Q&A: Jonathan Warburton, chairman, Warburtons

Marketing Week (MW): If you are profitable, why does it matter if your business is ‘good’ or not?

Jonathan Warburton (JW): Our business has been going for well over a century. If you don’t behave in the appropriate manner, you won’t survive. Our name is on every product we sell. Our reputation is put out into the marketplace 15 million times a week. It takes a lifetime to build up a reputation but it doesn’t take long to destroy it.

MW: How important is the concept of ‘being good’ to brand leaders?

JW: It ebbs and flows, depending on the state of the economic environment. It’s slightly optional – when people are short of money, it’s not necessarily front of mind but long-term you have no choice. Information is now available to all people at all times. That amplifies the good or bad behaviour of a business. If you’re up to mischief, it’s instantly recognisable across the marketplace.

Likewise, if you build a reputation by behaving in an appropriate way – building the brand, investing heavily, telling the truth to consumers – it has a positive benefit.

MW: Why do you think you have been named a Triple G brand?

JW: The harder you scratch the surface, the more you find out about a business. Some brands might be more ‘made up’. You scratch those hard and underneath you find the ownership is not what you think it is, the people running the business are running it with a very different agenda.

A family business like ours is very much about reputation. This helps us, not only as a check and balance as to how we behave in the market, but it also builds another layer of truth about what it is we’re trying to do with our business.

The whole brand ethos is wrapped up in how it ultimately manifests itself in a product. When people buy our products, their decision to do so is on a sub-conscious level – they are buying us because we haven’t let them down and in fact we might have surprised them in a positive way.

MW: How do you communicate ‘good’ to your consumers?

JW: It’s a load of touchpoints but most obviously the performance of the product – that’s how you interact with most consumers. It’s also how we build ourselves from a marketing perspective, how we advertise, how our vehicles look and how we communicate the brand’s values to consumers.

MW: What advice would you give to brands that don’t currently adopt the same strategies?

JW: You’ve got to be honest and open about what you’re trying to do. Look to the long-term benefit to a brand. It’s harder for a publicly quoted company that has to perform on a quarterly basis, but if you don’t do it, people won’t trust you. If you don’t have a position of trust with the consumer, inevitably it will come back to bite you. You can all buy market share in the short term, but actually, it’s building it over the long term that’s most important.

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