What the election results can tell you about what is important to your customers

The European elections are all over our screens today (Monday 8th June).  This is a pretty big poll of public opinion (15m voters).  I have been having a look to see if the results provide any useful insights for business leaders and marketers.
At Differentiate we say you must understand what drives customers to choose one product over another product.  We call these drivers "Power Attributes".  This insight from Power Attributes analysis helps you develop products, services and marketing messages that are more attractive to customers.
These Power Attributes do not shift every month or even every year, but they do change over time as external factors influence what is important to customers.  2009 seems to be one of those times when big changes are affecting customer motivations.  The recession, the banking crisis and the UK political row over politicians expenses seem to have had an effect on what matters to customers compared to just one or two years ago.
Studying the aftermath of the European elections suggests that the themes that arise and we need toi explore are grouped into three A's – Apathy, Apprehension and Anger
Apathy and detachment is demonstrated by the fact that no party got more votes than last time.  Labour lost because they got a lot fewer votes.  It seems that Labour voters could not only not bring themselves to vote Labour but they also did not want to vote for anyone else either!
Apprehension and fear comes from uncertainty regarding our personal financial futures (will I have a job? will I have a pension? I have lost 40% of my savings etc.)
Anger seems to be directed at banks for rewarding themselves whilst squandering our money and politicians for giving even banks even more money and then fiddling their own expenses at the same time.

How is this relevant to marketers and business leaders? 

These emotions are out there and real.  They affect what really matters to people.  These kind of macro changes and customers' emotional responses means it is highly likely that the drivers of how customers choose what to buy in your market have changed in the past 12 months.
We have been looking for some indicators of what might be changing.  Exploring the Google search terms database is just one way to do this.  Here are some examples, we have compared May 2009 with May 2008.
What is up
Grow your own +500%
Best buy +20%
Green +12%
Good school +10%
Healthy +5%
What is the same
Value is level
Chocolate is the same
What is down
Organic is -25%
Holiday in France -23%
Gardening -20%
Luxury -15%
Banks -15% (a long term trend which has accelerated this year)
Cheap -14%
Security -6% (long term trend)
This brief analysis suggests a return to more basic human and community values and decreased interest in fripperies.  Whilst on the other hand, it shows that some basics will always endure like chocolate and value for money.
Making sure you understand how the fundamental drivers of choice are changing is one important tool to survive the recession.

Are you bogged down by too much email and too many meetings?

This post is triggered by seeing this headline in the excellent Utalkmarketing daily bulletin

Brand managers are frustrated by admin

Being weighed down with administrative duties is the chief obstacle facing today's brand managers, according to a new survey from Sun Brand Technologies. The survey revealed that 92 per cent of brand managers spend between one and three hours a day on these inward-focused activities including reporting, chasing colleagues for information and dealing with missed deadlines. Half of all respondents felt that the higher up the management ladder they progressed, the more time they spent on administration, leaving fewer hours for research and new product development (NPD). 
This is a common issue that we hear about.  How often do you hear the statement "I have had so many phone calls, emails, admin work or meetings today that I have not had time to get any work done".  But is this right?  Is it such a bad thing to be talking with and communicating with colleagues..  Our marketing team effectiveness work suggests that spending time on this is a good thing for brand managers who aspire to be successful and effective.
The mission of a marketing team must be to champion the customer throughout the business.  Clearly this does require time spent on generating insight, creating new product ideas and great marketing campaigns.  However our own work on effective marketing teams and how to increase the customer orientation of the business suggests that time spent on internal communication and getting the organisation aligned with your aims is extremely valuable.
Arguably, this is the role of the marketing team in a larger organisation.  The marketing job is not just to come up with great insights, fantastic campaigns and wonderful new products.  Marketing needs to harness a wide range of skills ideas and resources to get the business focus on delivering products and services that customers want to buy.
The most successful customer orientated businesses have marketing teams that are well regarded by the rest of the business.  We discovered through our own research and reviewing studies by leading academics that these marketing teams were characterised and distinguished by three things:

  • Spending time communicating with all functions in the business
  • Talking in a language that the business understands (not marketing speak)
  • Using robust tools for measurement and tracking what is going on
Less effective marketing teams in businesses that were less customer orientated spend less time on these things.
So maybe spending one to three hours a day on these inward-focused activities including reporting, chasing colleagues for information and dealing with missed deadlines is not such a bad thing after all!
Is this still relevant in a downturn?  There is plenty of evidence from previous recessions that businesses who stay customer orientated are more likely to survive and will eme rgr in a stronger and healthier condition.

If you want to read more about how marketing teams can help businesses stay customer orientated.  Please read our marketing influence report which you can download here.

How are consumers reacting to the downturn?

We know that "things are going to be tough" this year and maybe
"even tougher" next year.  What should we do about it?  Opinions seem to range
from predictions of doom to a rather cosy feeling that maybe we will see it
through and it will not be so bad.

In this post we try
to apply the principles of the Growth Game to analyse the situation.  Analysis
"Growth Game" style adheres to three principles.

Stop worrying about the future, but do beware of
the Black Swan (see blog entry).  Avoid expert
predictions of what will happen and instead concentrate on strengthening your
ability to compete and the withstand future unexpected shocks.

Actively seek and acquire empirical
to understand what is actually happening.  Again try
and avoid the expert opinions.  They tend to offer qualitative observations and
are tempted to make predictions.  Instead concentrate on evidence of things that
are actually changing.  In particular look to gain insights about things that
directly affect your business.   

"interesting" and focus on "actionable" insights
.  That means
start with the decisions you need to take and then go after the insights that
will help you make them. 

We have been
reviewing some evidence
observations and opinion about how
consumers and customers will react to higher prices and lower disposable
incomes.  I have grouped them into expert opinions, hard empirical evidence,
insights and conclusions.

Example predictions/observations from

  • The cumulative effect of numerous cost increases has now reached a tipping
    point.  Consumers are really starting to feel more vulnerable and this has
    become more pronounced in the past 6 weeks.
  • With pressure on personal finances people will be less willing to pay a
    premium for "nice to have" things like more local food and food provenance;
    sustainable foods, organic and fair trade.
  • There will be a back to basics trend, grow your own food, more family
    cooking, use basic ingredients rather than ready meals and less willingness to
    pay for convenience.
  • Under financial and moral pressure consumers will find ways to reduce food
    waste (30% of food bought currently ends up thrown away).
  • People will switch more of their shopping to discount outlets and local
    shops reducing both prices and transport costs.
  • People will eat out less and consumers will switch to more take outs
  • Concern over climate change will affect what people buy.

A lot of these statements make
and some may well happen, but remember they are either
subjective or a prediction.  Remember that experts may well understand what is
going on but their predictions are usually unreliable.  Take a look at our Black Swan blog post to see the
potential pitfalls of listening to expert predictions.  We recommend you look at
the empirical evidence and come to your own view about how this will affect your

Empirical evidence of what is actually happening now (data to May 2008)

  • The polarisation of markets continues whereby the strongest growth is
    happening at the top and bottom of markets.  The highest growth rates are in
    premium added value and low price segments whilst the middle gets squeezed.
  • In Grocery the strongest growth % rates are in discounter stores (Lidl,
    Netto) and internet grocery deliveries.  The biggest absolute cash growth is
    happening in megastores situated out of town.  However, this is not a feature of
    the downturn.  These trends are long term and have not yet changed in 2008.
  • What has changed in the downturn is lower sales in eating out, clothing,
    household appliances and furniture.  Other sectors including holidays remain
  • OL share of total grocery has not increased for 5 years and as yet there is
    no sustained trend for own label to increase its share.
  • The % of volume that is offered on promotion has gone up sharply and this is
    more about multi-buys than price reductions except in Tesco who focus more on
    price reductions
  • In 2008 consumers are making fewer big shopping trips, shoppers spend per
    basket is down and there is less promiscuity between retailers.
  • Consumers are claiming to be influenced more by a number of ethical issues,
    CSR, environment, fair trade, food provenance etc.  Anecdotal evidence of sales
    growth in products with these claims suggests this is true.

