Recognised, But Unfulfilled - The Digital Marketplace

What is happening .... - and why does it continue?


Digital, digital marketing in particular, offered so much. To date, the record suggests the delivery has been isolated, inconsistent and to a considerable extent, disappointing. Digital is transformational. Its potential is immense. Sadly, that potential remains unfulfilled, primarily because of a lack of understanding, the allocation of insufficient resources and sub-optimal application.




Digital products, services and the concept itself are like the internet and social media. They represent, and are an inherent part of the future. When understood, supported astutely, applied and complemented with existing networks, capabilities and skills, digital is an enabler, and expeditor, which has the capacity to save time, enhance productivity, effectively target communication and optimise strategies, tactics and interactions.


The concept cannot be deployed in isolation. Companies and entities need to invest capital, infrastructure, people, training, support and integration to achieve and sustain the true potential.


To date the global transition has been slow. Old practices persist and financial and human resources are limited.


Broadcast radio is a contemporary case study. Analogue stations, with an emphasis on talk-back and news, persist, - profitably.


FM broadcasting has enhanced the quality of sound of the music played, but has limitations in transmission areas. The immense choice available on digital transmission is widely-known but largely unused because of the need to purchase new receivers.


Television represents a similar scenario with consistently like-trends.




Significant numbers of consumers recognise the potential, choice, benefits and advantages and rewards which are inherent in digital broadcasting and transmission.


They are happy to have it available. However, in recent times free service has become the norm and the expectation.


The “innovator” and “early adopter” market segments have been quick to respond positively. Sadly, those market mavens typically represent only around 10% of the marketplace.


The larger, and potentially very profitable sub-grouping, “Early Majority”, exhibit a measure of indifference, rather than resistance. For a marketplace which is driven by NOW consumers, who seek instant gratification, an attitude of “all in good time” seems to pervade.




My, how things have changed.


In 1947 the first School of Marketing was established at Harvard University, in the United States of America.


Its genesis was timely and appropriate. After the ravages of six years of World War II, human fertilisation rates peaked around the world. The then prevailing sales era persisted until 1963, when the first of the post-war boomers entered the workforce, secured an income and triggered consumerism.


Until that time the mantra for business centred on the 4 P’s being:


Product. Price. Place. Promotion.


A strong focus was on the products, their features and general physical presence.


A carry-over of huge national, family and personal debts impeded product development. Mass production was a virtue. However, unit costs of production were the pre-eminent corporate goals, and measures of success


Quality was a difficult concept to visualise, articulate and sell. Obsolescence was, in general terms, deemed to be a future consideration




1963 was a benchmark year.


Carnaby Street, mini-skirts, the birth-control pill and the Beatles evolved and had immediate, widespread impacts.


Fashion, transition, range and choices created interest, stimulated demand and generated sales, wealth and opportunities.


Part of the transition was the emergence of the 4 P’s of marketing, by:


Perceptions, Perspectives, Paradigms and Positioning.




The impact of the year 2000 extended well beyond the fears of the Y2K computer threat, and the birth of the millennium.


All things analogue were under threat. The digital world was not binary in nature or outlook. Choice and range were omnipotent.


Conglomerates were being dismantled. Miniaturisation was gathering pace. Nano-science and nano-medical procedures were at the cutting edge of human endeavour and experience. A new template was in place and in force.


The 4 D’s had arrived:


Daring. Different. Digital, Disruptive.


Individually and collectively, these concepts are essential foundations for reaching out, connecting and engaging with the current marketplace.


Their essential values are:


Daring – Tolerates and embraces risk, dispels fear

Different – Is lateral, not literal

Digital – A channel, not a product

Disruptive – Typically enhances, seldom replaces


They are widely discussed, marginally understood and sparsely applied with acumen.


Most of the marketplace potential remains latent, unfulfilled and awaiting the deft hand of an astute marketer..... - a leader.




Interestingly, digital marketing consultants, with their abundance of product knowledge, are experiencing difficulty in monetarising the concepts’ appeal among clients and the public at large.


Substantiating and quantifying the financially tangible benefits are difficult. Their own earnings have plateaued.


