“I’m back, I’m back, as a matter of fact, I’m back”

posted in: Life | 0

Slightly off to quote Gary Glitter lyrics but I couldn’t resist it. “Did you miss me while I was away, did you hang my picture on your wall?” I guess the answer to both questions is No. Don’t blame you.

Well I’m excited to be back using my web site again after 5 years. I’ve posted some new articles and eBooks and if you can be bothered to read them you will see what I’ve been working on, a new vision of marketing as purposeful value creation in an omni-connected, post digital world.

My last post was on the 2015 General election that David Cameron won with an unexpected majority. The polls had got it wrong again and I try to explain why.

Not much has happened between then and now:-

  • Britain voted to leave the EU and Cameron resigned.
  • Theresa May replaced him, called another election in which she lost her majority and eventually her job.
  • Boris took over, couldn’t get Brexit done so called another election which he won with a big majority on a ‘Get Brexit Done’ mandate. We’ve left but no deal yet.
  • Donald Trump won the 2016 USA Presidential election and made friends with Kim Jong Un (and enemies with just about everyone else)
  • A global pandemic hit the world and everyone blames China
  • We’re heading for a Global Depression that will make 1928 look like a bump in the road

I think the future is what we want to make it and we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make it better. Never waste a crisis. I set out my thoughts on this in my article ‘New-Naked Economics: the New Laws of the Jungle’. I’d love to know what you think.

More posts will follow when I’ve got something to say and I usually do.

The 2015 General Election – The End Of Market Research As We Know It?

posted in: Politics | 0

I am going to try to avoid politics altogether, both the result and the electoral system which delivered it, since this has no place in our politically neutral Marketing Society. At least I’ll try my best, because what I really want to focus on is why the opinion polls got it wrong. This is very important because the election polls are not only the most visible and engaging form of market research for the nation as a whole, they are also highly influential on how most senior business people, those who are not career marketers, view market research. Putting it bluntly, if opinion polls can get it so wrong how can you trust any market research?

This happened in 1992. The opinion polls were predicting a clear win for Labour led by Neil Kinnock and as we know the result was a resounding triumph for John Major and the Tories. There was indeed a strong move to Labour who picked up 42 seats from a 3.6% swing in votes. The Conservatives lost 40 seats (compared to Thatcher’s landslide win in 1987) but they secured 14.1 million votes, 41.9% of a high turnout of voters, enough to give them 336 seats, a big majority. The real losers were the LibDems under Paddy Ashdown, who lost 20 seats and retained only 22. Sound familiar? So will this. The two issues of the election were the economy, we were in a recession, and immigration. The Tories campaigned on both issues with scare stories about high taxation, high inflation and “opening the floodgates to immigrants”, under Kinnock’s Labour party. It worked. There was the infamous gaff of Kinnock arriving in Presidential style to a pre-election Labour rally, then tripping over and falling into the sea the following day. John Major went round the country with a little wooden soap-box, and the Sun newspaper apparently won it with their high profile support for the Conservatives. So was it the policies, the fear factor, Kinnock looking a bit pompous and accident prone, Major looking like a decent guy, the support of Murdoch’s press? Who knows – all of the above – but the fact is that opinion polls spectacularly got it wrong, and did so right up to the moment real votes were cast.

I can remember clearly in the months that followed the 1992 election being in meetings and presenting market research data to support some recommendation or other and seeing the cynical look on the faces of the non-marketers in the room. Some of them came right out and said it – “Yes, but market research said Labour would win”.

I predict this will happen again. Research clearly tells us that the green pack is preferred. Yes and research told us emphatically that it would be a hung parliament. So, my fellow marketers, all of whom will want to continue using market research to inform decision-making, you better get your arguments together. And I want to help you, even though part of me is celebrating the end of market research as we know it. Even though I do regard 99.9% of market research as another “higher form of ignorance” (see my recent post).

Back in 1992 we used the following arguments. The polls did not ask the right question. They asked which party you would vote for, not which leader you prefer and which policies are most important to you. Overall the polls showed that the majority of people thought they would vote Labour, but they also thought Kinnock was a bit of a pillock and they did not trust Labour with the economy or immigration. That is what actually drove where they cast their vote in the secrecy of the polling booth. Opinion polls in the USA are more accurate because their electoral system separates party preference from Presidential choice. Any anyway, you should never use quant research on its own, focus groups would have told you that claimed voting intentions masked an underlying lack of confidence in Labour and their leader among the key socio-demographic groups Labour needed to win over to secure a victory.

