The role of marketing. At the Festival of Marketing

I went into the Festival of Marketing thinking about my own purpose as a marketer.  I think marketing has great power to do good in the world, but as Uncle Ben said (think Spiderman not rice) “with great power comes great responsibility”.  Here’s my lowdown on the Festival of Marketing 2018 in the words of five great speakers

You have to use words that show someone you recognise their problemSir John Hegarty

Anyone work in an acronym-free company?  So often companies get obsessed with their own terminology and it ends up being relayed to customers.  Part of what I do when I’m building a value proposition is talk to my clients’ customers and that’s all about hearing their problems in their own words.  To frame the proposition in their language. Using language your customers will recognise is really just common sense.  If you talked in acronyms down the pub, it wouldn’t take long for you to be drinking alone.

“I fell into marketing” – Ritchie Mehat, Learn Et Al

I definitely say this and it’s a common phrase for so many marketers.  I worked in ticket sales and wanted to know what made people walk through the door, so I got a ‘sales & marketing’ job.  Which finally led me back to Uni to study marketing.  This session was to launch the school of marketing, an initiative to inspire school children to consider marketing as a career from the start.  There’s no marketing GCSE and it’s seen either as ‘advertising’ or ‘part of business’.  As panellist Olivia Gold said, accountancy is also part of business yet it’s seen as a profession.  If you have a budding marketer in your family – they can get involved here.

“Older people have all the money in the world and millennials have no money” – Tom Goodwin, Zenith

This was part of an eye-opening panel about ageism in marketing featuring amazing women like Tanya Joseph, Suzi Grant and Lara Crisp and Carrie Longton of Gransnet.  When I turned 39 I received my first email inviting me to plan my own funeral (no joke!).  I started to wonder if this was why people had a mid-life crisis at 40 and whether marketing was actually responsible for that!  The panel asked us ‘when did you last see a brand talk to over 50s with images of people they would actually identify with’?  And speak to them as independently-minded people with real spending power.  The marketing moral of this tale was to target on attitude or behaviour, not age.

“Be on the front foot of what your values really are” – Alex Clough, Splendid

I really enjoyed this session which focused on how Neil Knowels at Greggs built an authentic voice on social media by sticking to their values.  The thing about values is you have to demonstrate them.  If someone says “trust me” I generally don’t.  When they’ve kept my confidences and had my back a couple of times, I do.  The marketing lesson here is that if you’re going to have company values, be prepared to stand up for them. The most recent example of this of course was the Nike take a side campaign.  In another session Matt Desmier also shared a couple of great examples from Patagonia – who withdrew products that proved to be manufactured against their principles.

“We don’t need to feel guilty about being marketers. We need to do marketing better”  Parry Malm, Phrasee

Day one was also World Mental Health Day.  There were some great discussions throughout the day about mental health in the workplace, and campaigning to allow people to talk about mental health like they would physical health. Some days you’re at 100%, some days you’re at 50% and some days you need to go see a professional to help you heal.  I concur with this, but as the day went on, I started to feel uneasy.  I was sitting in a marketing conference where no-one seemed to be talking about the role marketing plays in people’s mental health. I’ve definitely worked in companies where ‘fear of loss’ was a sales tool and we’ve all read about the impact social media has on young people who feel they have to be pictured with the latest products to be accepted.  Those are marketing issues; marketing taps into people’s minds.  Thankfully Phrasee restored my faith on day two with their session Emotions Matter.  Their campaign is challenging us, as marketers, to look at the ethics of what we do. If you want to get involved with this campaign, click here.