We’re in the people business

We’re in the people business

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Phil Rumbol, former marketing director of Cadbury’s and now founding partner of 101 – a free range creative company, discusses the value of human resources.

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at a great event in the Lake District called Learnfest. With a theme of Agility, and run in festival-style format, presenters from Google, Pinterest and Sony amongst others shared their thoughts on how to build ‘a brave new workplace.’ Attended largely by people from HR/Learning & Development, it was interesting to participate in a conference aimed at a Function other than Marketing.

After I’d finished my presentation one of the delegates asked me, ‘I was really interested in what you said about conscious vs sub-conscious thinking. How could I get people to learn sub-consciously?’ After recommending she read Daniel Kahneman, it struck me that there are many parallels between HR and Marketing. Ultimately both are in the business of influencing, motivating and mobilising people. Or put another way, you could say HR is the ‘internal people’ department and Marketing the ‘external people’ department. 
 
But sometimes I feel marketers lose sight of this simple truth. Marketing exists to influence people. Too many marketers are too focused on ‘their thing.’ Preoccupied with a desire to tell consumers how wonderful their brand or product is, they fail to see things clearly and realistically from a consumer perspective.
 
Can you imagine if this ‘task-oriented’ approach was used to influence ‘internal people’? It would be like putting posters up in all the corridors and rest areas simply saying ‘Work harder because you’ll get paid more.’ That will work won’t it? We’ve told them what we want them to do, so they’ll do it, won’t they?
 
This tendency to start and end with the brand or task, rather than with the recipient, is unfortunately quite common. 
 
I’m amazed how often we do chemistry meetings at 101 with prospective clients where they are surprised at how apparently insightful we are about their brand and their category. They react as if we have some sort of insider knowledge or have hacked into their hard drives, rather than the reality that we’ve simply applied a good dose of consumer empathy and common sense. 
 
Such clarity and perspective often gets lost in the mountains of information and endless discussions in the glass bubble of living and breathing their brand. They’re often so preoccupied by the 4 Ps of Product, Price, Place and Promotion that they neglect arguably the 5th and most important P, namely People. 
 
And the irony of all this is that it’s technology companies that are leading the way in understanding and, most importantly, building their products/services around people. But rather than adopt a similar approach, many traditional brands spend their time trying to keep up, and thinking about how to use an emergent technology or platform, rather than asking why people are using it and using this understanding to make their brand more relevant. Hence the sheep like pursuit of Facebook Likes, rather than brands focusing more on the underlying human needs for Identity and Approval that Facebook arguably meets.
 
In other words, we’d do well to remember we’re in the people business and draw more on ‘human resources’ to make our brands more relevant.


Read more from Phil in our Clubhouse.

 

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Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 30 Jun 2014
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