As the new editor of Marketing Week, I thought an appropriate theme for my first leader column was change. My predecessor Stuart Smith, who directed this magazine for 20 years, knows the value of change. When I left his service as deputy news editor of Marketing Week just over two years ago for a national newspaper, he appreciated my desire to try something new.
But change gets a bad press and it’s easy to see why. Change can seem like the mother of all evils, especially when it suddenly and unexpectedly forces individuals to make radical, uncomfortable decisions. In the past two years the transformation of UK plc from a healthy, strong and confident environment in which to do business, to a nervous and shaky patient of a market, constantly in need of medicine in the form of ever larger Government bail-outs, has been as astonishing as it has been depressing.
Indeed, we begin 2009 in a poor state. Jobs are disappearing from every sector of the market at an almighty pace, and fresh news of the fragile state of British business came this week with the biggest ever loss in Britain’s corporate history. The value of RBS plunged by 67% on Monday. Former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin was celebrated as a hero when he masterminded the acquisition of Natwest in 2000, suspected as a maverick when he successfully gatecrashed Barclays’ pursuit of Dutch bank ABN Amro and was this week accused in the media of being the world’s worst banker. Goodwin, surely, knows something about the cards that “change” can deal out.
But change can be also be a positive force. This week Barack Obama (surely 2008’s marketer of the year) took on the presidency of the United States, having swept to power on a platform for change. But accepting the love of the people at the joyous occasion of his inauguration was the easy part for Obama, who now has to begin a programme designed to deliver the changes he promised. The American people must know that in restoring a federal budget in record levels of deficit, some painful decisions will have to be made.
Such painful decisions also have to be made across the business sector and more importantly across UK marketing as a whole, if our industry is to survive. One executive told me that he believes the marketing services industry will shrink 25% by the end of this year if brands at the weaker end of the market don’t act soon to start running themselves less like agencies and more like businesses. Client-side, budgets and headcounts are being slashed everywhere.
Within that treacherous environment I hope the MW brand, as it undergoes some radical change of its own in months to come, can provide all the insight and expertise you’ll need not only to survive, but to clarify your message and increase your share of voice.
Change. The biggest and best brands understand it, as does the very best talent in marketing. In recognition of what has occurred across the water this week I’ll sign off with something once uttered by Abraham Lincoln: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”