Grumpy Tuesday

October 29, 2013





I’m feeling a little sensitive. I, like many others, in our industry have been following with interest, the will they or won’t they saga as to the government’s next steps on alcohol controls in Ireland. Undoubtedly it has become a saga, as powerful lobbies have stated and restated their cases as to why such a route should be taken  and why such a route shouldn’t be taken, which is then countered by the opposite view that ‘this’ wouldn’t work because of ‘that’ and that ‘that’ wouldn’t work because of ‘this’. A recipe for unsatisfactory compromise which political solutions can often be. So, why am I feeling so sensitive as all this goes on around us?

I don’t like the way the protagonists refer to marketing in this debate. It seems to me to be a term, uttered out of the side of each lobbyist’s mouth, with eyes firmly planted towards the skies, frequently surrounded by words like ‘Sure that would be marketing’, or ‘The Marketers would have us believe’, or all ‘Marketers will go to hell’ (ok, I made that last one up, but I did warn you that I’m feeling a little sensitive!).

I looked up the definition of marketing: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. I guess this works on a basic level. Social marketing, so Wikipedia tells me, seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good. I think this is the part of the argument that has been absent for too long now. Marketing is a business skill, as important to the success of an enterprise as much as finance and sales. When done at its best, it can be far more crucial to the long term opportunity for an enterprise than finance and sales. Without Marketing, where would society be without the Car, the iPhone, frozen vegetables, cleaning products – all inventions that are part of the everyday fabric of society that marketing has helped to promote. Marketing has played a vital role in the success of the Road Safety Authority in reducing deaths on our roads, the economic value of which to Ireland is €0.75bn per annum. The Gathering has increased tourist traffic to Ireland this year. The last five winners of Ireland’s Marketer of the Year have represented Barnardos, Flahavans, Failte Ireland, Jacobs Fruitfield and Britvic. It shows that marketing has a role to play across the breath of society from Children’s charity to Biscuits; from breakfast sustenance to tourism.

So what’s my point? Marketing is a great business skill, when employed at its best its impact on society has long term value that both tangibly and intangibly improves the way that we live. In the instance of Ireland and our love/hate relationship with alcohol, I think if we took a step back and looked at how marketing can help change our long term behaviours as opposed to dismissing the skillset out of hand, then our society will be all the better for it. I’d be a little less grumpy too!





Brand Greatness

October 21, 2013

Recently it was announced by Interbrand that Apple had surpassed Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world. Interbrand has said that Apple’s status is in part due to its “legions of adoring fans”.

So, what makes us “adoring fans” to fall in love with a brand, what draws us in?

Recently on a company away day, (#OMDlovein) one of the conversation starter tasks we were asked to do was describe our favourite brand as if it were a person, without giving away the name of the brand.  What amazed me with the results, was how well people could describe the qualities of a brand, how they could transform them into a person and equally how others instantly recognised the brands they were referring to.


Here is a flavour of the “personal ads” with the brand named in brackets after (don’t want to leave you guessing)

  • “ Much loved and reliable car for sale, white and a little worn, I have three red stripes on my exterior” (Adidas)
  • “I’m a 45 year old Brit, seeking fun and adventure; the long term is of secondary concern. I have a wide range of interests including music and travel. I’m a bit scattered, I’m confident and outgoing, friends would describe me as a slightly slutty risk taker” (Virgin)
  • “I’m kind, gentle and very soft spoken.  I believe no matter what shape, size, ethnicity or age that there’s beauty to be found in all of us. I’m often so shocked by how poorly women view themselves that I’ve set up my own self-esteem foundation.  This foundation aims to help young girls to feel good about themselves, just as they are” (Dove)
  • “I’ve got something so good you’ll be “Russian” to try it, I’m an age old classic that will take you right back to the school yard.. wicked – no bull.” (The Collective Dairy – Russian Fudge Yogurt)

All of the above highlight the subjective base of these brands, how they are perceived emotionally and personally, this however cannot be the only isolating factor in what makes a brand great. The usual suspects that are citied as leading or great include the likes of Pepsi, Nike, Disney, Kelloggs, Sony, Toyota and Microsoft, all with very different propositions, but what gives them this cutting edge and brand leadership?


According to Interbrand, there are five leading characteristics that great brands share, as follows:

1)    A compelling idea (captures our attention/need)

2)    A core purpose and supporting values (For example, McDonalds is “Dedicated to Enjoyment”)

3)    A central organisational principle (so you question if your actions are “on brand”)

4)    Most are American (Americans are credited with inventing the practice of branding)

5)    An ability to stay relevant.


So it seems, that Apple as current leader of the pack, is down to its brand strength, which isn’t simply a thin gauze wrapped around its products, it is a carefully planned look, feel and performance of its devices and products.








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