What insights can we translate from this (whilst avoiding predictions)

  • Consumers are under financial pressure and are adjusting spending behaviour,
    but they are choosing carefully where to make the changes.  Indulgences and
    treats remain important, but consumers selecting which ones matter most (quality
    food and holidays seem to be doing well).
  • The fundamentals of what consumers want (the power drivers of choice) remain
    the same in slowdown or boom.  The mega trends of health, convenience,
    naturalness/food provenance and ethical concerns remain in force and continue to
    be the main sources of growth in markets.
  • There is no sign of a flight from quality.  There is some smart shopping to
    get and be able to afford the quality (promotions, discounters, local sourcing).

Translating insights into action

Reducing waste is an insight that
could offer opportunities.  We know consumers are making more frequent shopping
trips.  This could correlate with reducing wasted food.   The other area of
waste that is an environmental issue is packaging.  May be helping consumers
reduce waste could offer opportunities for innovation.

Nielsen recently quoted a survey stating that the top 20
innovations have all been about packaging,
format and
convenience.  As marketers are we smart enough to come up with packaging formats
that reduce waste and have less environmental impact whilst still delivering the
merchandising impact and consumer convenience?  It must be worth a

The Growth Game takes these guiding
principles of getting and translating insights into the practical steps for
The process rests on empirical observations and
measurement and is all about engaging the business team to create practical and
credible ideas.  To find out more take a look here

Boris v Ken – what can we learn about how customers make choices?

Using your existing data?

How can you discover the Power Attributes that
determine why consumers choose your brand without doing new and
expensive surveys?
  Our answer is that you can and should
take a stab at it.  Whilst doing new research will be more robust, you
can understand valuable insights about your Power Attributes by
analysing whatever data or insight you already have or can easily
gather.  This ezine shows you an example of how to do this.  We have
analysed the result of the London Mayoral election to illustrate how
this can work.

Analysis of Boris victory?

Voters’ and customers’ choices can seem a bit odd.
So how come the electorate plumped for Boris, who had been seen as a
bit a bit of a joke and prone to gaffs and offered an uncertain
prospect of being competent?  We have analysed the Power Attributes to
understand how voters made this choice.   

It is possible to take a good stab at understanding the Power
Attributes using available published data.  In this case we have
located two very different pre election polls to help us work out the
Power Attributes.

Conquest’s Metaphorix Poll for ITV London

poll for Unison

Power Attributes must possess both importance and uniqueness.
So Power Attributes for the candidates are ones that are both important
to voters and in some degree are unique to the candidate.  Attributes
will have both functional and emotional elements and both will
influence the customers decision to purchase.  In this case of this
election functional really means policy issues and emotional attributes
relate to the candidate’s personality.  We started by looking at policy
attributes.  MORI revealed the ranking of importance of the policy

Importance ranking to voters

1. Crime/Policing
2. Transport
3. Healthcare/NHS
4. Cost of living
5. Education
6. Pollution/environment

It was difficult for the candidates to get uniqueness on these issues
– even though the candidates were able to offer some differences in
their policies.  Ken had a good track record on transport.  Brian
Paddick had been a policeman.  Boris talked a lot about crime
reduction. When you look beyond crime and transport, the next three
issues lay completely outside the control of the Mayor (NHS, Cost of
living, Education).

