Category Management. Every time I think about CatMan key points, one is the core definition of the Marketing Concept: Satisfaction of Customer Needs & Wants.

Of course, there is much more to Category management than one-sentence, throw-away lines, simple theory, or intangible concepts.

Category Management is a potent and serious business approach that, properly implemented, can grow an industry, streamline a channel’s operations and genuinely improve profits throughout the channel while increasing customer value: It is a win/win for everyone!

However, badly done, misunderstood, or inadequate organisational commitment means win/lose… which (ultimately) means lose/lose.

You can organise your won, in-house workshop, or attend & learn at my Management training workshops on 17 & 18 July (Singapore) or 20 & 21 July (Manila, Philippines) and you’ll discover tools you need to do it right, avoid the landmines, and make it happen. You’ll find more details at 

You’ll acquire the material you need to attract internal support and trade partner alignment, as well as adopt and carry out your own Category Management strategies through both supply chain and demand chain.

It’ll be great to see you there!

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A curious email passed under my nose recently, which read…

Australian Enterprise Awards 2017 is due to be published soon.

You will remember me informing you that Launch Engineering was awarded Product Launch Specialists of the Year 2017 – New South Wales

Unexpected, (we never submit for prizes) I read on….

We now have limited availability of the final packages available:

Digital Package WAS $528 NOW $350AUD:
Bespoke digital winners’ certificate & Personalised winners’ logo

Premier Package WAS $950 NOW $595AUD:
1 dedicated page of content, 1 crystal trophy, Personalised winners’ logo

Superior Package WAS $1,895 NOW $1,195AUD:
Front cover image, 1 dedicated page of content, 1 crystal trophy, Personalised winners’ logo, 6-month clickable web-banner placed in prime position on our homepage

Individual Items:
Crystal Trophy – WAS $400 NOW $285AUD (discounts apply on multiple orders)
1 Page EditorialWAS $310 NOW $225AUD
Personalised Winners’ Logo – WAS $300 NOW $215AUD

So, a “shade of grey” revenue-raising service that provides fro unethical marketing consultancies to “buy” accolades; I suppose to impress people and attract business from potential new clients unable to discriminate between ability and bull-artistry.

What concerns me is this is an example of the significant prevalence and adoption of deception, half-truth and unethical marketing communications of the 21st Century- and how acceptable it has become!

Black Hat Promotion, Dishonesty & Ethics – All PROFESSIONALS should say, “No!”

Ethics, honesty, moral fibre, and (most importantly) performance, these days, seems relatively secondary to sales success. Short term gains have become wholly absorbing, while long-term market effect appears to be completely ignored.

In the context of so many people perceiving the word “marketing” to mean persuasion, as opposed to the real meaning, being “management of exchange”, if even one “marketing consultancy” adopts deceptions like the one above, what hope have we?

I’m genuinely afraid for the long-term impact on the “marketing profession” if THIS is what we produce, endorse, promote, or even accept as a standard worth supporting.

Yes, I can understand the carrot is that Launch Engineering could choose to ‘ride’ on being awarded the “Product Launch Specialists of the Year 2017 – New South Wales in the Australian Enterprise Awards 2017″ publication, probably “selling” trusting new prospective clients, but this is LAZY marketing.

What Hat Marketing Communications, Honesty & Ethics is Simply GOOD Marketing!

Surely, we can conjure up more ethical, constructive, positive, meaningful and mutually profitable ways to do business, can’t we?

Isn’t it more important that our team is exceptionally highly qualified, with decades of specialised experience, and world-renowned, winning outcomes? I believe so.

Whether those”consultants”, lacking anything to support their aspirations, should they be allowed to use such services as the one above is not my major worry… it is the apparent willingness of so many to do so.

White-Hat Marketing is the creator of brand Equity. White-Hat Marketing is the means by which we extend and maximise the lifetime value of a client! White-Hat Marketing is how we push customers into   (Net Promoter Score) emissaries of our products and services. White-Hat Marketing is how we satisfy and dominate the attractive segments in our individual market segments.

YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d be grateful for any thoughts, observations, or debate on this or any issue regarding subversive, covert and deceptive promotion of marketing services.

Why Do Businesses Stray from the Proven Path to Making Billions?

I recall the adage, “Not advertising is like kissing someone in the dark… YOU know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.”

Market research tells you:

  1. If there are any kissable people in the dark,
  2. How to find them,
  3. What sort of kiss they would like, and
  4. How likely you are to enjoy it.

It is so, so easy for big businesses to make billions… why don’t they?

If research can tell you EXACTLY how to achieve your business goals, why doesn’t EVERY business do it?

