Paul Skinner: Richard, for the benefit of our readers, you have written the most popular book on marketing on Amazon.co.uk: Brilliant Marketing: What the Best Marketers Know, Do and Say. What led you to write the book?
Richard Hall: I love writing and I’ve spent most of my adult life in marketing. That’s the boring bit. Mostly I was getting madder and madder that nearly all the books written on marketing are as boring as dried rats’ poo. Yet marketing is the most exciting occupation ever…changing people’s minds and behaviour and getting paid for it. But there’s more. In a world where having lavish Russian, Chinese or Middle Eastern money is often seen as being enough to win, isn’t it great to see creativity and customer insight do that jiu-jitsu, David-meets-Goliath trick.Finally marketing matters in a way that banking and high finance never will. Great marketing adds value. Great marketing changes sow’s ears into silk purses with special secret containers that are branded Porky-Walky© and are the only-in-thing to have. Marketing is magic.
The David-meets-Goliath metaphor is one that many of our members understand very well indeed. Though in many cases, their ideal outcome is to get Goliath on their side rather than fight him. In that vein, could you explain your concept that marketing is like seduction and tell us what you mean by building your own “seduction toolkit”?
No. I think Goliath businesses are past their sell by date. I want fast footed and open-minded. Which brings me to this seduction idea. Seduction tool-kit. That was a glib idea of mine. Sorry. It makes marketing seem too flippant when it’s what really matters right now. Presenting well, telling well and being true to yourself. (By the way this seduction thing is not a Dominique Strauss Khan metaphor by the way, the man who made international finance more like the Sun than the FT. So that’s what they mean by quantitative easing.) How can I put it? Marketing is sexy. Creating a relationship involves skill, love, care and good manners. Seduction, as I described it (or meant it) is about creating an allure of desirability around a product or service. A “seduction toolkit” is a dreadful phrase but what I meant was having a set of approaches to issues of presentation, description and selling of a product or brand that made it audible, intriguing, relevant and desirable. It’s what we do when we’re teenagers at one of those dances. Marketing is like the anti-wallflower movement and the making-conversation-easy elixir all blended together.
The idea of a set of systematic approaches to building great marketing is very relevant to the challenges our members face. What three things do you think charities and non-profit organizations should take from the examples and advice in your book?
Charities often behave as though they are different from more commercial institutions. But they aren’t; they want your money just like Heinz does. So be unafraid of pitching a relevant story. And you want just three things from me…….well, how about
-Tell people what it is that makes you special, interesting and worth supporting (and if you can’t explain why you conform to each of those you have a problem) Philanthropy needs to inspire by its real relevance and any charity must empathise with its donors. Make it a story not a presentation.
-Know exactly what your story is, what your values are and what your bottom line is. Money is not the key issue, money never is. Engaging people and creating relationships with them is. You are never about just making a sale. You are always about creating a customer. These are very different things.
-Be a big fish in a small pond rather than an invisible fish in a big one. But you must be more ambitious and faster off the mark… remember what BMW said:- ‘the big don’t always eat the small but the fast always eat the slow.’
A unique approach, a great story and fast reactions – these are certainly the kinds of qualities our members need to develop to build the coalitions of support they need to fulfill their missions.
And speaking of which, this is the point in the interview where we ask you to pick out one or more of the non-profits on Pimp My Cause to apply your thinking to. So who have you chosen and why?
There are a whole series of charities I’ve been involved with – most notably Shaftesbury Young People – a children’s charity I chaired for 11 years. The two charities I picked out of interest were Petit Miracle Interiors which seems to be akin to Emaeus here in Brighton but with a style edge, Feed the Hungry because in a century in which our increasing ability to grow greater quantities of and more nutritious food, anyone going hungry shouldn’t be happening.
Petit Miracle Petit Miracle Interiors Ltd (PMI) uses Interior Design to increase people’s employability and to improve the home life of formerly homeless and vulnerable people. They teach a variety of accredited Level One Art and Design Courses that are completely open access, run taster days which provide a fun and interesting sneak peek into the world of Interior Design, and offer more intensive 6 week and 6 month accredited courses which lead to an Art and Design Diploma from the National Open College Network.
