The Secret Marketer on Vintage

I spent last weekend at Vintage, the inaugural festival at Goodwood Estate. The festival is a collaboration between Lord March and designer Wayne Hemingway. The result is a grand setting for a celebration of all things vintage spanning music, fashion, art, travel and a whole lot more.

Nostalgia has been in vogue in the marketing world of late with a series of previously unfashionable brands making a comeback, but what struck me most about the Vintage festival was the number of traders for whom vintage clothing and memorabilia is a full-time job.

Hemingway knows a thing or two about markets having started his celebrated Red or Dead label at Camden Market in 1982. Before he knew it, the designer had 16 stalls and was well on his way to the high street and international acclaim.

Vintage was a timely reminder that all great brand and product ideas start at the grass roots. Borough Market has long since provided incubation space for fledgling foodie brands. The same trend is being repeated at farmers’ markets across the nation, providing entrepreneurs with first-hand feedback that puts focus groups to shame. Without wishing to undermine the research community and its predictive quantitative methodology, this is pre-market concept testing done properly.

“The real fix will only happen when marketers rediscover the ability to think for themselves.”

I am somewhat in awe of entrepreneurs. Aside from having the nerve and ability to take greater risks than me, I often admire how they know their customers so much better than I know mine. I would like to believe that it is not because they are better marketers than me, but because they are still so much more in touch with their customers on a daily basis.

I have worked at big companies that are aware of this detachment issue and their remedy is to organise a formal scheme whereby head office management get to spend structured time on the shop floor. It is very admirable but frankly it misses the point. A day or two a year at the sharp end feels more like a PR exercise sponsored by the human resources think-tank committee. The real fix will only happen when corporate bigwigs stop paying for insight from the outside world and demand their marketers rediscover the ability to think for themselves.

Feeling good about spending time with consumers should be what our job is about. It is a shameful admission that we are often too busy to do so.

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