OPINION: Failure takes a high toll on the brand managers

As Howard Wilkinson followed Kenny Dalglish and Bruce Rioch on to the casualty list, few outside football will have empathised as much as marketing directors. It’s a toss-up as to what’s more stressful: managing a leading football club, editing a national newspaper, fronting a big rock band, or being marketing director of a major brand.

As Howard Wilkinson followed Kenny Dalglish and Bruce Rioch on to the

casualty list, few outside football will have empathised as much as

marketing directors. It’s a toss-up as to what’s more stressful:

managing a leading football club, editing a national newspaper, fronting

a big rock band, or being marketing director of a major brand.



Recent casualties such as Tango’s Steve Kay, NatWest’s Raoul Pinnell and

Burger King’s Samantha Smith are not quite on the same levels of pay as

the football bosses or Sue Douglas, nor - outside these pages - are they

as in the public eye as Wilkinson or Liam Gallagher. However, their

brands are just as exposed, albeit it in a different way. The abuse

which greets failure takes place in the boardroom, not the tabloids, but

the insecurity of tenure is similar. Compuserve’s Alan Lawson stayed for

even less than Brian Clough’s infamous 44 days at Leeds.



Wilkinson’s exit underlines the analogy. He lost his stewardship of

Leeds because the fiercely critical Leeds consumers were losing faith in

their brand. Success others dream of was simply not good enough. But he

also went because there was a change at the top at Elland Road. New

owner, new danger. Marketing directors and agencies will recognise the

scenario.



Many clients only get the one chance these days. Re-constitute the

product, redesign the pack, review ad agencies and out with the campaign

- Millward Brown and the sales figures form their own league table. It’s

no use blaming the weather or an injury crisis.



Ford Ennals, taking over at Lloyds TSB, will be under as few illusions

as George Graham at Leeds. A few departing marketing directors will

learn that their chairmen are having breakfast at seven the next morning

with their successors. The much-touted average tenureship of 18 months

now feels generous. Agencies should be kind to their clients - a

surprising number of them will understand exactly how Ray Harford is

feeling.



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