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2 February 2019

Institutions

Tag(s): Worshipful Company of Marketors, Marketing, Languages & Culture
 
“I would not join any club that would have me as a member.” Groucho Marx
 
I suppose the first club that I joined was the Church of England. They did not ask me but I am still a member. My Godparents took vows on my behalf and I was confirmed at the age of twelve. Despite many attempts I have never been excommunicated and of course like many others I still attend for baptisms, weddings and funerals. When my parents married the local paper headline was “Two church people wed.” I was brought up to know of no other way and attended Sunday school, then joined the choir and when my voice broke I became a server. Much of my social life revolved around the church and my best friend in my teens was the vicar’s son.

I joined the Boy Scouts as a cub, learned all the nonsense about “Dyb! Dyb! Dyb!” and became something of a badger as my father called it in that I gained seven proficiency badges. More importantly it gave me my first formal experience of leadership when I became a sixer, i.e. the leader of a group of six. I did not move automatically into the Scouts as I waited for a friend of mine to join me at Manchester Grammar School and join one of their four troops. He reneged on this deal and I decided not to bother. Some years later I was invited to join the Senior Scouts and quickly caught up all I had missed.

My schooling was steady and unspectacular. I attended a Primary School where I was usually top of the class. Then at the age of nine I took the entrance exams for Manchester Grammar School (MGS) and William Hulme’s, Manchester. I won places at both and selected MGS because it played football while William Hulme’s played Rugby. My Rugby playing cousins went to William Hulme’s but I was a very small boy and could not imagine what physical harm would befall me if I tried. This happy selection had nothing to do with the fact that MGS was possibly the leading school in the country.

I was age ten when I started and there were only two or three boys younger than me in the school. I started in 1 gamma, the third stream on the classical side and believed that I could always repeat a year if necessary. At the end of a first year where I finished eighth in the form I suggested to my form master that I stay down a year. He countered that he had recommended me to go into II alpha, the top stream. I was able to maintain this taking O Levels at 14, A levels at 16 and trying out for Oxford at 16. Again I did not expect to succeed and was prepared to repeat and try again the following year.
 
Amazingly I was successful and was accepted by New College to read Jurisprudence in 1968. I was competing against a generation they had not yet met and the free year had to be put to some other use. I had always wanted to visit America and had thought that if this opportunity should arise I would apply for an English Speaking Union scholarship. I then found out that such scholarships were far from free. I played with the romantic notion of working my passage but discovered that that was a thing of the past having been outlawed by the Seamen’s Union. My form master came to my rescue with a leaflet for the American Field Service. I wrote to its director in Oxford who said that entries for that year were closed but in view of my exceptional situation, would I travel to Oxford for an interview? I found myself having my second interview in Oxford in a month and this was similarly successful.
 
In August 1967 I travelled to Minnesota by way of orientation at Loughborough University and Hofstra University in Long Island. I became a member of the Blake Country Day School for boys. This was a private school in a country where comprehensive education was already well established. This meant that I maintained a good educational standard. I was compelled to study English, as a foreign student, and History (of the US). In addition I took courses in Contemporary Civilisations (i.e. modern US history) and Comparative Religions. I came second in the class and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
 
But I had also joined the AFS. This was founded in the First World War as a volunteer ambulance service. It repeated this service in the Second World War and was then asked to help rehabilitate attitudes to German citizens by sponsoring the exchange of high school students. From six placements in 1946 it had grown by 1967 to 3,000 in the US and another 1500 from the US to 60 countries.
 
When I returned I became a Returnee and as the organisation was based in Oxford I quickly became involved as a volunteer. After a few years of this involvement I was elected President of AFS (UK). I was just 24 and was responsible for recruiting the full time Director of the Programme.
 
Also when I returned I went up to New College, Oxford University, two venerable institutions. My time there mainly consisted of playing sport and looking for young women in a university that in those days only had 20% female representation[i]. In my spare time I studied the law rarely attending lectures but the friendships and loyalties made there have lasted as long as any I have made.
 
Those who work in sales and marketing like to think that they have a profession but it is not a career run by professional bodies in the way that the law or accountancy is. These careers are protected by institutional bodies that set exams and limit the membership of their profession. They thus effectively run a closed shop.
 
Anyone can get into marketing and many do. There is a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) that does set exams and has some 20,000 members. However, it has no credibility in setting minimum standards for the profession and I was awarded a Fellowship later but without taking any exams. Of far greater credibility are those companies that have recruited and trained to their own high standards and I was fortunate enough to work for two of them, Procter & Gamble and Mars.
 
