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Monday, 31 December 2007

Denny Hatch supplies the last word on MBAs

Thanks for the comments, especially the funny ones, but special thanks to the most relevant one from Denny Hatch, who simply sent me the following, which came as a glorious confirmation of many long held suspicions.

Tuesday, march 21, 2006
Are MBAs killing your marketing?

_by Jack Neff_
CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- A Master of Business Administration degree is not only worthless, it can work against a marketer, according to a survey of marketing executives from 32 consumer-products companies by consulting firm Ken Coogan & Partners.
The study used scanner and panel data from VNU's ACNielsen to show marketers from companies with significant market-share gains are far less likely to have M.B.A.s than those from companies posting significant share losses.
Major marketers.
The M.B.A. factor wasn't the only difference, but it was perhaps the most striking one between winners and losers among the companies, which included General Mills, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Pfizer, Clorox Co., Reckitt Benckiser, Energizer, Alberto Culver Co., Hasbro, Cadbury Schweppes, Kodak and Dunkin' Donuts.
Marketing executives from 18 underperforming companies -- which had sales grow 7% less than their categories on average in the two years ended August 2005 -- were
twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies, which averaged growth 6.2% faster than
their categories over the two years. Of executives from underperforming companies, 90% had M.B.A.s vs. 55% at outperforming companies.
Not all master's degrees appear worthless in the study. Just M.B.A.s. About 10% of the marketing executives at the out-performers had master's degrees other than M.B.A.s vs. none at underperformers.
That twice as many underperforming companies as out-performing ones participated in the survey may indicate something, too. Possible theories: Underperforming executives, particularly ones with M.B.A.s, spend more time filling out surveys, or are more likely to be in contact with consulting firms like the one that administered the study.
Recruitment practices.
The out-performers in the survey got about a fifth of their marketing executives
from undergraduate programs and another fifth from advertising or marketing agencies or other industry vendors. None of the executives from underperformers had been recruited as undergrads and only 5% came from agencies or suppliers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the out-performers were understaffed compared to their underperforming peers. Out-performers averaged one marketing executive for
every $37.9 million in sales, compared to one for every $28.5 million in sales at the underperformers.
But the out-performers spent more on marketing-averaging 12.4% of sales vs. 11.6% for the underperformers. Ken Coogan, principal of the consulting firm, isn't sure the marketing-budget differential is significant, but believes the staffing
number might be. Possibly, it reflects staffing at both out- and underperformers not having caught up yet with their changing marketplace results, he said. But he said too much staff -- and bureaucracy -- could actually be slowing down the underperformers.
Outsourced marketing services._
In a separate bit of counterintuitive research, Mr. Coogan said he has found marketers that outsource marketing-services functions the most actually have higher staffing levels than ones that outsource less.
Though they don't value M.B.A.s as much, out-performers in the survey place a much higher value on personal and professional development once they hire people. The survey showed the share winners far more likely than the losers to support attendance at industry conferences and seminars, involvement in industry associations and peer-share groups, internal training groups, formal mentoring programs and graduate-level seminars.
The only professional-development perks supported more by the underperformers were -- you guessed it -- executive M.B.A. programs.
Equally unsurprising, executives at the out-performing companies were far more likely to believe career advancement at their companies was based on merit
rather than politics. Underperforming marketers were more likely to see politics at play. Overall job satisfaction measures were higher at the out-performers.
Stock option differential.
But executives were about equally happy with compensation at both the winners
and losers. And the underperforming marketers were more likely to offer stock options than the out-performers. Both findings could create some interesting fodder for executive-compensation critics.
Retention programs that were more common among the out-performers than the underperformers included assignments outside marketing to groom for general
management, part-time or job-sharing assignments for managers who request them and giving more tenured executives preference in job assignments.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

To Amanda, because I'm an idiot

No, this is not a loving message - just a confession, and a suggestion.

Although I can read your comments (and really appreciate them) I can't or don't know how to reply, so the confession is that probably I'm an IT-IDIOT.

