Media: A Moment with Marquis

I've just begun the tiresome business of clearing out my office.

After eight years, my patch harbours a horde of business books by long-forgotten gurus, freebies not quite trashy enough to chuck out, files stuffed with documents so crucial they haven't seen the light of day since first produced, business cards of people for whom you have not a flicker of recall, and chargers for electronic devices long abandoned.

Some of my drawers reveal a trove of almost archaeological fascination.

Finding a folder of my ancient conference speeches was like stumbling, horrified, upon my mummified self in the Valley of the Kings.

Having never been brave enough to speak without notes, all my "spontaneous" jokes, asides, topical references and searing insights were neatly typed in double spacing with the font size of a Ladybird book.

One talk - reliably carbon-dated to the early Bronze Age - was delivered to the massed ranks of the Capital Radio sales team in some gothic pile in East Sussex. The commission came from David Mansfield, then a mere commercial director. Re-reading the script, I must have been asked to say something about marketing. Foolishly, Mansfield had assumed I might have something to say on the subject. "I've worked in marketing for 20 years," I began. "For the last two I have been editorial director of Marketing magazine, I hob-nob with professors of marketing at the London Business School, I'm a member of the Marketing Group of Great Britain and am speaking at the Marketing Forum. I've done all these things and, do you know, I don't have a fucking clue what marketing is." (My script doesn't actually say Pause For Laughter, but I'm sure I must have done, the ensuing silence punctuated only by a loyal titter from Mansfield.)

Cracking start then, but, of course, I bottled, got back on brief and tried to demonstrate that far from ignorance of marketing, I was, in fact, possessed of Bullmore-like sagacity on the subject. The truth is - and now with more than 30 years of marketing experience piled up on my CV like so much flotsam - I'm still not sure I know what it is. If we are to believe what we hear on the television, marketing is a devious art and invariably on the BBC accompanied by the words "scam" or "ploy".

Whatever. Like Bernard Shaw who said "I often quote myself - I find it adds spice to my conversation", I offer you my sign-off definition for the Capital sales squad: "Marketing is bothering about your customers as if they were you." I still kinda like that ...

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