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7 November 2015

Passion

Tag(s): Marketing
The Rugby World Cup finished on a high with an exciting match between two great teams. If it was football it reminded me of a great Brazilian team against a fine Italian team - brilliant attack against resolute defence. The overwhelming impression one had throughout the tournament was of the passion exhibited by the players which then inspired the passion of the fans. One of the most remarkable results was the early win by Japan over South Africa. Only 800,000 people back in Japan watched that in Japan but over 25 million watched their next match, also a victory over Samoa. That was the largest single audience ever for a rugby match in one country.[i] Bring on the next tournament to be held in Japan in 2019.

Passion is important in business too. I wrote on the subject in my book ‘The 20 Ps of Marketing’ as follows:

 ‘When I was in Chile I was privileged to receive a visit from Forrest Mars, one of the three children of Forrest Mars Snr. who now owned the business. For him this was a new flag on the map, the first Mars Marketing unit in the whole of South America. I took him to Epoca, a Santiago advertising agency which had affiliated with Ted Bates following overtures I had made to Ted Bates in New York to get involved in South America. Forrest was keen to get his point over to the owners of Epoca as to the kind of Marketing that Mars conducted. He spoke with such Passion that he was jumping up and down in his chair. The Epoca directors were fearful for their furniture but Forrest got his message across and Epoca gave us excellent support in developing strong brand awareness in Chile.

After returning from Chile to the UK I initially joined a young firm of food brokers set up by a friend of mine, John Eustace, a former colleague at both Procter & Gamble and Pedigree Petfoods. Another friend, Malcolm Hewitt, also a colleague at Pedigree joined as Sales Director while I took the role of Marketing Director but actually all three of us handled both clients and national account customers. I used my relationships with Mars Inc. to gain representation rights for ranges of Products that were difficult to get listed in the national chains. One, Thomas’s of Halifax had an extensive range of pet accessories and I helped John to convince them to appoint Crombie Eustace to represent them. Another, Suzi Wan was a range of oriental foods sourced via Holland and managed in the UK by Master Foods. To launch such complex propositions to the British grocery trade required enormous energy and enthusiasm, yes, Passion, and we had considerable success in building our distribution and awareness. I later returned to corporate life because it suited my personal circumstances better but the opportunity to work in a small brokerage in which I was a director and shareholder gave me invaluable lessons in the importance of Passion in Marketing.

When I joined Pillsbury in 1984 the brief was to reinvigorate the Green’s of Brighton brand while delivering its targeted Profit contribution. Working with the Green’s management team I set up a programme of New Product Development. Some projects were based on existing technology and some were based on new fruit processing technology that we would need to adopt. We also sought to improve the ease of preparation as traditional mixes were no longer regarded as convenient by consumers now used to buying Ready-To-Eat Products. Some excellent Products were launched. One, Brownies, became the company’s fourth highest selling Product in its first year. Company Profit contribution targets were met, Market share increased and the brand’s somewhat tired brand image revitalised. The key was to instil Passion in the whole team, the research chemists who developed the recipes, the manufacturing management who turned these recipes into mass Production, the Marketing managers who developed the Packaging designs and Marketing campaigns, the sales force who won the valuable listings from the major supermarket chains and everyone else who contributed in some way.

When Arun Sarin was Chief Executive of Vodafone I had the pleasure of having dinner with him at a major conference. After dinner he addressed the audience from the stage always holding a mobile phone high in the air. He had a clear vision as to how this device would increasingly become the central Product in everyone’s everyday life. Today you do not leave the house without your keys, your wallet and your mobile phone. In the future the mobile phone will probably be all that you need as it will perform all the functions of the other items. And his company, Vodafone would be at the heart of this with a range of services connecting the consumer to the community, his bank, his house, car and other possessions etc. Now Mr Sarin is not the only one to profess this vision. A number of People have articulated it. But I was impressed with the singularity of focus as throughout a thirty minute presentation without notes Arun Sarin held his phone high in the air so we simply could not miss his point.