The personalities of the candidates offered much more scope for uniqueness

So personality attributes may offer more scope for real power.
When we look for clues about these more emotional attributes, the
metaphorix survey done by Conquest for ITV London was able to highlight
the emotional beliefs about the personalities of the candidates.  If we
start by looking at the importance of the different personality
attributes, we discover that the most important attribute is


However none of the candidates possessed this to any adequate or differential degree.  So despite trustworthy being
important as an attribute, it lacked power as a means to choose between
the candidates.  So we need to look further to find attributes that are
powerful for each candidate.  Conquest discovered there were some
attributes where the candidates differed.


arrogant refreshing boring
confident confident focused
capable approachable honest

We can eliminate confident as this did not distinguish Ken or Boris and
also knock out boring as this is not a positive.  The remaining
attributes provide the clues as to why Boris won. 

Boris won the day by being approachable and refreshing.
Ken’s lead on capable was outdone by Londoners’ desire for a change.
For Brian Paddick, being focused and honest was just not important
enough to Londoners.

Power Attributes for London Mayor

The Power Attributes for this London Mayoral election were to offer a
change from a tired and slightly arrogant incumbent and promise to
address violent crime alongside transport issues.

No doubt the national issues of healthcare, cost of living and
education played a part.  Ken would have suffered by his association
with a struggling Labour government.   But since these issues remain
outside the direct control of the Mayor and were difficult for the any
candidates to discuss.

For an attribute to be powerful you must be able to create some uniqueness.
The most powerful attributes were those where the candidates could
establish some uniqueness.  It is the combination of an attribute being
both important and unique, that creates the power to influence voters
or consumers choices.


How do you know what is important to customers?

Why is it that once we walk through the door of the
business each day
we are programmed to want customers to believe
that what we are doing is the answer to their problems and that the features and
benefits of our products will be important and useful to them.  Suddenly the
world seems to be centred around the products and brands that we

Somehow the corporate mission or our
own ambition can blind us to insights
we acquire every day.   As
we spend our home and shopping lives being customers and making choices between
products we can develop a good understanding of what it means to be a customer. 
We can understand what is important and how trivial or important different
decisions are to us.

I have been reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book,
The Black Swan,

Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

See our discussion  click here   

He has been reminding me how easily we can get persuaded
by the "narrative" explanations
that exist within the business. 
How easily we tend to seek confirmation of what we would like to believe in the
anecdotes and events around us.  How difficult and more challenging it is to
rigorously assess the evidence. 

How do you deal with this?

As a
successful business person you know you must cut through this

and you should understand what is important to your customers.   

But how
much time and money do you devote specifically to find out what is really
important to customers so you can act on it?   And if you do spend time on it,
what is the best way to discover what is important to our

But you may be thinking that you
already know what is important to customers
.  Why should you
invest more money and time in finding out what is important to customers.  Just
stay with us for 2 more minutes reading this ezine and we will give you the
chance to assess whether you have done enough.

What we have found

We have frequently observed in project after
project and study after study is that successful business people do know a lot
about what is important to their customers.  Especially sales people who are
talking regularly with customers and marketers who choose to spend time
listening to consumers.

We have noticed that
the managers in the business tend to get it 80% to 90% right

Which sounds great.  And would that we could get everything 80-90% right!  But
the problem is the thing you miss out or get wrong is often the important
attribute feature or benefit that could make all the difference.

Here are some examples from our own studies

Examples where managers
think something is important but consumers think is less important than other

Healthy snacks – less than 3% fat, not embarrassing to eat in
Gardening – used by professionals, use less peat
Reinsurance – can
offer independent advice, harnesses innovation.

Examples where consumers
think something is important but managers did not spot it

Healthy Snacks
– is a satisfying eat
Gardening – Is attractive to wild life, forgives me if
I forget to water it.
Reinsurance – Flexible to my needs, fixes problems

How can you know what is important to customers?

