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The jungle inside

Brands must gain share of mind within their own organisation before they can successfully reach out to consumers
Marketers are tolerated as the colourful folk who put brand stuff out and sign up celebs
Helen Edwards

Helen Edwards has twice been voted PPA Business Columnist of the Year. She has a PhD in marketing, an MBA from London Business School and is a partner at Passionbrand.

Every marketer faces the task of gaining share of mind with consumers. Easy-peasy. It requires, merely, a breakthrough insight, a relevant product or service innovation, a big communications idea, a cunning media schedule, seductive pricing, stellar PR and a tail of cleverly linked activation and social initiatives.

If that seems a tall enough order, so it is, in absolute terms. Relatively, though, compared with the number-one task on the other side of the fence, it is a walk in the park.

What’s really, numbingly, ego-crushingly hard for marketers is gaining share of mind within the organisation. Yet without it, unless you confine yourself strictly to a communications ghetto, all your consumer efforts will be stillborn.

You need operations on your side to make those factory-output changes happen. You need HR to have a hope in hell of getting that ‘branded service’ initiative up and running. You need finance to sanction that investment in NPD, and commercial teams to heed your new segmentation strategy.

Yet none of them seems to think they have any urgent need of you. The reciprocity that oils the wheels of organisational co-operation runs dry when it comes to our most diffuse of disciplines.

Marketers are tolerated as the colourful folk who put the brand stuff out, mess around with logos and sign up celebs; they are not seen as people from whom to take directions, or to guide the serious business of making, running or even selling things.

True, you could make the case that, without marketing at the heart of the business, there would be no need for any of those other functions to bother getting out of bed in the morning, since there would be no paying customers. It doesn’t wash, though; the marketing role is too vaguely sketched within the organisation, and seemingly devoid of short-term sanctions.

For marketers, gaining share of mind inside requires a combination of patience, imagination and compromise.

Recognise that you will need an ally early on. HR people, with their natural desire for harmony, are as low-hanging as organisational fruit gets. Court them, take your time with them, draw them alongside you and proceed from there.

With their help and influence, set up an invitation-only ‘brand delivery group’, meeting monthly, strictly for the heads of the crucial disciplines. Accept that this will work as a two-way exchange; you will learn about all kinds of internal ‘initiatives’ going on around the business, and you will get the chance to share your big ideas for marketing.

It will take imagination to show how your plans and their current initiatives can dovetail, but this is a vital step. Compromise, for all that agency talk of it being a dirty word, is simply a fact of life at this level.

Gradually, marketing will come to be better understood within the business. You will have gained some share of mind – which, with ever-more patience and good humour, you can convert into concrete decisions and action.

Only then can you turn your gaze outward again to the balmy business of agencies, communications and dear old, straightforward consumers.