The suggestion is that if you want to talk directly, just write me at drayton@draytonbird.com. I always try to reply; if I don't, nudge me.

Oh, and Amanda, what do I think about the value of MBAs? Not a lot,to be honest. They're a bit like University degrees, I suspect; they'll get you a job, but not necessarily tell you how to succeed in it. What's more most of those who teach are not successful practitioners.

(Personally I am a BA, failed - I got a scholarship to University and walked out after the first year, bored. My father never forgave me)

Years ago I had lunch in Paris with David Ogilvy and both the chairman and managing director of our biggest client in London. He asked the chairman if he had a degree.

"No" was the reply.

He asked the MD, who also said no.

Then he asked me - and I of course said no.

"Nor have I," said David, "Haven't we done well?"

Going back to your question, whatever I have managed to do has been by hard work, a prodigious amount of reading - most of it nothing to do with marketing, some kind people, and some competitors even dumber than me.

I spent a couple of years reading philosophy in my spare time. This did not make me as informed as my partner who actually is a doctor in that discipline, but it helped me to think a little more clearly.

When I was young I thought there were only two places worth working at. 1. Superb firms where you would learn a lot. Unfortunately they're hard to get into. 2. Struggling firms that knew they were in trouble, needed your help, and had enough money to pay for it. Unfortunately most firms in trouble are there because their managements are too thick to know why - or do anything about it.

It's a tough old world, Amanda.

Poltergeists and animal crackers

Logorrhea, I was told at school, is the word for people who can’t stop talking.

I’m afraid I have the literary equivalent; just can’t stop writing. For a while I was banging out a good 6 columns a month for an assortment of marketing and business publications.

At one point, I vaguely recall, I was boring the pants off people not just in the U.K. but in Portugal, India, Australia and Malaysia.

This was much easier than you might think. You just open any marketing magazine and within 60 seconds you’ll find something ludicrous to write about.

Take an old December issue of Marketing Week I found amidst the old bread crusts in my office recently.

On the first page I learned Vodaphone had a Global Director of Brand and Customer Experience, which is reasonably but not insanely pompous, but below him was someone with a markedly more fatuous title: Director of Brand Strategy and Manifestation.

What is that then? Does he direct ghosts and poltergeists? No; it’s just our old friend corporate masturbation, which always thrives best when a friendly economy gives encouragement to idle brains.

The best title ever was held by a man I knew whose job title was Being Volkswagen. What can you imagine he did at meetings? Maybe say “Beep-beep” every now and then?

Besides silly job titles, you can always rely on marketing mags to keep you au fait with the latest vogue in asinine advertising.

The news pages of Marketing Week began with a jokey piece about Egg, the credit card that Prudential (wisely I suspect) have unloaded on Citibank. This no doubt will add to the impressive panoply of loss-making activities their glorious leader, “Chuck” Prince, came up with.

I'm not surprised they paid him $40 million just to go away and do no more damage. Of course, if he were one of the many ordinary employees whose jobs he has put at risk they would have told him to clear his desk and get out. And if life were fair he would then have been taken outside the office and run over a few times by a truck.

But I digress. See if you can extract anything vaguely resembling sense from this piece of persiflage about Egg.

It seems they have axed a campaign that said their card was “tested and approved by guinea-pigs” – which they allege “was popular with the public but had failed to raise brand awareness or sell its products.”

How the hell can something popular not only fail to sell, but despite being (as was claimed elsewhere in the piece) “well-loved” – not even get noticed. A double flopperoo like that that takes rare talent. I suppose it’s a new kind of minus-advertising.

Anyhow, it doesn’t matter how they managed it: just picture the mellifluous waffle the agency used to persuade the client it made sense! Imagine how little the client must have studied advertising to have run it! Then pause, gentle reader, and ask yourself why the client still has a job. Maybe he or she is not as culpable as ole Chuck, but wouldn't a remedial course in advertising basics for 4 year olds be in order?

I wish to God some of these people would just give me the money. I would just piss it away on booze and exotic trips and guarantee to achieve nothing.

