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5 April 2014

The Persuasion of Colleagues.

Tag(s): Marketing
I was very pleased with a recent review by Kerris Bright of my book The 20 Ps of Marketing in Market Leader, the excellent quarterly periodical of the Marketing Society, of which I am a Fellow.

How marketing’s 4Ps have multiplied. Kerris Bright
In truth I wasn’t entirely looking forward to reading this book – marketing strategy can be a dry subject at times. Still, embarking on a short flight I packed David Pearson’s book The 20 Ps of Marketing with the view that at least it could kill time during the digital dead zone that the BA cabin crew demand during take-off and landing. In fact, I was still immersed in the book when we touched down two hours later.

The book is subtitled ‘A complete guide to marketing strategy’, and Pearson’s thesis is that the landscape for marketing has transformed since the concept of the four Ps was introduced in the 1960s and so marketers need a new framework for the modern age. The traditional 4Ps of Product, Price, Place and Promotion are still critical but the author has identified an additional 16Ps which describe marketing actions, measurements of success and behaviours. This is a uniquely comprehensive view of what it takes to succeed and recognises that modern marketers need to be strategically and commercially savvy and possess strong behavioural skills.

The section on ‘behaviours’, which focuses on the how as opposed to the what , is particularly useful as , in my experience, mastery of this skill set often identifies the true marketing leaders.
It’s an interesting and easy read, blending theory and some fascinating history lessons with practical applications. Pearson writes in a light style and the text is peppered with mini case studies drawn from his experience spanning four decades with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Mars, Sony, Pillsbury and Pentland. He writes honestly and openly about his successes and failures with equal measure.

The breadth of the book is a strength and a weakness as some concepts are covered a little superficially (but there are suggested reading lists for those who wish to delve deeper). For students or those embarking on their marketing careers, such a list will be invaluable. For the experienced practitioners it is a powerful reminder that making an impact is a mix of what you do and how you do it.

The 20 Ps of Marketing is more than a book about marketing strategy – it’s essentially a lesson in leadership and how to grow businesses. I would like it to be required reading for CEOs to challenge them  on whether they are providing the right conditions for marketing to thrive and make the most meaningful contribution to their businesses – which, let’s face it, we all need now more than ever.”

The Editor, Judie Lannon was particularly impressed with that line ‘required reading for CEOs’ and has commissioned me to write a follow-up article on the theme for the June edition detailing 10 Dos and 10 Don’ts for CEOs. As a preview of that one of my Dos is:

“5. Persuasion. Do allow marketing to take the lead because it represents the market in the decision-making process. To do this it needs to champion its cause. It will be an advocate for the brand, Persuading colleagues in other functions to follow that lead and ultimately Persuading customers and end users to buy the company’s Products and services.”

This is what I wrote on the subject in Chapter 7 on Persuasion.

 “Persuasion of colleagues is an important task for any Marketer. Too much of this is attempted in one way PowerPoint presentations. PowerPoint is one of those technical improvements which have made life worse because it is so easy to use and so pervasive. It becomes a crutch for people who lack the skills of Persuasion. Before PowerPoint and its ilk we used to produce acetate charts which were magnified by overhead projectors onto a blank screen. Older readers will remember this. Younger ones will wonder in what museum they can find such objects. Perhaps the same one that has slide rules and fax and telex machines etc. all of which I also used to use. When I worked in Marketing for Pedigree Petfoods I was assigned to what was referred to as Non-Canned Products to distinguish them from Canned. Our Canned petfood business was immensely successful with brand leaders like Pedigree Chum for dogs and Whiskas for cats each returning in excess of 30% Return On Total Assets. Overall our Canned business returned 27%. But when the oil crisis hit in 1974 there was a knock on effect on many other commodities including tin plate. The management decided that they needed to offset the risk of sky rocketing tin can cost by investing in other non-canned technology, i.e. dry and semi-moist Products in which other competitors like Quaker Oats and Carnation had carved out a lead. A new factory was built at Peterborough. By 1978 when I joined the Marketing team there, despite a lot of effort the Non-Canned business was very far from successful. It was unProfitable and although a number of new Products had been launched none of these had made much of a mark. The man in charge of Marketing, Chris Bradshaw was often called into the weekly board meeting to review performance and discuss strategy. The three of us who supported him in Marketing were frequently pressed into service producing charts to back up his arguments. A significant part of our time went into this endeavour. We came to see ourselves as the chart factory. None of us could type so we researched our ideas, checked our facts, wrote out the chart in longhand, Persuaded a friendly typist to type it, then turned it into an acetate chart on a special machine and handed it to Chris for his Monday morning appointment with the Board.