THE FIRST, OF TWO REASONS, is that bad research has a GIGO effect (garbage in, garbage out). With most executives undertrained in how to brief research, appraise and assess its implementation, and interpret the findings (properly) in concert with strategic marketing know-how, research can simply go to waste.

The second reason is (in Warren Buffet’s words) because of “Corporate Cancer”… where arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency, combined with operational micro-thinking, dilutes or discounts the demand for, and reverence towards, market research.

In the high-profit, high-growth days of B2C (FMCG and Consumer durables), research was conducted with finesse, expediency, discipline, regularity and concise interpretation.

Nowadays, few executives demonstrate any respect for, tight management of, or scientific approach to the art of research … and the results speak for themselves.

We can all probably name brands that are weaker versions of what they were, and trace it back to a departure from the disciplines of marketing strategy built upon good research.

Where is the once-dominant Sharp brand? How long can Nestle last, relying on its long-term cash-cows? How out of touch and behind is Kellogg’s? What happened to Spillers? Where’s Ampol? Grace Brothers? Criterion Furniture?

The Hurdles to the Billions

Remembering that products don’t fail, businesses don’t fail, brands don’t fail… it managers making bad decisions who fail… It is possible to remove the hurdles for failure by opening business leaders’ minds to more productive and proven methods: Commissioning and utilising market research!

In 1983/4 when My Dog had failed to launch successfully for Mars, their Product Manager asked me for help. All I did was read the research overnight, and it was clear the positioning for the re-launch had to be “for fussy eaters”: 33 years later My Dog has not made less than $250M annual sales… simply founded on good interpretation of good research.

In 1994, simply reviewing the research data for Mersyndol revealed that 95% of sales came from the 5% of heaviest analgesic users, but Mersyndol loyal users were forced to buy another brand to avoid drowsiness. In a 20-minute meeting, my identification of this and suggestion of a “Mersyndol Light”, led to the launch of Mersyndol Day-Strength, that has generated around $200M p.a for the past 23 years.

All those billions came from objective interpretation of quality market research.

IF companies REALLY want the Billions, bad research won’t ‘cut it’.

Interpretation without the synergy of understanding strategic marketing science also won’t ‘cut it’. (e.g. Brand adoption theory, innovation theory, brand equity, brand loyalty, involvement, BCG Matrix, and about 100 other key models.)

But, with good market research… well planned, well conducted, well interpreted, and well respected and followed… the path to billions is simply “finding out what people want and giving it to them”.

How easy it that? So why don’t or won’t business leaders do it?

I think it would be healthy and beneficial for anyone to share thoughts, perceptions experiences, and concerns… or just comment…

 

The biggest single roadblock to optimum profits, organisational immortality and economic buoyancy is the toxic predicament of the world’s perception of ‘marketing’.

And it is spawned and nurtured by those who perceive themselves as marketing professionals.

Think about this: Someone starts off in a junior role, putting some effort into sales admin, advertising development, promotional activity, and is charming and charismatic. They then work their way up in the job and are perceived, by lay people, as being the ‘marketing’ person in their company. They grow, understand operations, their industry, learn by mistakes, sometimes prospering despite doing half-baked jobs, and making less-than-perfect decisions or implementation. They, themselves, inadequately trained, educated or both, are unaware of quite how little they understand the science of ‘marketing’… believing their experience defines the professional, and deeply offended at any suggestion that their knowledge bank could be less than perfect.

20 years later they are entitled ‘marketing director and still don’t ignore the difference between strategy and operations… perceiving tactics as strategy, substituting the word ‘marketing’ as a synonym for ‘promotions’ and floundering when they ultimately have to take on a modified or new challenge that needs highly skilled strategic knowledge.

Then, since ‘likes’ employ people “just like me”: They recruit, mentor and train, and the devolution continues as they fuel the cascade down, or downward spiral, and ‘marketing’ plummets towards the dark ages.

For me, Marketing takes a lifetime to learn and can never be mastered, but it is surprising how executives with 3-5 years in marketing roles and almost no academic specialists training, insist they know ‘it all’. (How do executives without extensive marketing study actually convince themselves that they are universally expert at marketing and can afford to dismiss unheard opinion that contradicts their own?)

THE DECAYING STANDARD OF MARKETING KNOW-HOW

I recently attended a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) conference to hear a national market research company speaker, with the title “Director of Marketing”, a leader of a division responsible for advising their clients “how to do it better”, speak.

I must admit I had high hopes of insights and knowledge that could help me grow as a marketing strategist, that I could pass onto clients and followers, and even publish in my next book.

Instead, I was appalled, shocked, horrified and dismayed… He actually knew so little – and what he said was ignorantly (albeit it, innocently) and blatantly wrong… the beliefs and assumptions that true professional and knowledgeable academics actually try and teach people OUT of believing!

