Marketing goes in search of the soul

IT MAY not be causing many sleepless nights in corporate Britain, but the advertising and marketing industries are in something of a crisis.

Much of this is to do with a reduction in big companies' adherence to traditional advertising; direct mail, sales promotion and leafleting are all doing better instead. But it is also connected with the public's disenchantment with a lot of marketing.

In the words of Paul Southgate, of Wickens Tutt Southgate, the marketing services company, "Consumers know the game these days."

Just as they have been "ad-literate" for years, so they are now "truly marketing-literate", and, because they are able to decode what is going on, they are often dismissive. Even when they admire a marketing campaign, they do not necessarily convert that into admiration for the brand.

Mr Southgate and his colleagues believe this dualism is occurring because too much conventional marketing activity is separate from the brand. Instead of being rooted in what marketing folk like to think of as "the unique essence of the brand", too much of it is "bolt-on marketing" that is seen for what it often is, superficial.

They feel this explains why marketing based on consumer research can be particularly prone to failure: the public takes the view that the company is just pandering to it in its search for sales and does not really mean it. In today's parlance, consumers are not sure that such companies are "for real".

Since the marketing business is fond of giving brands personalities, this means that the consumer-led company is seen in the same light as the person who will do anything to please, while those that win trust are likely to be seen as those with integrity. The former group includes any number of products that are given a big push and disappear just as they have made a dent on the collective consciousness. The latter group is more select, including the likes of Marks and Spencer, which over the years has created a reputation for decency and value, and Virgin, which basks in the cuddly, committed underdog image of its founder, Richard Branson.

In an attempt to find out what puts a brand in the latter, heroic group, Wickens Tutt Southgate claims to have carried out extensive research in a variety of disciplines and come up with the idea of "brand soul". Combining as it does, actions, values and passions, it is seen as the basis for "new marketing".

Although the company is backing up this finding with talk of "transactional analysis and voices", it boils down to an idea that, when you think of it, is obvious: brands will appear more real if rooted in reality. In other words, if they do as the management gurus say and "walk the talk".

The link with management is not accidental. If Wickens Tutt Southgate is right, basing marketing on reputation will require the successful modern marketer to become much more closely involved with the client. Mr Southgate even suggests that there is a case for marketing people and human resources specialists to work together to build something that is more than just image.

On the other hand, they will not be able to project an image of integrity if substantial numbers of people know the company does not live up to such ideals. Similarly, if the public accepts this closer link, it must be realised that a misjudged campaign can undo in moments what has taken years to build.

So, yes, Mr Southgate and his team may have found a way of making themselves more effective, but they have most definitely not eliminated the risks. If anything, the stakes could be even higher.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own