 It was a requirement that all of these charts should show the source of any fact quoted. This was often a piece of research purchased from Nielsen, AGB or our own in-house agency, Mars Group Services (MGS). However, on one occasion I developed my own forecast for which I had no source. I wrote at the bottom of the chart F.I.T.A. which might seem like another Agency or Trade Association. In fact it stood for Finger In The Air.
 
 In Sony the sales companies met formally with the Jigyobu or Business Group twice a year in Tokyo at Line Up meetings. These were very intense all-day affairs customarily followed by dinners with senior management. As the man in charge of Consumer Products I would go to all of these meetings over a two-week timetable. Usually we covered Audio Products in the first week and then Vision Products in the second. Persuasion was the order of the day. We were very well prepared with a good understanding of our Markets but often found the Product Planners and engineers on the other side difficult to convince. After all they had these meetings with all the sales companies over several weeks and needed to maintain a coherent Plan for the whole world.

 On one occasion we were presented with a new CD player. This was intended to replace a phenomenally successful player which had 5 star reviews in all the HiFi press and was permanently on back order. We asked what was new about the new Product. We were told it was better. But in what way was it better? Well, the Planner explained, it had a better chip. But in what way? This went on for some time and we were quite unable to elicit any more information. I then asked if we could continue with the existing machine as it was so successful. No, that was quite impossible. They were already committed to the new machine. When the new machine arrived in the market it turned out to be a dog. It was badly reviewed. We had to sell off the stock at a huge loss.

 Overall our HiFi business was very successful. It had been built up by Steve Dowdle who was later to succeed me as UK Managing Director. He had come from a retail background and understood what the buyers wanted in their ranges. He Persuaded the factory to set up a line of rack systems. These became known as Midi Systems based on the width of a turntable. They were one or two piece systems with a combination of components: turntable, CD player, cassette mechanism, amplifier, tuner and matching loudspeakers. They were priced competitively at all the magic price points from £199 to £599. This strategy worked well for several years but gradually we lost share to Aiwa who were selling a similar range based on Sony technology at lower Prices. What made this particularly galling was that Sony owned 50% of Aiwa. It seemed to us that we were giving our technology to a sister company who then undercut us in the Market and stole Market share. We complained about this for years and got nowhere. Then after a major reorganisation that set up a Powerful business group in Tokyo combining all the Consumer AV Product groups in one, two of the top management of the new group, Mr. Tamiya and Mr. Nakamura, came to visit us. I knew them both well. Tamiya-san was one of the corporation’s top salesmen. He had spent many years in America building up that company. Silver-haired, he had hosted visits that I had made to Tokyo with Dixons’ senior management after Dixons had bought Silo in the USA and so tried to Position themselves as a global retailer. Suehiro Nakamura, known to us as Tiger, had been a spectacularly successful manager of the Bridgend TV factory in Wales and a fellow director of Sony UK. I presented our overall business to them. Most of it was going well but there was the continued decline in HiFi. I explained the story as we saw it and the fact that we had been making this complaint for a long time. Tamiya-san looked at me and said, “David-san. Maybe you lack convincing Power!” It was a tough lesson in the importance of Persuasion.
 
 I had more success with a different Mr. Nakamura. Hideo Nakamura had been one of the engineers who developed the Compact Disc format. As a reward for this contribution he was given the opportunity to build a new business in In-Car Entertainment which he called Mobile Electronics (ME). My predecessor as Managing Director of Sony Consumer Products UK had not seen much of an opportunity here and had assigned a salesman to the Product group who was aggressive but lacked sophistication. Our strategy seemed no better than to follow all the other Japanese brands, Pioneer, Kenwood, Panasonic etc who were already established in the In-Car aftermarket. I used to go and see Mr. Nakamura and tell him how well we were doing in the UK in every other Product group. He would get angry and say he didn’t care. Why were we doing so badly in ME? Finally, I Persuaded him to send one of his best engineers, Joe Usui, to head up Marketing in the UK. Joe’s English was a little weak so we assigned to him a decent British Marketing manager, John Anderson, (later to take charge of all audio Marketing in Europe), and the two of them developed a new strategy, to supply Sony In-Car Products to car dealers as an optional upgrade. This was extremely successful and sales grew fast. Mr. Nakamura came to visit us. We took him to Aston Martin to see the cars made with Sony products fitted as standard. We took him to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu where Lord Montague allowed him to drive a vintage Jaguar and we took him to the Waterside Inn at Bray where he ordered a trout by humming the opening bars of Schubert’s Quintet. He became an Anglophile on that visit and went back to Japan and changed his BMW for a Jaguar. Our annual Mobile Electronics sales went from £1million to £53million and we became the leading market for Sony ME outside Japan.”
 
If you want to read more stuff like this then you can order the book direct via a link on my home page.
 
Copyright David C Pearson 2014 All rights reserved



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