Inevitably the most straightforward answer is to ask
and we would be the first to say that asking them in any
form is better than not asking them.  But there are a few pointers that we have

  • We have found the concept of an attribute is valuable to help distinguish
    what is more important or less important
  • Don’t get too tangled up in whether the attribute is a feature a benefit an
    emotion or an image, it does not matter.  What matters is which attributes are
  • Ask the customers/consumers to help you prepare your list of attributes. 
    They will often come up with some attributes that you did not think of.
  • A third party conversation is more likely to reveal the truth, if you have a
    relationship with your customers, this can get in the way of a truly transparent
    conversation.  On line or paper survey tools can also do this very well
  • Plan the approach so you do not lead them to give you the answer you want to
  • Ranking attributes from 1-10 or 1-20 is more revealing than asking for a
    score on a scale where 1 is not important and 5 is very important.

Attribute importance is a fundamentally important
part of helping our clients understand how customers make choices between
brands.  The really useful concept of Power Attributes is based around what is
important to customers and how you can differentiate yourself to

You can download our paper on this click

You can see our website discussion on this click

You can see our case study examples click

You can see our blog posts on Power Attributes click

Why you should worry less about the future?

I was listening to this fascinating discussion on Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday

We are hard-wired not to truly estimate risk, too vulnerable to the
impulse to simplify, narrate and categorize – and we don’t even realise
it. What we should understand, argues the academic and city trader NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB,
is that our world is dominated by ‘black swans’, highly improbable
events that have a massive impact and are nearly impossible to predict.
Black swans, he says, mean we should ignore ‘experts’, stop reading
newspapers and learn to take advantage of uncertainty. Nassim Nicholas
Taleb will be delivering lectures on
The Black Swan at the University of Oxford on Wednesday 5 March and at the London School of Economics on Thursday 6 March. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is published by Penguin.

Here is the podcast link  Nassim is in the last 15 minutes

I got 5 points from the discussion

  • What actually happens is often not possible to predict
  • Measuring (empirical?) what is happening is more useful
  • Projecting current trends is more reliable than expert predictions
  • Our assessment of the risks we take will be wrong.
  • Newspapers, colleagues and experts often try to convince us we can predict and manage risk.

It got me thinking, so what does this mean for businesses in pursuit of more growth? 

You should spend less time worrying less about the future.  So reduce the time you spend

  • Worrying about things you cannot control
  • Forecasting future events (since we will be wrong)
  • Predicting competitor reaction
  • Reacting to the latest hot topic in the marketing press

You should spend more time strengthening your ability to withstand unexpected shocks. To do this, measure what is actually happening to the business and assume it will continue until you create change by doing these things

  • Discover your customers frustrations and unmet needs
  • Know and measure what is important to customers
  • Discover how to make this more available to customers
  • Take action based on these insights and measure the results

You can do a simple audit to see where the balance of your time is spent.  Is it more on worrying about the future or could you do more to strengthen your competitive ability.

Corporate teams can easily get sucked into worrying about the future, whereas entrepreneurs tend to focus on things they can do now.

In the meantime.  I am off to the LSE on Thursday to gain some more insight into how we can strengthen our approach to helping you translate insights about customers into practical steps that will create more growth.

If you would like a free telephone audit to discover if you are worrying about the future too much or are doing enough to get on with the present, then email us or phone us on 020 8334 7202 to arrange it.

P. S.  This is exactly what Power Categories and Power Attributes and Power Channels will help
you achieve this action orientation and address the business fundamentals.  The approach is about
translating insights about customers into practical steps that will
strengthen your competitive position in the market.

Do you promote what you do well or what matters to customers?

If you want to discover the Power Attributes that
drive your customers
to choose your brand rather than the
competition, you have to have start by generating a list of possible
attributes.  When we help clients do this, we get the initial attribute list
from talking to the customers.  You can only really rely on customers to think
like customers.    However, the business team can think of attributes that
customers cannot even begin to imagine, so we also get some valuable attribute
ideas from the client management team.