This has been compounded by the evolving knowledge- bank which is revealing poor effective widespread exposure, and by the responses to social media advertising. Advertising, marketing and communication budgets, which had seen mass migration from traditional and established mass media, are being reset and redirected.


Too much of “one thing”, it seems, is simply indigestible and can leave a nasty taste, particularly among those who fed the market with such high expectations.




Delegated authority parameters change when companies are being recalibrated. Long-standing executives and business owners are assuming greater responsibility and applying more detailed key performance indicators and monitoring measures with respect to their own digital transformation processes. Rightly so.


Realising the innate potential of digital will require discipline, integration, infrastructure, support and resources.




In isolation, the introduction of digital will generally not be overly successful. The concept performs best when it is an integral component of a structured, integrated and well-resourced strategy.


The following progressive elements are fundamental:


·       Identify, isolate, analyse and determine the optimal application of the chosen aspects of the digital spectrum.

·       Study the needs, wants, circumstances and criteria applied by those in the primary, secondary, tertiary target audiences.

·       Establish the preferred transition period and which existing products, services and applications will be retained and deployed to support and complement the digital innovations.

·       Seek out and conclude strategic alliances with key internal and external spheres- of- influence.

·       Formulate, document and implement well-resourced budgets for the immediate, intermediate and longer terms.

·       Ensure the introduction and conduct of on-going training for all relevant people in the supply chains.

·       Maintain a conspicuous marketplace presence of people, products, services and applications. Even with digital, share-of-mind often equates to share of market.




Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Take Nothing For Granted

Urquhart Castle, on the western banks of Loch Ness, is a strategically located and important asset.


Historically, those who controlled the castle and the promontory of which it was erected, dominated the commercial flow of Scotland.


It was a primary target for invading English armies, was staunchly defended by the Scots, and was a desirable target asset for the acquisitive McDonald clan – notwithstanding the buildings featured no golden arches, only stone.


Sadly, the Grant clan was assigned the rights to Urquhart Castle, and centuries ago, when they lost power and were about to lose possession, they razed the complex.


The remnants remain a top feature tourist destination, still strategically important for the Scottish economy.


The first of the following photographs features Jill Urquhart, with Urquhart Bay in the background.  This was the location of the two alleged sightings of the infamous Loch Ness monster.


The inherent messages in the text and photographs are that no empire lasts forever, and one should not take things for granted – particularly when involving the Grant clan.


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Branded - For Success

Brands, products, services, applications and choice abound, many with little distinction.


Non-differentiated commoditisation reigns supreme. As a consequence, for many consumers and clients, pricing is the dominant selection criterion, overwhelming the innate and natural value and virtues of a good brand.


Value is difficult to identify, quantify and, well –value.


Search and purchase routines are typically extended, and often inconclusive when recognised and preferred brand names are not conspicuous and readily available.


Consumers do look for the reassurance and confirmation in brands that are recognised, respected and, above all, TRUSTED.


Sadly, in the current commoditised and over-communicated marketplace many people are confused, uninformed and their needs are unfulfilled.




Effective brand management projects the values, beliefs and virtues integral to the brand, the products, the services and applications which equate to advantages, benefits and rewards for existing and prospective customers and consumers.


Brand: Word associations are telling and definitive, when the brand name makes a statement.


For example,


Volvo: Safety

BMW: Engineering Excellence

Apple: Simplicity in design and application


A cursory overview of the branding landscape suggests that there is much to learn.




A recent national Australian survey identified and ranked brands in 65 categories. Perhaps expectedly, some of the tables revealed surprises and a series of, seemingly, stark contradictions.


For example, Dettol was ranked number 1 in both “First Aid” and “Household Cleaning”.


The charity sector was interesting.


Noticeably, church-based not-for-profit brands were conspicuously absent, doubtless a consequence of the fallout from the investigations in, and Royal Commissions on alleged paedophilia by those in the various networks.


Apparently, similar to the political arena, if one is seeking a friend, or unconditional love and trust with charities, they should look no further than man’s best friend - a dog.


The Guide Dogs brand ranked number 1, followed by the RSPCA.


The brand name and graphics are definitive – centred on reliability, value, consistency and trust. The graphics are instantly recognisable (in less than 2 seconds – on social media) and they resonate with a broad spectrum of people.




Interestingly, in the coffee-culture of modern society two brands of tea – Lipton and Twinings – were ranked in the top seven of the most-trusted brands, regardless of category.


The manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the battery brands Energiser and Duracell doubtless got a charge out of being ranked 1 in the top 2 most-trusted brands in Australia.




In many instances and respects the monetary value of brands is determined by the beliefs, philosophies and promises behind the products, services and applications.


For example, the unimpeachable and non-negotiable commitment to service excellence and responsiveness (the 24-hour promise of minimal equipment down-time) of the Caterpillar brand provides the sustainable competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace of high-tech, high quality capital equipment.




One cannot live by brand along.


In the category “Australian Iconic” Hills Hoist was “King of the Castle”.


Qantas was ranked second. This is an interesting case study, because during the course of the past two decades, the market share enjoyed by Qantas of in-bound and out-bound international air travel (centred on Australia) has fallen from 42% to around 14% (and declining).


Clearly, being recognised as an Australian icon and trusted is not sufficient to win and retain business.


When better value is readily found with brand names like Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, prospective passengers fly “the coop” – and with the competitors.


Creative, emotive advertising and sponsoring of the Australian Olympic team count for little in the race for consumer patronage and loyalty. Top-of-mind awareness can do little for the top-line and bottom-line if the brand does not deliver the promise.




Bewildering to experienced and discerning brand managers is the practice of individuals and outlets in franchise, marketing, buying and cooperative networks that insist on featuring and profiling their own sub-brand name in literature, advertising, premises and signage.


The overriding group brand name is compromised for little purpose and gain. Egos can be distracting, toxic forces.


There is no evidence of such happenings with profiled and yes, trusted, brands like McDonald’s and Domino’s.


It seems illogical that an individual or independent operation would join a network, pay annual fees, seek to capitalise on the values and virtues of a recognised brand, then seemingly debase its value.




Harold Geneen, the former President of ITT (International Telephone and Telecommunications) was a strong advocate of:


The Doctrine of No Surprises


Consistency, continuity and commitment were virtues throughout and beyond the corporation.


They were the stepping stones to building trust and brand supremacy. No surprises there.

It made ITT, and its suite of operating brands, including Sheraton Hotels and Avis, sought-after, leading and profitable.




It must be hard for some Australian brewers to swallow that the two most-trusted beer brands throughout Australia in 2016 were:


·       Corona

·       Heineken


To be wedged by the bitter taste of ascendancy (and lemon) with a Mexico-based brand (Corona) underscores the global nature of modern commerce and consumerism. No brand, product, service or application is immune to the power and relevance of good brands.


There is a lot that should be written, said and heard about astute brand management




Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555





The Power To Say 'Yes'



That is: the dominant characteristic of decision making in, and among a broad spectrum of businesses, that deal with other businesses. The B2B sector has been subjected to profound structural changes during the past two years.


Retrenchments have thinned ranks. Delegated authorities have been withdrawn and concentrated to those in higher ranks. Budgets on discretionary purchase items have been slashed. As a consequence many relationships have been noticeably fractured, and in some instances, terminated. Those who once had the authority and power to say “yes” have been reduced to the options of only saying “no ... unless referring” – or having to refer it to others.


Income- streams have rapidly dried up. Remedial actions by service and product providers who have lost income streams can readily encounter “locked doors” or advice that new supplier arrangements have been implemented which do not include them.




One-on-one relationships in business are characteristically fraught with danger.


Changes in personnel, regimes and policies expose often long-established suppliers to the reality of cash-flow evaporation. It’s not so much that the “dam has run dry”, it could be that it is being rechannelled or water being dammed upstream.


It is a two-sided coin. As staff members of supply companies “walk-out the door” so too do a number of clients. Loyalty can be, and often is, personal.


Therefore, the lessons which are being strikingly and tellingly learned in the contemporary marketplace underscore the imperative discipline of ensuring that B2B relationships are established, sustained and enhanced amongst at least two, and preferably more, people in each entity.


Disruption is not a concept which is limited to technology. Disrupted relationships and supply agreements can be, and often are destructive.


