Marketing must be better defined to be taken seriously: One analyst’s view of the discipline

Having worked at Tesco for over 10 years as a supply chain director, Bruno Monteyne is now one of the UK’s most respected retail analysts. He tells Marketing Week why marketing, which he describes as a “critical” business function, needs to become more clearly defined.

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Retail analyst Bruno Monteyne is no stranger to the value of marketing having spent 10 years as Tesco’s supply chain director. But while he “respects” the role he believes more must be done to help other departments understand what it does as it “remains a bit of a mystery”.

Now senior analyst for European Food Retail at Bernstein, Monteyne continues to believe marketing is critical to business success but he urges marketers to do more to define its purpose and benefit to other parts of the company.

Here he tells Marketing Week what he thinks marketers must do to be heard.

More definition needed

As somebody from the physical sciences, I would say marketing is one of the least well defined areas of business. On the one hand, it is the most critical element as thinking about customers and what they want is crucial to success. But often you get very fluffy people talking about marketing in a way that makes no sense and it causes culture clashes within big businesses.

Analysts don’t ask lots of questions about advertising at results briefings because there’s almost no tangible information on it. Companies are cagey and it’s a shame. Every other department can quantify success or failure more easily. For example, if you’re in charge of stock, you just need to look at what’s on the shelves or if you’re in finance, then the accounts will tell the story. Marketing remains a bit of a mystery.

We will occasionally write about advertising and we covered the fact Lidl was spending more on TV and press than Tesco a few years back. But as an analyst my job is to analyse and project, and I have very little information from marketing to analyse or project on.

When I worked at Tesco, marketing was a very strong department and I grew to respect its role a lot. I was lucky to work under Terry Leahy, who was a marketer at heart and used Tesco Clubcard to ensure customer data was at the core of the business.

At Tesco every CEO saw marketing as critical but that didn’t stop some of them from failing in their approach.

Much like Dave Lewis now, [Terry] was a CEO who understood that the best advertising reflected the quality of the in-store experience to create an honest brand exchange. It’s the reason why they are probably the two greatest leaders Tesco has had.

Equally, however, I saw Tesco when it started to go into decline in the late 2000s, and up until 2012. One of the big reasons that happened was we had all this customer insight telling us we were doing the wrong things, yet the marketers were in denial.

Every week we had great internal reports on everything that customers had said, but that didn’t stop people like Philip Clarke prioritising price-drop ads that were failing. I guess the big mystery is what stops the marketing voice being heard at the right time?

Marketers must be heard

If a [retail] marketer wants their voice to be continually heard and wants to be a great CMO, then they should be on a first-name basis with the guys running the supply chain, merchandising, pricing and ranging. Marketing can only be effective if there’s good stuff on the shelves or customers see through it. A few years back when Morrisons was giving away vouchers for free food in The Sun, all it said to me was that people were not prepared to pay for it.

A good marketer should be well integrated throughout the business. They must go beyond the data and build real relationships with customers and staff. They should know people in every division of the business and, most importantly, want to get involved in decision-making within every operational department.

READ MORE: Tesco CMO on how the brand is ‘rebuilding from the inside out’

I was on the supply chain and a good marketer would engage with us on a weekly basis because, ultimately, we had control over product availability. I sometimes read that CEOs treat marketing less seriously than finance or other divisions but I never experienced that. At Tesco every CEO saw marketing as critical but that didn’t stop some of them from failing in their approach.

Actions speak louder than words

For me marketing at its essence is to promote a product. If you’re talking about brand values and the stores aren’t up to scratch, that’s a bad campaign. Right now Tesco is doing well again because the quality of its stores is improving so its campaigns can honestly reflect that. But with Aldi or Lidl, their food quality might be shining through on ads but the actual store experience still needs a lot of work. It isn’t always about big advertising messages, but more about actually doing what you’re saying.

READ MORE: Aldi insists customers are ‘not returning to the big four’ as it unveils ‘Everyday Amazing’ campaign

My time at Tesco is proof that you can have all the customer data in the world at your fingertips yet still completely drop the ball and get it wrong. The key is to pay attention to what the data is saying and then ensure that marketing is moulded to the customer. If you’re just looking at it and then doing something else, you will fail.

You need strong personalities in marketing. They need to be both creative and practical. If they don’t actively engage in every aspect of the business, they aren’t going to be successful, it’s as simple as that.



There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Jonathan Cahill 28 Jun 2017

    l couldn’t agree more. In fact there appear to be no clear definitions for marketing. There is some jumbled jargon, such as that of the American Marketing Association, but these are descriptions rather than definitions.

    In the current consideration of marketing the levels of complexity tend to obscure the fact that its base is competition. This needs to be recognised. In this light a proposed definition is: “marketing is the achievement of competitive advantage through meaningful differentiation in terms of product or perceptions and the full exploitation of this.”This might not be perfect but hopefully it would help open the debate.

    Interestingly when this was proposed to Advertising Age and Admap as , at the least, a stimulus to discussion the reaction was that this was too educational/academic. The logical consequence of this attitude is that they would prefer that when people talk about marketing they don’t know what they are talking about. This is because it is only with agreed definitions of words that we can have a firm basis for discussion – that’s why we have dictionaries.

    l have tried to address this and other anomalies more fully in my book “Making a Difference in Marketing” from Routledge.

  2. phil. 29 Jun 2017

    spot on, we don’t help ourselves at times, academic definitions don’t cut it in the real world, we must pitch our profession much clearer.

  3. Lorraine Bridges 3 Jul 2017

    There’s a similar problem with PR and indeed the differentiation/overlap between marketing and PR. The best definition of PR that I have come across is simply ‘perceptions management’. Clear, concise, accurate. Need something similar for marketing.

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