I did attend a course of the CIM when I transferred from sales to marketing in 1978. It was a week-long residential course, was reasonably well taught but there was no question of passing anything, just attending. That same year I joined the Marketing Society for the first time attracted by its conference line up. Famous speakers included Roy Hattersley who was then Canute-like trying to push back the tides of inflation by controlling prices and causing immense long-term damage to the economy as a result, and other business leaders of the day. Apart from my years abroad I have been a member ever since.
 
At Sony I became a more active member when I was asked to chair a sector of the membership for consumer electronics. I modelled it on the successful Fellows’ Dinners. I was not yet a Fellow but had attended some and enjoyed the format. I ran a series of dinners, about three per year, well attended by members and their guests who were attracted by a top name speaker from our industry who was in turn attracted by my invitation as a senior figure in that industry. From retail we had Brent Wilkinson, then MD of Comet; John Clare, then CEO of Dixon’s; Mike Metcalf, then CEO of Thorn and Eddie Styring, Chairman of Comet. Particularly well received was Julian Richer of the eponymous Richer Sounds, with whom I became great friends. From manufacturing we had Barry Morgans, ex-MD of IBM; UK, Sir Alan Sugar, founder-CEO of Amstrad[ii]; and Sir James Dyson, Founder-CEO of Dyson. From the service side we had the late Stafford Taylor, then CEO of Cellnet; Sir Christopher Gent, then CEO of Vodafone, the late Richard Dunn, then Executive Director of News Intl.; and David Docherty, Deputy Director of the BBC.
 
For these efforts in 1995 I was invited to be a Fellow of the Marketing Society and latter that was converted to Honorary Fellow. There are some 3,000 members of the Society but only a fraction become Fellows. The same year I was elected to the UK Hall of Fame for Marketing. Sponsored by ITV these awards were also organised by the Society. The previous winners were Sir Alistair Grant of Safeway; Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy of Kingfisher; Robin Whitbread of Sainsbury and Eric Nicoli, then of United Biscuits and later EMI. Unfortunately the society did not maintain a consistent approach to these awards and the so-called Hall of Fame was not continued. So to my knowledge there are only the 5 of us who have been so honoured.
 
A fellow Fellow of the Society proposed me for membership of another semi-exclusive group, The Marketing Group of Great Britain. This had been formed as a Dining Club in the 1950s and still existed for that purpose with membership restricted to 150 drawn from the top of the profession and with a strict rule of limiting membership to one per company. Black Tie dinners were held at Claridge's with a strong tradition of attracting top speakers. Most recent Prime Ministers, all the leaders of the opposition and equivalent business leaders have addressed the Group. I remained an active member for 5 years or so but resigned when I moved my offices to Huntingdon and found it more difficult to attend London dinners. I also had objected to the way in which bookings were managed. On one occasion Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and probable Prime Minister in Waiting (actual as it turned out) was booked as the speaker. Some members immediately booked tables of ten and others were forced onto a waiting list. I was in the latter group and then was offered a place in a second room with a closed circuit TV relay. I found this objectionable.
 
A much better organized group is the Worshipful Company of Marketors. When I was invited to join in 2003 I had not heard of this particular Livery Company. The tradition of the Livery Companies in the City of London is a venerable one reaching back many centuries. Some of the older companies are based on the original guilds which managed long died out professions like tallow chandlers and basket makers. For several centuries no new charters were issued until in the 20th Century it was realised that there were many new professions, which could benefit from a Livery Company. Thus the Marketors (note that “o”) came into being in 1975. It, of course, has none of the grandeur of the ancient livery companies with their magnificent halls and their colossal endowments but it can hold its events at these same halls as the companies are all on mutually friendly terms. Its activities are not confined to just dinners but also educational, charitable and social in the broadest sense. My wife and I enjoy the social events, which must always have a touch of exclusivity about them, i.e. not be such as would be open to the general public.
 
I joined as a Freeman in 2004 admitted at an event at the Mansion House, and then after a period was invited to be a Liveryman. This involved first becoming a Freeman of the City of London. This last is not an honour and not really restricted, being open to almost anyone who can pay the requisite fee, but has an aura of exclusivity and mythology surrounds its supposed privilege. So while never belonging to a professional institution I have in fact found myself in the unique position of being the only man who has been a Fellow of the Marketing Society, a member of the Marketing Group of Great Britain, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and elected to the UK Marketing Hall of Fame.
 
I was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, Enterprise and Manufactures in 1995. This society was founded in 1754 by William Shipley with the mission “To embolden enterprise; to enlarge science; to refine art; to improve our manufactures and to extend our commerce.” It has played an important part in leading public opinion and policy in a non-partisan way with contributions such as The Great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain in 1951, The Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal College of Music, and more recently in 1995 the Tomorrow’s Company Inquiry. I became a Life Fellow in 2006.


[i] Today it’s more than half female.
[ii] Now Lord Sugar




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