Is this really how abhorrently low the industry, responsible for marketing leadership, has sunk?

Shell-shocked at the content, I couldn’t help but ask the speaker about his educational background… suspecting he might be from the arts, accounting, or engineering… which could explain his incapacity to understand basic building blocks of marketing and strategy.

I must admit to being shocked he had a degree in advertising and marketing… My immediate thought, “How could anyone finish a degree in marketing, and know absolutely so little?”

Politely, I thanked him for his presentation and went on my way…

THE DUMBING-DOWN OF MARKETING EXECUTIVES

For years, my peers and I have observed “dumbing-down” in Marketing. With procedures controlling actions of operational marketing functions, instructional manuals to obey, and processes to follow, staff don’t necessarily NEED a degree, and years of experience, to implement their marketing activities & tasks. As proven by McDonalds, school kids corralled by processes can be paid less than free-thinking adults, as long as the tasks are repetitive and there is no need for initiative or room for common sense.

Further, the cost-saving trend, for middle management roles in Advertising through to Product Management, and now clearly in Market Research, has been, “If you can’t pay them, just give them a fancy title”.

Simultaneously, Universities have been pumping out graduates and MBA’s on a quota system where “90% must pass”. While this has angered old-school academics and commercially minded observers (like me), this failing has been growing since the 90’s in the wake of HECS and overseas student placement… which makes degrees mean less year-by-year, exacerbated when pure academics (with an absence of commercial exposure) are the teachers.

THE DAMAGE AND THE DANGER

What rocked me after the presentation was the implied credibility of the presenter’s title, his Company’s brand and the impressive graphics (obviously professionally produced) actually duped a significant proportion of the audience!

These perceptual clues influenced listeners so that the ludicrous, wrong, inaccurate, misleading advice and direction was actually taken on board by some of the delegates at the conference.

The dis-information was, in some places, what properly educated marketers have to un-teach executives to PREVENT managerial mistakes.

Armed with incorrect direction and misleading beliefs, some delegates in the audience may literally now make managerial decisions with disastrous results.

Is it a sign of the decay of Marketing know-how that no one stood up and spoke out?

With no complaint to the event organiser, suggesting anyone claiming to understand or offering big companies advice in, “Marketing” should be able to define the word?

It appeared the audience was comfortable when our friend frequently used the word “Marketing” as a synonym for advertising or promotion… while claiming he was promoting “scientific marketing”!

Not a soul interjected that the speaker might NOT understand that “Marketing” is the holistic “management of exchange”. When he offered, as if it was a new-found insight, that “Marketing requires analysis”… no one reminded him that this has been locked in and taught in Marketing 101 since the 60’s… and is hardly new.

He remained unchallenged when, in complete seriousness, he stood up in front of industry folk and suggested markets can have “4000 segments” and that “a group of 75 is 75 different segments”! Is it a sign that the audience failed to respond by laughing out loud?

Completely victim of the demographic trap, the professional irresponsibility of someone in his position, offered by his Company as a mentor and advisor to marketers, is (in my opinion) criminally irresponsible.

This individual expressed misleading and caustic, if not cancerous perceptions, in a negligently incompetent capacity… While his company has a large Professional Indemnity cover, the truth is the damage done is one the kind that never gets exposed.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As thought leaders, world authorities, or simply as dedicated professionals, it is important that we stand up and be heard when public speakers get it wrong… not by embarrassing or insulting the presenter, but by making it known to the event organisers, the presenter’s Company, and fellow attendees, the objective reasons why the content is sub-standard.

Given the circumstances of the failure of the silent majority to stand up to current world events, it might be that people and communities around the world are reticent to speak out… but without more vocal dialogue, our standards, and our communal well-being, might be at stake.

Digital self-promoters constantly claim the Internet has “changed the face of Marketing forever” and is a totally new, “game-changing” phenomenon. This is misleading and divisively untrue.

Yes, Marketing COMMUNICATIONS has changed… just as it did when the printing press was invented in the 1400’s, and offset printing in the 1800’s. Marketing COMMUNICATIONS also experienced varying aspects of change with the introduction of commercial radio around the start of the 20th century, and again in the mid-to-late 1920s when talking movies took off.

When TV took off, post WWII, a bold advertising industry also claimed, “TV has changed the face of Advertising forever and is a totally new, game-changing phenomenon”.

Sadly, business has regressed over the past 60+ years from understanding that ANY medium of communication is just that… a medium of communication. MANAGING MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS IS NOTMARKETING‘!

Too many “think-they-know-what-they’re-talking-about” snake-oil salespeople, touting their wares, have shortened, deliberately or in ignorance, the terminology, “Marketing Communications”, incorrectly using the word “Marketing” as a synonym.

