after-the-partyBefore we all sober up and start banging on again about how tough life is, I thought I’d nip in with a ray of winter sunshine.  I’ve never been much of a moaner.  Challenges like the current economic woes are what, as a marketer, I’m paid to overcome and this is just another day at the office as far as I am concerned.  A bigger, juicer challenge maybe, but hey, bring it on!

Among the many good things that will result from the current crisis will be the disappearance of organisations that had no place in today’s business world in the first place.  Businesses that have lost their way, like Woolworth, Adams, MFI and others in the UK, those that have become irrelevant, are badly managed or just never got it together will all disappear and we’ll all be better off for it – them’s the breaks and the UK government reckon that another 440 UK retailers alone will go to the big mall in the sky by April!

Clearing the decks of the dross though, isn’t going to mean that the businesses that remain will have an automatic ticket to ride the gravy train, because its all change as far as far as customer priorities are concerned too and unless your organisation is sensitive to this and you’re ready to make the necessary changes you’ll be back there with the no-hopers.

In 2009 strong brands will pay back the investment that has been made in them over the years, but I mean brands with real integrity not those that have been selling us a line for years.  In the last few weeks I have been listening to interviews with end-users from around the developed world who have expressed the common belief that what’s brought us to this sorry state has been our own irresponsibility and lack of real priorities.  Yes, our customers have a new perspective and if your brand has been built on selling people stuff that they don’t need you’d better think again!  We are about to witness the birth of a new business paradigm.

The new consumer seeks, products that meet a genuine need rather than the want that marketers have tended to stimulate in the past.  There’ll be a backlash against frivolous products and an even bigger one against brands that don’t deliver on their promises.  This will resonate along the supply chain to business to business relationships too.  Furthermore, the value equation will be modified with quality or practicality acing aesthetic. 

Opportunities will be there for well developed brands with a sound efficient support structure to expand into new territories where home-grown competition doesn’t measure up, but this doesn’t only mean opportunities for Western organisations in developing markets like Central and Eastern Europe and Asia because the businesses there that haven’t become greedy and are honest about their own strengths and weaknesses will be able to expand into developed markets where consumers are looking for lower prices and better value based on the practical formula.

Efficiency, low prices, quality and decent margins are the product of real integrated marketing, but you will only satisfy the emotional needs of customers, BtoB or consumers, if your brand has an honest face and an honest heart.  These are the real challenges that organisations face in the forthcoming months.  Are we up to the challenge?  Generally, I think the answer is “yes”, but its patchy and success will only be achieved by organisations with the self-discipline to keep the new objective in their sights.  Businesses that realise the game has changed, that understand they are a marketing organisation like everyone else.  Those who place the brand at the centre of their organisation and marketing in the driving seat.  Fasten your seat belts,  it could be bumpy.

Michael Weaver
January 1, 2009

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