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There are a set of five timeless marketing concepts that have, on occasion, been misinterpreted or ignored, but that used correctly are fundamental to successful marketing today. This was said by marketing professor Mark Ritson to Carat group strategy director Graham Deneys during the recording of a Carat podcast dubbed “The Evergreen Ritsonary”.
Strategy, not strategist
The first element is a concept Ritson says is perhaps one of the more neglected in marketing – the idea of strategy in contrast with strategists. Marketing consists of three steps: research and diagnosis, strategy, and tactics. In Ritson’s opinion the marketing world has become over-obsessed with tactics relating to communication, and anyone that deploys these tactics is calling themselves a strategist. In most companies there is an absence of clear marketing strategy. Rather than being obsessed with strategising over tactics, marketers need to refocus on genuine strategy.
To create a strategy properly, marketers need to unpack three questions before moving on to tactics: what is your targeting, what is your position on those targets, and what are your objectives? While strategy without tactics won’t get you very far, tactics without strategy will get you nowhere.
A frequently underrated marketing concept is deciding what not to do and which tactics simply don’t suit the strategy. TikTok or Clubhouse might sound like an exciting new platform, for example, but does it complement and enhance the strategy?
Being “choiceful” is possibly one of the hardest concepts to implement in today’s world, says Ritson. Good strategies are the ones that can identify the things we don’t need to do, because they don’t suit the targeting, positioning and objectives or don’t make sense for them. The hallmarks of good strategic executions are strategies made through a clear choice: they have the right segments for targeting and have three words for positioning (rather than 300) and four for objectives (rather than 40).
First made popular by advertising executive Martin Sorrell, media neutrality means no single communication medium is superior to another; it depends entirely on the strategy that is followed. Therefore, it is fundamental that strategy precedes tactics. Media neutrality reminds us that, depending on objectives, sometimes a channel is not the right choice and sometimes it is the perfect choice. You cannot, and should not, ever have a bias.
Ritson says another reason he loves media neutrality comes from an understanding of media effectiveness. There is no best tactic, because a diversity of communication channels in the same campaign always outperforms a campaign with one channel. We should be wary of every media channel before it has proved its effectiveness in its performance and at different stages of the consumer journey.
The fourth concept in the Ritsonary is a term coined by Ritson himself – “bothism”.
This is the idea that in marketing, the answer is very rarely A or B; rather, it is A plus B. This concept fits well with the idea of media neutrality: you need to consider a diverse range of channels to achieve different objectives. This idea of “bothism” is really the answer to years-long debates across the industry of traditional vs digital and targeting vs mass marketing.
The last element in the Ritsonary is gross profit. This term is key to marketing, because marketing is perhaps the unit in the company that can pull the lever of profitability the most. A watch-out Ritson mentions, however, is not to get this term confused with revenue – the term more often used these days. Revenue is often diametrically opposed to gross profit. For example, dropping your sales price will increase your revenue but decrease your profit. Revenue has become a metric that marketers often hide behind.
Ritson explains that, in his opinion, the number one driver of profitability is differentiation, which comes from brand equity – something marketers are not tuned into enough.
“The Evergreen Ritsonary”
The discussion between Ritson and Deneys provides a clear understanding of the timeless elements of marketing as well as the contemporary narrative that should be overlaid. This system is not unique – we have had it for 50 to 60 years – but marketers have somehow drifted away from it. Industry personality Tom Roach calls this marketing myopia. Once this systematic approach is embraced, marketing becomes a lot simpler and more straight-forward.
*Megan Sayle is senior strategist at Carat
Listen in full to Ritson and Deneys discussing the concepts of “The Evergreen Ritsonary” here.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.