The conduct of regular audits of B2B relationships, communication channels and logistic infrastructure is prudent, if not essential. It contributes to the attainment of optimal productivity, consistency and continuity. Moreover, contingencies can be formulated, documented and implemented to avoid or redress disruptions and contractions.


Barry Urquhart

Facilitator – Business Development Workshops

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




80:20 Rule Myth Shattered

Ask, and you will receive. The findings of a recent national research study have shattered the widely-held contention that successful businesses generate around 80% of their revenue from repeat and referral transactions.


Referrals have declined, substantially.


Consumers report effecting direct and personal referrals and recommendations to less than 8% of entities with whom they dealt with in the 4 weeks preceding interviews.


Arguably, the most disappointing finding was that only 2% of consumers reported being requested by service providers to provide recommendations, referrals and introductions.


Clearly, the art and discipline of asking for business has been lost on many -, new - generation employees in particular.


Things don’t just happen in business. They need to be encouraged, supported and nurtured.


Follow up and follow-through are integral elements of a transaction. They are the founding steps to establishing and sustaining relationships, adding to a burgeoning customer base.


Recruitment, induction, training and ongoing development processes need to feature and to reinforce the need for and benefits from a consistent practice of requesting endorsements, recommendations and referrals.


They must be complemented by an integrated schedule of corresponding, self-initiated contacts with those prospective clients who have been identified and nominated as satisfied customers. The circle of life has similar characteristics to that of the cycle of business. Birth, rebirth and procreation are fundamental. 


Remember, ask, and you will receive. Dismiss concerns about the fear of offense and rejection.


Barry Urquhart

Retail Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




"We Don't Do Call-Backs"



Some business practices are well beyond the sage, Albert Einstein, who once stated:


Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.


Advising prospective clients who have telephoned that they will have to wait up to 20 minutes to speak to a consultant, and then declaring we don’t do call-backs is insanity personified and accentuated.


It happens daily. Indeed, all too-often, at great expense to the profile, images, revenues, profits and competitiveness of entities.


Regrettably, managers seem oblivious to the practices and consequences. Hopefully, they do not reflect polices.


The monitoring of incoming calls does not typically recognise, register and report on forsaken businesses opportunities.  Indeed, average telephone conversation durations can be reduced, and then applauded by management.  Some statistics simply measure the wrong dimensions.


Ignorance about and indifference to service excellence and the value of relationships among receptionists, telephonists and consultants is mind-numbing.  Some just don’t get it.


The contemporary global, national and local economies are such that few, if any, businesses can afford to readily knock-back or reject outright business opportunities.


However, regular work-practices are erecting barriers, filters and impediments for those who initiated contact and have self-declared they want and need specific products, services and applications.


A lack of astute, discerning and disciplined recruitment, induction, training and development practices is omnipotent.




If I could talk to more people, I could do more business is a common refrain, particularly among incentive-based sales people.  They know the innate value and resultant sales that arise from conversations.


Sadly, many employees believe in, and are driven by the contention that they aren’t sales people.  Wrong.  Every team member contributes to the sales process and gracious, courteous and responsive communication is fundamental........ natural and easy.


Business processes that do not involve people are typically self-serving, administrative and do not generate revenue and profits.  They are correctly designated to be cost-factors.


There is an increasing awakening that in business we all need to seek out, become involved in, enjoy and follow-up opportunities to communicate.


Incentives should not be required to encourage and to have all team members willingly undertaking call-backs.  Ringing up prospective customers and clients is the first step in ringing up increased sales and profits.


Indeed, the most consistently successful business, marketing, sales and service people make it a practice to “call-back” existing prospective and past customers. They know that conversations are on-going, and that they need to be part of the process, to ensure that they enjoy the outcomes and consequences.




No-one should ever consider themselves to be too busy to make call-backs – or to initiative contacts.


Administration duties, meetings, and budgeting can wait.  Customers won’t, and should not be made to do so.


Attrition rates among the relationships with established customers are rising, in some instances up to 40% per annum.  Winning back those customers can be, and is, complex, involved, expensive and time-consuming.


