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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum