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…

 

Members of the Sales & Marketing Institute of Australia might remember my presentation, “Coles & Woolies aren’t the bad guys, we are!”, at the FMCG Summit in August, 2012.

In this presentation, I suggested…

  1. The fundamentals of solid FMCG haven’t changed – and won’t
  2. Loyalty data has become an information goldmine
  3. FMCG now beats to different & distinct checks & measures
  4. The Category Management business is in ‘re-jig’ – they are creating business manager experts in smaller categories
  5. Buyers don’t know where their categories will head UNTIL AFTER a category review – so there’ll be more hesitation before decision but the decision will be based upon shopper satisfaction
  6. Card data will never be completely shared because it gives retailers a new advantage
  7. There is always a trade-off between sales, profit & market share
  8. There is a new imperative on suppliers to be more effective & efficient
  9. Retailers now run ‘category laboratories’ , and do – they know more than FMCG marketers do
  10. The quality of the seller must rise to meet the quality of the buyer and visa versa

The point of the presentation was that FMCG marketers must remember that their hay-day came when they discovered segmentation, and conducted segmentation studies annually… long before cost-cutters and short sighted profit goals ate away at research budgets.

FMCG companies who are struggling MUST call out  “its time for a segmentation study” if things go astray… but MORE IMPORTANTLY… to plan a product portfolio, write a 3, 5 or 7 years marketing plan, or invest in new products, new plant, or growth without clear understanding of segments and market opportunities… is suicide by Russian Roulette!

I’m not ashamed to say that Launch Engineering does outstanding segmentation studies: One FMCG client increased business 50% in a year on the basis of strategic recommendations following his LE segmentation study…. and EVERY client that takes advantage of our expert researchers with added strategist recommendations, finds inspiration and confidence in their decision-making, post report.

If you’re in FMCG in Australia… its tough. You could make it a whole lot easier…

For more information or a confidential chat, feel free to share your problems and I’ll let you know if I can help… you’ll find my contact details at http://www.launchengineering.com

Too many marketing strategists believe their own BS! Pricing Strategy, Communications strategy, Online Strategy, branding strategy etc. isn’t genius… it is obvious, common sense that evolves out of the fact that perfect knowledge leads to perfect decisions.

I’ve had an extraordinary number of commercial successes in my career, record-breaking ones… NOT because I am one bit smarter, more intuitive, have more street cunning or am unusually lucky, but because I persevered long enough in learning my trade to be able to recognise the one, inalienable truth of business: If you genuinely know what the customer wants and can give it to them, they WILL buy!

The absolute secret, of all extraordinary business success, is knowing the customer.

Is it REALLY that simple?

Whether it is the individual or the segment – yes!

There are so many examples of this across the internet, in each of our careers, recorded, diagnosed, studied and reported by academics around the world, and demonstrable in every case study and high return annual report… so why do we complicate and confuse, cloud and cover this fact?

Think about it…

Pricing Strategy: In particular Value-Based pricing? Know the customer!

Communications strategy: In particular advertising & positioning? Know the customer!

Retailing: In particular store layout, ranging, staffing, location? Know the customer!

Manufacturing: Everything from branding, sizing, packaging, new product development, distribution strategy? Know the customer!

Why is the business community in denial?

When FMCG hummed a merry tune, the industry habitually committed to segmentation studies annually… but as operational executives with corporate political skills rose in a culture of corporate arrogance, costs were cut to carve out larger profits, ignorant to the fact they were really blunting competitive advantage and digesting brand equity.

In adequately training marketing personnel, briefing and sustaining market research of questionable quality, undermined the payback from segmentation studies and other market research.

Over the years, the team at my firm has written strategy for transport, banks, FMCG, commodities, utilities, government that has generated record-breaking results, unimagined sales growth, and extraordinary profits… why? Simply better understanding of the customer – EVERY time!

So many businesses could boom beyond all expectations…
… If ONLY they knew how much they don’t know, when it comes to ‘marketing’.

So many still think that “marketing” is “promotion”. Others perceive it as simply ‘selling’. Dangerous CEO’s think marketing is just ‘fluff’.

