Marketing Focus – Issues & Insights

Greetings from Edinburgh, Scotland.
Throughout Britain, Brexit remains a much discussed but unresolved issue.
The journey to the ultimate conclusion will be long, complex, somewhat convoluted and subject to considerable negotiations.
There will be costs incurred as a consequence of the referendum.
At this time many of those are difficult to identify, quantify and schedule.
Accordingly, the fall-out has been largely indirect and widespread.
Astute planning and accurate forecasting by and for business are not possible, given the lack of comprehensive facts.
Informed decision-making is at this time an aspirational goal, which is awaiting a lead from government.
Theresa May, the newly installed British Prime Minister was astute to appoint Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
Clearly, the implied message is that he drove the “Brexit” campaign, it’s now his responsibility to negotiate for, and manage its implementation.
This issue for Britain and its people centres on sovereignty – the control of one’s destiny, independence and borders.
There is an implied and relevant message, and possibility a lesson for all business entities throughout Britain, Australia and the globe.
At this time, give attention and allocate resources to recognising, respecting and protecting your own sovereignty…. dependence is and will remain an inhibiting factor in a challenging economy and marketplace.

Barry Urquhart


A deafening silence was evident during the recent Australian Federal election. In the main, business groups and entities were largely mute.
Consequently, for eight key weeks, the political parties, and to a lesser extent, some unions, were left to influence, if not determine, the narrative for eight key weeks.“Political correctness” appears to have impinged on many aspects of Australian public, social and commercial lives. Interest groups have been largely side-lined, much to the detriment of the interests of member-entities.Lobbying should not, and must not be contained to the corridors of power between elections. Submissions to incumbent governments are one thing. Contributing to the actual composition of parliaments and ministries, together with policy formulations and priorities are the very essence of the fibre of our democratic society.Representative governance requires assertive and authoritative representatives, who unapologetically are forthright and articulate in detailing the interests of their membership. For many association, institute and federation members that equates to value, and justifies payment of annual fees.For those entities that are under pressure because of contracting membership and demands for lower fees, it may well be advisable to reflect on the value and the effectiveness of public statements and stances, which complement the influence exerted behind closed doors, to small audiences.I think the word and, the concept is: MANDATE. You need to establish, one by your actions.


Understandable, but misguided.

Sympathy and empathy being shared with, and among those business owners and managers who despair because their “advertising is not working” are laudable. They are also, in many instances, misplaced.

Worth of advertising cannot, and should not be solely measured and monitored on revenue and increments in sales. Relationships between increased advertising expenditure and activity, and static or falling sales may be casual rather than causal.

The appropriate and actual role of advertising content is to advertise. Seldom is it, in isolation, to achieve and conclude sales. That is the role of the sales function and sales functionaries. They have key complementary and supportive roles to advertising.

So too do the initiatives centred on public relations, promotions, merchandising and service.


It seems incomprehensible that, in periods of declining demand, increased competition and slowing sales, that some managers will simultaneously decrease advertising, while reducing staff numbers, inventory, promotional, public relations, merchandising and service activities, with the objective of generating more sales, revenue and profit.

Little wonder, that some advertising professionals feel exposed, vulnerable, isolated, misunderstood and inappropriately utilised.

The marketing discipline has 20 components, of which advertising is just one. Inter-changeability in the use of the words and disciplines of advertising, sales, promotions, merchandising, public relations and service is common but fundamentally flawed. They should be complementary, integrated and interactive.

Only then can opportunities, sales, revenue margin and profits be optimised.

Further impact, resonance and relevance can be achieved with the recognition, respect and application of a natural sequential flow between those different dimensions.

I feel (sorry, sympathetic and empathetic) for those who do not understand the nature of advertising, rather than for those enduring poor sales, revenue and profit. The latter measures are often a consequence of the poor use of the former (advertising).


Small businesses are on the move.

Not up, and not necessarily bigger.

The momentum and directions are not uniform. Indeed, in many instances they are in conflict, and are contradictory.

The mere segmentation label, small business, is confusing and inappropriate.

The self- interest, needs, aspirations and philosophies of the owners of 2.1 million small Australian entities are largely misunderstood, over-serviced and not supported by governments, regulatory authorities and by many sectoral associations. It is not possible to segment 2.1 million entities into a single grouping.

Based on a full-time professional consulting career which extends over 36 years, I can accept that each small business owner believes, arguably correctly, that their circumstances, goals and philosophies are unique and different.

Significantly, less than one in ten small business owners seek to grow their operations, elevating them into the category of a medium sized business, and even less onto being big.

In many instances, growth is focused on, and limited to turnover, profits and quality-of-life reflected in, and determined by life-balances.