Anyhow, Egg laid an egg with guinea-pigs, so the new campaign features a dolphin called Raoul, who has the advantage of being as irrelevant to money as any other animal, but can at least perform tricks.

Maybe marketers would do a bit better if they recalled from time to time that their job is to sell more stuff more often to more people at higher prices – an excellent definition I gladly credit Sergio Zyman with.

I look forward eagerly to the effects of the coming Gordon (the financial genius and all-round creep) Brown recession, which may put an end to some of this indefensible crap.

The growth of a silly new Christmas game

White Christmases are rare and church visits in pagan Britain rarer still, but every year I notice a new yuletide tradition burgeoning.

You see the first signs in the newspapers around the 18th of December. As regular as clockwork headlines announce that the nation’s merchants are quivering in their boots because customers are not doing their duty, and sales are down on the previous year’s.

I assume this is a ploy to make us all rush off to the shops and do our duty by the economy. It may also promise some peace and quiet to the poor shop assistants, but I’m getting bored, because although sales do indeed go down year on year, statistics, as usual, are a load of old codswallop.

The reason is simple. Although the British are celebrated – especially among car manufacturers - as perhaps the world’s most gullible customers, they are not complete idiots.

Many – cheapskates like me especially - patiently await the New Year Sales. Others keep their wallets closed till just before Christmas, when the shops announce they have been forced by “adverse trading conditions” to start their sales early, which is exactly what happened this year.

Yesterday I said to my son Nick, “I’m waiting for the first headline saying sales were not as bad as expected.”

“Too late,” he replied. “I saw one today.”

What is happening? The retailers are slowly educating customers. Pre-Christmas sales will continue to go down, and sales will start earlier and earlier – as they do in the U.S.

Another factor is the internet. I am waiting for the first headlines about the slump in stores being compensated for by the growth on-line.

Next year should be really interesting though, as the cumulative effects of Gordon Brown’s financial ineptitude over the last ten years start to have real effect.

Part of me really likes recessions, though. Advertisers suddenly realise marketing is about measurable results, not corporate bullshit, and turn to old hacks like me.

I have been trying, with difficulty, to work out how often our stuff fails to work so that I can boast about it. It seems to be about once or twice a year. The percentage must be very low because we do a lot of work; we did four jobs and a marketing review in the week before Christmas.

Lest you get the idea that this means we’re a bunch of geniuses, forget it.

It’s just that most of the people out there can’t write more than 100 words without getting lost because nobody taught them English. Anyhow my partner’s stuff does better than mine. She’s better looking, too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A London Christmas for you

Well, I had an idea last week – always a mistake. I commissioned a photographer to bring a fresh eye to the London I love at Christmas – which she certainly has.

See what you think. Just go to http://www.draytonbird.net/xmas/xmas.html
... there’s music, too, so if you don’t want to wake up all your colleagues, turn the volume down.

Some sights you’ll expect – a floodlit St. Paul’s cathedral and its choristers, joyful carol singers in Trafalgar Square, a wreath on the door of a posh Knightsbridge mansion, a Santa climbing into a less exclusive residence, the bar in my favourite Shepherd’s Market pub – with a sign that’s been there ever since I used to take a glass of champagne each morning when I lived there 40 years ago. (Shepherd’s Market is where for centuries they held the May Fair that gave London’s most elegant district – Mayfair - its name).

Others may surprise you.

50 crazy Santas skate down King’s Road, Chelsea, near our home. A “penguin”
waits to assist young skaters at the spectacular Somerset House ice rink.
Angels in stilts swoop in Covent Garden - others glide swiftly by on wheels outside the Tate Modern museum during the annual Southwark Frost Fair.
Meanwhile outside, “frost-bitten” Arctic explorers march on a mysterious mission; a Polish-Mexican restaurant has a French name - why? – and our favourite grocers in Chinatown offers Christmas greetings.