The same arguments can be applied to this last election – even the same issues and the same groups. Let me illustrate this with the purest form of qualitative research. I met up with an old colleague, a middle class Northerner and lifelong Labour supporter, just a week before the election. Let’s call him Tony. For Tony, support for Labour is visceral, he admitted that. He could never imagine not voting Labour. I did not try to dissuade him, I simply said, “Miliband, Balls, SNP, fragile economic recovery, really, I mean really?” I promise you, he gave out a long sigh. Yes, he said, I guess you’re right. No idea how he actually voted but you get my point. Party allegiance is not the same as your actual vote when you consider the real issues and the real options, and as you wrestle with the reality of our electoral system. You are not just casting your vote for your local MP, you are also casting your vote for who governs the country in a first-past-the-post system. That alone makes a fool of Opinion Polls – and yes, I am aware that Lord Ashcroft and his team developed a way of asking the questions that separated the local MP choice from the national choice but it didn’t work did it? His final poll put Labour and Conservatives both on 33% and he was publicly saying a hung parliament was by far the most likely outcome.

So let’s summarise – market research is fine but a) you’ve got to ask the right questions b) you’ve got to segment the respondents and c) you have to use quant and qual to get the full picture. Right? Wrong. You have to accept that 99.9% (that is statistically significant by the way) of all market research never gives you the full picture and will never reliably predict outcomes for one very important reason. Humans. It fails to take account of the human condition, our genetic programming and how the brain actually works.

Not only do we not know what we think, we do not know how we think. So how can any question posed in a market research context ever predict or even fully explain anything?

I could elaborate but time’s up (I have a word count limit I have to stick to). So let me just close by saying the 2015 Election should be the end of market research as we know it, and good riddance. It should now be the age of market intelligence.

Why Oh Why?

posted in: Business/Marketing | 0

I’m doing some work on leadership at the moment – as a marketer I work on the principle that you don’t need to be good at something to be able to express a view – and I came across a TED talk from Simon Sinek

It was posted in 2009 so I would imagine many of you (maybe even both of you) have already seen the video but I am quite taken with it. It offers an important message not just to leaders but to brands – people buy why you do what you do, not just what you do or how you do it. Or put another way, it is your beliefs and motivations that inspire a following.

Making a profit is a result but it cannot be your prime motivation if you are looking for loyalty and commitment. He has a very simple model based on what, how, why. People or companies know what they do and most know how they do it but only leaders are clear about why and unlike the rest of us that is where they start. “This is what I believe – what I do and how I do it are the proof”.

He explains that this is based not just on insight but science, how the big bit of the brain works – the Behavioral Economists will understand all this. But even without the science it just makes sense. I have also been doing a lot of work on the Craft Movement in drinks. People know what the big drinks brands do and often how they do it, but they don’t know why (other than making a profit). With Craft beers you know exactly why and that explains their growing following.

And on the subject of craft – you’re going to love this link – I spotted in the press the speculation about Kraft being bought up by Brazilian Private Equity firm 3G. It was Kraft who bought Cadbury and then span it off into a separate company, Mondelez, together with Toblerone and Oreo cookies. 3G together with Warren Buffet bought Heinz and are rumoured to be sniffing around Campbell’s.

I would imagine all these well known brands can articulate what they do and how they do it, whoever owns them. But it must be awfully hard to offer any reason why they do it other than to make money. In fact I would imagine that if you went to the board of any of these companies and suggested that in order to inspire more followers (sell more stuff) it would be a good idea to identify the motivation, the beliefs, the ideals behind the brands and to put these ahead of this year’s profit objective you might find yourself out of a job.

The main guy behind 3G is Jorge Paulo Lemann. He is the same guy behind the creation of ABI, the people who brew Stella Artois and Budweiser. He is clearly a very smart businessman and as a result is wealthier than many medium size nations. I can’t imagine he would care what I think but Jorge, if you get to hear about this, I’d pose you one question.

You are getting your butt kicked by Craft beers (15% of the USA market by volume, 25% by value and still growing). What are you going to do about it?