Policies like we don’t do call-backs, do free-up time in the now, and in the future.  Over the longer-term there are few or no customers to call-back, speak to or to seek out.




There is much to herald about the disciplined practice of call-backs, including:


·       Commitments should be given, and fulfilled about call-backs.


·       Time horizons should be nominated.


·       Records of conversations, undertakings promised and milestones achieved should be documented, retained and programmed for follow-up (to enable further call-backs).


·       A daily schedule of at least 6 self-initiated call-backs should be implemented, to maintain enhance and celebrate relationships – which are founded on, and sustained by communications.




I commend those who become aware of the practice by competitors that they don’t do call-backs, to initiate contact with the managers of those entities to surrender yourself as being willing to receive and collate the names of those unfilled customers so that they can make those annoying, disruptive, time-consuming call-back calls.


For those customers who are subjected to the inane, if not insane practice of “no call-back policies” contact management and enquire about the identity and contact details of competitors who do call-backs.


They might just get a clear hang-ups.




Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555







Information Is Power - But Not Enough

Big Data, big deal!


Countless businesses have been overwhelmed, indeed swamped, with information as a direct consequence of implementing the process and capacity of Big Data.


Invaluable insights on the perceptions, preferences, buying patterns and essential characteristics of individuals, families and groupings have been retrieved.


In the main they remain uncollated, awaiting analysis and astute deployment and application.


How ironic. So much information, and so little intelligence.




The marketplace feedback is disturbing, and damning.


A recent extensive national survey of consumers concluded that some 72% of recipients of customised, personalised correspondence – determined and influenced by data from their own past transactions – deleted or did not read the literature pieces.


Design, layout and graphics were, seemingly, not key contributors to such consumer indifference and non-responsiveness.


It seems that many contemporary consumers now determine whom they will interact with, buy from and be loyal to, and the manner in which they will do so.


In short, company initiated advertising, promotional texts and communication are, to many, considered to be unsolicited, and often, unwelcome intrusions


That is little removed from the unenviable stigma of junk mail.




Much of the prevailing attitudes and non-responsiveness to customised, big data – are the consequence of past experiences with mass-produced, non-discriminatory bulk-mail and emails.


The underlying marketing issue is categorisation, not packaging. Many marketing, selling, promotion, sales and service initiatives suffer from commodization. Therefore, individual contacts with existing, prospective and past customers and clients tend to suffer from “not being opened” – rejected - rather than being read, and comprehended and then rejected. Read: Selective Perception and Reception.




Even finely packaged offers on products, services and brands which are conspicuous in the past buying patterns of individuals have at best, a mere 50% prospect of a positive response from targeted consumers.


The importance of time, and timing does not appear to be recognised and respected by some business leaders and their marketers. Great, appealing, financially attractive and compelling value-offerings can pretty much lack relevance, if the timing is not right.


Different strokes for different folks.


Big Data alone is not the answer, just like quantitative research findings. They provide overviews on statistical patterns and address the questions about what and how.


The worth of quantitative research is optimised when it is complemented, and typically pre-empted by attitudinal research. That latter methodology probes, and provides insights on the questions about why.


That is why demographic profiles of targeted audiences only provide part-answers. Psycho-graphic profiles are multi-dimensional, insightful and, potentially, incredibly powerful. Big Data typically lacks the latter's data inputs and insights.




Among the key findings of the major research study into Big Data– initiated communications, many females expressed concern that their important and fundamental role as the primary buying agent was not recognised. That is, the differentiation between being the customer and the consumer.


Some 58% of menswear is sold to women. Not for them to wear, but for use by significant males in their lives, be they sons, partners, relatives or friends.


Yet there's a conspicuous absence of females in a large percentage of menswear advertising, merchandising, promotional and point-of-purchase literature.


The power of families extends well beyond “the hand that rocks the cradle”.




The prevailing under-performance of many Big Data- based business development initiatives does not imply or conclude that all entities should turn away from, or reject the principles and practice of data collection, analysis and use.


It does, however, highlight the imperative of recruiting and retaining people who have the skills, experience and training to effectively convert the raw information into valuable intelligence.


Like social media, Big Data is, and should be utilised to complement and accelerate existing channels to and between targeted customers.