Too many lawyers, accountants, administrators, salespeople, secretaries and other professionally trained business people have been dubbed “Marketing Manager” without proper training because they’ve had to take on decision-making about advertising and promotional issues. Decades later these folk believe they “know Marketing”.

Too many digital gurus are pushing their wagons and promoting their solutions as ‘marketing’ when they simply mean “promoting” or “selling”…  It appears if you say something over and over long enough, people start to believe it.

Some of us were shouted down in the 1980’s when the terminology “Direct Marketing” was coined… is was (if fact) direct response marketing communications, but the cowboys who rode the profit-scalping era found it easier to shortcut the expression.

From there, things went downhill to where…

  • “Content Marketing” is bandied about as an intelligent phrase when its literal meaning is absurd… the management of online information dispersion is not Marketing.
  • “Marketing Automation” is the expression used by providers of Marketing Communications Management automation.
  • “Social Media Marketing” is another misleading term meant to describe management of communication using social media.

But when you get loud and aggressive hawkers and canvassers of their own ‘batch’ of services they are pitching, anything that impresses the ignorant masses is worth using… so, the word “Marketing” so poorly understood by those outside the profession, becomes the victim.

The weak-kneed and ineffective academic community haven’t helped matter either. A LONG way from the strategic experts that were the heroes of the 60’s – 80’s, academics have evolved into pure theorists drilling down on niche specialist areas of focus, while lacking any commercial competency along the way.

TRUE MARKETING

Marketing has been, and always will be, management of exchange. It is primarily the pursuit of efficient and sustainable exchange management by simultaneously coordinating the elements of the marketing mix, being Product, Price, Promotion (Public relations, Personal selling, advertising and all other forms of promotion; digital or analog), Distribution, People, Processes and Positioning … contextually within the framework of controllable and uncontrollable factors such as PESTLEED and 5 Forces.

Marketing professionals are extensively educated in analysis and interpretation of industry, product, market, channel, supply and demand data, far beyond digital and online information data. Economics, behavioral science, mathematics, pure psychology, business management, financial management (budgeting, forecasting, cash flow, funding, sensitivity, etc, etc.), law AND technology are just some skills a professional marketer picks up in their training.

The Internet is a tool, nothing more

For me and those like me, decisions about investment in digital AND analog media are made from professional understanding of “Marketing”. Any other course of action is literally, the tail shaking the dog…. and should be avoided.

43 years of Marketing… And it struck me that I have been obsessed with perfection of application and implementation of marketing excellence for 40 of those years – holy hell!

To be fair, my blind faith in commercially-usable academic knowledge has been the major reason I have pulled off some record-breaking successes in my career… by simply taking proven marketing science and applying it.

So, it’s no wonder that my peers shake their heads in dour and reluctant tolerance to what we call the “dumbing down” of skills and knowledge in the world of Marketing.

In particular, we’ve seen an awful downward slide in the quality and output of market research… reviewing studies done for clients who should have known better, but didn’t.

Is it the client’s fault for not have the skills to be a discriminating buyer?

Is it the researchers’ fault for not setting a standard and mentoring their clients to understand the importance of asking the right people, the right questions, in the right way?

Is it the pure academics, devoid of commercial experience, who are to blame for not delivering the education necessary in marketing graduates?

Is it the academic institutions that should be kicked for appointing inappropriate teachers of marketing for the hundreds of students who are paying for, expecting but not getting, skills that will empower them in commercial marketing roles?

Where does it stop and who will stop it?

Applying some of the theories of Marketing, we might predict that the commercial world will ultimately reject the inferior products now being delivered by academia… forcing academic institutions to return to the belief that only working practitioners marketing can teach it,  which was the original springboard of Marketing into wide-spread fame.

In the meantime, the absence of properly trained Marketing strategists, and the substitution of operational trained under-educated executives TRYING to make prudent business decisions likely to leave many of them face-down in puddles of business problems that shouldn’t even exist.

Absolutely, and without exception, any business that has been successful, accumulated profits and held major market share, should NEVER, that is EVER, g broke, die, or even experience a failed product launch.

Only when management goes wrong, get arrogant, or complacent, of suffers belligerence and apathy borne of bureaucratic inefficiency, do organisations begin to struggle or worse.

And ONLY, when leaders are empowered with strategic marketing knowledge and input, as well as authority to act and utilise this knowledge, will market leaders stop going broke, losing to competitors, or make other terminal business management decisions.

The questions is three-fold:

  1. What proportion of executives are drowning in puddles?
  2. How many partially strategic executives are face-down in shallow water?
  3. And how nay are truly able to survive in the deep?