BMW: ‘Marketers must tell truth to grow status’

Cannes Lions: BMW’s director for brand management Steven F Althaus has called for the marketing industry to get closer to the heart of business by ditching irrelevant metrics and thinking in general management terms.

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Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity he said: “We have a history of putting lipstick on gorillas rather than telling the truth. We must move closer to the business. Companies and agencies should work together to [help do this].”

Althaus was responding to figures from an Adobe survey which found that 43 per cent of consumers call marketing ‘bogus’. To help overcome this he called for closer links with sales, legal and product teams, saying it is common sense to do so. “It’s not about assessing other functions but raising our game from brand custodian to general management.

“As long as we hold on to metrics that do not really resonate with the business, you can see how far away marketing is from the business and we have to be part of the inner circle.”

He added that BMW’s marketing function had moved away from selling and towards gaining feedback from consumers to help develop products for its BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce marques.

Adobe’s study also shows that nearly three quarters of people (73 per cent) criticise marketing for selling too hard rather than telling a story and providing useful information about a brand.

Adobe’s chief marketing officer Ann Lewnes urged brands to focus on the story, saying: “This ability to be human, honest and truthful is what people are looking for.”

Althaus also encouraged marketers to embrace failure, saying that a “constant superstar atmosphere” that says everything is a success does not allow a business to be open to learn from failures. “You often learn more from failures. I hope that in five years’ time we are a bit more honest and down to earth.”

There comments come as the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s latest quarterly Marketing Confidence Monitor found fewer than half (45 per cent) of UK marketers have guaranteed involvement in the development of new products and services.

Keep up to date with all our Cannes 2013 coverage here

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