We do
this through our facilitated workshop approach. 
These workshop
events often attract a senior audience.   When we work with these knowledgeable
and experienced managers we often find that the list of attributes is a list of
features or things that the company does well.   But that is not always what we
need.  We know that what will be powerful for the customer is a specific benefit
or a special way the business helps the customer solve a problem. 

for example the director of a financial services firm tells us that what really
matters to the customers is "we give independent
  which we translate  into a more customer focused
benefit "has independent advice I can trust", but when we talk to the customers,
this is still not good enough, the most powerful attribute turns out to be "makes my business more successful"

Time after time, we discover that the hot
power attributes are all about the customer
and the cold
attributes are all about the business and the brand.

Experience this week
brought this home to me and showed that directors
may not always be the best choice when we are generating potential insights
about what matters to customers.

In one of our current
projects we are trying to discover some Power Attributes in a whole new category
for the business.  We ran a workshop this week where we wanted to generate a
list of candidate attributes that we plan to investigate with customers.  The
investigation and consumer research will establish which attributes are most
powerful in influencing customers to choose a product. 

The project is being led by the sales director who helped
us bring a fresh approach.
Rather than directors, he invited a
number of the PA’s and front line team to the session and this proved to be an
inspired choice.  They seemed to think more like customers and in a more natural
way.  As a result, we have come up with a list I am confident is much closer to
what customers will suggest.  This means when we do workshops with the customers
we are already part of the way there and we will be able to spend time
discovering why the attributes are powerful rather than just generating the

Our ezine always aims to deliver practical advice, so I would
suggest you can take two things out of this When you are thinking about what is
important to your customers,

1.    always
challenge yourself to think "is this about the brand or about the customer" 
I can pretty much guarantee that if it is about the brand it
will not be that important to the customer.
2.    go and ask some customers or at least a few "real"
around the office, they might just shed some insight on
your thinking.

Our Power Attributes paper discusses how you can come up
with this insight in more detail click here

Is your growth constrained by a lack of resources or a lack of action?

Last post we discussed marketing influence across the whole business.  But
according to some commentators, there might be a recession soon.  Does this mean
marketers influence will decline even further.  You may have less money to spend
and fewer resources.  It will put pressure on costs as growth gets more

So should you react in a different way as a
  This week we show how "internal entrepreneurs" get growth. 
This is the same whether the market is growing rapidly or stagnant.

first thing is to focus on action; doing things rather than analysis, research
and meetings.  I was reminded of this when reading Tom Peters blog
and saw this quote.

Any project worth doing is worth doing because in
some small or large way it challenges "the way we do things around here."
Moreover, it is a given that bosses are primarily hired to be cops who make sure
that we do things "the way we do things around here."

This dilemma
is often resolved by a select band of individuals who drive for practical steps
that will create growth.  These team members refuse to accept the processes,
always find ways around the restrictions and "kick down doors" to make things

This select band are the internal
  They will work with limited resources.  Internal
entrepreneurs push their ideas with conviction and energy.  They also recognize
that they must win people over and cannot achieve their goals by just pushing
their ideas.  However they are willing to push back and are not put off by
objections and obstacles.  We have noticed they can exist at many levels of the
organization.  This is not just a feature of senior management.  What are their

We recently worked with someone in a 7m business who used
this "internal entrepreneur" approach and it has worked, two years later this is
now a 12m business.  They also operated with some of the constraints of a larger
business since the business is owned by a multi billion global business.  But
they did not have access to additional finance from this larger business.  The
resources available to them were only those generated by the revenues of this 7m

Here are our practical tips based on the
behaviours we have observed in this case and others.

