Which marketing company do you most admire and why?
Ritson: P&G. It was so far ahead of everyone else in creating brand management at its company in the pre-war years and with Marc Pritchard that spirit of being in the vanguard of stewarding best practice in marketing is continuing.
Sharp: I meet many impressive marketers in impressive companies. These companies have much to be proud of, as the modern market economy is just amazing. For example, step into a Whole Foods Market and the choices available are astonishing; it’s a wonderland.
That said, I hate this sort of question. I’m not going to put any one company on a pedestal. I don’t want to make the mistake of all those rubbish books that identify ‘excellent companies’ and the one secret to their success. Instead, I strongly recommend reading the book ‘The Halo Effect…and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers’ by Professor Phil Rosenzweig.
By the way, all companies are marketing companies. The only reason companies exist is because they have customers.
What is the single most impressive marketing achievement you have seen first-hand?
Ritson: Easy – keeping Louis Vuitton at the pinnacle of luxury for the past quarter-century. There are certainly more boutique, uber-luxe brands out there but to be so big, so successful and so prestigious for so long is an astonishing achievement. Everyone and their dad has predicted Louis Vuitton is over-exposed but its sales and attraction continue.
Sharp: Maintaining a brand over decades. Often these are only minor incremental improvements, not seismic shifts. We don’t give anywhere near enough credit to those who inherited great brands and kept them great. Also, taking a local brand and making it global. These are truly impressive feats.
Who is your marketing hero?
Ritson: Tim Ambler [academic and former marketing director of International Distillers and Vintners]. He is a great marketer. A great writer. A great academic (sort of). And amazing company after 6pm.
Sharp: I thank Phil Kotler for getting me interested in marketing. I know that sounds strange because I criticise the Kotlerian view of marketing for being incompatible with research, but credit where credit is due – Kotler only set out to write a textbook, describing what marketing departments do and providing some useful checklists. And he successfully conveyed the enormity and importance of the marketing challenge, doing so in an appealing and aspirational way.
What are the biggest challenges marketers face?
Ritson: The biggest one is ‘tactification’. We are obsessed with execution and specifically communication. Too many marketers are not just strategically negligent, they don’t know the difference between tactical execution and strategic planning.
Sharp: Comparing the many options they have to spend their marketing budget and working out if their efforts are improving the long-term prospects of their brand. Marketing mix modelling, ROI, brand equity metrics: all these things have failed to answer this question.
What is the most important attribute a great marketer must have?
Ritson: To listen. Before you can come up with a successful marketing strategy you need to work out, from the consumer, what is going on. That means the ability to listen; both to qualitative and quantitative data, and to those around you.
Too many marketers are not just strategically negligent, they don’t know the difference between tactical execution and strategic planning.
Sharp: Two attributes:…