Persons who claim the status and presence of public representatives for small businesses lack justification and substantiation.

For small businesses there is no singly hymn or prayer-book. There are many perspectives, paradigms, frameworks and goals that need to be recognised, respected and articulated. It seems impossible for one to speak for all.

Experienced and astute politicians have long-known that it is difficult to marshall the forces of “the small business sector” to achieve a common outcome, including the election of a specific political party to occupy and control parliamentary Treasury benches.

Conversely, there is a capacity – and a record – for small businesses to come together to remove governments and to block legislative initiatives. They are the manifestations of a large collection of individual, independent entities which are in constant competition and tension for the interest, custom and patronage of key spheres-of-influence (read: government, ministers and consumers).


Let me be emphatic. There is no such entity or individual who or which can reasonably lay claim to being a small business specialist.

A specialist for a specific sector under the umbrella classification, small business, is a different proposition.

Be careful of shallow, hollow siren calls and above all, recognise, respect and be sensitive to the differing natures, needs and assertions of each small business.


Fashion changes rapidly, particularly women’s wear. Petticoats (slips) have long lapsed into history. Not so in business.

Customer service, client satisfaction, referrals and recommendations are always fashionable. Disturbingly, there have been widespread and significant slips in standards, practices and consistency.
The consequences of losses in sales, loyalty and profitability are pronounced.

No-one is immune to the fallout. Small businesses have been found to consistently fall short in service delivery.

Two key contributing factors to dissatisfaction among existing and prospective customers are the lack of initial accessibility, and failed responsiveness to enquiries.
Put simply, relationships and positive interactions just don’t happen because of a lack of performance among business owners, managers and staff members.

Foremost among the poor service perpetrators are electricians, plumbers, handymen, reticulation providers and house painters.

Small to medium -sized practices in the service sector, including accountants, bookkeepers and lawyers, are common offenders.

Deficiencies are apparent across the communication channels – phones, emails and social media. Often the lack of responsiveness is mind-numbing. Forsaken opportunities, revenue and prospective long-term loyal customers represent an inestimable quantum measure of cost.

In a period when the attrition rate of customers and clients is increasing, often up to 40% per annum, this reality is lamentable.

Consumer expectations are high and progressive, but inadequate customer experiences are increasing in frequency and intensity. Consumer expectations are high and progressive.

The ‘slip’ between expectations and delivery is typically a relative measure. Enhancements in service delivery that do not match or exceed the trend-line in expectations foster disappointment, frustration, annoyance and a loss of revenue.

Rationalisations and justification for the lessening of standards and consistency based on the prevailing economic and commercial market-place are hollow.

Consumers are unforgiving. “Good old customer service” is well -intentioned, but redundant and retrospective.

The future will be owned and controlled by those who are driven to create, innovate, project and deliver a compelling positive customer experience, one in which no slips are showing.


Careful. You may be in threat of losing all or most of what you have nurtured and cherished over an extended period of time.  The current trend for enthusiastic and gleeful pursuit of all things digital can, and often does lead to neglect of established philosophies, relationships, processes and consumer expectations, typically centred on personal advantages, benefits and rewards.

Digital. Disruptive. Experience. Each is a fashionable, sexy topic among loads of dedicated emotional followers, advocates and preachers of change and innovation. The focus is tight, with an orientation to the future.


Digital can accelerate productivity, lower costs and trim infrastructure – including personnel.  A new, refreshing and different profile can be projected.

Intentionally or not, businesses, brands, services and applications are being repositioned, in many instances distanced from their own previous incarnations – which were the real, recognised and valued qualities which were the magnets that initially attracted interest, enquire, demand, revenue and loyalty.

Evolving voids (between the analogue and digital realities) are impacting on the measures of relevance for entities and what they have often offered and delivered.

Rapid transitions to digital can, and often do, extend beyond disruption, to fracture.  Established suppliers, franchisees, associates, clients and customers are being lost in the maze of change.


The change to digit is inevitable.  However, the pace of that transition is personal and situational.

Philosophies, financial capacities, skills and resources need to be recognised, respected and considered.

Many of the most vocal, profiled advocates for the rapid embracing of all things digital have vested interests.  Their revenue and personal wealth-creation are dependent on securing contacts.  In short, “snake-oil” salesmen have a new digital guise.

Strategies and capital decisions need to be considered, informed and measured.
Disruption change and innovation are not limited to digital.  New product development, packaging and merchandising techniques are effective means to disrupt habits, with or without digital components.

For some, there is a need to “pull out the digit”, and rapidly.  Others may deem it appropriate to not get ahead of themselves, their suppliers, associates, team members, clients and customers.