A discerning touch is what separates the attractive and profitable latent potential from the current poor and marginal returns which are being experienced ....-and not enjoyed by all the participants.


It's all in the execution. Get it wrong, and it will kill you.





Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally recognised and respected conference keynote speaker, consumer behaviour analyst and marketing strategist.


Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555



The Digital Divide

Time for a reality check.


Searching and buying on-line can be cheaper, provide more information and offer greater variety. It does, however, tend to be slower for consumers taking possession of the product, service or apps, and can be disappointing – reflected in the 300% differential in product returns, compared to those bought in-store.


Above all, many consumers perceive and report the on-line shopping experience to be hollow – devoid of emotion and fun.


Purchases made in bricks ‘n mortar premises are typically faster and more emotionally fulfilling.


However, the line between the two categories is becoming blurred.


The fastest-growing component of on-line sales is “click and collect”, in which the transaction is undertaken on-line and the consumer chooses to collect the product in-store.


Thus, convenience and price advantage meet positive, emotional shopping ambience and experience.


The in-store buying scenario is increasingly involving use of a smart phone for price-checks, brand preference selection and scanning available offers. Information is power.


Modern, contemporary consumers are connected, informed, discerning, price-aware and demanding.




Consumer traffic, sales and satisfaction can be leveraged and optimised with the astute use of digital marketing initiatives.


Video walls, with dynamic changing graphics are replacing posters. As a result, there tend to be less signage and clutter, fewer displayed products and greater focus, impact, energy and a sense of urgency – all reflected in greater productivity.


Interactivity introduces a new dimension of the visual merchandising. Touch-screens enable intending buyers to find more information, to correlate and integrate differing products, colours and concepts and to customise those to best fit and suit house designs, personal needs and preferences.




A palpable consequence of professionally applied in-store digital marketing initiatives is up-beat attitudes, behaviour and movement of both customers and staff members.


The positive emotions are infectious.


They stand in stark contrast to ambience of neighbouring stores which retain “tired” dated and dog-eared posters, and point-of-purchase signage.


Real-time updates, high definition content and the integration of omni-channel displays resonate, often subconsciously, with consumers.


Encouragingly, use is not limited to telecommunications retail premises, to electronics, fashion, furniture or flooring outlets. It is equally effective in enhancing the ambience, store traffic, sales and customer satisfaction in coffee lounges, medical practices and motor vehicle sales centres.




Static displays are passé. Therefore, upgrading to digital marketing requires a budget, allocation of resources to constantly update and change presentations and the retention of people who are skilled and committed to the concepts the outcomes and benefits.


This is the new face of modern retail entertainment. Much of the customers' experience is centred on and determined by the ambience, settings and contexts.


Illuminated signs brighten up premises, product displays, and above all, customers.


These can be literally alive – with movement, colour and action. That mosaic attracts attention, consumers and results in sales.


The digital divide is palpable on several dimensions. Static displays tend to be associated with static sales and performance levels.




Location, established consumer traffic flows, natural ambience, lighting and quality premises, products, services, apps and people remain important.


The essence of great digital signage is creative content, interactive options supported by an appropriate, liberal budget and a recognition and tolerance by senior management. It is often difficult to quantify and monitor the actual financial returns on investment. Dividends from investments in digital marketing transcend multiple disciplines including, branding, image, competitiveness, relevance, attractiveness and overall appeal – in short, intermediate and long-term returns.


It's enough to brighten up your day .....- and that of your existing and prospective customers and clients.





Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally recognised and respected conference keynote speaker, consumer behaviour analyst and marketing strategist.


Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555




Blunt Instruments No Longer

The shackles of control are broken.


Past undergraduate students of Economics 101 were lectured (with conviction) that fiscal and monetary policies were blunt instruments, which enabled governments to control, influence and modulate national, state and regional economies. Such contentions have morphed into studies of history.


It's time to hit the re-set button.


Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens, an eminently qualified economist with access to a plethora of global, national and sectional detailed data, information and intelligence recently conceded that he, the Reserve – and overseas, “The Fed” in the USA, and the Exchequer in Britain – can no longer accurately influence and forecast the marketplace or the consequences of monetary and fiscal initiatives. How refreshingly, open and honest.