Richard, how do you believe that Petit Miracle could apply your ideas and what advice would you give them?
Well they’re doing so much right already. Good deeds not just good words. Yet what I saw in their manifesto was something beyond good - something a bit wonderful. We live in the world of self-improvement. Who’d dare say because you’re in an unfortunate economic position that you don’t want some style in your life? But there are three things that drive great or even brilliant marketing ideas.
1. An appetite for success – a passion to win and an optimism that you can. “You can” – who said that?
2. An enthusiasm to make the brand or service burningly relevant. This is not left brain stuff - it’s about an ability to say “what if?” and “why not?”
3. An almost childish desire to stand out, to be seen as different, to capture what little attention today’s harassed customers retain – someone recently described “attention” as one of the global commodities in shortest supply.
If anyone can be imbued with these and review what they’ve done, what they plan doing and their ambitions for their cause in the light of that my book and I might just be making a worthwhile difference. Or making someone “angry” enough to get up and try.
That’s really interesting. I would say that the organisations on Pimp My Cause that display these characteristics are exactly the ones that end up getting the most support from our marketers, in a sort of virtuous cycle. But to put you right on the spot, if you had to start work as marketing and business development director for Petit Miracle tomorrow, and were asked to give three practical suggestions for action that could lead to new marketing angles for them, what would they be?
I love being put on the spot. We don’t do this to anyone enough. www.onthespot.com So here’s a go…..
1. Never trust a doctor who gives a diagnosis without examining you. So (as it were –and please don’t take this utterly literally) I’d ask them to get behind the screen and take their clothes off so I could examine them and every aspect of their business, what they do, why they do it, what they spend and where, what’s gone right and what’d been disappointing.
Only then could I give appropriate advice….BUT here’s some tentative further advice
2. Ask all the people in and around their organisation how they could do even better by them running a “focus-group” ( or how about a “how-to-make-things-better-conversation”) over a sandwich lunch.
3. Merchandise their people doing a before and after job on somewhere unpromising to prove precisely what they do and its effect and pitch it locally to every local radio and TV channel, local newspaper and on their website. Prove the story. Be interesting enough to be noticed.
So to move from a relatively new social enterprise to an international organisation with substantial heritage, the other organisation you picked out was Feed the Hungry – they are a Christian organisation providing relief to those in need due to famine, drought, flood, war, and other natural disasters. Since 1987 Feed the Hungry has delivered over £125 million GBP of relief supplies to over 92 nations worldwide. They have also established their “Every Child Every Day” programme with a goal of feeding 100,000 children in need, and have already reached 31,000 children.
Globally they have established a range of business partnerships with food manufacturers and retailers who offer in kind support to their programmes. Their UK office is now looking to establish strategic business partnerships along similar lines, and also to launch a social media campaign around the message “Take Away Hunger” to raise public awareness and drive funding.
How would you advise them to make a success of these substantial goals albeit with a shoe string budget?
I love what they do and their ideas but the story I want them to tell is not about just about famine but about the “famine of ideas in our world”. I just don’t think enough of us are ashamed enough yet by this preposterous situation regarding world hunger.
In an otherwise reasonably sensible world we kill each other, brutalise each other and we allow each other to starve. Generation Y and Generation Z are liable to find the existence of famine absurd…”just fix it” would probably be their motto. “Have some ideas” they’d say, “don’t sit around talking about how complicated it is. Try saying it’s complicated to someone dying in front of you. It isn’t; it’s obvious”….The absence of ideas to solve this problem is what’s really missing.
I think these wonderful guys at FTH need to be coached to be “TV stars” so they get to tell the story and their ideas fluently, dramatically and with fire. It’s not expensive to fix this but it’ll transform the impact their work has.
Shoestring budgets should be spent on making internal communicators brilliant not on paying external agencies.
The real story needs to be told by the actors themselves not by their critics or commentators.