Babar: Hello and welcome to another addition of Ephlux Insights, my name is Babar Khan, I am the entrepreneur for this initiative, I am joined by Mr. Hugh Berkitt, the chairman of The Marketing Society in the United Kingdom and we are going to be talking about the marketing society and the objectives and its main purpose in the world. As you know that I was recently published in Warc Market Leader co-produced by Warc and The Marketing Society, so Hugh is the most relevant guest I could reach out to and it’s an honour to talk to him. Hugh, welcome to the program.
Hugh: Hello, very nice to be here, I’m actually Chief Executive of The Marketing Society not the Chairman.
Babar: Alright, Chief Executive.
Hugh: I am actually an employee of The Marketing Society.
Babar: alright, what role is Stephen Maher then?
Hugh: He is the chairman. We have a volunteer board of non-executives, very senior marketing people and Stephen Maher is the Chairman of that and I am the Chief Executive of the small full time staff here
Babar: That’s great. So we are going to jump directly to the questions. Why don’t you tell me about the origins of The Marketing Society.
Hugh: Well, The Marketing Society started in 1959 so we are 55 years old this year. We’ve got around 2600 members, mainly in the UK, a very strong branch in Scotland. About a 100 members outside the UK and we are planning to increase that quite dramatically actually over the next few years and we have just, as I speak, announced the start of a newbranch of The Marketing Society in Hong Kong.
Babar: Wow that is brilliant. What exactly was The Marketing Society formed for and what is the main purpose of the society, what drives the society?
Hugh: The society was formed to be in the UK forum for senior marketers to share ideas and exchange best practice because marketing always and at all times is changing very fast, and for that the best practice, the best way to do things, what is best in marketing and what works best is changing all the time. You can’t just go to University and study marketing and say well that’s it now I know what there is to know and practice it for the rest of your life! Marketing is ever changing and what we like to think we do, is to help top marketers keep up with what is the very best in the market.
Babar: Alright, so it’s learning beyond learning. You have this concept of being a member of The Society and being a member of , for example Warc that has a similar concept that’s running to impart case studies and reports, so what differentiates you with something like Warc?
Hugh: We work in partnership with Warc as you say, and when you mention Market Leader we like to think that it’s our publication which they publish. This is how we see it and it is in fact sponsored alone or owned by The Marketing Society and its publication we set up them some time ago. But obviously we have a very constricted partnership with Warc and a lot of the case histories that they are using come from us because a critical part what we do every year is a very fine marketing award scheme, a Marketing Society award for excellence and last year we had over 200 entries which is a lot because they are very serious case histories, they are not just put in a pretty picture of an Ad or something. This you have to put in a very serious case history on what you have done and achieved and we had 200 of those in the UK and then we awarded twenty prizes out of those to the very best stories. Since these marketing case histories are very potential results, so again we published books of those case histories from members who were available online, what we like to call our online club house and they are very thoroughly researched and that is an important part of what we do is hold those awards that produces such cases.
Babar: The case studies are for the successful campaigns or is it just brands or companies?
Hugh: they’re all around brands or companies. That’s what the case history is about. They’re often written in conjunction with that company’s advertising agency. It’s like a partnership and these case histories cover a very wide area of marketing skills, so there’s a surprise every year for best launch, prize for the best revitalization of a brand, how it has come back to success, or prize for best consumer research. We get a lot of digital categories, based on best use of brand content and best use of social media and so on. We do it by marketing skills and across a range of industries.
Babar: When I see the Warc and Marketing Society page, it’s more about the promotion and the packaging fee as opposed to the pricing and placement.
Hugh: that does seem like the fun part of marketing, but we take every aspect of marketing very seriously. We’ve also written in the society a very simple manifesto of marketing, and what we think is the best way of marketing. In the UK, we believe it’s a model for the rest of the world. This sets marketer 9 challenges actually.
We want to be a bolder marketing leader. We want our members to be bold marketing leaders, with 9 things that you really need to do to be best marketing leader. If you want to find about it, you can get it touch and we can talk more about it
It really breaks down into 3 different barriers, where we talk about
Defining your purpose, purpose is not just about making money, but the legacy you want to lead
Championing your consumer is a key area – how you relate to the consumer, every area of your product and brand is excellent
The third area relates to how you behave within the organization, because we believe that marketing should always lead any organization and so we talk about mobilization . its very important, however, that marketing is more fundamental than just advertising. Having a great product, a great service, having the pricing right, producing something that the consumers want to pay for, and so is profitable. So marketing is much of a commercialization.