It raises questions about the veracity and worth of the predictions and projections of countless economists from banks, professional associations and consultancies, who are inclined to be free with their advice and “insights” in the mass media.


To some, outside the sphere of economists, the only point of consistency among those supposedly authorative resources is that they are always wrong. The only difference is the measure of their inaccuracy.


Such common perceptions may explain, in part, the emerging presence of the new breed, - behavioural economists.


Statistics-based economics identify past happenings and trends. They do not isolate, analyse and explain the why of such reflective realities.


Given the evolving rebalancing of market forces in favour of consumers, and often, major spheres of influence (beyond the realms of government and the public sector) it is understandable that all players are beginning to recognise and respect the imponderables which populate society, the economy and marketplaces.


Sharemarkets are not immune to the new scenario. The number of investors who are reliant on, or influenced by “chartists” – those who record, track and graph trend-lines – is rapidly declining. Increasingly, they agree that -


The future is not a lineal progression of the past.


Perhaps there is now a better understanding of the nature, causes and consequences of the reference by Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve in the United States of America to:


Irrational Exuberance


Oh, to retain the exuberance and contain the irrationalism. Imagine an emotion- driven, confidence-influenced marketplace.




There are few, if any “experts” who know the customers, clients, competitors, substitutes, suppliers and spheres of influence as well as business owners and their team members.


Concessions and exceptions can and should be made to those in business who have retreated, battened-down and “tightened the belt”. Likewise, advice of “all-knowing, all-seeing” external experts, - economists and accountants included, - is most relevant to those who are detached from market-players.


Many deliberations and decisions are typically, solely or predominantly based on analyses of the ”Big Picture”, macro-economies if you will. As previously discussed, many of the contentions are spurious at best, and about as relevant as the form-guides - of past events - for horses in the Melbourne Cup, or the records of teams on the recent Rugby Union World Cup – with the exception of the all-powerful All Blacks. Their form centres most on muscle, mental strength and formations (not past performance).




There is a lot of merit in micro-management at this time. Some, if not many things are beyond one's influence and control, including fiscal and monetary instruments.


Most sectional downturns are measured in lower-order single numbers. Therefore, business is still being transacted.


Hence, the appropriate focus and accent should be on how one is to achieve, sustain and progressively grow market-share.


With most competitors and substitutes consciously contracting – inventories, advertising, marketing, workforces and resources - it is not difficult to create and enjoy the future of an enhanced and heightened presence.


Most behaviourist economists will concede that they do not have a measure on consumer confidence. It is considered one of those imponderables that “cloud” the marketplace. In many respects the big picture simply provides the backdrop for personally initiated actions.




There is no single, universal formula for success. The individualism of, and differences between businesses, products, services, economies, marketplaces and target audiences need to be reconsidered and respected.


However, there are certain fundamentals which are sound building blocks, including:


•  Invest in one's presence. This includes:
•  Premises presentation
•  Website locations
•  Product/Service merchandising
•  Team member personal presentations
Consistently, these initiatives generate the most immediate and sustainably positive responses.


•  Develop People
•  Training and development are not discretionary. They are imperatives.


•  Refine and focus inventory
•  New products, services and applications can be, and are magnets.
•  Delete the tired, the obsolete and the irrelevant.


•  Increase and improve communications
•  Integrate a multi-channel positioning.
•  Maintain consistency of message and frequency.
•  Inform, educate and engage existing, prospective and past clients.


•  Launch, relaunch
•  Excite the market place with events that launch all that is new.
•  Provide samples, trials and interactions. Emotional connections stimulate sales.




These proven and, well-established and successful building blocks have scant presence in, and influence of macro-fiscal and monetary initiatives or policies, consequently do not receive much attention.


But they do provide the framework in which you are able to do what you do best .... lead, manage and control your own business.





Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected strategic planner, consumer behaviour analyst, author and high impact conference keynote speaker.


Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist

Marketing Focus

Change - No Small Thing

Change is a big deal, particularly in the current marketplace.


Whether it is self-generated or imposed by external market forces, change demands attention, consideration, detailed analysis and the formulation, documentation and implementation of an integrity strategy.


