Making marketing more effective can be as simple as knowing your strengths

The cases of Tesco and Greggs show that radical reinvention isn’t always the answer and that all too often going back to basics can be more effective.

It is always my hope that in some way the news, analysis and opinion we publish serves one of two purposes: to help marketers become more effective leaders and to help them deliver more effective marketing.

There’s been plenty in recent months to illustrate the former, with the publication of the Top 100 most effective marketers, and analysis of where marketers are losing influence and how to regain it, to recount just a couple of items.

There’s also been a lot that ticks the latter box – takeaways for those looking for fresh insight into brand growth. The importance of balancing brand building and sales activation, as well as long- and short-term activity, was underlined in the findings of an exclusive study in partnership with DVJ  on the factors driving growth in companies reporting revenue increases.

Some of the most illuminating insight, however, came in the profile of our Marketer of the Year, Tesco’s Alessandra Bellini. Tesco has come a long way from the depths it sunk to during the 2014 accounting scandal. The rise of Aldi and Lidl shook up the entire sector but the acceleration impacted Tesco in particular, nibbling away at sales, share and margins as it looked to compete on price.

If there’s a message from the turnaround of Tesco and Greggs it’s this: radical reinvention isn’t always the answer.

The sustained growth Tesco has seen in recent years is the product of the back to the future approach kickstarted by CEO Dave Lewis and accelerated by chief customer officer Bellini.

At the core of their strategy is understanding how Tesco’s long-running strategy, ‘Every little helps’, translates to reality. That means ensuring it is an organising principle for the brand and its employees, a point of difference and not just a slogan, why and how it makes Tesco – and the relationship it has with its customers – different.

There is no doubt Bellini has influence; she is a member of the company’s executive committee and UK leadership team. It is her delightfully unfussy approach to marketing strategy that has helped deliver impact. “The marketer who loves marketing” enjoys the task of building, indeed rebuilding, brands.

I enjoyed this quote from our profile: “I believe everything is possible as a marketer, provided you understand your consumers, where your brand is, what the core of your brand is and how to make it simple, interesting and relevant.”

That is an assessment of brand strategy that is almost disarmingly straightforward.

There’s plenty of lessons to be learned from our Brand of the Year, Greggs, as well. It has returned from the depths of 2012, when it was written off by some analysts, the brand is now riding high by all business and brand measures.

How Greggs got customers to see it with new eyes

It is succeeding where many in its category are not by applying some basics. It has a clear sense of what its brand is and where the opportunities for growth lie. Skilful reading of the market led first to a switch of focus to food-on-the-go – and then new products – notably vegan sausage rolls – widened the demographic opportunities without having to sacrifice anything that advocates and customers already liked about the brand.

If there’s a message from the turnaround of Tesco and Greggs it’s this: radical reinvention isn’t always the answer.

In sectors exposed to disruption, it must be tempting to tear up the plan and rewrite the near- and long-term strategy. Overhaul might be necessary, but equally understanding what made you successful in the first place might be more effective.