At Borough Market near London Bridge a policeman beadily watches over the Salvation Army band. A chestnut seller plies his trade. Floodlit sand sculptures astonish by passers-by on Thames bank. Shiny, sparkling fairground souvenirs and fluffy toys catch the eye. Enticing signs - Shepherd’s Market again - promise quick romance. A kilted dummy adorns a Savile Row tailor’s window, and everywhere you’ll see views of one of the world’s most extraordinary cities.

“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Dr. Johnson

Merry Christmas!

All Photographs by Maura Caricato

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Would you accept this invitation?

About 20 years ago when I was clearly a lot more distinguished than I am now, I was, to my great surprise and childish delight, told I was to be included in Who’s Who.

Normally I would have thought this is a mistake, but as I am the only Drayton Bird I have ever heard of, I guess they did it on purpose.

To be honest, I always thought these entries are just a ploy to get you to buy the damn book, but I’m too cheap, so I’ve never looked to see if I’m in there. However I read recently that once in, you’re in for good, and every year they write to ask if I want to amend my entry.

So I guess I’m in the Rogues Gallery with people like Brown, G, Incompetent Chancellor, Bully and Worse Prime Minister whose Chickens are Coming Home to Shit all over Him and Blair, A, Pathological Liar And Religious Fantasist Who thinks He Can Solve the Palestinian Problem, the Idiot, When we all Know he couldn't Run a Piss-up in a Brewery.

All these thoughts and more came crowding in this morning when I was invited to be “considered for inclusion into the 2007-2008 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals "Honors Edition" section of the Registry.”

It seems the Registry will “include biographies of our country's (my italics) most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.”

How bloody sad you’d have to be to rate that as your life’s greatest achievement – being listed in a book put together by geographically deluded loons who think everyone lives in the U.S. despite being scattered around the world.

Nevertheless, I bet they do well. The human thirst for flattery is limitless. What worries me, though, is that they ask you to give your phone number, and the best time to be contacted. I feel a pitch coming my way if I’m not careful.

Talking about pitches, please don't imagine this is any kind of a pitch for Cameron (he's the leader of the Conservative party here, for those of you unaware of the sordid trivia of British politics).

Cameron could conceivably be worse than the other two I mentioned, for two simple reasons. First, he used to work in public relations, so his natural inclination is to distort the truth - a bit worrying. And second, his policies are almost identical to the ones that got us into today's mess.

You know, spend more money rather than think a little harder about what needs fixing. Trouble is, though, that if all you're used to managing is the truth, the real world could prove a bit confusing.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Advice from the dead on how to party down

Just to follow up my little squib about banks, here are extracts from a message about “party etiquette” sent to its hapless employees by one big US bank.

“After a good year’s work, you’re entitled to let loose with your co-workers at a holiday party. Right?

Wrong. No matter how festive the occasion, it’s still a business setting. Follow these tips to avoid damaging your reputation as a competent professional.”

Then there’s lots of nauseating crap about how to dress, not to drink too much, don’t just spend the time with your office buddies, network – “introduce yourself to senior managers (i.e. arse–lick, pal - that's the way to the top here)”.
Then there’s stuff about timing, "Don't really want to go? (Who would?) Avoid turning up 20 minutes before the end? And “don’t party into the wee hours.”

It’s really excellent advice if you want to be the most boring, humourless twat anybody ever met.

Anyone who wants as their epitaph “She was a competent professional” deserves parties like that

"Pump up the volume"

You can't beat a load of old bollocks to cheer me up, friends.

Sheer childlike delight overcame the jet-lag today when I read in the gossip column of Italy's leading newspaper that whoever does these things at Armani had done some subtle retouching to "add more volume to the contents of his knickers" - or as we say here in London, "big up his crown jewels."

Go large, Becks!

Seriously, though, this is a sad comment a) on the falling away of standards in Italy and b) how image has destroyed reality.

There they are, with the most beautiful, sexy women on earth. Couldn't they have got someone to give him a bit of a tickle?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t hate their bank?

Who do you bank with? Are they run by grasping wankers*, like all the others?

