Frustration is viral

November 20, 2013

Frustration is a viral sentiment spreading throughout the global business community, “How do you find executive management who can truly achieve results, embrace cutting-edge methods and implement bold new ways to succeed?”

Business success comes not by natural intuition, through costly mistakes, charismatic diplomacy or knowing the ‘right’ people. (This attitude has, and continues to, put potentially immortal companies at risk and costs billions in avoidable commercial failures.)

Business success comes from wisdom-based talent layered upon experience and knowledge.

Many large international businesses need to experience change and renewal, particularly those with a number of market leading products, in established industries, major categories and competitive businesses.

They desperately NEED sustainable competitive advantage, which comes from innovation built upon solid strategic skills, genuine strategic innovation, blue-ocean growth initiatives spawned by the ability to identify key challenges effecting the organisation, and ability to develop and conceptualise strategies to improve competitiveness, steering those initiatives to improve overall business performance.

This calls for a leader with academic grounding, a breadth of experience that is rare among business individuals, and genuine successes in SME as well as middle sized and large companies. (The premise being no one person is ever responsible for success in large organisations, so ‘pure corporate’ executives from this background are more likely to behave been at the right place, at the right time, as often as they are a true performer.)

Boards must now scour the executive labour market for a new beast: Someone best suited is now an individual with success across a plethora of industries, who possesses demonstrable ability to understand new concepts quickly and act as an innovative thinker, with numerous experiences setting product strategy as well as the ability to implement.

Breakthrough performers must possess a passion for marketing strategy and instinctual understanding of buyer behaviour. They must be endowed with insight into the mechanics of marketing planning and business issues, and a wisdom that is unlikely to been seen in a young, corporate “climber”.

Self assured, mis-perceived as arrogant, or over-confident, ‘hero’ CEO’s dispel doubt when allowed to apply their craft and when results evolve.

All it takes is for an imaginative and dynamic Board or Shareholders to dare to try… the outcome being greater than the pain of resistance to change if they do.

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In the zenith of the years of excellence in advertising and marketing, the seller controlled the balance of power.

Taking the empirical science of “Marketing” revealed by diligent and breakthrough academic work, with open and dedicated support from industry, sellers were industrious about applying the newly discovered “Marketing Concept” – finding out what consumers wanted and delivering the combination of those wants to accurately identified market segments.

Those were the days were a segmentation study was an annual necessity, trend analysis was a routine discipline, conjoint analysis, decision tree analysis, qualitative and quantitative research were in balance and strategic marketing tools were respected and followed.

Now, in the years I consider the nadir of “Marketing”, the word “Marketing” is more often misunderstood than understood. It is rare to find someone who has conducted a segmentation study in the past seven years, and if they have. it is unlikely the research conducted can be, or is, compared to that of the past… so trends are hidden and management is uninformed.

Branding is confused with image, artwork, and name. Brand equity is not measured or considered in context, considered in brand portfolio planning (if that even exists) or future product design and planned innovation.

Consumers are left in a vacuum-like netherworld of me-too brands, and categories filled with homogenous offerings. They are thrown little to make judgement upon, with advertising drowning in the depths of weak marketing leadership from clients and vague briefs that offer no focus or direction.

Left to their own agenda, advertising agencies are forced to deliver anything they can, from gimmicks to creative excellence in advertising, which may or may not spark some level of unsustainable brand equity, only to be admonished by their clients when things ultimately go wrong.

Consumers are disarmed from having passion for their favourite brands… often helped by cost-cutting of those who should be the brand ambassadors, but fall victim to the inevitable urge to extend a brand, or worse, alter the product in such a way as to undermine it.
Abandoned by the brands they once loved, the consumer delegates their weary preferences to the household shopper, who is less involved in brand loyalty and more inclined to economic enticements.

Nowadays, caught in the vice-like grip of 50% off, or buy BOGOF, the preferred brand is dismissed as of secondary importance, and price-led brand switching, convenient shelf position, or accidental or ambivalent alternative brand selection, has become acceptable.

Responding in the most destructive of all ways, national brands who cost cut, abandon brand equity building, restrain innovation, decrease market research, and have, and continue to, lay a path to destruction: Fertilising the ground for the onset of premium house brands and private label brands that will choke the life our of the diminishing brand loyalty that marketers have allowed to proliferate over the past 20 years.

The question is, “Is this a ‘swings and roundabouts’ scenario?”

Will ‘Marketing’ skills and talent regain popularity and rebuild a world of heterogeneous and loved brands or has the era of beloved brands passed away?

I’d love to see innovative and profound marketing management rise again, mainly because I love the craft and believe the power and the responsibility that goes with it belongs solely to the seller.

It is easy to lose a fight when you are more willing give up than to employ some self defence and fighting skills.

Have you heard the expression, “Assumptions are the mother of all f—ups”? When observers say, “challenges that corporations face in managing and adopting innovation” are we assuming management skills are a constant – ’cause they ain’t!

The managerial errors of Strategic Myopia, Structural Inertia & Reactivity have been denounced for so long, you think rubbish management would be long gone…

However, the politics of selling consultancy means 99% of management consultants skip over findings in the problem identification stage, hiding rather than revealing, sub-standard management lacking in understanding of rudimentary concepts such as the Ansoff Matrix, the Resource based approach to the marketing concept, product portfolio management and other strategic marketing management concepts.

I see so much waste is the ‘selling of emperor’s clothes’ to big business. SingTel just boasted 0.8% increase in profits due to their clever Six-Sigma approach – BIG DEAL!!!

One of OUR banking clients just increased generated 22% profit growth using our proprietary Customer Value Management models – and our fees were insignificant to the ones paid by SingTel!

Poor shareholders… the world of imperfect information hides how woefully mismanaged their investments are

Improper choices by underskilled management seem to be much more the problem with innovation, chnage and profit challenges being more of a symptom.