Manifestos became all the rage in marketing circles about fifteen years ago, I think. Suddenly it wasn't sufficient to have a plan or a strategy for your brand - a manifesto was needed. A manifesto has all the associations of action, of getting things done, of motivating, of not over-theorising and getting caught up in intellectual knots.
John Grant's excellent book, 'The New Marketing Manifesto' was launched in 1999. It caught a lot of the new spirit of marketing and is still valid today.
The Marketing Society in the UK have recently launched another (new) Marketing Manifesto which sets out how marketing generally can continue to contribute powerfully to society over the next decade.
I've had a look at it, and it makes a lot of sense, although I feel it could be bolder and more revolutionary still.
The new Manifesto defines the purpose of marketing: "To create sustainable growth by understanding, anticipating and satisfying customer needs."
I like the move away from (just) profit. But I wonder - is the term "sustainable growth" a bit of a weasel? It implies a lot, but what does it really mean? And - is growth assumed to be measured in terms of sales value? Or some other kind of growth?
I'm happy to see that the word "consumer" doesn't feature. But is "customer" so much better? And "needs"? Are dreams and desires part of that?
The Manifesto sets out three challenges:
Pursue your Purpose
- define your organisation's purpose
- make sustainable growth your central aim
- leave a positive legacy
- anticipate customer needs
- shape the customer experience
- find creative ways to engage
Mobilise the Organisation
- collaborate with your peers
- bring the voice of the customer into the boardroom
- quantify the cost and value of your work
It's good, as far as it goes, but I do wonder if it's a bit "business as usual."
Maybe the problem is that Manifestos themselves have become a little old hat. They've lost their power.
We often ask who brands would be if they came to life, but who would you be if you became a brand?
My answer gives me an excuse to say Happy Birthday to one of my new favourites in terms of brands: Cath Kidston. Having been out the UK for 17 years now, I have missed the "Coming Up Roses" success of the brand at first hand, but it never fails to catch my eye on visits to the UK.
Whether it's Ingvar Kamprad, Anita Roddick or Steve Jobs, there are some brand founders who are as necessary to a brand's being as marmite is to toast. Cath Kidston's early life had a profound influence on the direction her business took. There a few parallels with mine. She's a little bit older than me and a rung or two higher on the class ladder, but we share a 1960s Home Counties childhood - and there's aviation in her blood, too. As well as a love for fox terriers.
Cath spent her childhood surrounded by chintz sofas and egg-blue wallpaper with rosebuds - and maybe even had cowboys on her bunk bed mattress, as my brother and I had.
The success of her brand is due to having the right concept at the right turn. The idea of Modern Vintage came into its own as the century approached its turn. Cath has been very clever in using inspiration from the past to create products for today. Her vision is "to create practical, everyday useful things that make you smile. To design prints that are colourful, cheery and evoke a sense of nostalgia and fun."
20 years after she first registered her company, Cath Kidston has 59 stores and concessions in the UK and Ireland and 54 internationally (mainly Japan and the Far East.)
"It is a melancholy truth that the more expert I have become, the less my expertise is valued."
So laments Jim Carroll of BBH in an article which questions what brand planning should be about.
It's a good article and argues that planners should be strategic psychoanalysts rather than merely strategic doctors, looking for meaning rather than simply gathering information about symptoms and prescribing a likely cure.
I'd go one step further.
Psychoanalysis, in the Freudian sense, is still about illness. Illness of the mind, but still a "non-well" state. It's about going from a problem (ill) to a solution (well).
Analytical Psychology, in the Jungian sense, is about more than that. It is about human potential and development. It's about going from OK/goodish to The Best you can possibly be.
Surely this is a more inspiring way to look at brands.
We can search for meaning, of course, but that's not the whole story. "Thinking" - relating to meaning is only one of the four modes of perception that Jung outlined. In addition there are sensing, feeling and intuiting.
A brand dashboard is all very well but it doesn't tell you about your potential, or where you are heading.
I think it was Adam Morgan that coined the phrase "Lighthouse Brands" some time back in the last century, as part of the Challenger Brand theory.