I bank with Lloyd’s, and I hate the bastards. This expression of venom arises from 20 minutes trying to find out why I can’t get money – or even a balance – out of an ATM here in Montclair, NJ.

This although I have money in my account, have been coming here 5 times a year for 8 years and always use the same ATMs. Surely even a witless computer can notice that.

So I just spent money first phoning my office to see what they could find out and then calling the “help line” – which was helpless, as you might expect.

“Your card has been declined, but I can’t see why,” said the man at the call centre, who was doing his best. Then he called the man who might know – but there was a queue. "Can you hang on for 5 or 10 minutes till he’s free?”

“Why can’t he call me? I’m the customer, aren’t I? Don’t I pay them, or is it the other way round?”

“I’m afraid we don’t have the facilities, Sir.”

“You mean you have no phones?”

“Er, waffle, waffle, drivel, drivel.”

“Look I know it’s not your fault - or even your bank. But why should I pay my money on international rates to find this out? Do I have to pay for Lloyd’s mistakes?

Embarrassed pause.

“Maybe you could try in a few minutes.”

“What? And join the same queue, but a bit later?”

I once did a talk to an audience from banks and insurance companies. After giving a few examples like the above I asked, “Is there anyone here who laughs all the way to the bank?” That went down well.

And nearly 20 years ago over lunch with Bob Heller the great business pundit, I asked what he thought about bank marketing.

He replied, “They should stick to arranging transactions properly.”

How right. The first rule of marketing is simple. Get the product right. But they haven’t. They thrive on shoddy service.

And they’re no bloody good at banking basics. Why do you suppose your property is about to lose value? Stupid, greedy, incompetent bankers. You get punished for their sloth. They retire with millions.

And please don’t think I’m singling out Lloyds; the others are just as bad - sometimes worse. The only people I can think of who are less competent are the government,

Nor am I singling out all the poor sods who have to do the work and spend too much time listening to angries like me.

I just hate the fat cats in head office who draw massive salaries for bad management. What rapacious swine they are.

As a coda, I was once ranting like this to my Lloyds manager - in the days when they still had them - and he said, “You should see what they do to me,” and told me a few stories that made me feel sorry for him.

If anyone wants to start a vigilante group devoted to chaining the top people at all the banks to desks in their own bloody call centres for a few hours, then sticking short-fused dynamite sticks up their arses, count me in.

* No prizes for “what rhymes with wankers?” by the way.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Do you have £500,000 to invest?

It is now well over a century since intelligent marketers started measuring the results of their ads by keying them.

Even before that some were building databases on card index systems; I often show an example in my seminars that dates back 140 years

It is coming up to fifty years since firms started using the computer to store and extract relevant information about people thousands of times faster and more cheaply.

So how come this was sent out to someone who certainly doesn't have £500,000 lying around:

Subject: Good news for cahoot savers

Dear Mr Bruce,

We are delighted to tell you that the rate on your cahoot standard savings account is increasing!

On your savings account ending XXXX XXXX, your rate will increase to 6.45% AER* on balances of £500,000 or more. So why not take advantage of this boost to your savings rate by transferring some funds into your cahoot savings account.

If you want to add some money into your account to take advantage of these increased rates then please contact your bank and set up a standing order for regular saving or ask them to send money across electronically via BACS. You will need to give your bank your cahoot account number and savings sort code which is 09-06-43. You'll find your full account number on your personal homepage when you log in. For security we have not included your full account number in this email.

Remember with your cahoot savings account you get easy access to your money and unlike some other banks we do not penalise you for taking money out of your account.

If you have any questions about these changes to your interest rate, or any queries about your account then please give us a call on 0844 9000 900**. We are available 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm Saturday. If you prefer, please email us through 'contact us' from your personal homepage as messages sent from here will be responded to as a priority.

Thank you for saving with cahoot.

Yours sincerely

Harvey Griffith
Head of Customer Contact

Yes, friends, the Dark Ages of marketing are still with us.

