OPINION: MILLS ON MARKETING

So Rover, no doubt the first of many, has decided to throw its lot in with Cool Britannia (Campaign, last week). Out goes the imagery of leather seats and walnut dashboards and in comes a young and funky look.

So Rover, no doubt the first of many, has decided to throw its lot

in with Cool Britannia (Campaign, last week). Out goes the imagery of

leather seats and walnut dashboards and in comes a young and funky

look.



And why not? The old Rover image was horrendously outdated (viz the

hostage and the bomb disposal expert). In any case, the underlying

premise of Cool Britannia is that it gives marketers a new peg on which

to hang a different vision of their products.



But while I have no quarrel with Rover’s strategy, I question whether

the thinking behind Cool Britannia isn’t itself a bit flawed - a fear

borne out by the recently announced list of Millennium products.



If you look at them, and the full list ranges from a sports shoe to a

handbag, they are all niche products. Yes, the Lotus Elise is wonderful

and I love the new London taxi. I’ll be sending off for a box of

Remarkable Pencils (yes, really) and I shall admire from afar the MK16

ejection seat.



Yet the selection underlines what we as a country have always known and,

in a perverse way, prided ourselves on: that when it comes to marginal

products, British inventiveness knows no bounds. Even the Dyson vacuum

cleaner (and isn’t it time we moved on to find another example of

British inventive talent?) is an upmarket product with a small target

market.



But for mainstream, mass-market products with which to take on the world

- well, forget about it if you’re thinking British. Just ask yourself

where’s the British equivalent of the Walkman or Apple Mac?



Which brings us back to Cool Britannia. By definition, mass-market

products aren’t cool, so using Cool Britannia as a branding and

marketing device will keep products firmly in the box labelled ’nice but

niche’. Second, coolness is a transient state of being, so Cool

Britannia products will have a limited life span. It’s too late to

change now, but wouldn’t Smart Britannia have been a better label to

attach? It’s catchy and, just as important, it implies no limitation by

market size or time.



Not before time, a bright spark has had the idea of collecting as many

advertising and research papers as he can find from around the world

(including the complete works of the IPA Effectiveness Awards) and

putting them up on the Internet. So, starting this summer for an

entirely reasonable annual fee, researchers and planners can browse away

to their heart’s content.



And not before time, we might say.



But one of the things that strikes me about our industry compared, say,

with management or business theory, is the relative lack of ongoing

academic research.



Sure, there are plenty of case histories and studies related to specific

brands, but marketing and advertising theory in the general or academic

sense seems to be stuck in a rut. There are familiar academics like

Andrew Ehrenberg and Philip Jones, plus the redoubtable Simon Broadbent.

But that’s about it. Our industry would gain immeasurably from some

fresh or challenging thinking, and some serious academic work would

bestow credibility on it.



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