(Above: long-term planning is a way of life at tech group National Instruments)
A 100-year plan, a ‘two circle system’ and one common language are all ways that brands are trying to create their own company way of marketing, or a philosophy they can apply to how they do business
Companies including Heinz, Diageo and Unilever have all developed a process for the way marketing tasks are addressed, which informs everything from how staff are trained to how brand strategies are put together.
Having a fixed ‘way of marketing’ is not a new idea, but it is not easy to execute. Unilever, for example, has introduced ‘Crafting brands for life’, which includes running workshops in 60 countries over a six-month period, showing the potential scale of what must be achieved.
And for other brands, which previously relied on staff having a tacit understanding of how the company philosophy applied to their individual role, changes are afoot.
Long-term planning is a way of life at technology group National Instruments (NI), and that is reflected in how it executes marketing.
Kyle Voosen, marketing director for the UK and Ireland at NI, which supplies hi-tech measurement and control systems used by scientists and specialist engineers in many walks of life, says employees are introduced to and trained in the NI Way from the moment they arrive, including an explanation of some key issues. “On your first day in the office, you see that we have a plan for 100 years.
“The plan is basically a clear guide to help employees make decisions that are responsible and have the long-term interests of the company in mind. So at the 100 year mark, we want to make sure that the core values of our company and our culture haven’t changed. That is very important to us,” he says.
There is also a 10-year plan that includes objectives for the company’s people and its recruitment needs. Medium-term growth plans and company goals are dictated by a five-year plan, while more immediate planning issues such as sales forecasts are part of the one-year plan. Quarterly plans are used for immediate projects and tasks.
Drinks giant Diageo has long been an exponent of the rigorously planned strategy, with all new marketing recruits being trained in its way of brand building. As chief marketing officer, Andy Fennell, who is now president and chief operating officer in Africa, said that the Diageo way is a “necessary suite of skills and expertise regarding everything from understanding consumers and their relationship with a brand, through to the most effective way of investing marketing spend to drive growth.”
FMCG giant Unilever is a more recent convert to the way of marketing strategy. A combination of ambitious business growth goals and a commitment to reduce its environmental footprint made the group take a fresh look at the way it approached marketing, says vice-president of the Unilever way of marketing Will Gardner.
The group identified the three ‘seismic shifts’ that needed to be addressed – harnessing the power of digital; addressing sustainable living; and the potential of emerging markets – and concluded that the marketing status quo would no longer meet its objectives.
“We set about this task to make marketing noble again, to show that growth and sustainability could become two sides of the same coin. And we put brands at the centre of that in terms of showing how they can do a great job for us in terms of growing our business, but also have the power to possibly impact the world,” says Gardner.
The company began to formulate its Crafting Brands for Life strategy 18 months ago, resulting in what Gardner describes as “both a vision for our marketing organisation and a strategy for the kind of marketing that we wanted to do.” The strategy is summed up by three core ‘pillars’: putting people first, building brand love and unlocking the magic.
“We started off by saying that we can’t just think about people in terms of consumption and shopping… because if we are serious about our sustainability mission, it’s more about serving people in the totality of their lives and doing the right thing for the planet, not just driving consumption. In order to do that, we developed a much greater understanding of their whole lives,” says Gardner.
“Building brand love is about brands with purpose that engender a great sense of lifelong love and loyalty. And unlocking the magic is about revisiting marketing as a craft discipline, something where throughout the whole of our marketing organisation you have that real sense of the delight of doing things.”
Food company Heinz also has its way of marketing. The company engages in three ‘mission-based’ projects each year. The frequency of the projects encourages staff to constantly use new learning, and helps recruits to engage with the company philosophy from the outset. Missions tackled over the past 18 months have covered insights, brand development, innovation, integrated communications and shopper marketing (see box out, below) .
NI says its 100-year plan means that marketing is in line with the company’s overall culture and philosophy. So if any proposal or plan conflicts with what is written in the next plan up the scale, it is subject to an immediate veto, thus protecting the long-term survival of the company culture.
When you build capability programmes, it is easy to over-complicate them with too mnay tools, methodologies and content
“If my marketing plan happens to mess with the core values or culture, there is no way it would be given the go-ahead,” says Voosen. “I’ve been here for 13 years and I’ve seen it in action. Technology changes so fast so if you base your core vision around a single technology, you are going to be obsolete in a few years.