Brands, products, services, applications and choice abound, many with little distinction.

Non-differentiated commoditisation reigns supreme. As a consequence, for many consumers and clients, pricing is the dominant selection criterion, overwhelming the innate and natural value and virtues of a good brand.

Value is difficult to identify, quantify and, well –value.

Search and purchase routines are typically extended, and often inconclusive when recognised and preferred brand names are not conspicuous and readily available.

Consumers do look for the reassurance and confirmation in brands that are recognised, respected and, above all, TRUSTED.

Sadly, in the current commoditised and over-communicated marketplace many people are confused, uninformed and their needs are unfulfilled.


Effective brand management projects the values, beliefs and virtues integral to the brand, the products, the services and applications which equate to advantages, benefits and rewards for existing and prospective customers and consumers.

Brand: Word associations are telling and definitive, when the brand name makes a statement.

For example,

Volvo: Safety
BMW: Engineering Excellence
Apple: Simplicity in design and application

A cursory overview of the branding landscape suggests that there is much to learn.


A recent national Australian survey identified and ranked brands in 65 categories. Perhaps expectedly, some of the tables revealed surprises and a series of, seemingly, stark contradictions.

For example, Dettol was ranked number 1 in both “First Aid” and “Household Cleaning”.

The charity sector was interesting.

Noticeably, church-based not-for-profit brands were conspicuously absent, doubtless a consequence of the fallout from the investigations in, and Royal Commissions on alleged paedophilia by those in the various networks.

Apparently, similar to the political arena, if one is seeking a friend, or unconditional love and trust with charities, they should look no further than man’s best friend – a dog.

The Guide Dogs brand ranked number 1, followed by the RSPCA.

The brand name and graphics are definitive – centred on reliability, value, consistency and trust. The graphics are instantly recognisable (in less than 2 seconds – on social media) and they resonate with a broad spectrum of people.


Interestingly, in the coffee-culture of modern society two brands of tea – Lipton and Twinings – were ranked in the top seven of the most-trusted brands, regardless of category.

The manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the battery brands Energiser and Duracell doubtless got a charge out of being ranked 1 in the top 2 most-trusted brands in Australia.


In many instances and respects the monetary value of brands is determined by the beliefs, philosophies and promises behind the products, services and applications.

For example, the unimpeachable and non-negotiable commitment to service excellence and responsiveness (the 24-hour promise of minimal equipment down-time) of the Caterpillar brand provides the sustainable competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace of high-tech, high quality capital equipment.


One cannot live by brand alone.

In the category “Australian Iconic” Hills Hoist was “King of the Castle”.

Qantas was ranked second. This is an interesting case study, because during the course of the past two decades, the market share enjoyed by Qantas of in-bound and out-bound international air travel (centred on Australia) has fallen from 42% to around 14% (and declining).

Clearly, being recognised as an Australian icon and trusted is not sufficient to win and retain business.

When better value is readily found with brand names like Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, prospective passengers fly “the coop” – and with the competitors.

Creative, emotive advertising and sponsoring of the Australian Olympic team count for little in the race for consumer patronage and loyalty. Top-of-mind awareness can do little for the top-line and bottom-line if the brand does not deliver the promise.


Bewildering to experienced and discerning brand managers is the practice of individuals and outlets in franchise, marketing, buying and cooperative networks that insist on featuring and profiling their own sub-brand name in literature, advertising, premises and signage.

The overriding group brand name is compromised for little purpose and gain. Egos can be distracting, toxic forces.

There is no evidence of such happenings with profiled and yes, trusted, brands like McDonald’s and Domino’s.

It seems illogical that an individual or independent operation would join a network, pay annual fees, seek to capitalise on the values and virtues of a recognised brand, then seemingly debase its value.


Harold Geneen, the former President of ITT (International Telephone and Telecommunications) was a strong advocate of:

The Doctrine of No Surprises

Consistency, continuity and commitment were virtues throughout and beyond the corporation.

They were the stepping stones to building trust and brand supremacy. No surprises there.
It made ITT, and its suite of operating brands, including Sheraton Hotels and Avis, sought-after, leading and profitable.


It must be hard for some Australian brewers to swallow that the two most-trusted beer brands throughout Australia in 2016 were:

·       Corona
·       Heineken

To be wedged by the bitter taste of ascendancy (and lemon) with a Mexico-based brand (Corona) underscores the global nature of modern commerce and consumerism. No brand, product, service or application is immune to the power and relevance of good brands.

There is a lot that should be written, said and heard about astute brand management.


Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

Barry Urquhart
Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555
T:       08 9257 1777
Visit:  Facebook   LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *