How to be effective in the 2020s!

18 Nov, 2019
By Mark Baines

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We were recently treated to the Levitt Group 2019 Annual Lecture, by Professor Mark Ritson of Marketing Week fame.

The Annual Lecture is something that I and the Levitt Group Committee of Chartered Marketers organise each year, under the careful chairmanship of Peter Domican of One Tree Less. We’re all senior marketers, dedicated to the improvement of our marketing knowledge, as well as stalwarts of CIM (the Chartered Institute of Marketing).

We also organise other events, which normally have a more ‘academic’ focus, where we curate recently published marketing books and ask the authors to present their theses and discuss them with us in our ‘Five Great Minds’ events.

Professor Ritson is of a different calibre, however. A leading marketing writer and thinker, he is also full of original ideas and a lively speaker. His talk was about ‘Measuring marketing effectiveness in the next decade’, which I was keen to hear as we are shortly to step into the ‘twenties’. He was with us thanks to the hard work and persistence of one Committee Member, George Lellis

He based his theme on the ‘Effies’ – the Marketing Effectiveness Awards – which allow access to objective and verified data about their entries over the many years they have been running. In this way he could look at a range of campaigns over the years, analysing their content and effectiveness.

His first research was into whether market research increases effectiveness. You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but in fact he showed how too much research could be self defeating, although some is clearly vital.

He also found the same about objectives. Obviously you need to have some, but too many and it becomes too difficult – you end up chasing your tail and achieve nothing as a result.

He divided objectives into short and long term, and found the best growth came through a mix of both. Just focusing on short term or long term tactics would not be effective – you have to have a way of mixing the two.

He compared and contrasted targeting and mass marketing, using campaigns for Dove Soap as an example; they do short term tactical campaigns which are very successful, but in order to build the brand over time they have a long term campaign of awareness ads running in the background.

To underpin this he stressed the importance of ‘creativity’, quoting the late great David Abbott of AMV/BBDO who famously said ‘shit that arrives at the speed of light, is still shit’. Take the example of Tide, the washing powder, who despite minimal TV spend managed to penetrate and disrupt the market, thanks to great creativity.

Within ‘creativity’ he stressed the importance of relative differentiation, demonstrating how ‘distinctiveness’ is key. Distinctiveness comes through the ‘codes’ of a brand – the brand assets including, most effectively, the ‘codes’ of shape, colour, typography, type of retail outlet and several others.

He gave us the example of Snickers, with its distinctive codes of colour, typography and shape; Verve Clicquot champagne with its yellow label; and Sephora, the jewellery brand, with its zebra stripes and  splash of crimson.

His final point was about ‘bravery’. You have to be brave sometimes, taking risks in marketing in order to succeed. Though it’s worth pointing out that it’s a ‘U’ shaped curve: bravery can work against you, and the Effies had many examples of how marketers had been ‘brave’ but misguided, and failed as a result!

So here’s how to be effective, the Mark Ritson way, in summary:

  1. Spend time on diagnosis;
  2. Have just two or three smart objectives;
  3. Use both long and short term tactics;
  4. Go for mass as well as targeted markets;
  5. Develop the brand codes, through differentiation;
  6. Be brave!

So now you know!

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