Honourable marketing makes business sense


Marketing needs to be a “noble” profession, claims Marc Mathieu, senior vice-president of marketing at Unilever. He warns that the profession has become about “selling for selling’s sake” and that it needs to move beyond a pure commercial stance to promote products that “create progress and improve lives.”

Mathieu’s declaration is a brave stand given the pressures placed on marketers in this global economic climate. Everywhere I go, senior executives are telling me that their roles are increasingly about hitting set financial targets and proving their worth as money managers. Few people are willing to talk about marketing in such emotional and socially conscious terms as Mathieu.

Yet this idea of marketing as a craft rather than a job is precisely why the discipline is so valuable to businesses. Mathieu says that “marketing is at its best and much more interesting when you are thinking about real people whose lives you can improve.”

Marketers are the voice of real people within organisations. They have feedback from customer services to make sure they are offering consumers the right products and services. They pore over research into what people think, believe, behave and do. The finance director already knows whether customers are buying or not. The marketing director knows why people are buying (or not). That’s a subtle but important difference.

“Everywhere I go, senior executives are telling me their roles are increasingly about hitting financial targets”

Consumer understanding is what will help UK brands break into the growing Brazilian market. The country has 192 million consumers with a middle class of around 91 million holding considerable disposable income. These people have cash and they want to spend it on British brands.

Not only has the economic might of Brazil outstripped that of the UK for the first time in recent months, but many consumers there are logging onto the internet regularly. Diageo’s Latin American marketing and innovation director Olga Martinez Garcia says that people are “leapfrogging trends – for example, people are jumping straight from not having used technology at all to having smartphones.” This means it is cost-effective for brands from Britain to attract large numbers of Brazilians through digital marketing methods. It’s a win-win.

Brands like Diageo and Unilever already know that understanding insights from markets such as Brazil will be vital to their businesses in future. To achieve commercial growth, they must understand the motivations and needs of people.

These businesses know that while marketing is about helping a company make money, it must also be about creating the society in which those businesses can operate and have a long and prosperous future.

As Mathieu puts it: “If we really believe that corporations have a key role to play in driving social economic and environmental progress, marketing has a big role to play.”

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