CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/MARKETING FORUM - Marketing core values and some confidence return to the Oriana

The tenth anniversary of the Marketing Forum was marked by a return to thinking about core strategic marketing values.

Shareholder value, long-term growth, reinvention and customer centricity were the buzzwords at the event as marketers attended a series of masterclasses led by the leading marketing academics Charles Handy, John Quelch, Robert Shaw and Martha Rogers.

To reflect this change in approach, the opening address was from Nick Higham, the BBC's arts and media correspondent, who gave a review of the key marketing events of the past decade, in which the advertising and media industries seemed to take a back seat. Higham pointed out that the average delegate budget for this year's trip was £15.5 million compared with £8.3 million in 1993 and that marketing directors have themselves to thank for this growth.

Instead of concentrating on media outlets, the marketing directors were invited to look at the values of their own brands and how they could be improved.

Quelch, the senior associate dean at the Harvard Business School, led the sessions on building brand growth and said marketers need to give greater importance to accountability.

He pointed out that the clout of marketing directors on company boards has been diminished because of their own refusal to look at the bottom line of their costs.

This was backed up by research from the Cranfield School of Management and PA Consulting, which showed that only 13 per cent of marketers were focused on improving the economic profit of their organisation.

Quelch also warned against too many brand extensions, saying it was a situation which could diminish the essence of the brand and risk alienating the consumer.

"Trust is a two-way street - you should ask the consumer what he thinks the brands thinks of him or her and not what he or she thinks of the brand," Quelch said.

The masterclasses which followed had what some called a "touchy-feely" quality to them. Handy led one on how teams interact within an organisation, Rogers examined customer centricity and Shaw analysed marketing efficacy.

While some delegates complained that some of the lectures and seminars told them very little they did not already know, there was considerable interest in meetings with exhibitors.

Although the number of agencies and media owners exhibiting was down on last year, they were still very obvious. The advertising agencies included Bates UK, HHCL & Partners and Walsh Trott Chick Smith, while Zenith, Starcom Motive and MediaCom were among the media agencies.

The majority of the commercial broadcasters were present with the exception of Five, which, given weekend reports of its chief executive Dawn Airey's planned defection to BSkyB, seemed to have more immediate issues to deal with. ITV put on a double act, with representatives from Carlton and Granada selling the network as a whole.

All of the exhibitors claimed that they had had some quality meetings with at least some of the 700-odd marketers on board.

While the ongoing cautious state of the marketing industry meant that things were more subdued than in previous years, by the end of the three-day cruise things had livened up and there was not the pall that hung over last year's conference, caused by the terrorist attacks on the US.

There was an overarching feeling of confidence on the boat, that may hint at improved marketing budgets for 2003.

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