On the Campaign Couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm the marketing director of an Edinburgh-based company, and currently use a Scottish agency for our advertising.

A number of major Scottish brands have headed South and appointed London-based agencies in recent months, and I must admit that my head is being turned by the bright lights as well. A London agency will no doubt cost more, but will I get better results?

A: The modern marketing director is increasingly accused of forgetting what proper marketing is. Proper marketing is supposed to inform the entire enterprise: from the insightful identification of consumer needs, through product innovation and development, and on to promise and presentation. Increasingly, the modern marketing director chooses to ignore the first two stages; they're for someone else to worry about.

Increasingly, modern marketing directors see their role as putting the best possible face on what already exists. They're little more than make-up artists.

I'm sorry to say this, but you seem to be one of them. The reason you're attracted to London is the same reason that ladies from the Home Counties are attracted to London: that's where the big-name hairdressers are. If you were a proper marketing director, you'd find all you needed in Scotland.

Q: Dear Jeremy, my ad agency is insistent I should pay them to produce an app for my brand (just like they were insistent I should pay them to design a website for my brand, which nobody ever visits). How do I spot the bandwagons I should be jumping on?

A: I expect your agency believes in FMA? Mountebanks around the world rejoiced when First-Mover Advantage became a respectable marketing concept: it gave them the spurious authority to hustle their prospective backers into a premature parting from their cash. FMA works a bit like While Stocks Last! Quick, hurry or you might miss out! Don't think too hard about it, just do it! And what's more, do it first! Read the books: if you do it first, you'll have a market advantage for all eternity and none of your competitors will ever be able to catch up. So a lot of people did it first - and only then caught their breath for long enough to ask exactly what It was.

You may remember the first dotcom boom. Like bubbles throughout the ages, from tulips to pyramid schemes, the dotcom boom was entirely fuelled by otherwise intelligent people's mindless determination not to miss the bandwagon. So they jumped on first, bought their extremely expensive tickets - and only then asked the driver if he knew where they were going.

Sober analysis of the success rate of FMA followers turns up 63 losers for every one winner. Don't believe them when they tell you that Amazon was a First-Mover. Amazon wasn't. Amazon was the first to get it right. Getting it right will always be a great deal more profitable than getting it early.

Remind your agency, as I now propose to remind you, of the great penguin parable.

When penguins wake up at dawn, they're hungry. They shake their feathers, rearrange their tongues and waddle to the edge of the ice-floe. There they stop, to peer over the edge, alert for circling sharks.

Behind them, however, other hungry penguins gather, pressing ever forwards like Japanese commuters on the Underground. Only when the front-row penguins are jostled into the ice-cold water do these later penguins pause. They pause because of their concern for the well-being of their First-Mover colleagues: are they having breakfast - or are they being breakfast?

If their colleagues are being breakfast, the later penguins belatedly recognise that their hunger isn't nearly as acute as they'd previously imagined. What they really fancy is a bit of a lie-in. They turn their backs and waddle home.

But if, on the other hand, their colleagues are having breakfast - a fine, tasty, shark-free breakfast - then they all jump in to join them. Penguins greatly value early movers; they're far more reliable than research.

So before you resentfully commission your agency to produce an app for your brand, challenge them to show you three competitive brands that are having an excellent breakfast as a direct result of their apps. If your agency can find such evidence, then jump right in: it won't be too late. If they can't, I'd waddle off home if I were you.

Q: Now that the dust has settled, can you explain how the pundits who predicted that the General Election would be the first digital one got it so wrong?

A: Obama used the internet to raise the money and television to spend it. Bandwagoning pundits confused the two.

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.