Are marketers keeping pace with changing consumer preferences? The Marketing Society Forum

A report from Fujitsu has questioned Britain's ability to adapt and remain competitive.

YES - Mark Trinder, Sales director, commercial and online, ITV

Marketing departments are now more fleet of foot and flexible than they have ever been. The brands that do not adapt quickly enough simply do not survive.

Lifestyle, technology and economic considerations have had a big impact on consumer preferences. However, there are many examples of successful adaptations or entrants. Look at the discount airline operators (easyJet, Ryanair), financial services (Metro Bank, Barclays' Ping, Wonga) - the list goes on.

Established and major brands protect themselves via NPD, brand extensions and discount ranges to ensure they take their share of changing consumer needs. But, not everything needs to be new: timing is vital - Wispa is back.

NO - Louise Fowler, Business leader, brand and marketing, Co-operative Banking Group

We are prone to making the mistake of thinking we can predict what's going to happen, rather than finding a way to respond quickly when things do. Research doesn't help.

Consumers can't tell you what they're going to want before they know they want it.

Some brilliant (or lucky) marketers can spot trends very early, but mostly businesses need to be nimble and able to move as the market does.

This means insightful attitudinal segmentation, behaving like consumers yourself, and watching and listening. Technology not only enables, but also holds us back as it can be slow and expensive.

The answer is in people, not systems.

MAYBE - Stephen Woodford, Chairman, Adam & Eve/DDB

Entrenched views, cumbersome corporate structures and risk-averse practitioners all contribute to marketing departments' sluggishness in responding to fast-changing preferences. This is equally true for some agencies. Clinging to the same approach is a recipe for failure.

Consumers are not just target media any more, they are the media - in mobile, social and so on. They are a huge part of the marketing mix and marketers need to adjust their thinking and pace to keep up.

Marketers need a corporate culture that builds the confidence, flexibility and common sense to act and change course when necessary.

NO - Fiona McAnena, Partner, Clearhound

There are marketers who just do marketing communications to promote their company's products. That is a problem. If the marketers have retreated - or been pushed back - into operating in a limited space where they don't challenge other functions with news from the world of customers, this can mean no one in the organisation is keeping abreast of changing customer needs and helping to develop and evolve its products and services in response.


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