In fine form at the marketing forum

I got three main insights from this week’s Marketing Forum, an annual assembly of New Zealand’s top marketers. Hats off to the Marketing Association which once again pulled in 100-plus of our most senior marketers to compare notes, share war stories and drink modestly. Well mostly.

On stage were four chief executives: Eric Hertz, of 2Degrees, Carl Bergstrom of Frucor Beverages, Alan Gourdie of Telecom Retail and Derek Handley of the Hyperfactory.

Handley was there, in part, to announce the launch of a scholarship to send a marketer on an annual US road trip investigating best of breed in digital marketing.

As for my three take outs:

First, real marketers act like genuine entrepreneurs, trying things, imagining things, seeing where the gaps exist. Eric Hertz, the well-named boss of the new mobile network, said that yes, the 2Degrees advertising campaign was brilliant (take a bow TBWA\) and the social media campaign was superb and the pricing was spot on—all this is true. But the first reason for the success of 2Degrees is that there was a gap in the market. “New Zealand had the highest prices, the lowest usage, long-term contracts and complex products. It was a classic duopolistc market.”

Marketers real job is not to fight over the same old ground but to perceive a gap and exploit it with a clear message.

Second, real marketers act like accountants. Well, maybe not in every tedious poor-taste-in-clothes aspect, but certainly in the way they measure the investment in brand development. According to Frucor’s Bergstrom, marketers must be prepared to ask ‘are my brands adding value?’ He proposes a simple equation:

Branded goods – generic goods – (overheads + R&D) = return

If the return is negative then the brand adds no value. In other words, if the cost of adding value over the generic product is greater than the brand returns in revenue, then don’t bother; go for the lowest common denominator.

Bergstrom says marketers typically fall into the habitat of measuring the things that don’t matter in the final analysis: market share, likability, awareness and so on. These are all important but in the end the value of a brand is its ability to deliver returns in excess of its commodity competitors.

Third, real marketers care about culture. Alan Gourdie shared the story of Telecom workers appearing for duty at the Auckland office the day of the Christchurch earthquake. “They weren’t asked to come in. They just figured ‘our people need help; our customers need help’. Others stayed on, working double shifts.” Gourdie says that service businesses live and ie on the quality of the customer relations.

In a similar vein Derek Handley spoke of his own passion for ‘purpose driven brands’, where the mission is more than just money making. In the case of the Hyperfactory, staff were challenged to overthrow the ‘default’ settings of the business every 18 months. This meant imagining products to compete with the company before someone else did. It also meant getting a thrill from being the the leading operator in the market. It particularly had relevance in the hi-tech world of mobile-marketing. But Handley says this ‘challenger’ attitude engenders loyalty and excitement in any business, big or small.

“People like brands that demonstrate passion and authenticity. So create brands with purpose not just wishes.”

All a good afternoon out of the office. And a fine way to avoid those pesky agency WiPs.

Vincent Heeringa was a guest of the Marketing Association at the 2010 Marketing Forum

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