Marketers seduced by image they push

Stuart%20SmithOne of the curious, perhaps reassuring, things about marketers is that they are just as susceptible to the mystique of brands as the consumers they target.

That’s one of several firm conclusions to be drawn from our latest – the third – Top Employer survey, which canvassed the opinion of 1,000 marketers.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there’s a good deal of stability within the 20 companies where people would most like to work. What’s interesting, though, is the undercurrent. The companies showing the most dramatic reputational shift upwards, or downwards for that matter, have moved primarily on account of their perceived market success or failure in the last year rather than through any known modification in their terms of employment. Worldly success, rather than comfort or even the absolute size of the package, is everything for aspirant marketers.

Thus Google (which in fact employs very few consumer marketers) has shot up the ratings from 20th in 2005, 11th last year, to third this year. Less meteorically, but no less significantly, Marks & Spencer has moved from 22nd to 13th to tenth. A similar trend may be detected in the cases of John Lewis (=16th), Barclays (18th) and Audi (=20th).

Conversely, Sony has slipped from third to fourth to eighth, BA has tumbled from eighth to ninth to 12th, Nike from 12th to 17th to 19th and Vodafone from 11th to 17th to =20th.

Overall, however, the secular pattern hasn’t changed. Virgin, or perhaps the personality and entrepreneurial drive of its founder, Sir Richard Branson, is the principal magnet. This was the unambiguous verdict of over a quarter of the respondents. And yet, when Virgin is broken down into its component companies, it is Innocent (similarly entrepreneurial) which emerges triumphant. Not one Virgin company ranks higher than 11th (Virgin Atlantic, as it happens).

But entrepreneurial drive and an appetite for risk are not the only defining features to emerge from a glance at the top performers. Technology companies (Google, Apple, Sony, Microsoft) and media (the BBC) rate highly. Retail, headed by Tesco (fourth), M&S and John Lewis, is well represented. In contrast, classic packaged goods companies, such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble, are now out of the top ten (=13th), while Mars – the school which gave us, for example, Allan Leighton and Angus Porter – and Cadbury Schweppes are way down the list.

Nor does there seem much appetite for the leisure sector, which marketers consistently rank in salary surveys as their favourite choice. Virgin Atlantic is the top company in the sector.

Here’s a prediction for next year. Banks (HSBC, Barclays, and RBS in particular) have begun to perform particularly well: expect a reverse in reputation. Samsung will do even better (it has just entered the top 50 at =40th) and we will see a more prominent showing from internet companies (Google aside, Lastminute and Expedia just made it into the top 50).

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