Russell Parsons: Remember, marketers are always at the mercy of their customers

Russell Parsons

For two days every autumn, my colleagues and I decamp to Tobacco Dock in London for The Festival of Marketing, a two-day celebration of all things marketing.

Apart from the chance to meet so many of you, it is a fantastic opportunity to hear the brightest and the best in marketing share their experience and considerable wisdom. This year we had Unilever’s Keith Weed on how analogue marketers can succeed in a digital age and L’Oreal’s Hugh Pile explaining how to buy the influence of influencers.

My personal highlight, however, was uttered by one of The Festival’s headliners, Steve Wozniak. Musing over the essence of marketing, the Apple co-founder offered this: “Understanding what people want in products and being honest when talking about how much it is truly worth to them.”

Nailed it. A marketer is, or should be, a slave to their customers. What do they want, how do they want it, when do they want it? These are questions that every marketer should be asking all the time. They know everything, and you are at their mercy, so give up and embrace them.

Confirmation of this 101 in marketing could be found elsewhere during festival week. On the eve of the event, Pret A Manger was named Brand of the Year at the Masters of Marketing.

Read more: Find out who won at the Masters of Marketing

Speaking on a panel hosted by Marketing Week on getting the most from minimum budgets at the Festival, the brand’s former group marketing director Mark Palmer said the key to effective and efficient marketing, and the catalyst for Pret’s success, can be found by “taking a step back and remembering a few marketing basics”, namely understanding your customers.

The statements of Wozniak and Palmer should be an exercise in the obvious. However, in the world of tech that Wozniak inhabits, brands get carried away with innovation for innovation’s sake and forget what we were all sent here to do. Meanwhile, insight-led in-store experience and menus seem to be the only starting point for a restaurant chain.

It’s about the customers, stupid.

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