SPEED BRANDING: Brands need faster, smarter marketing to keep up with an accelerated business world

When the Marketing Society kicks off its annual conference today, delegates will be debating how they can keep pace with the constantly changing business landscape.

It may sound gimmicky, but accelerated marketing is a hot issue. Shareholders demanding faster returns, shorter product life cycles, the pressure for products and marketing to stand out and the effect of new technology on consumer behaviour all require marketing to make quicker, bigger hits.

New products can't afford the luxury of a 'slow burn' in the marketplace, and multinationals can't linger over rolling out successful products across the world. All these projects have to happen fast, and that places demands and stresses on the marketing function.

According to a survey of Marketing Society members, marketers face a difficult future. For example, 74% of the 300 respondents said the speed of change in business had made it harder to deliver, and nearly half said marketing's status had declined since 1998.

The survey also considered which marketing tools were best suited to cutting through in this accelerated business climate. The vast majority, 90%, said advertising's influence on the consumer had decreased in the past five years and 90% believed it would continue to fall in the next five. But over the same period, they believed that PR, e-mail marketing, guerrilla marketing, sponsorship, direct mail and events would all become more important than advertising.

Hugh Burkitt, chief executive of the Marketing Society, says: "The lesson for agencies is clear: clients want new and creative ways of using media."

Marketing Society members were also asked to name the most accelerated brands over the past five years. Despite what the survey suggests, advertising still played a prominent role in building the fame of brands that appear on the list, such as 118 118, Skoda and Tesco.com. But the list is also notable for how many quick successes were scored through PR, direct marketing and, in the case of Google and Friends Reunited, word of mouth.

Given their lukewarm view of advertising, it's interesting that the survey respondents reserved most admiration for 118 118, which owes its success primarily to the single creative idea of the 70s-style runners, devised by WCRS. While the campaign is superbly integrated, with oodles of PR and field marketing, it would be nothing without its hirsute heroes.

Will Collin, partner at Naked, which worked on the launch strategy, says: "The advertising created the fame and the rest was achieved by making that come alive on the street. The reason it has been so successful is that we created a cultural phenomenon.

"Marketing is accelerating because cultural and social trends are propagated so quickly," he adds. "Catching hold of these trends is like getting an express elevator in a skyscraper. Miss it and other brands shoot past you."

One brand launch strangely absent from the Marketing Society top ten is Freeview, which, with two million customers in its first year, has the accolade of being the consumer electronic product with the fastest-ever adoption by UK households.

BBC marketing director Andy Duncan - who oversaw a hair-raising period from April 2002, when ITV Digital collapsed, to the Freeview launch six months later - knows a thing or two about speed branding.

"There's a major challenge now in moving quickly in marketing," he says. "From the BBC's point of view, the other big points are the speed of technological change and the constantly changing habits of consumers. Marketing has to be done much faster now."

What of the conclusion drawn from the Society's survey that advertising is a blunt tool? Although Duncan says the Freeview launch featured a lot of PR and heavy in-store promotion, he believes traditional advertising played an important role, because Freeview was incorporated into an above-the-line campaign for BBC digital services.

"I'm not one of those who says traditional advertising is dead. It can be incredibly powerful," says Duncan. "However, much depends on what you're marketing. As Freeview is a mass-market proposition, it can reach its audience via traditional media. However, for something like our urban black radio brand, 1Xtra, guerrilla marketing and word of mouth are more appropriate."

Indeed, for all the perceived trendiness of guerrilla tactics, roadshows and ambient media, if you have a big brand that you want to make famous quickly, an ad break in the middle of Coronation Street takes some beating.

Jim Hytner, commercial and marketing director of ITV, says: "You can hang up pennants in urinals, but you'll only be seen by 20 people a night. If you go for the less glamorous option of advertising in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, you'll be seen by 11 million. If you're a serious company wanting to get your message in front of as many people as possible, as fast as possible, you can't beat TV."

1. 118 118 - Most favoured marketing tools - Advertising/PR

The dull world of directory enquiries begat one of the country's most talked-about brands through a cleverly integrated and fast-tracked launch campaign. Its success is undoubtedly thanks to advertising, with the moustached, tight-shorted runners, created by WCRS, becoming national icons. PR and street-level marketing leveraged this fame. Media agency Naked and PR firm Brazil flooded UK city centres with hundreds of runner lookalikes and even put 118 118 shirts on sale in Cancer Research charity shops. The PR work also saw the runners dotting the crowd at Wimbledon and making guest appearances on BBC Two's They Think It's All Over and C4's The Salon.

2. GOOGLE - Most favoured marketing tool - Word of mouth

Founded in a Californian garage in 1998, Google has become the undisputed king of the search engines, used for more than 200 million searches a day. It also makes stacks of money, with profits of $200m (£120m) this year. Like Friends Reunited, Google grew famous without spending a penny on advertising, building its massive user base through word of mouth. Its superior search methodologies made it the engine of choice for web geeks and, inevitably, the news spread quickly. The company still enjoys huge goodwill, although many fear its character will change if it succeeds in its bid to mount a $15bn (£9bn) public float - or, even worse, if Microsoft buys it.

