The Secret Marketer

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

In my last column, I described how my brand team was preparing to present its 2010 brand plans at the annual sales team conference. As predicted, it was an experience that some candidates handled better than others. Most of my brand managers thrived under the pressure, but it was an altogether less pleasant encounter for one or two others.

The best brand managers are not necessarily those who can chat for hours in agency meetings but those who engage their colleagues – their real skill lies in turning good ideas into meaningful brand plans with commercial nous.

For one member of my team in particular, the half-hour slot in front of the sales team was a baptism of fire. She insisted on using marketing jargon throughout her presentation. Big mistake. Sales people are deeply suspicious of marketers and need little encouragement to reaffirm their prejudices.

After one too many fluffy marketing charts, my young charge was subject to an onslaught from the unmoved account managers. How many promotions can we run next year? Will we be doing the price flash pack again? Why do we advertise in magazines that nobody reads? Have we done consumer research on our new campaign?

What’s more, did we research real people outside of Soho? Were we aware that our new product line was the same as we launched 18 years ago – it didn’t work then so why should it now? Have we heard about the credit crunch?

The questions went on and on. The sales team asked if they could have branded post-it notes and biros to give away, whether the new packs of products fitted on supermarket shelves and, if so, would a “50% extra free” version also fit? And, of course, the piece de la resistance… can we run BOGOFs to support the launch?

You’ve got to love sales teams. Whatever brand you work on, whatever the state of the economy, they are wonderfully predictable. We talk brand equity, sales teams talk extra free. We talk strategic insight, they arrange discount deals. As for my brand manager, she is slowly recovering from her ordeal and has decided that she will be spending a lot more time patrolling the aisles of Tesco before she next stands in front of the sales team.

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