National brands are in crisis, says JWT study

The marketing of national brands in the mid-1990s in many countries is in crisis, a recent survey reports, and although the depth of the crisis varies by company and by category there is a wholesale acceptance among marketers that fundamental change...

The marketing of national brands in the mid-1990s in many countries is in crisis, a recent survey reports, and although the depth of the crisis varies by company and by category there is a wholesale acceptance among marketers that fundamental change is necessary.

Returning to tried-and-true

According to the survey, conducted by J. Walter Thompson of Toronto, ‘In some instances, [marketers] believe it means returning to the brand-building tenets of the ’60s and ’70s.

‘In others, it means developing an expertise in new techniques and organizational structures,’ the survey says.

The survey, called ‘Marketing in Crisis, A Global View of the Beliefs and Practices of Major Marketing Organizations,’ was directed by George Clements, international vice-president and national director of strategic planning and research for JWT Canada.

Another study proposed

Clements says the 16-page survey, although planned as a one-time research effort, has got so much interest, JWT Canada is thinking of conducting another survey for next year.

The research was conducted in July and August 1993 and is based on two sets of information.

The first set comprised interviews with the chief executive officer or marketing director of 10 of JWT Canada’s leading clients in such industries as alcoholic drinks, household products, groceries and toys.

The second set of information came from the managing directors of jwt offices in North America, Europe and Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

The managing directors researched the attitudes of their clients and offered general comment on marketing trends in their respective countries.

Although the survey offers no conclusions about how marketing ought to change, it does offer, in its final section called ‘Keys to Success,’ clues as to where marketing is headed.

Senior management is actively changing its views on how to evaluate the contribution of their marketing departments, says the survey, noting this needs better internal communication than most companies enjoy.

It also requires that employees are content and paying attention to their productivity.

Also, the final section records, there is a focus on learning that takes many forms: greater consumer understanding and dialogue, including the relationship between marketing and social issues; a better use of existing data, and improved media planning knowledge, among others.

Thirst for knowledge

‘A palpable thirst for greater knowledge, the allocation of resources to obtain it, changes in internal structures to maximize its use and the changing expectations of suppliers all testify to the desire for a marriage between ideas and information,’ the survey says.

In future, predicts the JWT Canada study, marketing departments will be more horizontal than hierarchical.

It says the advantages of this are self-evident – an improved quality of decision-making and the flexibility and speed to respond to new information and situations.

Company focus

It says marketing must be a company focus not a departmental responsibility.

Espousing this belief leads to brand management teams comprising trade, consumer marketing, product, research and finance disciplines.

Elsewhere in the company, a greater partnership between the ceo and chief financial officer can be expected, says the survey, as the focus on the relationship among brand strength, marketing expenditures and corporate profitability increases.