  • Identify the five top drivers of growth on the business and ensuring the
    whole team understands them.   
  • Translate the 5 drivers into practical actions and review them every month
  • Refuse to accept that it is OK to miss objectives due to a need to adhere to
    process.  When obstacles arise, the question is how do you get around this? 
    What else could we do?
  • Develop a great enthusiasm for celebrating successes.  Make the office area
    full of boards with updates on progress, pictures of successes, statements of
    intent and performance vs. targets.
  • Evaluate all activities using three simple questions, what works, what does
    not work, what could we do better?  (Always start with the positive
  • Always talk about the customer and understand the customer needs.  Underpin
    decisions by robust insight.  All ideas were tested with customers.  This can
    involve very low cost market research tools that the team created and managed
  • Be clear about the working environment you want and the type of people this
    required.  Ensure all new recruits are interviewed and tested against this

So if you are the boss, make sure you have some internal entrepreneurs in
the team. If you are the team, try being an internal

If you want your team to understand how to do
look at  our programmes on  increasing
marketing influence
  (you can also read our papers on

Differentiate supports internal entrepreneurs with The Growth Game
which is an approach that works to translate insights into practical steps for
growth that have the support of the business team.   Our best clients are often
"internal entrepreneurs; they know a lot of this stuff intuitively and use our
approach to not only develop their ideas but to sell them to the business

If any of you have experiences that relate to
please let us know, either by private email or post comments under this article

Does your team ever struggle to win support for their plans?

The subject of marketing influence and
effectiveness has hit the marketing press
again.  Deloittes have
done a global survey and Marketing published the findings last week.   It is a
great survey based on authoritative opinions of 217 C level executives mainly
CEOs, CMOs, and CFOs.
This reminded me that 10 years ago we published
two papers
in co-operation with The Marketing
  These were based on survey
findings from over 500 senior executives across all the business functions.  One
paper was about marketing influence and the other about the future of marketing
as a business function.
Get our
Some things have changed
reading both 1998 and the 2008 papers I noticed that Marketing is now more
central to strategy for the CEO.

Now 81% of CEO’s see marketing as a key driver of
  "the chief executive is much more open to talking about
marketing these days"  CMO 2008

what has not changed is
that marketing teams remain
detached from the rest of the business
often do not own
the customer agenda within the business.

In 2008 – 77% of C-level respondents believe their employees do
not fully appreciate the value of marketing
  "I worry that I am seen
as too specialised compared with my peers in other functions"  CMO

In 1998 we found marketers do not
communicate well with the rest of the business
and are often
seen as specialists who spend a lot of time talking to each other and their
agencies but not enough time engaging with their own business.   Our report
identified three characteristics of typical marketers that help to explain

  1. Marketers lack breadth and are
    conspicuously more loyal to their own professional development rather than
    broadening their career within the company
  2. Marketers tend to be highly creative and
      These strengths quite often go with weaker people
    and team player skills
  3. Colleagues in other functions have much better
    people and influencing skills
    and this helps them exert more
    influence within the business.

Our conclusion in 1998

marketing profession was optimistic about its future
.  The rest
of the business wants it to succeed.  The role of marketing is to champion the
cause of the customer throughout the business and ensure the business meets the
needs of the customer in a profitable manner.  In many ways marketers are well
equipped to do this.  The have the respect of the business for their creativity,
intelligence, technical skills, energy and drive.


Marketing teams must develop new skills
and operate in some different ways if they are to deliver this
role in an effective manner.  It is essential that marketing earns the respect
of the business so that the whole business becomes market led.  The key to this
would seem to lie in new communication skills and having robust tools for
identifying opportunities, analysis and measurement.  Without this the creative
brilliance and smart analysis will lose its impact.

Since then, we have
found that marketing teams who do spend more time working cross functionally and
engage the whole business in their plans end up with much greater influence, are
more highly regarded and create stronger top line growth.

This insight shaped the development of the
Growth Game. 
Our whole approach is  designed to
overcome these issues 
Get the Marketing influence

It is also instructive to examine Deloittes
conclusions in 2008

  • There is often a misalignment about the role of marketing amongst board
  • CEOs must help the CMO to align the organisation around growth
  • The role of marketing is often misunderstood
  • Marketers need to broaden their commercial skills to play an increasingly
    strategic role in organisations
  • The focus on marketing measures is intensifying
Access to Deloittes report click

If you recognise any of this, then take a look
at our marketing influence programme
.  This works with the
marketing team and includes a 360 degree department feedback.  This programme
encourages the team to think about why they should view the rest of the business
as their customers, how this will help them achieve their goals, where they need
to improve their communication skills and how to engage other colleagues to
accomplish this.
Marketing influence programme – click


Do you struggle with too much data or not enough insight?