3. MINI - Most favoured marketing tools - PR/advertising

Launched in autumn 2001, BMW's new Mini quickly established itself as a modern classic, attracting a waiting list after just four months. Although WCRS's £10m 'Mini Adventures' launch campaign was influential in raising awareness and building the brand's quirky-cool British credentials, PR has arguably played a more influential role, fuelling huge anticipation and helping the launch attract acres of editorial. Guerrilla and field marketing also featured, including the entry of a leather-clad 'Fetish' Mini in the 2001 London Mardi Gras festival and a national roadshow. The car's starring role in the remake of The Italian Job was more PR heaven.

4. POP IDOL - Most favoured marketing tools - Brand partnerships/music

According to 19 Management, the company that owns the Pop Idol format, the brand now generates global sales of more than $1bn (£590m). This raft of commercial spin-offs includes CD sales (more than 30 million so far), sponsorship deals, live tours and merchandising. All this began with the stunning success of the first series on ITV. A lot of credit must go to ITV for its high-profile ad campaign and on-air plugging. However, it was 19 Management's global format sales, music publishing and brand alliances with companies such as Coca-Cola, Vodafone and Nestle that have made it a commercial powerhouse.

5. FRIENDS REUNITED - Most favoured marketing tools - Word of mouth/PR

The success of the web site launched by Steve and Julie Pankhurst in October 2000 could not have been planned or predicted. It caught the zeitgeist, appealing to users' desire to recapture lost youth. Unlike the hundreds of doomed dotcoms that threw money away on advertising, Friends Reunited didn't spend a penny, using word of mouth alone. Six months in, PR began to play a big role, with the appointment of Beatwax Communications. Beatwax filled the media with human-interest stories and helped grow registrations from 30,000 in March 2001 to 10 million now. Beatwax won Campaign of the Year at the 2002 PR Week Awards.

6. TESCO.COM - Most favoured marketing tools - Direct marketing/advertising

Tesco.com has emerged as the clear leader in the UK's grocery home delivery sector. With more than 65% of the market, the five-year-old business now boasts profits of nearly £2m. Other e-tailers often wonder how Tesco does it - and, to be fair, much of its success is based on logistics rather than marketing alone. However, Tesco's marketers have played a smart game, using the Prunella Scales character in Lowe's TV ads to demystify internet shopping. These have been seamlessly integrated with direct activity through dunnhumby and EHS Brann, mining Tesco's massive customer database to encourage shoppers online.

7. INNOCENT - Most favoured marketing tools - Packaging/sampling/events

The three founders of Innocent famously set up a stall at a jazz festival in 1998, where they served smoothies under the sign 'Should we give up our day jobs to do this?' The overwhelming 'yes' vote got the business rolling and demonstrated the founders' flair for direct and unconventional communication. With no money to spend, Innocent sought every bit of marketing mileage it could. The firm says its labels are its chief ad medium, with 200 quirky executions a year. Sampling was also crucial, with the team touring City trading floors dressed as vicars and nuns. Recently, the company ran a 'Fruitstock' festival in Regents Park.

8. CLARKS - Most favoured marketing tools - PR/advertising/direct marketing

It's still hard to believe that shoe manufacturer Clarks is cool, but the brand has undergone a radical transformation. Light-hearted but stylish ads by St Luke's, notably 'New Shoes' and 'Act Your Shoe Size', have changed public perception. PR firm Stephanie Churchill (which no longer holds the account) did some sterling work, encouraging fashion editors and style-leaders to 'rediscover' Clarks and endow it with retro-cool. Clarks has also made use of direct marketing, using birth lists to target mothers with a 'First Shoes' mailer. Not only does this sell kids' shoes, it also gets mums and dads into the brand's stores.

9. GLAMOUR - Most favoured marketing tools - POP/sampling/advertising

When Conde Nast launched its rival to Cosmopolitan in 2001, it was the magazine's A5 'handbag size' that set it apart. Conde Nast leveraged this by getting the mag into the hands of glamorous women. It worked closely with retailers to ensure the magazine was prominently displayed in bespoke units, and sampled 100,000 copies via railway stations and a promotion with the Daily Mail. It wasn't all street-level stuff. It also ploughed £5m into an advertising campaign through J Walter Thompson, with TV ads and giant poster sites in various cities. It took Glamour just four months to become the UK's bestselling women's glossy.

10. SKODA - Most favoured marketing tools - Advertising/PR

In February 2000, the Daily Mirror snorted: "It's slightly less embarrassing to be seen getting out of the back of a sheep than the back of a Skoda." Less than two years later, the same paper declared: "It's the biggest comeback since Bobby Ewing. Skoda is hip and sexy." Fallon's self-deprecating advertising was the initial driver of the turnaround, showing people struggling to believe the cars were Skodas. PR also played a huge part, as Sputnik Communications set about targeting opinion-forming journalists to 'flip' ingrained attitudes and create positive coverage. Sales increased by 34% in 2000 and the company encountered a new phenomenon - a waiting list.


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