual browser.
One of the best ways to effect change is to make the Status Quo look like the scarier option.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions and point the finger where you will, but this all seems to have fallen into place very neatly for Google doesn’t it?.

Or am I just being Evil ?

Chris Collis
18th January 2010

Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house.

Alcohol Advertising: an easy target.

In response to David Cameron (and other’s) statements about “[irresponsible manufacturers advertising their brands]” following UK publication of House of Commons Health Committee report on Alcohol:

I have much sympathy for the House of Commons Health Committees concerns about “the consequences of binge drinking which are a cause of many serious accidents, disorder, violence and crime; [and] also long term heavy drinking which causes more harm to health.”

beer swigging youth hoodiesIt’s very easy for politicians to go for a one-line sound-bite from a 140 page report and scapegoat manufacturers and advertisers; but the problems of obese-cider-swilling-teenage-ne’er-do-wells congregating on street corners is a much deeper societal issue than can be solved by a bit of tinkering with advertising regulation. The Health Committee itself recommends that the top issues to be addressed are over-availability and minimum pricing; with some tightening of the scope and process of existing marketing regulation, particularly around sports sponsorship.

My own experience working in both children’s marketing and alcoholic drinks (not at the same time!) confirms that both markets are highly and effectively regulated in terms of product development, labelling and particularly advertising.

Some of the most effective moves in children’s food and beverage marketing recently have been self-imposed by manufacturers aiming for a “healthier” competitive edge in targeting children and their mothers, and improving listings in major retailers. These moves have largely been in response to trends in consumer attitudes (eg on artificial colours and sweeteners).

The Drinks industry has a history of self-regulation through the Portman Group, and ASA/BCAP codes of practice are very specific about the protection of children and promoting responsible drinking. However, it is also time to recognise that “problem drinkers” reflect society’’s attitude to alcohol, and until this perception is effectively challenged, until it becomes socially unacceptable to spend Friday nights staggering vomiting and urinating in high streets, then tactics such as minimum pricing, licensing restrictions and advertising restrictions will be simply temporary sticking plasters.

Education, information campaigns such as DrinkAware, and labelling will not change short term behaviour, but they can change attitudes and lay the ground for initiatives such as the recent St Neots Community Alcohol Partnership* to successfully tackle this important long term issue in a holistic way.

It is time that Politicians recognized that manufacturers and advertisers can be a force for good in this society and work more closely with us. We are not the enemy. We have teenage children too and want to live in a healthy happy and secure society.

Chris Collis
13th January 2010

Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house www.marketingwalk.net
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*A six month test project in 2008 in St Neots, Cambidgeshire delivered:
42% decrease in anti-social behaviour incidents
94% decrease in under-age people found in possession of alcohol
92% decrease in alcohol-related litter at key hot spot area
Source: House of Commons Health Committee 2010