Be more ‘market-oriented’ in 2017

I decided to go to the UK Marketing Academy’s Inspire Lecture last month in search of inspiration for 2017. The pugnacious Professor of Marketing and sharp-tongued Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson gave us his top 10 marketing moments of 2016 and did not disappoint. In amongst the cynical side-swipes and diatribes on poor marketing decisions were some great points and inspiration for the new year ahead. The one that I want to focus on was no.10 on his list: what to learn from our collective failure as marketers to forecast Brexit and also the election of Donald Trump.

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Market Dis-orientation

Prof Ritson called out our collective lack of market orientation – the subject of the first lecture on his MBA Marketing course. This leads to decision making based on our own views and not those of our target. Mark’s point was that this was the error we all made in predicting both the Brexit and Trump results.

The average UK marketer, he stated, is ‘Debbie’, a 28 yr old female with a degree. Someone who, unsurprisingly, doesn’t quite ‘get’ the dis-enfranchised frustrations of 50+ white men who led the way in both the ‘surprise’ votes (see below for Brexit voting by age). The same issue, Mark went on, applied to the US Presidential elections. In fact, a recent article in The Times made the point that the core Trump voter thought  very differently about who should be trusted to run their country. An older, white, male billionaire with little or no political experience was far more trusted than the legion of smug, over-qualified lawyers and politicos that would have formed Clinton’s top team.

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Be more market oriented

To be market oriented, we need the ability to to wipe our minds clean of our preconceptions, personal bias and even our basic frame of reference. We should be properly naive when we approach a new category or market, or even our own familiar category, at the start of the brand planning process. If we had been correctly oriented to the market we would have see the Brexit result coming, clear as day. We needed to change our basic viewpoint and see the world less like Debbie, and more as a 50-something train driver from the North of England called Bob. We need to respect and like the consumers we are selling to, and not look down on them, as we posted on here.

In conclusion, I took Mark’s lecture as a welcome kick in the conscience to get my market orientation right at the start of each engagement. Marketing 101 it may be, but it seems so many of us are over-looking this first vital rung of the brand strategy ladder.

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