When you’re hard at work on ambitious projects, it’s a given that the team is pushing the boundaries of what would have been considered sensible. I choose those words carefully – “would have”, because these projects are always about ways forward but are often judged on references back; and “sensible” because that’s the filter that so many people put across the recommendations they get.
Too many brands continue to fail at convincingly placing what they have to offer inside the lives of the people they are trying to reach. A lot of that seems to come down to a simple mis-alignment of priorities: whilst marketing teams ponder data and speak earnestly about really understanding their buyers as individuals, those interests are not reflected as clearly as they should be in what they end up saying.
Jez Frampton once summarised great retailing as the perfect mix of finance, space and brand. I find that such an excellent crystallisation of the inherent tensions in that sector – the need to pack enough of the right branded product into an environment displacing the right number of square feet to deliver customers a great experience and achieve the requisite return.
Paul Marsden’s piece on “Thinking Fast and Slow” (thanks Hilton Barbour) raised some great marketing implications from Daniel Kahneman’s work that are well worth reading.
It’s an old bias but a telling one. Finance people accuse marketers of only spending money. Marketers accuse finance teams of only counting it. It’s another re-run of the analytical versus emotive debate yet it has the potential to carry deep bias into decision-making. As Brad VanAuken observed in this article, “I have found that many scientists, engineers and finance and operations professionals view marketing as a soft skill that lacks the rigor of other disciplines and that it deserves less attention and investment.”
I walked into one of my favourite haunts and they were busy – OK, frantic. Waiting staff were running everywhere trying to get things done, serving people they didn’t know, trying to make a good impression. I got my coffee – and nothing else. No hello, no eye contact, no sign of recognition. Just my usual coffee and cake. Almost dumped at my table. They were too busy dealing with the new people to go through the pleasantries with me. There was no need to smile. I’d become part of the furniture, another regular … This wasn’t the first time this has happened. But it was the last. I finished my drink, quietly settled the bill, closed the door behind me, and said goodbye.
Analytics have changed not just what marketers measure but how brands now appraise success. The temptation is to see all the metrics we have access to as correlated and, by inference, of similar and perhaps even related measurable value. We look at one analytic and wonder what its impact will be on another and on the bottom line.
From a marketer’s point of view, numbers don’t drive recessions. They may start them. They may justify them. But they don’t actually make them happen. What drives recession in a consumer economy is very much the same thing that drives boom: emotion. When enough people believe in it, it will happen – and that’s because there will be enough people acting in a recessive way for the mindset to become embedded, and for the behaviours to seem logical, sensible, responsible, unavoidable.
Marketers put a price on something and call that its value. They arrive at that amount through a bunch of internal references – cost, margin, goodwill, disbursements … Then they talk about that value as if it is real. It isn’t of course. Value is simply an ongoing judgment call based on this equation:
The fracas over at Pepsico as to whether the company should continue to operate a diversified platform or free the snacks division to pursue its goals independently is a reminder of the ongoing debate over diversification vs focus.