What ABI, and indeed SABMiller, are actually doing is buying up the more successful Craft Brewers. I wonder whether this strategy will work? You buy the ‘how and what’ but lose the ‘why’. Perhaps I’m wrong – Ben and Jerry’s and then Innocent both sold out and the brands still do well I’m told.

But can you be a leader of a big business that in large measure is publically owned and put your faith in idealism – ideals and beliefs that trump pure profit? Simon Sinek uses Apple as one of his examples in the video but back in 2009 Steve Jobs was still in charge. Now there was an inspiring leader who knew why he did it, not just how and what.

Can you be a politician and win power with your ideology in tact? Well some might say Thatcher did. You may not have agreed with her – I didn’t at the time – but she was clearly motivated by beliefs and succeeded in inspiring first the grey suits of the Tory party and then the electorate. So did Churchill for that matter.

But can you be a brand manager working in a big multinational and put the “why” at the heart of your marketing? Depends what kind of leader you are.

And that is what I have always believed – to be a great brand manager you have to be a great leader, so it’s worth paying attention to this leadership stuff.

More Tea Vicar?

posted in: Life | 0

I’ve always thought of a curate as the Vicar’s assistant, in fact I am pretty sure that is exactly what a curate is. A curator on the other hand is someone who works in a museum or art gallery who, to use the precise dictionary definition, “is in charge of arranging, selecting and presenting material to the general public”. Art galleries and museums always have far more stuff than they have space to exhibit so someone has to decide what stays in the basement and what goes on the walls and in the cabinets.

Worthy professions both, the clergyman or museum administrator. Which is why the digital people and now the marketers have nicked the word. Am I alone in noticing that everything these days seems to involve curation? Web sites, content and now brands are not merely managed, they are curated in much the same way that fine goods are not sold, they are purveyed.

This is not the first time that marketing has latched on to some lofty term to add an air of professionalism to what we do. Many moons ago the notion of Brand Stewardship was added to our lexicon (by one of the ad agencies I think, or purveyors of fine communications as I probably should say). Also some while back, people introduced the term “brand equity” although with various explanations of what equity actually meant now that it meant more than the ordinary shares held in a company. Some used it to refer to the unique gizmos and logos and ‘ownable properties’ a distinctive brand possesses. Others used it to mean the sum total of all the brand’s reputation and associations. Others used it in strictly financial terms to mean the value of the brand (with various ways of calculating this). Whichever way you take your brand equity, to be the person managing it sounded cool. Indeed there seemed to be a lot of people who really cared about brand equity. Any time something unpopular or commercial was suggested, the accusation that it would ‘undermine our brand equity’ was enough to put the kibosh on it.

There grew to be a non- uniformed army of Brand Guardians, whose soldiers were to be found in design agencies and ad agencies, especially the planning departments. Their mission was to protect the brand equity against the foolish short-term decisions of the owners of the brand and their appointed managers. I remember as a client finding this an amusing concept, the idea that the bloke in the design agency cared more about my brand than I did.

The introduction of some new terms like stewardship and brand equity is not a bad thing when the motive is to make one think differently and more deeply about brands. They are valuable, they are also complex, it is a long game, it requires thoughtful management and planned development. The idea of curation is quite a good one I think – there is always more that you could say about a brand or do with it than there is budget, so the idea that brand management is about “arranging, selecting and presenting of material to the general public” seems very apt. I doubt it will be long before it goes out of fashion and some new term gets nicked from some other walk of life, but let it have its day.

We don’t sell, we purvey, we don’t grow brands, we build the brand equity, we don’t make consistent choices (or deliberately inconsistent ones), we curate.

What does come across as lame is the underlying desire to make marketing seem more professional by dressing up what we do in posh sounding terms borrowed from the real professions or other occupations that are more socially acceptable.

Marketing is not a profession – I am not saying it is not important or beastly hard, just that it is not a profession. We are not curators in the British Museum, we are paid exaggerators, purveyors of hyperbole in an effort to make more people pay more money, more often for our brands. We have a Society but we do not have a Professional Body with clearly defined rules to ensure we discharge our duties with integrity, nor is there a Professional Qualification that gives some reassurance that this is done with minimum standards of competence. However poorly we behave or perform we cannot be struck off.

