The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Marketing Need A “Warrant Of Fitness”?

By Brian H Meredith
From the NZBusiness Magazine"Marketing Maestro" Archive.
First published September 1996

Brian H Meredith writes: The following Column was first published in 1996 and yet, as I reviewed its contents a few days ago, I was struck by how significant the issue that it addresses remains. Business (and indeed organisations of all types) commit significant resources to all things "marketing" and the overhwelming majority never subject any of it to independent assessment. Should they?

It is a fact that, every week in New Zealand, around $15 - $20 million is spent on Marketing. Both above and below the line, inside and outside the organisation, this level of investment in the development and protection of markets and customers continues, week in, week out.

Its a lot of money, right?

It's money that is carefully invested, right?

It's money that, given all the sophisticated research and measurement tools available to marketeers today, is meticulously monitored and tracked in terms of the job it is supposed to do and the extent to which it is doing that job. Right?


You may be staggered to learn (as I have been) that very little of that expenditure is ever subjected to critical, external and independent review! For some extraordinary reason, it is virtually unheard of for organisations to commission any kind of Audit of their Marketing strategies, activities and expenditures.

So what’s the background to this rather worrying state of affairs?

Marketing, as a vital management tool in New Zealand, has undergone some significant change and development in recent years.

Life used to be so simple.

Until quite recently, Marketeers in New Zealand operated in a small, well established and mature marketplace where, for a variety of reasons (one of which was the regulation of many of our biggest and most important markets) the business of identifying, creating and fulfilling customer needs was pretty straightforward.

Many major markets in New Zealand were dominated by one major player (remember the white goods market just a few years ago?!).

It was not uncommon for the major player in a marketplace to enjoy market shares of anything between 50-90%!

The business of Marketing was fairly simple in that New Zealand environment. There was little need to develop sophisticated market segmentation techniques, little need to use research extensively to seek to identify finer points of consumer needs, wants or behaviour. The term "Psychographics" was probably thought to mean drawings done by lunatics!

And as for advertising activity - couldn't have been easier. Two television networks operating a monopoly and rationing airtime and less than a handful of magazine titles, were pretty much the only options available to marketeers in consumer markets. Didn’t take much sophisticated Marketing or Media Planning, did it?

Sounds hard to believe and yet, it was happening less than a decade ago.

Well, a few years and a healthy dose of "Rogernomics", Privatisation, Deregulation and Corporatisation later, things have changed out of all recognition.

Markets are competitive like never before.

The media environment now offers more real choice than ever before. Market shares are being quoted in more realistic (competitive) numbers and the customer is now definitely KING! (No more Cheese, Biscuits and Orange Juice on Air New Zealand - thank you from the bottom of my heart Fluffy!!)

Virtually every domestic market has become truly competitive, leading to high levels of segmentation (new word in New Zealand marketing!) and, in some cases, damaging fragmentation

The media environment has changed out of all recognition to the point where the Media Planners and Buyers have their skills tested like never before.

As this trend continues to accelerate (as it undoubtedly will) the entire business of Marketing is becoming ever more critical and ever more sophisticated.

Finally, whilst it still may be prudent to develop Business and Strategic Plans to provide, say, a five year picture, your Marketing Plan had better be flexible enough to change a heck of a lot more rapidly than that or, frankly, you're done for!

O.K. I hear you asking. That's great, I understand all that. But what's your point?

The Point is that the rapid growth in marketing investment and sophistication has not, thus far at least, been matched by a desire to make sure, on a planned and regular basis, that we are, in fact, doing the right things in the right way.

As the pace and complexities of Marketing Planning increases, the risk of losing track of the fundamentals also increases.

There is an entirely understandable, albeit highly undesirable, tendency to "get on with it - just do it!"

Let's check that I'm making sense - When did you last give your Marketing a thorough "road test"? Preferably, an external and independent, “road test”.

When did you last say, to an independent expert:

 "I'm investing squillions of bucks Marketing my product but, to be frank, I need to be sure that I am talking to the right people, about the right product, with the right message and in the most cost efficient manner possible" ?

Sure, you've probably got all kinds of methods, models and analysis tools in-house and, of course,  they should not be underestimated in the contribution they make towards keeping you on track.

But, using the "woods for the trees" analogy (and mixing my metaphors) wouldn't it be great if a "Marketing Doctor" could give the Patient a thorough check-up and, perhaps, suggest some life-style improvements to help you live a wee bit better and a wee bit longer?

As the pressure on the Marketing Dollar becomes ever greater, whilst the perfect, loyal customer becomes ever more elusive, I wonder why we haven't yet thought to see whether someone might just be able to give us the once over and declare our Marketing State of Health, "A1"?

Or, even better, diagnose the potential for a, say, 5% efficiency gain on our $5 million marketing overhead?

The alternative is to continue to rely solely on our own judgement on the basis of “It doesn’t seem to be broke so, why fix it?”

Worth thinking about, eh?


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