Bringing Unsexy Back | The Blogfather | ...Gasp! | ...Gasp!

Bringing Unsexy Back

Them other marketers don’t know how to act (yeah!)

The Blogfather is taking it to the bridge and bringing unsexy back this week, alongside the super talented marketer Keerti Nair, telling it to you straight on why retail, distribution, pricing and promotion are vital to being a good marketer.

We should not forget there is merit, and a whole lotta value, in embracing and understanding the unsexy boring bits of marketing.

What’s the sexiest thing about the advertising and marketing industry you can think of? Be careful. A sharp and very 2022-friendly answer is probably the Cannes Lions Festival. This has long been seen as the catwalk fashion moment of the industry; work that is not likely to, and has not actually run, but might inspire and filter down into other campaigns.

Although in reality that’s not what it is these days. It’s been demonstrated recently, by detailed work and reports from the likes of ad effectiveness agency System1, that less effective work wins awards at Cannes, work that performs poorly on long-term metrics that are key for long-term brand growth. With a few exceptions, Cannes is largely a bit of a scandal, and a long way removed from its heyday when adland legend Steve Harrison snared 18 Lions (more than any other Creative Director in the world).

Rory Sutherland once said, in a quite brutally beautiful way, that the pessimistic economic answer to ‘What is Cannes for?’ is “to watch men drink rosé and trying to resist the urge to punch them in the face, whilst watching tech companies steal our clients' budgets.”

Another legend.

So in moving away from the sexy, we should not forget there is merit, and a whole lotta value, in embracing and understanding the unsexy boring bits of marketing. This is a point well made on the latest episode of our Call to Action podcast with Keerti Nair, an outstanding marketer that you’d be a fool not to listen to.

As Keerti says, few marketers talk about retail, distribution, and pricing. Promotion is seen as sexy, and is the only one of the 4 Ps (Price, Product, Place (distribution), and Promotion) that gets much attention. It's only a quarter of a three-stage process, yet seems to command the majority of marketers’ time, as they fall into the short-term tactics trap.

But all of these combined make advertising work harder. There’s a lot of merit in marketers getting to grips with it all. But marketers don’t tend to talk much about it. How can we encourage more marketers to get to grips with it?

Keerti learnt the value of the unsexy side of marketing early, selling a powdered drink concentrate as a summer intern at Coca-Cola. She would go selling it door-to-door from one store to another in the sweltering 40-degree heat in the suburbs of Mumbai, and she loved the experience. It was refreshing for her to be doing product demos and taught her humility – “you were defined by your numbers every single day”. It was here that she learnt the basics of pricing, promotions and distribution, as well as negotiation skills.

Keerti says; “I think any marketer would benefit from knowing how a store listing happens. And the blood, sweat and tears that goes behind doing that”.

This brings to mind another Call to Action pod guest, Phil Barden, the best-selling author of Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, who spoke to us on the importance of factory tours when he started with McVitie’s (where he scoffed Jaffa Cakes straight off the production line - which is kind of a sexy heaven in itself). But we digress. The lesson is; the more you know about that cycle the better.

Keerti also spoke to us on a fascinating and hugely educating cross-cultural marketing experience she had back in 2011 in Sudan, where she worked on Unilever campaigns launching a certain pyramid tea bag. The assumption was that this was more convenient and thus more desirable – but the insight that came from local people was; ‘we aren’t looking for convenience. I don’t have tea on my own. It’s a shared experience’.

As Keerti eloquently says; “Who are we to judge? Our job as marketers is not to create waves, it’s to ride waves of culture. We can’t be here imposing our views. We are not the same as our consumers. We have to respect the culture, respect the insight we are getting and work with it.”

This is also a lesson on remembering you are not the market, and the first lesson of marketing (as per the Mark Ritson school of marketing) is to get market-orientated. You are not the customer. Most of …Gasp! learnt this in module 1 on the Marketing Week Mini MBA.

There are few more important concepts than pricing. Yet it is also staggering how many so-called marketers neglect it

As Mark himself says:

“I’ve lost count of the number of times that these senior men – and they are always men – completely forget they are not in the gender, age-range or salary bracket of the target segment but still wax lyrical about which campaign they prefer and what the marketing team should do next.

This is not marketing, this is being a cock. An overpaid cock. An overpaid, incompetent cock.”

But back to the unsexy boring bits of marketing; why don’t marketers talk about it?

Keerti has a very insightful view on this. It’s considered unsexy, not just because they aren’t interested, but because marketers don’t get to play a part in it. Not every marketer has a grounding in sales to begin with, so do not have familiarity and confidence.

Also, it doesn’t have the glamour. You don’t look at moodboards, celebrities, casting. There’s a wannabe artist in everyone. Most of us want to be creative and want to be involved in the magic, but forget there is monumental magic in this unsexy bit. Client-side teams are often not accessible, which also makes it harder. Also, what do we mean by distribution? There’s a lack of understanding about it. Comprehension is missing.

Mark Ritson has stated that he put a lot of effort into making the pricing module the most rewarding of his Mini MBA modules, such is its importance.

“There are few more important concepts than pricing. Yet it is also staggering how many so-called marketers neglect it.”

“We can all sell, but doing so at a level that achieves a sustainable profit is an entirely different matter. Learn how price should be calculated, set and then communicated. Understanding the power of price is one of the key lessons of marketing.”

Too many people seem to think Van Westendorp’s (Price Sensitivity Meter) is a German automobile rival to Ford’s Transit.

As marketers, we don’t have to feel embarrassed that we basically exist to help businesses and brands sell more. We don’t have to disappear down into a Cannes Lions chasing, purpose-filled rabbit arsehole.

That’s some mental image. But I don’t want to leave you with that. I’ll leave you with this, from Keerti:

“We should be extremely proud of being marketers. And we should be extremely proud of the value we bring in both commercial and convenience. There is a lot of value in being a marketer and we do not need to shy away from it.”

We’d second that, Keerti.

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