When I joined NXT in March 2000 the culture was primarily oriented to Research & Development. The sales side was comparatively weak with inexperienced leadership. The R&D side, led by Henry Azima who really was a rocket scientist, was brilliant and keen on future developments of the technology. There was a feeling that it was enough to have produced these great inventions. They would sell themselves.
 
 I progressively oriented the organisation to putting the customer first. Sector Heads were given responsibility for driving the projects. Then the engineers on those projects were reporting directly to the sector heads. Then a Marketing group of Product Managers was formed recruited from the engineers. I introduced an exercise to set out our Vision & Values. All senior managers were involved together with representatives from all other groups of staff. The Vision became “To Help Our Customers Win through Superior Technology”. I wrote regularly in an internal newsletter to all staff on the Vision & Values and constantly gave good examples of how it was being implemented.
 
 The culture changed to one where the interests of the customer were put first. Communication improved between customer facing staff and other support staff. Eventually Products using NXT technology were introduced by customers in every one of our chosen business sectors. The brand came to express the Passion of the inventors and everyone associated with commercialisation.

In my career I have sold or Marketed some Products that may not have immediately quickened the blood. They include deodorant, cat litter, breath freshener, baking powder, batteries and cardboard loudspeakers.  But in every case I was Passionate about their success. This Passion was not artificial because that cannot be effective. It was genuine. Tempo deodorant was a brand test Marketed by Procter & Gamble at the same time as Head and Shoulders shampoo. Unlike Head & Shoulders, which had very clear Positioning with a unique formula that addressed the widespread problem of dandruff, Tempo was simply an effective deodorant with a pleasant perfume but no special qualities. Nevertheless I gave it as much endeavour as I did Head & Shoulders although it was not a surprise when it was discontinued.

 Thomas’s cat litter was a better class of cat litter in an otherwise commodity market with absorbent quality which made its use more effective in the home. Cat litter allows many people to enjoy owning a cat where access to the outdoors is limited and so it does solve a problem. It might be hard to raise the emotions about it but the volumes were not insignificant and Profit not inconsiderable. Gold Spot was a brand of breath freshener Marketed by Ashe Laboratories, a subsidiary of Akzo that Crombie Eustace represented to the grocery trade. It was highly Profitable and it gave me great pleasure to widen its distribution. Borwick's Baking Powder was a very venerable brand, probably the oldest with which I have been associated, that was owned by Green’s of Brighton.  George Borwick’s baking powder featured in a case at the Old Bailey in 1858 and it was claimed was the largest selling baking powder in the world. George’s son was raised to the barony in 1916 and the peerage in 1922. While home baking was in decline it still was an important part of our brand heritage that we sold the most famous brand of baking powder that allowed housewives who want to bake good cakes to get a better result than relying on self-raising flour.

 At Sony the last Product most of us thought about were batteries. Our position in the Market was not strong and of course there were very well-established players like Duracell. Nevertheless we were asked by Tokyo to make a special effort and so we did and were able to gain significant distribution.

 At NXT we developed a way of making a highly effective pair of loudspeakers with cardboard and a pair of NXT-patented exciters. Cardboard makes a surprisingly good radiator and we worked with a leading cardboard Producer to fashion it into pyramids but so that it would fold flat. The sound quality was remarkably good. The use was infinite but, for example, I used them effectively at outdoor barbecues (and still do to this day.) We branded them SoundPax and I hired an experienced consumer electronics Marketing manager to concentrate his efforts on building a business. Ultimately we were not able to get over the scepticism most people had in thinking that cardboard speakers costing a few quid could be as good as the bulky ones they had in wooden boxes, but for a couple of years our Passion for this invention was very strong.

 These examples vary from Products like Borwick’s baking powder that had enjoyed decades in the nation’s larders but was now past its sell by date to Products like SoundPax and Tempo that never got off the ground. But in every case and scores more my colleagues and I were always Passionate in our dealings with them.’

Those were extracts from Chapter 19 of my book ‘The 20 Ps of Marketing’. You can order it direct from the publisher through a link on the home page of this website.




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