Little Grey Cells #1… marketing is about selling with wit, humour and style

Regular Monty’s Outlook contributor Tim Healey catches up with Richard Hall, best-selling author of business books that have been published in 24 countries.

Q. We’ve had the Arab spring – is this a marketing spring?

A. If you mean by ‘this; that the rules been rewritten and we are experiencing seismic change? Then, yes, it’s a new game and a new world. And as Steve Peters author of The Chimp Paradox and aide to the British Olympic team said: (i) Life is unfair (ii) They keep on moving the goalposts (iii) All we can do is try our best.

Q. What the hell sort of world is this anyway?

A. It’s fantastic and getting better. I can’t think of a single thing that isn’t getting better. We live in a world that is more creative and innovative than ever, a world where truly anything is possible. I’m quite old I suppose – don’t feel it – yet I’ve never seen so much opportunity or excitement. So next time you hear someone moaning hit them – for me.

Q. A good time to be a banker then?

A. No it’s a terrible time to be a banker. You’ll be regulated out of sight, derided and generally treated as you deserve (unlike artists who you’ll seek to patronise with your great wealth). Rather than data-driven businesses, this is a great time to be doing creative things.

Q. So what about marketing? Isn’t it just spin-doctoring by another name?

A. Marketing is about selling with wit, humour and style. It’s about identifying a need or desire, meeting it and packaging up the whole thing in a thrilling way. Like Selfridges does; like Apple does. It’s intellectually stimulating and thrilling to create brands– check out the OneDollarShaveClub to see what I mean.

Q. What are your worst marketing stories?…

Two bad stories are the Church of England that has wrecked a brilliant logo, great retail premises, a fantastic story with a great sales proposition through in-fighting over trivial issues. The Tesco story is (suddenly) pretty bad too – victims of their own certainty. The ubiquitous Tesco logo is something they’ll come to regret as their invasion of every High Street and back street is betrayed by an increasingly challenged product offering.

A. … and the best ones?

A. Ben & Jerry – quirky, funny and in love with their consumers. Apple – until now they’ve been magical. They treat marketing as though they were creating a thriller.

Q. Why did you write the book Brilliant Marketing?

A. Masochism apart…because writing’s a get-up-at-5am-business. I wrote the first edition in 2008 as an anthem to the thrill of seduction – well, that’s one way of looking at marketing. The idea was to write the definitive descriptive handbook about marketing and changing people’s minds.

Q. And what has most changed since you wrote version one?

A. When I was asked to write a second edition in 2011 I realised I was into a complete re-write because so much had changed. Social media had transformed the way marketers think and consumers behave. The cost of entry for new brands was radically reduced. Everything was new, improved or old and dying. Suddenly the world had become full of new things ….it was like living in the 1960s all over again. It was a world where selling was OK.

Q. Is quality improving?

A. Consumers are becoming smarter. A Gucci handbag looks great, makes you feel great and lasts forever. Generation Z are leaders in buying-less-and-buying-better. Cheap fashion falls apart, luxury fashion doesn’t. One glass of a £50 Balvenie Single Malt beats the hell out of three glasses of Asda own label.

Q. Any advice for a young entrepreneur?

A. Follow what Ralph Waldo Emerson told us – ‘create a luxury mousetrap that is really better, my son or daughter, and the customer will beat a pathway to your door’.

Q. So how can leaders or people like you create the future?

A. They/we can’t. The era of the old-fashioned/headmaster leader is dead although (unsurprisingly) most leaders don’t see this. Command and control is over. The future will be created by all of us, by a generation of innovators who don’t listen to authority and sometimes bash down doors just because they’re there. Marketing will be a leader in this reconstruction of the way we think if we attract the right talent. After all – who’d be in hedge funds and calculus instead?

Richard Hall blogs here and his book Brilliant Marketing: What the Best Marketers know do and say is available at all online stores

Tim Healey (15 Posts)

Tim is a DJ, music producer and digital advertiser.