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Real Marketing vs. Fake Marketing

One newspaper, two different messages. No news there though.

On the one hand, we read a column with the media pundits crying that it’s no time to abandon your brand; consumers are consuming more media than ever; engage your customers… So, we end-up with advice like this:

“But we know that Australians are spending in retail, grocery, pharmacies and online as such FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), pharmacy, local/state and federal government, health advice and online retail should be very active in media spend now,” said Mr O’Brien, chairman of Atomic 212, Australia’s biggest independent media agency.

This won’t make much sense to the well trained, commercial marketer. They don’t need to be active when consumers are facing limited availability in channels; high demand; pressure from the retail duopoly (= low margins); and constrained manufacturing and distribution. It’s just further evidence of how out of touch most on the Agency side are with marketing as a profession. That’s not saying they aren’t awesome at their element of the communications discipline.

And I keep hearing the same old, same old being pedalled:

“History shows companies that keep investing in their brand in down times cannot only build market share but are also best positioned to come back fast when better times return.”

Really? I’d love to see the evidence of this for the majority of brands in the market and not the minority with the balance sheets to pull it off. Yes, consistent investment in Brand matters. But not at the expense of the balance sheet and not with the same message pre-crisis.

Moreover, there are plenty of examples of companies navigating out of a crisis specific to them. BP, Ford, Exxon come to mind. It’s a different territory managing a crisis of such scale and profound impact as Covid-19. This will result in massive change. Not a return to a new normal such as that we saw post GFC.

On the other, a column, written by my favourite marketing opinionator – Mark Ritson – pointing out rightly that communications are just a fragment of what marketing is, and that marketing needs to get back to its core functions in a time of crisis. Actually, all the time. Nail pricing. Refine product and propositions. Rethink packaging. Drive to new channels.

Mark is right. The media pundits are wrong in absolute terms, but right if that fits with your strategy.

“In reality, brands should be occupied with a bigger mission: selling stuff. The pandemic is a massive societal threat.”

The example of Uber Eats developing new propositions and rethinking how it engages with local restaurants is spot on the money. So much better than running platitudes about being here to help. The real work for Marketers right now is the real work around the other Ps.

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