Speaking with Patrick Barwise
Patrick Barwise, Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing, London Business School speaks with Elen Lewis about not getting distracted by digital and why doing marketing is not the same as leading marketing.
What are the three most important rules a marketer should live by?
Rule 1: Don’t obsess about being different from the competition. Obsess about profitably (key word) meeting customers’ needs better than the competition. The right way to differentiate is by being ‘simply better’ at reliably delivering the core category benefits – far more important to customers than USPs.
Rule 2: Most of the people who determine the quality of customer experience aren’t in marketing. Walk the halls, understand their issues, collaborate.
Rule 3: When it comes to advertising, forget Rule 1: to cut through, your communications need to stand out from the rest.
What tips would you offer to a marketer wanting to increase their influence within an organisation?
These are the ’12 Powers of a Marketing Leader’ in the book title. Based on our research, the single most important one for increasing senior marketers’ influence is to build a team with the right mix of analytical, creative and leadership skills to achieve your specific aims. Almost as important is to know your stuff about customers, the key competitors, and the product, including a sense of the underlying technical and cost issues.
What qualities distinguish an influential business leader from a marketer?
Doing marketing isn’t the same as leading marketing. Most competent marketers have it within themselves to become influential leaders. But to do so, they need to develop leadership skills to complement their marketing skills. These leadership skills – the ’12 Powers’ again – fall under four headings: mobilise your boss, your colleagues, your team and yourself.
What have been the most significant or pivotal media trends you have witnessed in your career?
Obviously, digital in its various forms. The interesting thing is that the impact on TV viewing, and therefore advertising, has been so much less than the digerati have been consistently predicting for over 25 years.
What advice do you offer marketers on thriving in this ever-changing world?
Don’t let all the digital stuff distract you from the time-honoured basics of meeting customers’ needs and building strong brands. Build a team, or hire outside suppliers, with the best specialist skills. You then need to know enough to be able to talk to them – and challenge them – in an informed way, without losing sight of the bigger issues. In the book, we discuss the need to alternate between ‘zooming in’ on the details of specific media etc and ‘zooming out’ back to the strategy.
How can marketers get better at inspiring non-marketers?
The starting-point is a vision or story that inspires you! Then put in the time to share it, over and over, while walking the halls (Q1, Rule 2).
What does bold marketing leadership look like?
Unfortunately, much of the discussion of innovation is value-laden and simplistic (radical and pioneering = good, incremental and following = bad). In reality, most successful innovation is imitation and/or incremental. Nevertheless, there are times when you do have to go beyond your and your customers’ comfort zones. If your pioneering idea meets a real customer need, and you invest boldly, execute well and are lucky, the results can be spectacular.
What advice would you offer your 17-year old self?
Floss your teeth. Be a better listener. And see the answer to Q10.
What book is on your bedside table?
Right now, Chris Goodall’s brilliant ‘The Switch: How Solar, Storage and New Tech Means Cheap Power for All’. Very well researched and convincing – and it’s good to read something positive when there’s so much bad news.
Tell us a secret
The key to academic success as a student is to work your backside off in the first term.
Patrick Barwise is just one of the speakers at our Global Annual Conference on November 17th alongside McDonald’s global CMO, Silvia Lagnado, Nicola Mendelsohn, VP Facebook EMEA and NASA astronaut, Ed Lu.