“By sticking with values and culture and people in the long-term, we can roll with the punches and adapt. We don’t hide the fact that we have a 100-year plan, we promote it heavily. But more importantly we use it internally almost as a sort of invisible backbone. It’s always there to help make our decisions,” adds Voosen.
NI also faces some unique marketing challenges because of the way its products – many of which can be reconfigured to meet different demands – are used, and because there are so many of them. “We have 15,000 products and 35,000 customers and trying to market that is daunting. We can’t run full-page ads for 15,000 products,” he says.
Rather than focus on product, the company seeks to tell its story, both to internal and external markets, through the successes its clients have had using its equipment, in anything from wind-power generation to developing artificial sight systems for the blind.
Unilever’s Crafting Brands for Life strategy has also been a way of helping decisions to be made and guides the overall direction for its brands. It contains practical approaches, methods, steps and tools. From the outset, it was decided that the technology needed to underpin these factors would be included in the project.
Like NI, Unilever identifies a specific practical benefit from the process, says Gardner: “It is about a common language. We are a business with 200-plus brands around the world and several thousand marketers, and having a core common language set for how we talk about people and brands and activities is critical for us in order to get a sense of a common bond across all of marketing.”
Technology has enhanced that bond by connecting Unilever marketing teams around the world via a SalesForce Chatter platform.
“Within a digitally-powered world we know that marketing needs to move much faster than it has before. Having a laborious, assembly line way of doing marketing, with various handovers at set points within the organisation, is going to mean that you never move as fast as you need to in order to keep up with the conversations you are generating. We need a marketing organisation that is much more agile,” says Gardner.
The recent launch of the Magnum Pink and Black ice cream ranges emphasises how important that communication and common bond is, he adds. The launch highlights how customers might be in a pink, champagne-flavoured, mood or feel more like a black, espresso-flavoured, experience.
The Unilever marketing team in Turkey interpreted this as a Pink and Black evening in Istanbul, where consumers could decide by Twitter whether city landmarks, including the Bosphorus Bridge, should be lit up in pink or left dark. Gardner says: “These were ways to get huge local enthusiasm and engagement around a global campaign.”
Food giant Heinz has a worldwide marketing resource in the form of its Marketing Academy, which gives insights and points of view to employees. But there is a more distinct philosophy when it comes to guiding marketing staff.
“In terms of training for marketing, which is part of my role, there is a lot of information,” says Heinz director of strategy, insight and capability Colin Haddley. “We set about taking that information and distilling it into a clear way of marketing, with as few tools as possible. We are a commercial business so we wanted to have a way of marketing that was pragmatic and straightforward, and would fit in with our commercial demands.”
Team members are given clear guidelines on the steps required for various processes, with a simple template used to make sure they can communicate their ideas to colleagues using a commonly understood system.
A ‘two circle’ system is used, for example, to communicate ideas for brand positioning projects. One circle contains the benefits for the brand in question, the other includes the insights those benefits are addressing. If marketers can not explain their idea in the two circles, then they have not thought them through enough.
Heinz has worked with Realise Consulting on a number of missions, which sees the company apply new lessons, including the 100 Days of Learning, which sought to equip Heinz’s 70-strong UK marketing team with new innovation skills. At the end of the project, for which teams tackle a variety of tasks, the company had a sustainable plan ready to implement.
“What’s different is so much of the learning takes place outside of the facilitated workshops – when people are back at their desks in their offices. This is very important and is the part of the programme that really embeds the learning,” says Haddley.
The big three challenges
A formalised way of marketing is not for every company. “It’s safe to say we have developed our own approach and methods over time, using traditional and non-traditional channels. However, given that we spend so little on marketing, innovation and fresh thinking are key to how we promote our brand,” says Ryanair head of sales and marketing Lesley Kane.
The airline’s distinct culture is explained to new recruits partly through training and learning from colleagues, she adds. “Ryanair is unlike any other European company in that while we have set targets and goals, our people are encouraged to plough their own furrows and bring their own ideas to fruition.”
Spread the word. Getting the message across so that all staff understand it can be a significant undertaking in a large organisation. “There is the launch of it and then there is the embedding and the refreshment. We are just coming to the end of a six-month programme to roll out the first wave of the Crafting Brands for Life way of marketing, globally,” says Unilever way of marketing vice-president William Gardner.
Keep it simple “The key learning is that when you build capability programmes it is easy to over-complicate them with too many tools, methodologies and content,” says Heinz director of strategy, insight and capability Colin Haddley. “We’ve stripped back the process so marketers know exactly where we are in the process and the tools we need to use.”