Monday, 1 November 2010

Marketing – the most fun you can have with your clothes on

-malcolm mcdonald-

A few weeks ago now I attended a marketing lecture at Leeds Met, a free lecture to both students and professionals, Professor Malcolm Mcdonald was the guest lecturer, the 1st chartered marketer in the UK, and professor at the Cranfield School of Management. At 73 years old, Malcolm is writing his 44th book, and goes for a 3 mile run every morning, he is not your average 73 year old granddad snoozing in his slippers in front of the telly. He was a really entertaining speaker, surprisingly funny and had some great boardroom anecdotes, with a lovely phrase ‘odious little toad’ (which I am going to steal to describe someone i know). All in all I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a lecture so much in my 4 years at uni and 2 years CIM course (no offence Neil!).

The lecture title was Ten Crucial questions Boards of Directors are asking their marketing managers and the answers they should be receiving.

As a practitioner I found this lecture really useful, not so much for the actual answers to these 10 questioners but the ability to apply what Malcolm was saying to the real world, to my work world. Often as a student, (even as a CIM student in the earlier years of my marketing career with limited exposure to senior management and directors) it can be difficult to apply the knowledge you are receiving with the practical application in the real world – especially in areas that are out of your job scope or control.

A lot of what Professor Mcdonald was saying wasn’t new or groundbreaking but was presented in a way that made sense and was put into context. This wasn’t a purely academic lecture but was sprinkled with real life examples, the best of course were examples of how to do it badly!

One of the key themes that I took from this lecture was know your market.
What’s happening in your market, how big is your market share, how much of your profit comes from market growth. This got me thinking, because as a marketer I like to think that I know my market, but why don’t I know my market share? Because it isn’t one of the KPIs that the company I work for reports on. But thinking about it logically it is something I can roughly calculate. For example if my market is under 16 year olds, and I have a million customers a quick trip to the Office of National Statistics website tells me there are around 11.5million under 16 year olds in the UK*, therefore market share would be less than 10%

And of course knowing your market goes hand in hand with understanding your customer, understanding what they want, what they need, to create your sustainable competitive advantage.

Another key indicator that is interesting to me is how many customers do you loose in a year? Whilst we probably all know how many customers we have and how many new customers we are getting do we know how many we are losing to competitors, or alternative products?

A faux-pas that Malcolm touched on was ‘barometer marketing’ – attributing your success or failure to the weather, which a lot of companies do, how many times have your heard “we’ve had a good season, because it’s been sunny, or snowy etc.” And a timely tweet by TheGrocer proves my point “News update: Slow summer hits Heineken volumes - Heineken has blamed a poor summer in Western Europe for a fall in t...”. It doesn’t show any understanding of customer behaviour, beer sales are down because it’s cold – what?! people don’t drink beer when its cold?– check you sales this winter, say around Christmas or New Year!

I also learnt that I am a statistic, I make up the small 10% of ‘price shoppers’, people who choose brands based on the lowest price. I am loyal to only a few brands, and buy these brands from the cheapest retailer, or wait until there is a sale or I have a voucher, or I can collect points to earn a discount voucher. But 90% of shoppers are not price sensitive to this degree - The theory being that you don’t need to compete on price if you’ve a good differential advantage (which you can create if you know your market!).

You may also be interested to know that I am a late adopter I don’t need to buy the latest thing, that’s why this blog is so late to be published as I had to write it down with good old pen and paper on the train, then typed it up later offline and then upload using my mobile dongle, with the ancient speed of dial up!

So how am I of all people a marketer…because its not about what I want or how I shop, its about understanding who my customers are, understanding how they shop, understanding what they want (and of course creating that unique differential advantage).

To learn more about Professor Mcdonald visit
For information on any of his 43 books visit
Take a look at forthcoming events at Leeds Met

*based on report published in 2008