Wednesday, 21 April 2010

But have you already worked in the "widgets that go on the end of pencils" sector?

As you may have realised I am now a freelancer so I work in quite a few different industry sectors. The variety is one of the reasons I like the job. When I was an “employed” marketer I worked in lots of different sectors, television, sport, insurance, FMCG. I think this is brilliant (Ok so I am a bit biased) – but why does this not seem to be valued by employers?

Why is it, that in almost every job spec, prospective employers want someone with sector experience? Some push it to such an extreme that they seem to want someone who has done the job before and is willing to do it again with no career advancement in site e.g.. “Toy manufacturer seeks marketing manager with over 5 years marketing experience in toy manufacturing – must have management experience”.

In such tough economic times, I believe that innovation that can keep a company growing. There are always ways to grow profit and a challenging environment encourages us marketers to be inventive, either in process or product. So surely one of the ways to foster some inventive thinking is to get a good mix of expertise in the team? Mixing it up with people who have different experiences and can bring something new to the table.

While it may be tempting for stressed out employers to get new staff that can integrate quickly since they know the products and the sector, they may end up with a whole team of staff trained to think that things are done one way and only that way will work.

There is no denying that there a few cases when the network of contacts a person brings to a role has great value but it would just be nice to see some employers open their minds a bit. Imagine the value of bringing in a mobile marketer to an insurance company. Both very acquisition led businesses, but the mobile phone operators woke up to the need for retention far quicker than the insurance industry, so there is much to teach and trial. Imagine bringing FMCG techniques to the a professional services industry such as architects or solicitors? Now that would be interesting!

I would much rather teach new products and a new sector to a bright and motivated new recruit than attempt to teach a recruit with sector experience how to be bright and motivated.

So let’s hear it for a bit of diversity and fresh thinking from our employers.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Speedo Part 2

I wrote about Speedo only a month ago on how I was impressed that they had used real customer insight on women’s actual shapes to design a new range of swimwear.
Well I’m back this month on Speedo since the brand is unveiling a new pan-European campaign.

It will focus on personal relationships with swimmers, promoting Speedo as a brand that understands that every swimmer is different. So far so good. This ties in with a range that suits different types of bodies and suggests that the brand wants to reach all types of swimmers and bodies, not just those we traditionally associate with Speedo. That is to say the ultra sporty types who get a size smaller so that they can stretch their costume onto their bodies like an elastic band that is about to snap. You know – the type of costumes that for “normal” people, dig into your hips and make your legs look like jelly.

Then Speedo International Head of Marketing Communications Chris MacDonald goes on to say: “As the world’s leading swimwear brand, we understand the benefits that swimming for fitness and relaxation can bring. Our objective for this campaign is to engage with our consumers and explore their relationships with swimming. Speedo’s new brand campaign is striking, emotive and will prompt swimmers of all levels to talk about why they like to swim.”

Marketing speak anyone? “Engage with consumers”, “explore their relationships”, “talk about why they like to swim”. I am a practical marketer. That doesn’t mean I am not strategic but I like a brand to be straight forward in its promises to consumers and then deliver it flawlessly. I love lots of brands and still think they have a huge role to play in marketing, but when I hear this kind of speech, I groan because this type of statement gives us marketers a reputation for creating flowery concepts over long lunches.

What about the product Speedo? What are the costumes like? Why are they the best? Why should I trust your brand to get it right? Is your range super cool and fashionable? Or just really comfy? Or the best materials that make you go faster? Or the widest range, a costume to fit any shape or size?

Do you really care that my relationship with swimming is the following: I swim up and down my public pool to keep fit and I wear a costume occasionally on holiday.

Here’s an idea for you Speedo if you really want to engage with me as a customer – put money into cleaning up my public pool, the changing rooms are skanky. “Speedo cleans up public pools and makes swimming a better experience”. That will really please me. Oh and make a costume that looks good, fits well and keeps its elastic for a few months. Ta very much.