Babar: What challenges were faced on setting up the Marketing Society? I imagine there’s a culture of higher learning or learning beyond university level? What barriers did you encounter initially and what have you done to overcome them?
Hugh: I wouldn’t talk about the history of barriers because that was like 55 years ago, and we believe in modern marketing. So to talk about the barriers of setting up the Marketing Society today would be that everybody is so busy, businesses are receiving hundreds of emails every day, masses of organizations, all sorts of advertising agencies and marketing consultancies are having events all the time, they want to draw people in, and people are curious and they want to meet face-to –face, so setting up events and having a ll the noise.
Secondly, people are working for long hours, so they want to go home. More than 50% of the people in the marketing these days are women and women with children – they check their homework and look after them. All of these things are competing things. The core of what we do is a lot of active events, and we do over 60 events every year in the UK, and started running events in Hong Kong as well. They’re all well attended, and people really enjoy them and learn a lot. This week, tomorrow evening, if you happen to be in London, you could still come and join us, we’ll be hearing from Mark Price who’s the marketing director of Waitross, one of UK’s most successful supermarket groups, growing fastest and part of the premium area and amazing growth rate. We’re very proud of Mark and he’ll be talking tomorrow on how Waitross has grown and what strategies he’s used and those that he’s got for the future. How important it is to put the customer at the heart of the business – listening, responding and producing a very high quality of service for their customer.
It’s always competitive and its always difficult to get people away from this endless emailing and social media.
Babar: With knowledge economy, when the knowledge holders, like yourself, are branding and promoting your brands and creating value propositions and asking people to participate in, they’re excelling in this area. I am the CMO Counsel for the EMEA region and one area that bothers is the survey that is put out, and then you have to put authentic information out there. The time factor is definitely challenging. Ephlux insights is trying to move along the same line. Could you talk about the Revenue or Sustainability model a bit?
Hugh: It’s very simple. We’re a not for profit company, owned by our members. Anyone can look at our accounts. Less than 50% of our incomes come from subscriptions and memberships and the balance comes from accommodation, something that we can earn directly from an event, we do charge at the events but it’s a mix though, because we’re sponsored. Sponsorship is takes a part in our income, that comes from companies that love talking about the marketing and raising their profiles as marketers. ITB, and Google and Microsoft and some new up and coming companies that want to put their name out there in the Marketers game. In UK, the economy is growing, and companies are being careful with their money and 2008 was a year that had prosperity and all but people are being careful with their money. But that’s a very good approach – getting value for the money that you’re spending. I wouldn’t say that getting money out of the Marketing Fraternity is easy, but obviously they think we’re good value. A lot of our money these days comes from Corporate Memberships. A third of our membership is actually from big companies, who see the value in it, getting their staff the marketing training to be up to speed with the very best marketing. It’s a modest investment to learn about marketing in their own time.
Babar: Out of curiosity, do you have custom training programs?
Hugh: We don’t go down to industry specific, but we do have special areas that look into B2B marketing. We run professional development programs and an yearly Marketing Leader program. We run that in conjunction with a top training consultancy called Brand Learning. We’ve been running that for 10 years and it has been very successful and people really enjoy it, with the best marketers from UK and talk about how, marketing works in their company. Good marketing is about good leadership!
Babar: Do the alumni of the marketing program take a progression of the course?
Hugh: Good question. Some of them do become key members of the Marketing Society, and we find they’re very good supporters. We get the group together from time to time and do a refresher course. That is supported by Shell, they’ve been very good supporters. It gets very good word of mouth.
Babar: How long is the program?
Hugh: It starts in March and ends in May, with 3 separate workshops those roundabouts 7 days in total. IT’s quite intensive in that amount of time.
Babar: What is the growth approach and long term approach for the Marketing Society?
