Carry on shopping

June 17, 2012

An interesting article was circulating this week about the impact of the recession on shoppers and hence how their behaviours had changed.  This got me thinking, always a bit dangerous, but isn’t it a case of the more things change the more they stay the same?

My take on it is this. 

Yes, we are still in recession and yes it has had an impact, but at the same time the same basic challenges still exist for marketing people.  It is still so much about Product, Price, Place etc, but not only are we having to work in more challenging times but then there’s also this thing called the internet. 

What that means is that a) people, and this is all people, have to some extent or another felt the impact of the recession and have therefore adapted their buying behaviours and b) the internet has been a catalyst for those changes. 

If anyone thought that the internet was going to make things easier for everyone then think again. For some maybe it does (make things easier) but for an awful lot of us it actually make things much more complicated.  We’re seeing that more and more with retailers being unable to effectively integrate their online and offline operations.  The internet has given huge power to consumers in their ability to research, compare, review and purchase.  Add in the economic downturn and this has given them real reasons to do more researching, comparing and reviewing.   Then we can’t forget of course that for conventional retailers it is not only about getting it right online – you’ve also got to get the basics right in store too – witness Tesco’s £1bn investment in its store portfolio and customer service!  And then it’s not just about doing that in a vacuum, you’ve got your competitors all experiencing the same pressures and looking to be more competitive themselves. 

So in short you’ve got a perfect storm being brewed up with consumers having to react to the economy combined with this great tool (the internet) to help them react more effectively.  But my point is this, despite the internet, and despite the economy, it still comes back to the obvious fact that success still derives from getting the marketing mix right.  The world has changed, but ultimately isn’t it still the same?


The rise of do it yourself – a good thing?

April 4, 2012

There was a time when as a brand manager/ marketing manager etc you surrounded yourself with the right mix of skills. Often this involved paying other people who were experts in their particular field to do the stuff that you couldn’t do.  These people worked for companies who did things like design things, draw things or write things. (Clue: You knew it’s what they did because they tended to work for businesses with wacky names or ones with three or four surnames thrown together, and they all seemed to have been to better universities than you).

They in turn might hire other people to do things like storyboard, script and film stuff for a TV commercial.  (Clue: You recognised these other people because they seemed to wear clothes that you didn’t think were suitable for wearing during the week). Somehow it seemed to make sense.

But then things changed a bit. You didn’t need to spend money on people to do all of that sort of stuff. You could do some of it yourself.  There were computer programs that meant you could type your own brochures, why you could even use other programs to design things like maybe a logo, after all how hard can it be?

Then other people came along and invented other things that you could use to do your own research.

So what is the role of the brand manager /marketing manager in this day and age? And is all this do it yourself thinking really that smart?

Nowadays it seems (particularly to reduce costs) you can do a lot of things yourself. Of course you write your own annual brand plan, and you even type it yourself! You go out and observe some of your consumers in real life and also compare and contrast your competitors’ products or service offerings.  But you might also be tempted to do a bit of your own research using a cheap web application, after all how hard is it to write questionnaire, format it and then email it out to your own database?  The next bit gets a bit boring though. You have to analyse the responses, and then really you should compare the results somehow either to a previous study or make some other meaningful comparisons. Only you don’t, because that’s not what you do and it’s not what you should do.

I’d probably use the example of the orchestra and the conductor. It may not be the best example but let’s go with it all the same. You see in the orchestra my belief is that the conductor sort of keeps it all together.  He or she ‘orchestrates’ a group of other people with their own skill sets and as a result creates something wonderful.  But the conductor even if he/she is really good on the violin doesn’t take the solo spot. If he/she is rather brilliant on the trumpet doesn’t take over when the trumpet gets its solo spot and even if they are a wiz on the timpani doesn’t hog the limelight for the percussion solo.  They use other people to do the bits they are good at and the really smart conductor probably also recognises their own limitations.

Just because you have a camera built into your phone doesn’t mean that you should shoot your own brochure. Just because you have a camcorder in your phone doesn’t mean you should produce your own commercial. Just because you found a cheap app on the net doesn’t mean you should do your own research.

Remember, you are the conductor, so conduct.  Do not try to play every part as well.