Values trump sizzle in marketing

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012

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Marketing today is not about big television ads and "selling the sizzle" - it's more about how a business acts in the eyes of consumers, a top New Zealand advertising executive has told a Hamilton meeting.

Justin Mowday, managing director of agency DDB, told a Westpac Grow NZ forum attended by city business and community leaders that once it was a marketer's job to "sell the sizzle, not the sausage".

"A word of caution - if the sausage isn't very good, it comes back on you very quickly today." Customers are "far more savvy" these days and expect companies to have strong values and morals, Mowday said.

"Do what you say you'll do . . . and put it right quickly."

Companies could consider involving customers in their marketing strategies, he said.

"They can vote on which product you should come out with next (for example) . . . give people a say."

Word of mouth advertising was by far the most powerful message in marketing, said Mowday, whose agency's creations include the Lotto dog "Wilson" ads, which recognised how money has the ability to change lives, when once Lotto ads were about "yellow Lamborghinis and lifestyle".

Before social media, marketers used to say if you told one person something it spread to five people, but today it was more like 50 people, he said.

"We get ourselves tied in knots about marketing. That's not to discount analysis, but we can spend a lot of time planning and a little time doing. We should experiment and learn as we go.

"It's hard to get marketing wrong." Mowday said that when marketing a business or product, DDB focused on four key areas: customers, culture, company and category.

"But this applies to any business at any time. It's not about whether you make an ad off the back of it." The first question to ask was "who are my customers?"

"Culture" was about focusing on what is happening - in the Waikato for example.

"Category" involved asking "what experience does my company enable?" and "what market are we in?

"What can we do to differentiate ourselves and lead (in the marketplace?"

"Company" was asking "what are my ambitions?"

"It sounds simple but we are always surprised how few of these things are properly articulated so that everyone understands them (in an organisation)," Mowday said.

"You cannot be a business, a community leadership organisation or a political party that can please all people. It's far better to have a group that are passionate and ardent supporters than to have a whole lot of people who are ambivalent about you, a passive audience."

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The other key forum speaker was former New Plymouth mayor Peter Tennent who focused on how communities could drive for positive outcomes and spirit.

Named in 2010 one of the world's top 10 mayors out of 850 contenders, Tennent said local authorities should be helping create an attractive environment for business, but should not be in businesses like hotels, themselves. "People want to spend minimum time dealing with councils. They don't want to deal with bureaucrats."

Tennent said regions like the Waikato and Taranaki had to focus on their advantages.

"Accept that, with everything you do, someone is not going to like it. But make the decision, keep things happening."

He also urged the audience to "develop ambassadors" for the Waikato, who would perform a similar role to international Kiwis working for Kea on behalf of New Zealand.

"Killing off the toxins" in a community was also important, he said.

Toxins were people who were so keen to see their names in the newspaper they wrote endlessly negative letters to the editor.

As mayor for a decade he dealt with "toxins" by contacting them directly, apologising if necessary or accepting their viewpoint but explaining what the council or a project was trying to achieve. He freely gave out his cell phone number and urged complainants to ring him directly.

"That way they can tell me face to face that I'm a plonker, but not in the newspaper.

"Employ positive, make-it-happen people. I said ‘if there are no losers in this let it happen and apologise later'," Tennent said.

"Be accessible. If you are not passionate about your job, get another one. Be prepared to be always available. Keep the lines of communication open 24/7," he said.

"There is a trick in a community of getting all those ideas to come forward. Your PA (personal assistant) and your people should be able find 10 opportunities in the newspaper. Always look for opportunities (for your community)."

In New Plymouth a group of people had "adopted" a stretch of the city, whether it was 100m or one km. They walk it every week, picking up rubbish. The city council's road cleaning bill had "plummeted" as a result, he said.

Westpac's Grow NZ forums are a nationwide initiative in the wake of the global economic downturn to get the economy moving. The bank has identified two key areas where it could make a contribution: education and "thought leadership".

On the education opportunity, it had research work under way around savings and retirement.

The Hamilton forum was the second under the leadership focus.

It was chaired by former National Party senior minister Simon Power, now managing director of Westpac's private, wealth and insurance division.

- Waikato Times

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