ANALYSIS: Better times in the making’

Jeremy Bullmore spoke at the pre-conference dinner for the Marketing Society’s annual conference entitled ‘Marketing - the Future’. The following is an edited excerpt of his speech

Jeremy Bullmore spoke at the pre-conference dinner for the Marketing

Society’s annual conference entitled ‘Marketing - the Future’. The

following is an edited excerpt of his speech

If you ask a lot of bright young graduates what they want to do with

their lives, quite a lot of them these days say they want to go into

marketing. Very gratifying - until you come to think about it: thousands

of very bright graduates out there, all wanting to do your jobs.

Then you ask them what exactly they’d like to market. And they look

confused. They just want to go into marketing; to market anything:

personal pensions, potato chips or charities. Because they’ve read that

marketing is now a discrete and recognised skill in its own right.

And have you noticed those little items in the trade press - barely

re-written press releases, most of them: ‘Anglo-Galvanized announce the

appointment of Clive Thrust as Marketing Manager, Aggregates. He has

previously held similar positions with Scottish Windows, Pedigree

Petfoods, Rentokil and the Bristol Zoo.’

Is there no limit to Clive’s abilities? Now compare that fictional press

release with another.

‘Anglo-Galvanized announce the appointment of Geoffrey Turner as

Production Director, Aggregates. He has previously held similar

positions with Haagen Dazs, Vodafone, Mothercare and Royal Bank of


You wouldn’t believe it about Geoff, would you? But you would about

Clive. Production needs expert knowledge of the specific product.

Marketing - apparently - doesn’t.

It made a lot of sense, all those years ago, when marketing began to

emerge as an identified skill: and it was also good news when people

said that proper marketing was not just a skill but a management process

that should be the focal point for a company’s total activity.

But then I think something else began to happen. Marketing is supposed

to begin, metaphorically speaking, inside the factory and extend all the

way to the final user. But as marketing began to be more of a job than a

process, its starting point began to move, very, very slowly from inside

the factory to outside the factory gates.

As the discrete skill has become more and more free-standing, more and

more portable - so, unsurprisingly, it’s become increasingly detached

from design and production.

As marketing persons go from pizzas to pension-schemes to OTC medicines,

they’ve neither the time nor the inclination to learn much about the

creation and manufacture of any of those items. They simply apply their

all-purpose skills to selling more of what already exists.

All the best books on marketing tell us this shouldn’t be the case; that

proper marketing starts with the wants and needs of the consuming

public; that long before promotion begins, product design should match

identified market.

And while Colin Thrust goes from job to job and becomes the role-model

for thousands of ambitious graduates - who is it that gets increasingly


The inventor, that’s who. The designer, the engineer, the chemist, the

brewer, the boffin. The people obsessed by the product; who willingly

accept that the sizzle’s important, but who get their kicks trying to

make an ever better steak.

Car companies used to be run by people who loved cars. They knew how to

make cars themselves and were always trying to make them better. Retail

companies used to be run by people who loved shops, and a hundred and

something years ago, George Safford Parker was nutty about fountain

pens. As businesses got bigger and more complex, these obsessive,

impractical, product-driven enthusiasts couldn’t cope. They had to be

helped by money-men and lawyers and marketing persons and advertisement


From that moment, the status of the maker in this country has been in

decline. And the rise and rise of marketing persons, through no fault of

their own, has done nothing to help.

The marketing leg is over-used and grows stronger. And, as is the way

with these things, the invention and production leg withers through lack

of exercise.

I’ve always been intrigued by gift shops, which exist to sell things to

put into parcels - nobody much minds what. I would hate to see marketing

going any further in that direction, but I fear it might.

All highways lead towards tempting horizons. Few end up in Shangri-La. I

see no reason to believe that the information super-highway is going to

be any different. As the means of communication available to us become

ever more distracting and fascinating, rightly and irresistibly so,

there’s a very real risk we’ll think even more about the how and even

less about the what; that the sizzle will continue to be valued more

than the steak; that the parcel will become even more important than the

object inside.

It might even be, I think, that the erosion of our manufacturing sector,

and the rise and rise of our service sector, is in part connected with

the de-coupling of making things from marketing things.


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