Companies that have leaders with this perception are ultimately doomed… proven infinitely, too often, by companies, businesses, brands and products that ‘fail’.
In fact, companies, businesses, brands and products do NOT fail, management does!

But try telling the naïve, the ignorant and the uninformed: They don’t know how, if they’d only opened their minds, the bulletproof armour that ‘true’ marketing provides.

The complexity of this problem is exacerbated by the fact that too few senior executives were exposed to advanced marketing study at tertiary level, and that TOO MANY were so badly taught by so many inept academics, that the power of marketing methods was never revealed, ad that many students at University were so focussed on finishing their full-time degree and getting a job that they too quickly forgot the advanced skills they were taught much sooner in their careers than when they were called upon to use these skills.

When you cross-pollinate the additional issue of operational knowledge vs. academic knowledge (industry specific knowledge vs. strategic theory) the issue of corporate (and personal) arrogance raises its ugly head.

A common example of this is strategy problems that could easily be solved by product typing.

Take, for example, the B2C model of product type.
If you are selling guttering, time-share, insurance, or any other unsought good, the ‘rules’ say awareness is key. Too many guttering, all time-share and struggling insurance businesses don’t even grasp this!

Then, those that do don’t understand segmentation must be bought to turn this knowledge into profitable strategy development. Then, those that can, don’t have the acumen to brief, commission, or recognise good marketing research in terms of a segmentation study… and THAT’S assuming their management will empower them with enough funding to acquire this knowledge.

Then the organisation may not have adequately skilled people to interpret the research, brief and control the creative development in marketing communications, exercise scientific management of media variables (weight, reach, timing, competitive response, etc.) or the management of channels, production, product portfolio, pricing, people, processes, positioning, etc.

What happens in almost every industry is the LEAST WORSE battle for major market share, the completely devoid of know-how battle for crumbs.

IF a company flukes or actually plans using advanced, integrated strategic marketing, they end up with ‘unnatural’ marketing share levels of 80% plus… long term!
Look at Coke, Mars, McDonalds, and P&G: Companies embracing marketing scientists & enjoying the benefits.

Look at Ansett, FAI, thousands of SME’s that collapse annually… victims of their own refusal to believe they need marketing science.

Imagine a world where businesses, NFP’s and government bodies actually were truly marketing led and managed… utopia!

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Begin your trip towards explosive growth in sales and profits, by starting at:
http://bit.ly/MktgDef

After 40 years of working in “marketing”, much of it FMCG, lots of B2C and nearly as much B2B, I have observed how few senior executives (even those with ‘marketing’ qualifications) actually recognise the power of segmentation.

This morning I sat down to eat my breakfast… almost wincing at the foul taste of my Goodness Foods cereal that I add to my hi-fibre Weet-Bix, mixed with fat free (taste-free?) milk.

What drives me to consume this left-field meal? What consumer insight can be honed from my devoted dedication to this negative taste experience?

I’m part of a segment in the market place… a segment I describe as the “Smart-Food eater”. My psychographics/behavioural motivator isn’t price, isn’t taste, it is partially nutrition/cognitive/’value” from a physiological return on investment perspective… I want my food to have a positive health benefit, incidental to the activity of consuming a breakfast that wont cause me to get fat, decay my teeth, or leave me starving, while still being time-efficient enough to consume without waking earlier than my routine allows.

THIS segment extends into the nutrition-focused segments, the weight-watchers segment, hypochondriacs, and other segments… it is appealing to sub-segment innovators and early adopters… brand switchers, variety seekers and others heterogeneous tiers and strata of the multi-dimensional aspects of consumers… targeting and positioning tisi segment creates shopper satisfaction and potential cross channel conversion.

What staggers me is despite the fact that recognition of this segment is a catalyst for dynamically continuous innovation, a recipe for win/win success in new product development and launch between manufacturer and retailer, and a path towards higher consumer satisfaction…. Many manufacturers avoid discovery, ignore the existence, or refute the potential of applying the craft of ‘marketing’ by segmentation.

