I was reading an article about rock musician, Jack White, in last weekend’s newspaper, and a few comments he made resonated. The article was puffing his new solo album, so I usually take this sort of stuff with a giant dollop of salt, but he was talking largely about the record label he’s been running for the last five years.
Here are a few comments which might provoke a response:
“We have almost no consideration for profit, and I think that is why we are highly profitable.
“People have told me over the years, “You have such a mind for business and marketing.” That’s hilarious because I never even think about it. I’ve never chased after hits and I’ve never chased after people’s attention.
“Third Man Records (the record label) stands for a lot of things, and when you stand for things, people come to you.”
Now I accept that a lot of this is both disingenuous and promotionally self-serving: whether or not he chooses to admit it, The White Stripes is the embodiment of a strong brand-building exercise.
Nevertheless, it’s the use of that phrase, “stands for” that caught my eye, and the fact that he’s prepared to try things that polarise opinions. Not everyone will like or approve everything he does.
Laughable though The White Stripes’ claim to know nothing about marketing is, it reminded me – in the week that Tesco’s sales dipped for the third successive quarter – that if you try to stand for everything, you stand for nothing.
For years, Tesco has managed to get away with a strategy of trying to be all things to all men, but finally the realities of marketing seem to be catching up with them.
Personally I’ve never been a fan of the store and its mass-market proposition, but reflecting on the latest financials, I realised that my own consumer behaviour was a reflection of a greater trend.
I’m lucky enough (and middle class enough) to have a Waitrose locally where I do most of my food shopping, but the only other supermarket I’ve been in during the last year is Lidl – a fact reinforced by the scene of more than one Waitrose shopper carrying the extra-strong reusable Lidl bags for the purpose.
What does this mean, though, for you and me in our own businesses?
Just this: understanding who you don’t want to appeal to is just as important as who you do want to.
And marketing is not, as Peter Drucker points out, a process – a clever strap-line or piece of advertising – but the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view.
From signage to the way you handle enquiries and complaints, it all adds up to an overall consumer perception of you and your business. Once you manage to define and codify all those many and varied interactions with your customers and prospective customers, you’re on the way to being able to articulate what your true business purpose is.
Does anyone start with a clear purpose, out of which all sales and marketing actions evolve? I don’t think so. Generally people have a succession of ideas that slowly crystallise, sometimes over years of of success and failure, into a vision and purpose. But you do have to have some clear beliefs to get the whole show on the road.
And that will constitute some sort of vision.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org