98th-annual Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) annual meeting

The WARC’s take on Bob’s keynote speech

by Geoffrey Precourt, WARC

Bob Liodice, at a Friday morning general-assembly meeting of the 98th-annual Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) annual meeting, suggested that marketing is such an integral part of the American economy that, in fact, it may be a staple of recovery.

“As we look to tomorrow,” the ANA president/ceo said, “the most critical role for marketing is as a driver of brand and business growth.” It’s a business that contributes $5 trillion in economic activity every year-roughly 20 percent of all American growth. And its 21 million jobs account for 15 percent of all U.S. employees.

“Ultimately, the economic-rescue package will be about the stimulation of growth,” Liodice continued. “And marketing can help frame the objective, monitor activity, and adjust campaigns to help companies perform consistently and impressively.”

Liodice allowed that the challenge is daunting: 73 percent of American marketers see their job more difficult than it was five or 10 yeas ago. (Contributors to the difficulties include the speed of the marketplace, shorter product cycles, and, of course, the tough economic climate.)

As a best-in-class example of success in spite of circumstances, the ANA head cited General Electric, whose CECOR (Calibrate, Explore, Create, Organize, Realize) platform has changed the company from “a portfolio of products to a portfolio of consumers.”

The push-to-pull transformation has increased brand value by 25 percent as well as shareholder return. “How respected are they as a strategic growth business,” Liodice asked. “Warren Buffet has invested $2 billion in the organization,” he answered in response to his own query.

Another top performer: 3M Worldwide. “This is a highly decentralized company,” Liodice said, with 50,000 products in 40 operating divisions. But, by conducting an annual global brand-health survey, “they’ve been able to align every customer function and strengthen the way it drives purchaser loyalty” of such products a Scotch tape, Post-It notes, and Thinsulate. Specifically, he cited a multi-tiered marketing platform that tied female office-stationery buyers with Prada. “The program generated a 100-pecent increase in promotional responses,” he observed-“proof that we can grow even in turbulent times.”

The single largest driver of growth, he said, are integrated campaigns that use a variety of platforms to achieve a variety of goals. He presented (an) organizational architecture to show how marketing can be a powerful growth driver-even in the most demanding economic climates. The model illustrates how integrated marketing (supported by marketing accountability and a strong marketing organization), drives brand growth, and how brand growth, in turn is an integral component of business growth. When brand growth drives brand value (and market share), business growth increases shareholder value (and sales profits).

Liodice cited a third marketer–the Coca-Cola Co.–as an example of an enterprise that has been able “to crack the code of one of our toughest dilemmas: realizing both short-term growth and long-term objectives.” Some 96 percent of marketers feel pressure to meet short-term goals, while only 60 percent feel that they enjoy the comparative luxury of planning out for the long term.

In 2007, Coca-Cola achieved honors and awards for both its short-term promotion program and a longer-term brand-awareness broadcast effort, that was recognized at the Cannes International Advertising Festival:

Such integrated programs work to the marketer’s advantage, Liodice reported, when four objectives work in synchronization:

* Achieve strategic consistency
* Find common metrics that apply to all the multi-platform elements
* Eliminate functional silos
* Build cross-disciplinary skills

“Marketing accountability underlies it all,” he added. And that’s best achieved when in transparent, efficient business environments. “It’s as if a marketing membrane surrounds the growth model,” he added, “protecting the brand from the outside while advancing it from within.”

For more descriptions of the 2008 Annual Conference, check out the posts by Geoffrey Precourt of the World Advertising Research Center here.

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