It appears the Goodness Foods people simply sought to manufacture a product that the CSIRO believed might inhibit certain forms of cancer… they got lucky with a great piece of TV publicity through a current affairs program, and have coasted on the loyalty of viewers of that program (and some under-fertilized PR) since.

What COULD have been the foundation to becoming Australia’s biggest volume breakfast cereal died with the corporate arrogance of small success evident in under skilled management teams. (The weakest of all businesses are those where their switchboard operator discerns what consultants they select.)

Regardless, I’m likely to continue my habitual kerosene diet until something better comes along.

The academic study of Marketing was initially undertaken to make business decision-making easy… and it worked! Marketing decisions that religiously, if not fanatically, followed the technical revelations of academic marketing teachings, have worked, and worked, and worked.
In my career, every single marketing plan based upon the teachings of my studies, and implemented accordingly, has “hit-the-ball-out-of-the-park”, so to speak.
In my 3rd year at Uni, a recent graduate guest lectured on the launch of Moove & & Good One in the 70’s, explaining how they simply applied text-book marketing theory and would up with the most successful marketing outcome in the history of milk marketing. It was text-book theory that was used to save and re-launch My Dog & in the 80’s.
With reverence to the KISS principle, after 13 years of studying marketing, 38 years of applying it, 7 years of teaching marketing at University, I can confidently suggest that the core to successful marketing comes from knowing the segments in the market place and targeting and positioning to attract preferred segments.
So, with segmentation being the virtual “road to riches”, you would think all marketing executives would scramble for any segmentation market research above all else, and covert the opportunity to get as much as possible to empower them and simplify their whole function.
Alas, few good marketers stand in the ranks of business, and many of these are constrained by superiors whose limitations create the black holes into which fall opportunity and money.
Reality slapped me in teh face recently, when my firm decided to systemise a method of empowering clients with segmenatation knwoledge, and offfered a promotion… 2 (ideally sequential, not mandatory) segmentation studies, worth around $160,000 for just $60,000 – with an $11,000 social media marketing promotion thrown in. This offer was sent to a select 60 key individuals I know needed a market segmentation study.
Can you guess the response?
Now these guys KNOW that “the segmentation studies they get now” – are likely (at best) to be performed by the guys that taught market research to their current suppliers of market research, so its not a matter of quality.
Loyalty? OK… is that loyalty well advise in the light of the best interests of shareholders? Is it in their own best interests to miss out on more frequent, timely and recent information? Given that fresh segmentation information could make the difference between growth or deletion, between profit and loss, between market dominance and market share erosion, wouldn’t it be worth the effort?
To a great marketer – this would be a great opportunity… there are just too few of them about.

What is the Marketing Concept? What is the basis of all marketing management?

Is it not meet the customers’ needs with available resources?

Is pushing an imperfect satisfaction of needs, via advertising, personal selling, tricky copy and negative options, give-aways and incentives, going to imbed success in a brand?

Is a badly thought-out product or brand extension, timed well or not, a failure because of insufficient advertising?

Not necessarily.

Looking at the purpose of a marketing expert’s being: For all exponents of the marketing profession, there is one focus… The needs and wants of the markets (or the targeted segments in which you are interested).

IF the market NEEDS advertising, if the ACTUAL product (as opposed to CORE product) includes imagery and positioning, then the marketer’s responsibility is to deliver those needs. In delivering the needs of the target audience, a marketer maintains brand equity, and thus, the life of the brand/product.

If the marketer just invests in advertising without understanding the customer, life cycle is bound to prematurely terminate, brand decay will set in, and brands will die…. in response, of course to substitutability, imitability, comparative value and rarity.

This turns focus not to the science of marketing but the skills abilities and talent of marketing management personnel.

Does management “get it”? Do they really UNDERSTAND ‘marketing’ or do they perceive it hype, advertising, or selling? Are they CAPABLE of embracing and applying marketing science, or simply charismatic diplomats, climbing the corporate ladder? Are they EMPOWERED with funds, autonomy, flexibility and leadership support to implement? Do they have the ACUMEN to pull it all together and planning skills to imbed the direction for years to come?

[The answer, by the way, is that ego and corporate arrogance, stop people like us helping people like them 😦 ]