Tabloid newspapers are powerful communicators and
can exert influence on how people think.  One of the most effective
tools they use (and abuse?) are concepts that simplify reality and
allow people to see what is happening.  So a politician is
"beleaguered", a celebrity is on the way "up" or "down",  a government
is either "on a roll" or "stumbling".  Many people say that the papers
influence opinion and they argue they just reflect it.  But whichever
of these is true they cut through lots of data and create insight.

As marketers we need to create insight and become powerful communicators
to win over the business to our ideas for growth.  There are often many
ideas but this is accompanied by great uncertainty about which will
produce the right results.  This uncertainty seems to derive from two
sources.  Either there is too much data, so it is difficult to sift out
what is important or there is a shortage of real customer driven
insight because there is little market research available or affordable.
Have you found yourself sitting through analytical or descriptive presentations that provide some interesting content, but few actionable recommendations? 
Or sometimes have you found yourself struggling to come up with
insights and unable to justify the investment in high price market
research to create the customer understanding that will bring clarity
to your decisions?

One of the breakthrough tools we have developed to cut through data and create insight
is to develop "really useful concepts" that help you to see through the
mist and bring clarity to decisions about what to do.  We have found it
makes a huge difference and supports a cost effective approach.

  • When there is too much data, the "really useful concept" slices
    through the data to bring out the compelling insights.
  • When there is not enough money for new research, the "really
    useful concept" supports a structured approach to thinking through the
    issues and coming up with answers.  This approach may be done with
    customers or just your colleagues in the business.
You will probably have heard us talk about the concepts we use.
What characterises all of them, is that they are built around an
important business decision rather than just descriptive of an approach
to analysis or discussion.
  • Power Categories – where should we invest to get the most profitable growth?
  • Power Attributes – what features and benefits most powerfully influence customers to choose our products?
  • Power Propositions – products and services that deliver power attributes.
  • Power Channels – where does the product or service need to be seen and be available so our customers will discover it and can buy it?

We also have two additional ideas that have provided valuable support.

  • Rocketing – the tendency for customers to trade up and spend disproportionately on things that are really important to them
  • Internal Entrepreneur
    – describes the skills and behaviours of the people who can make things
    happen and influence the organisation to change and actively create

were recently challenged about why our website and our conversation
does not use the conventional language of the brand marketing world
So why we do not talk about market segmentation, brand positioning,
marketing communications, brand pyramids, brand wheels and so forth?
The question caused me to think about this and reflect on whether by
being different, we are just confusing the issue.  In our experience
this marketing speak can encourage debate, but often does not lead to
decisions.  So we plan to stick to these "really useful concepts"
because they are just that "really useful".
We know that internal entrepreneurs succeed when they become great communicators.
Maybe we can learn from the Tabloid press and use simpler more powerful
concepts.  When our clients adopt these "really useful concepts" they
find it helps to create a common understanding about the decisions that
the business must make.  This helps engage the business team and win
support for the ideas. 

What is it that makes a concept "really useful". It must have the following characteristics

  • It creates insight about an important business decision or action.
  • It communicates.  It is easy to grasp and possible to have an idea
    of what it is about from the title.
  • It is adaptable and can help you derive insight from robust data or management discussion.
  • It has been proven to work through robust analysis or previous practical examples.
What "really useful concepts" do you use to make decisions?  If
you want to share them, you can look at the blog version of this article and post a comment.


Our next due date for an ezine is 25th December, so we will skip
that one and the next issue will be a New Year perspective on 2nd


In the meantime have a great holiday break.  The Differentiate
team will be taking the chance to get some skiing in.  But we are back
shortly after Christmas and will be fired up for the New Year.