OK, times have changed and brands have to adapt, but I have always liked the concept of a brand as a lighthouse. And, after all, lighthouses still perform a vital function today, even if technology has changed.
In much of my reading on the subject of brands, I see a focus on 'how to fit your brand into the consumer's (sic) life today' rather than 'how to inspire people with your brand for how they might like to live tomorrow.'
There's a lot of talk about relevance, especially to the here and now, about fitting seamlessly into people's lives, about harmony instead of disruption or interruption and of course about meeting the consumer's (sic) needs.
There is rather less about allure, desire, magic, dreams.
I can't help but feeling that many of these seamless brands are rather like stalkers. They lurk and they collect data and they make notes and then creep up on you and ambush you based on your past behaviour, not on your future dreams. Because, like stalkers, you mean far more to them than they mean to you.
Should good brands really have to resort to this?
I can't recall ever having been stalked by a lighthouse.
Continuing my words of wisdom (aged 14) about advertising. Part 1 can be found here.
'The adverts are devised so to appeal to different kinds of people. Adverts for crisps, sweets etc. may have cartoons on them to appeal to children. Or they may show children in the adverts.
Some adverts for food, washing powder etc. may show a perfect-looking happy family, or a famous personalitie's (sic) family to appeal to mothers.
Adverts for cigars, drinks and after-shave may show men as being very masculine and irresistable (sic) to women. These appeal to most men, particularly those who may be very shy and long for a more exciting life.
Adverts for bubble-bath, hairspray etc. may be very romantic showing a beautiful woman maybe with a good-looking man, suggesting that if you use these things, this will happen to you. These are designed to attract girls and younger women, and sometimes older women who wish they were younger.'
So that's targetting covered! In the next extract I get on to morals and ethics...watch this space.
I do love the Springwise newsletters. If you don't know them, they are a digest of the week's most innovative product ideas from around the world, a cornucopia of curiosities. Unfortunately these days, rather too many are pointless apps, but there are always a few gems shining through. This week's selection includes 'Smart PJs' - scannable pyjamas for children where the designs reveal bedtime stories when scanned. Then there's a PopUp Agency, six enterprising young creatives who pop up all over the place for 48 hour projects. And finally, the one we have all been waiting for - the 'T.Jacket' which is "a tablet or smartphone-controlled jacket that uses embedded air pockets to simulate hugs and calm children without human contact". Just what a busy working mum or dad needs to stop those important Powerpoint presentations being interrupted by desperate calls from the kindergarten.
I am sure it was via Springwise that I first heard of my favourite new product so far this year: who gives a crap aka the toilet paper that builds toilets. The brand was launched via crowd-funding last July and the concept, design and jaunty pack design combine a typical Aussie combination of humour, no crap and big-heartedness. With killer slogans like "Flush poverty down the loo" and a pledge that 50% of the profits will go to Water Aid to build toilets and improve sanitation, this is an idea that deserves to take over the world.
For all the Doves of the world, who are on a mission to make women (and men?) feel good about themselves, whatever their shape or size, there are always those who buck the trend.
This week, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, has had quotes he made a few years ago regurgitated throughout the internet along with criticism of the company's sizing policy by retail analysts. Mr "Mutton-dressed-as-lamb" Jeffries states that "candidly, we go after the cool kids...a lot of people don't belong (in our clothes) and they can't belong..." Particularly galling for women is that the sizes for woman stop at L, while men's sizes include XL and XXL, presumably to accommodate all those muscly jocks.
Certainly around here, what Mr Jeffries thinks may already be irrelevant as Hollister seems to be the outfitter of choice for "cool teens." (sic)
But in another story this week, even those muscly rugby players will be penalised for their bulk. Samoa Air have decided to charge people on a sliding scale for flights, based on luggage plus body weight. Probably a sensible idea in theory, given the size of their planes, but not the most intelligent move for anyone with an ounce of emotional intelligence. It's not helped by the preponderance of chunky hunky guys on the website, none of whom look less than 80kg!
The really interesting thing will be to see how long it will take Ryan Air to catch onto this one and whether they'll have the guts to risk sabotage via an army of enraged Vicky Pollards.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.