A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: As a progressive senior marketer, I've done all I can to push myself towards the forefront of the debate on brands and their presence on social media channels.

This commitment to the cutting edge of the industry has built my own brand awareness but done little to improve sales or awareness of the FMCG brands that my company sells. Would you advise a change of focus?

A: Despite your regrettable use of language, I think I may be about to praise you. There have been senior marketers who unashamedly say to their agencies: "I want you to make me famous." Not my brands: me.

Precious marketing budgets, which have been wheedled from the reluctant clutches of their company's financial director, are then deliberately diverted not to the promotion of the brands for which they were intended, but to the projection of the marketing director. Try as I might, I can see no clear point of principle that distinguishes this sort of behaviour from nicking a quid or two from petty cash.

In your case, your belief was that higher brand awareness for your good self might in some mysterious way be of benefit to your brands. You may be guilty of naivety but not dishonesty. So to answer your question: a change of focus is now overdue. Until there's clearer evidence that social media can build brands and make them famous at least as efficiently as the ancient media, you'd be wise to use them only for what they're best at. As someone who's already "towards the forefront of the debate on brands and their presence on social media channels", you should be well-placed to decide what that entails. You may be mocked as Analogue Man, but your brands will flourish.

Q: I have been offered a role with more autonomy in a much smaller country. Is it a great opportunity or are they trying to get rid of me?

A: It could be either, but there's a simple way to work out which. Just make sure you're clear about the geographical responsibilities of the individual who has proposed this posting.

If the person who made the offer is going to be ultimately responsible for your new territory, you can feel reasonably reassured; it may well be a great opportunity. No-one in their right mind is going to promote a no-hoper into a position where failure would discredit not just the promoted but also the promoter.

On the other hand, if the person who suggested this promotion is your current leader, whose area of responsibility doesn't extend to the new territory, you have every reason to smell a rat. No-one in their right mind is going to promote a high-flyer out of their team into the orbit of a corporate rival.

The trouble with this second possibility is that it leaves you deeply reluctant to take up the offer, while being left in no doubt that your current leader can't wait to get rid of you. Sadly, as so often in life, it probably comes down to a question of ability. Whatever their motives for despatching you, if you make a go of this new job, you'll be just fine. If you don't, you probably won't make a go of anything much.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I need to ask you whether "going back" is ever a good thing in marketing terms? I'm the client on a famous chocolate brand that is looking to boost sales, and our agency has recommended a return to a strapline that we ditched more than ten years ago. This seems like lazy thinking to me, but is it something that I should contemplate?

A: Oh dear. Of course I can't tell you whether "going back" is ever a good idea - any more than I can tell you whether it's ever a good idea to use cartoons or spend all your money on football sponsorship or sign up Madonna or sell your soul to product placement. It all depends, as you really should know by now, on whether you have what we old fuddy-duddies like to call a "strategy"; and if you have, what it is.

Do you have evidence that, in these uncertain times, your public increasingly values the established, the familiar, the tried-and-tested? Are your most direct competitors slightly flighty newcomers with little history and a dodgy provenance? Does the long-ditched strapline elicit reassuring emotions in those you want to reach, including the under-25s?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, your agency's recommendation doesn't sound like lazy thinking to me and is certainly something that you should seriously contemplate.

But if it is based on someone with designer stubble saying "We thought it might be quite fun to do a Hovis", then you should run not only for the hills but also to another agency.

"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.

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