What a day.
It started out on a real low. I was given a proposal for a new branding book to read and feed back on. This one was about, wait for it, using Indian psychology and spirituality to create a brand positioning. The pitch was "the 1st book to use Eastern spiritual thinking applied to branding". Just what we need, right?
I suppose as a consultant myself, it is a bit cheeky of me to pick holes in the proposal. But doesn't stuff like this just try to make branding more complex than it needs to be? It dresses up the simple principles with a whole load of new jargon and brand gobbledygook, trying to sell it as being something unique. At least we try to de-mystify branding, and focus on applying some simple principles to help companies grow.
The one good thing to come out of this was material to use if I ever write another book about Hugo, the marketing director from Where's the Sausage? I can just see him going off on a yoga retreat to India, and coming back espousing the need for the brand to "follow its own spiritual path to self actualisation", or some such bollocks.
Now, onto the good stuff that saved me from branding hell, and restored my marketing karma. I read a summary of the speech done by Martin Glenn to the British Brands Group. Martin is the CEO of Birds Eye Iglo, the frozen food business bought from Unilever by private equity group Permira. Here are some of the gems from his lecture about "fixing brand management":
1. From lousy execution to marketing craft
Martin starts with a subject close to my heart: the need to get back to basics and re-focus on quality of execution. We need to remember that there is a craft to marketing, and that brilliant execution is as important as smart strategy. He says:
"There are not many new strategies in life. People make strategy happen, and the difference between good, average and bad companies is how well they get things done. Let's get back to a position where thinking and activation are connected."
An earlier post talked about the "100 little things that make innocent different": here is a brand where execution quality has been key to their success.
2. Being better is often more important than being different
I wrote about this in the first brandgym book, in a chapter called "Don't just think different, do different". As Martin points out, many success stories in business of the last 10 years were not actually to do with breakthrough innovation. Rather, they were a result of excellent consumer insight used to deliver what people want, better. "Tesco did not re-invent the shopping experience," he says "They just did every bit of it better".
Having been lucky enough to work with Tesco this year I can vouch for that. They are an awe inspiring business, with a capacity to identify and implement continuous improvements to better meet customer needs like I've never seen .
3. Embrace continuity
More words of wisdom: "Marketing managers become bored with campaigns much quicker than consumers and new brand managers want to put their new stamp on things. Encourage people to embrace continuity and value the long term".
I posted before on the 20 years of continuity in the Stella campaign in the UK, a good example of what Martin is saying here.
4. Apply marketing to external affairs
Martin recommends focusing on the CSR issues that really matter to consumers, and then integrating them into the 3 year and 1 year marketing plans for brands. I think this is a big point. More and more brands will start to pick the big issues, and bake them into their brand mixes, rather than leaving it to corporate affairs.
Ben & Jerry's led with way with this 15 years or more ago. But more and more brands are now following their example of "FMSG" (Fast moving sustainable goods).
5. Private equity = opportunity
Martin has got a vested interest here of course, being paid by a private equity firm. But its another point I agree with him on. The only way these firms can make their investment pay is by creating top-line revenue growth. What they push for is a ruthless focus on this objective, and cutting everything else out.
I posted on this here.
So, if we can have more leaders like Martin Glenn, there is still hope for us all in marketing and branding.