We are not a profession and frankly we ain’t that noble. No amount of terms like stewardship, guardianship, equity building or curation can hide the fact that our prime purpose is to make money for shareholders. It is not ignoble to make money for shareholders but it is not public service nor a calling from God.

Increasingly we talk about CSR, sustainability, triple bottom lines and that cannot be a bad thing. I know that some senior marketers and business leaders are quite sincere about this but let’s be honest, in todays peer reviewed, transparent, global world it is just good business.

What we do is fun, it creates wealth and employment, it drives research and progress (of a sort) but lets not get ahead of ourselves. We’re not vicars and we don’t display art.

Pure Delight

I was thumbing through a French car magazine last week and was interested by a regular feature they do on levels of customer satisfaction for various car models. The methodology was clearly explained – a decent sample of owners were asked to evaluate their cars based on 10 questions covering most aspects of quality, reliability and economy. The results are aggregated and an overall percentage given for some 40-50 cars.

Two things struck me. Firstly, all the cars scored more than 70%. Yes, modern cars are all pretty good these days, not like the 70’s when some cars – sadly the British and Italian ones for the most part – were so poor they would have got scores similar to the approval rating for an outgoing Italian or British Prime Minister. But the second thing that stood out from the tables was that no car got more than 78%. Not much of a spread. That is largely due to the methodology – aggregating lots of views over lots of criteria will give flat results. So would you change your choice of car based on this survey because it scored 3-5% less than an alternative model but both scored between  70% and 80%? I doubt it.

But what if they had asked a different question, just one question? How many of the owners are absolutely delighted, thrilled, over-the-moon about their car after a year or more of driving it?  If you saw that an alternative car was scoring over 5% and your preferred choice 1% or less I think it would give you cause to reconsider. You’d certainly want to find out more, maybe test drive it.

Customer delight is what we should all be chasing – for anything, not just cars. Forget “Pretty good, I’m overall fairly satisfied and would consider buying again”. We want “Bloody brilliant, I had no idea it would be this good, I’m definitely sticking with this and will tell all my friends”.

Now this is not a new thought. I recall reading an article in the HBR some years ago that gave the case study of a Car Hire company that had changed the way they looked at customer satisfaction. They focused single-mindedly on customer delight. They knew the figure would always be single digit but had proved that just small movements, literally decimal points, made a significant difference to their bottom line. (I have searched for this article but could not find it otherwise you’d have the link but no matter – you’ve got the gist).

Why is delight so important? Recall and repeat purchase are obviously two key benefits. I’m not sure you remember being satisfied or will make an effort to seek out the brand that satisfied you. You do remember being delighted. But the real value of delight is word of mouth. People talk about their delight and other people listen. It goes something like this.

“How was that new restaurant? Very nice you say? I must give it a try some time”.

As opposed to:-

“I’ve got to tell you about this new restaurant, we were blown away! Yes, I’ve got the number here. I’d book fast if I were you, before everyone catches on”.

Delight gives you ambassadors and they give you momentum, and momentum gives you more momentum. I’ve used the analogy before that avalanches start with the movement of one or two snowflakes. In marketing, those first few happy consumer snowflakes who get the momentum going should be highly prized. If they are delighted snowflakes they are positively kicking the avalanche down the mountain (apologies to the skiers, perhaps I need to come up with a better analogy).

So is this anything more than a nice reminder that customer delight – not a new concept – is important? Yes it is and here’s why. Social Media. The article in the HBR was written years ago (which is why I can’t find it) at a time when word of mouth meant just that  – the influence the delighted customer would have on the relatively few number of people they might talk to. We live in an age when word of keyboard can reach thousands. Analysis has shown only a very low % of Tweets relate to brands and most of those are internet or technology brands (e.g. Apple). Only 1 or 2% relate to Coke, Dove, BMW or those kinds of brands but of course we are talking 1 or 2% of millions and millions of Tweets every hour so the absolute numbers are very high.

What is likely to get you in to that 1 or 2% or to push the percentage higher? Customer Delight – if not with the actual product (there is only so much delight I can get from a mouthful of Coke) then at least with something the brand has done.

So go on then – go delight somebody, make them ecstatic. Better still, make this your key performance measure. The results might delight you.