Key things to make a note of for people who haven't caught up with the 20th century, let alone the 21st, are: profiling; relevance; learning the basics; and try copy that reads like it's from a human.

How do these people survive?

Slightly less serious

One of my favourite clients just read some copy for a collectible that I wrote.

(Wondering what a collectible is? It's usually something absurd for people to collect who don't know what to collect).

He suggested we look at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=I7CsYfJ9-3k

Check it out. If you don't laugh, you're reading the wrong blog.

Goodness me, let's not offend anyone

Well, I'm in the US again, for my youngest's birthday party, which would be perfect if it were not my eldest's Christmas bash in Brooklyn the night before.

No long boozy sessions tonight with the lads for me then.

The climate here is cold - and just slightly short of insane. On the TV yesterday I saw the following:

We wish you all a happy multi-faith Festive Season.

Doesn't that word multi-faith warm the cockles of your heart? How much more sincere does it sound than boring old Merry Christmas?

It's true there are many faiths here, just as in England, and the chief aim nowadays is not to upset anyone. But in a country with an amazingly high percentage of church-goers compared to us slackers in England, it is astonishing that this sort of tripe pervades.

My heart cries out for all those who have been distressed over the years by the word Christmas. Many probably threw themselves off high buildings as a result.

It is interesting to compare our warm, embracing approach with the more muscular one in countries where they live a simpler life.

They don't worry about these niceties in Saudi Arabia. Try opening a church there and seen what happens. Or try being a Christian in parts of Pakistan. But this attitude is not exclusive to Muslims. Don't upset the more enthusiastic Hindus in the wrong parts of India, whatever you do. If you're a Marxist it could cost you your life.

Here, on the other hand, there seems a reluctance to stand up for ourselves. Except, of course, for the Evangelicals of one kind or another, who are almost as hot in their beliefs as the people I just mentioned.

Why on earth do I think about these things? Because, as Napoleon put it, "Moral force rather than numbers, decides victory."

You can't have any moral force without faith. These zealots may be crazy and deeply unpleasant, but we seem to believe in nothing around Christmas except shopping.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

My first great act of public service

My friend Iain Murray, is – by far – the funniest commentator on marketing I know. I don't know why he hasn't been knighted. Too honest, I guess. He writes a column every week in Marketing Week which is the only thing worth reading in that rag.

(The rest is mostly sycophantic rubbish about nothing much. I just snorted on reading about a man one of whose chief achievements is that he helped to shepherd through a silly new logo for British Telecom to replace the silly old logo which replaced another silly but slightly duller logo, not one of which did anything to improve the phone service. What a wasted life - but I digress).

Anyhow, Iain often writes about the kind of witless pseudo-academic research which either tells you something you already knew or something you don’t need to know. I thought of him when yesterday I read that those twats who fail to run the National Health Service* are going to squander a few more million on research into finding what people want from their hospitals.

Well, this is a really tricky one, you useless berks**, but I can help.

1. People would like to have clean hospitals.
2. People would like to have their ailments treated promptly, especially if they have things like cancer. I would have liked it if someone had detected this in my late mother before it was too late.
3. People would like you to stop pissing away their money on bereavement counselling and channel the cash into something useful like medicine.
4. People would like fewer managers and more nurses and doctors.
5. People would like almost all of you who run things thrown out, blindfolded and sent to play in heavy traffic on a major motorway
6. People would prefer not to die on the way to the wrong hospital
7. People would like the entire government to spend a week locked in any of the many hospitals with MRSA problems.

Is that clear enough for you?

Just send the money I’ve saved you to my offices in Newman Street. I will then divide it up and send it to the nurses up and down the country as a Christmas bonus.

*Sorry about that to those readers who are not benefiting from our famous health service, as praised by uber-wanker Michael Moore. It is the largest employer in the world after the Indian Railways – but not nearly as well run and far more dangerous.

** Berks is English rhyming slang. To give you an example, apples = apples and pears = stairs. So, Berks = Berkeley hunt = work out for yourself what rhymes with hunt.