This week I was installed as the 39th Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketors. The Worshipful Company of Marketors (‘The Marketors’) is a City livery company that promotes marketing as a force for economic and public benefit by encouraging excellence in its education and practice. Promoting the view that marketing is a strategic function of the board, the Company advocates that marketing benefits everyone and promotes the profession through charity work, supporting start-ups and educational establishments, and its own mentoring, educational awards and bursary programmes.
The Marketors holds traditional values and delivers them in a modern context by offering guidance in the form of research leadership and promoting discussion and debate between members, other livery companies, the wider marketing profession, government and the City.
Ranked 90th in order of precedence of livery companies, The Marketors was established in 1975 and became a livery in 1977/8. Its membership is drawn from senior marketing professionals, marketing services experts and marketing academics and numbers over 370.
The Marketors is one of the most active liveries for social and business events, offering its members a wide variety of networking occasions and opportunities to give back to the community. The livery supports the City of London and its mayoralty, and was awarded a Royal Charter in 2010.
The Marketors do not own their own hall and are therefore peripatetic but we regard Stationers’ as our mother hall as that company has been very hospitable to us since our foundation and it is traditional to hold the Installation there.
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire, a tragedy but a step forward for the Stationers, whose previous hall was destroyed in the fire. They then built the present hall which is one of the loveliest in the City of London.
My theme for the year is ‘Marketing for Good is Good Marketing’. I want to inspire an increase in our philanthropic efforts, particularly our Outreach programme. I want to pay tribute to those companies who get it right in their programmes of conscious capitalism, purposefulness and sustainability. Above all, in this time of decreasing trust in business, I want to show that business is both a force for good and a source of profit.
To help me launch this theme I invited Sir Chris Powell, both a successful businessman and a force for good in the non-profit sector to deliver the guest speech. Here are some extracts:
“Happily there is a current mood in marketing to place more emphasis on the truth that marketing for good can be good marketing. I say can be rather than is as it does depend on the skill of the marketer and the appropriateness of the brand, it is not, I think, an invariable truth. Social and commercial good can be but may not always be the same thing.
I think, in part to overcome this limitation the emphasis is now more on purposefulness, of which sustainability is an example. Purposefulness, being about the very raison d’être of the brand is perhaps more thoroughly embedded in everything the brand does.”
“At the brand level purposefulness is not a universal panacea; rather it is a powerful addition to the marketing armoury in appropriate circumstances. It is too easy to oversell and that, I fear, can lead to disappointment and a short life for a good idea. If you try to make it fit all brands in all circumstances – shoehorning brands into values that don’t fit – then the outcome will reek of insincerity and won’t work. It will become a fad and fads don’t last.”
“I believe the real power in purposefulness is to be had at the company level more than its individual brands.
Because the power of the idea lies in its appeal to talent, it is the best recruitment and retention strategy for good people. Most good people would rather work for a company that had a real purpose than one just looking to turn a profit.”
“My old employer, the global advertising agency DDB had a mantra for its managers: that people come first, with good people you will produce good product and from that will come profit. In that order, not the other way round.”
“BMP, the Advertising Agency where I spent most of my working life had the belief that nothing, ever, was as important as producing the right work, work that would deliver for the brand. If that meant upsetting or even losing a client or a colleague or making a loss rather than a profit then so be it. As they say a principle is not a principle until it has cost you something.
Purposefulness at the corporate level won’t always be about performing some specific social or charitable good – but it will lead to companies doing what they are there to do in an honest, focused and decent manner. Their purpose will be whatever delivers the best for their customers and the wider world. There is no better guide than ‘doing the right thing’.
Marketers are the innovators, marketers are responsible for positioning, for how company and brand are portrayed to their public, but you can’t do this convincingly if what you are portraying is not what you would wish. Corporate purposefulness, therefore, it seems to me is going to be driven by you, not as some sort of gimmick but because it is true that doing the right thing is right in itself. Happily, it happens that behaving in the right way will bring reward. So I think purposefulness lies in your hands.”
And here are some extracts from my own response:
“The Immediate Past Master Andrew Marsden will be a hard act to follow. He has set a fine example providing inspirational leadership while always keeping an eye out to have fun, a rare combination.
But a Master should be a hard act to follow and I will do my best to be such. I may be the 39th Master but you should know I am here for good. Don’t worry, I don’t mean I intend to outstay my welcome, but rather every Master adopts a theme and as you know mine will be ‘Marketing for Good is Good Marketing’.
This has both an internal and an external significance. Internally I would like to see an increase in the philanthropic efforts of the Company, particularly Outreach. I would personally prefer to see 100 members of the Company give one day to Outreach rather than ten members give ten days each even if the volume output is the same. 2016 is a Leap Year. If you’re salaried you won’t be paid any more for the extra day so why not give it away to a charitable cause? I have already arranged a workshop on Leap Day 29th February in which a number of members who live near my home will join me in working with a local charity called Humanitas that does outstanding international humanitarian work ranging from orphanages in Rumania to healthcare in Ghana. Why don’t you do something similar?”
“Marketing for good is so much more than CSR, I’m sure Volkswagen had a fine CSR programme. The following comes from VW’s sustainability report April 2015: “A sustainable supply chain and environmentally compatible transportation solutions form an indispensable part of demonstrating comprehensive responsibility for human rights, as well as a commitment to the environment and to the battle against corruption.”
Since I first thought of this theme for my year as Master some two or three years ago I have become increasingly conscious of its relevance. It is like a zeitgeist. There have been more and more scandals with a consequent loss of trust in business. There have been more and more concerns expressed that a CSR programme is not the answer. The commitment to doing good has to come from the top and permeate the whole organisation. Chris is right that it is fundamentally a question of leadership, and for me marketing should provide the lead.
Research from Boston Consulting Group found that responsible-consumption products will account for 70% of the total grocery growth in the US and Europe in the next five years. Focusing on this trend may come at the expense of some short-term profit as spend is adjusted from shifting units now to changing brand messaging for a sustainable future. Those who are serious about this will not be afraid to make such decisions. Others will chicken out but run the bigger risk of losing the support of their customers.
We’ll address this theme through the speeches of our guest speakers and debates we plan to hold presided over by Liveryman the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP and later the Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP. In particular there’ll be a one-day conference in September on the theme at my alma mater, New College, Oxford at which Liveryman Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, will be the keynote corporate speaker. Unilever is certainly one company which has taken on the mantra of marketing for good as a central part of its strategy, and I say that as someone who learnt his marketing at Procter & Gamble where Unilever was a dirty word.
But don’t worry, we’re not just going to be a bunch of do-gooders during the year. We’ll also look to have a good time.”
And we will. Just look at the events programme, and members, get your bookings in early, the Installation Dinner was sold out! And judging by my mailbag, everyone had a good time!