Hugh: we’re interested in expanding outside of UK. There are many marketing organizations around the world but many of them are concerned with big industry issues, many with qualifications and low level training. We specialize very much in talking to senior marketers, what is happening in marketing now, and quick insights. People at other territories are interested in this. We’re setting up right now in Hong Kong, which will a useful gateway in the Asia Pacific Area. Then move on to Singapore and Shanghai. Each opening requires nurturing, and practical help and local administrative help and good program going in that area. People in Hong Kong are becoming society members here in London. We haven’t set up a subsidiary; we can do it directly here from UK. We’re excited about the possibilities.
We have the Pioneering Spirit Awards, that we take around the world – it’s the best of the best scheme where we take the most interesting case histories from around the world and once a quarter we get together a group of senior marketers and give them a quick chance to choose and discuss the various and best ideas from around the world.
Babar: I would like to attend at least 3 events this year, but I’m not the sort of person who can sit on my chair for a good half an our listening..
Hugh: Where is your chair?
Babar: In my office, In Karachi.
Hugh: We’re not really planning on any event in Karachi, but we would love to have you as a part of our events. We have a very generous sponsor in the form of Scotch Whiskey, very popular in the US. They sponsor this Pioneering Award, and we move to various cities around the world, and we plan to move to Dubai and Mumbai this year. We’ve been to other interesting cities of the world, and it’s like flying the flag of the Marketing Society.
Babar: Ok, then I’ll be seeing you in Dubai because Ephlux Insights started in Hong Kong, and moved to Pakistan and Dubai.
Hugh: I’ll share the dates that we’ll be in Dubai and we’d love for you to join us for the Pioneering Spirit Awards.
Babar: I’m an applicant already, because people ask me how are you the only non-UK to write the article to the Editor. I’ve heard of both Warc and Marketing Society, but never knew it was a joint publication, for which I would love to write. I plan to take part in the Ad-map competition with the Digital Brands.
Is there any concept of doing consultation with people?
Hugh: we would love to talk to people about how to set up a marketing group, so if anybody out there wants to know more about that to get in touch. But we don’t really act as consultants, mainly because there are so many consultant members of our organizations that we don’t want to compete with them too much. 60% of our members are marketing practitioners; we’d like to control that carefully and 40% are marketing service people.
Babar: Is there any collaboration with the academic people as I’ve noticed at least 3 authors in the Warc Market Leader section to be from the Academic side.
Hugh: In the past we’ve worked with various Academic Institutions, like London School of Business. Like we want to know the summer of what we’ve learned about Marketing from the Marketing awards in the last 10 years and CAS Business School of London will be helping us do that. But we don’t have any formal relationship other than that.
Babar: Let’s talk about you now. What is your favorite topic, if you go on stage what would you talk about?
Hugh: I would talk generally about the importance of Marketing. it’s the fundamental truth of marketing. There’s digital marketing now and new forms of media but that’s about it, the fundamental remains the same. 40 years in this area and I’m interested always in how companies should be customer centric – what drives their customers and what customers are looking for in the future. In the UK, you could pick it up at the retail sector at how fast it’s changing. A few years ago, huge supermarkets were the answer, but the growth is coming from either online or small convenient stores are the answer. The traditional model has changed the business activities.
Babar: Marketing shouldn’t be seen as a science, there’s a lot more to it. The concept in Hong Kong, Pakistan or UAE is they ask which of the 4 P’s you are.
Hugh: I believe that out of the four P’s, the most important is the Product. How good is your product, n today’s world I would call it as how good is your service. You could be marketing an experience or a physical product, but the question lies in how good is it – can people access it, enjoy it and come back to it?
Babar: A couple of years ago, I used to be a Digital Marketer, and one of the clients was Unilever, and they were having a problem with one of their Ice Cream brand and they noticed that their sales was dependent on their promotions and no sales after that. A recent blog on the Marketing Society page was on the Relationship Managers in Banks and the author’s tone was outrage as a result of the service experience. You’re so right on the product deciding the success.
What is your advice to applicants like myself to execute perfection in the knowledge economy.
Hugh: It’s lovely to talk to you and to the world. The internet is a transformational event that has accelerated ideas, knowledge, communication, business. We’re talking through this lovely medium. How do we make money from this free medium? Monetizing is a difficult but we’re not a profit organization but we’re moving up, slowly and steadily!
Babar: Thank you so much and we’ll be talking soon in a couple of months. I’ll be looking at the dates of the event and joining you in Dubai. It was great talking to you.