Incremental change, and its consequences, dictate the need for respect. The scale of change differs little in importance from the frequency of that change.


In many, if not most instances, all change is significant to consumers. Accordingly, marketing, communications, promotions, merchandising, selling and service initiatives need more than “tweaking”.


Success in the introduction of change is not difficult. It is a consequence of detailed planning and respect for the impact on, and perception of existing, prospective and past clients.


Sadly, there is a long history of negative and sub-optimal outcomes as a result of change – big and small.




Clearly, a majority of unsuccessful change initiatives are derive from the management, and more disturbingly, marketing offices of companies, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers.


Greater knowledge, better education, unbounded creativity and originality, and a marketing degree, do not guarantee success and market acceptance.


Imposing and enforcing change on consumer perceptions, preferences and buying patterns is fraught with danger and difficulty. In such circumstances considerable time, money and resources need to be invested in the education and re-education of those in the primary, secondary and tertiary target markets.


Instant success is a rarity, if not a myth.




It is refreshing to learn, and reassuring to the owners, managers and marketers of small businesses that major global corporations, brands and product managers are prone to falling short in successfully implementing change.


The frequency of mistakes, shortcomings and outright failures is high. The scale of the consequences appears to be a differentiating factor.




For some 15 years the largest selling beer brand in Australia was Victoria Bitter, “VB”.


The brilliance of the advertising which featured the voice of the late John Meillon resonated with Australian drinkers and teetotallers alike.


A national market share of between 12 and 14% was enjoyed for an extended period of time, until someone decided to introduce a low-alcohol option. That weakened the presence and profile of the brand.


VB has slipped the ladder of success to approximately 3-4% market share.


The biggest selling beer brand in Australia is now full-strength XXXX, once a regional Queensland-based offering.


For global consumers the labelling may imply that it targeted to illiterate consumers. Not so. Although it could be a strikingly adroit strategy to impact among the 60%+ of the world's population who sign documents with an X!




For decades the Holden 6-cylinder Kingswood was Australia's own family motor car. Annual sales regularly exceeded 150,000.


Given the vagaries of oil supplies, and attendant price hikes, in the 1980s and beyond it was noted that a trend was emerging with the increasing popularity and sale of smaller, 4-cylinder European cars.


The decision was made – by whom I do not know – that the Holden Kingswood would be superseded by the Commodore, with the brand name Holden being removed or de-emphasised.


Sales plummeted to around 80,000 per annum. It was a costly lesson. Most changes come with consequences, some larger than others.


Holden never recovered and will cease production of motor vehicles in Australia by 2017.




Glad Wrap is a constant in many Australian kitchens.


A recent change in the packaging and introduction of a new cutting device hurt sales, - and a number of customers. Revenue bled, so too consumers, who could not effectively use the innovative cutting device.


Appropriately, the new packaging was promptly withdrawn, to the delight (and well-being) of many consumers.


The change to McDonald's product range with the introduction of All-Day-Breakfast was hardly a resounding success. It seems consumers were happy to move on from breakfast mid-morning. McDonald's franchisees found the extended hours of a breakfast offering was inefficient and impacting on profitability and productivity.


In recent times, McDonald's, and the broader fast-food sector, have been experiencing falling demand, sales and squeezed profits.


The best change seems to be good, rather than fast ... consumer driven, rather than management rushed. The margins for effort, like profits can be, and are increasingly thin.




•  Identify, isolate and analyse the demand factors for change
•  Ensure customer drive, and acceptance
•  Differentiate wants from demands – the former can create fads
•  Formulate, document and implement an integrated change strategy
•  Recognise and respect that to consumers, all change is BIG

The Big Lie - No Excuses

 Scandal. Fraud. Scam.


These are words that cause shivers in the corridors of corporations, and rightly so. Particularly, if the events and inevitable consequences are self-induced.


The Volkswagen diesel engine emissions imbroglio, in which on-board computer monitoring was deliberately set to under-report emission levels, is a striking example of appalling leadership and a poor, if not toxic, corporate culture.


It seems inconceivable that anyone could believe that a deliberate lie involving some 11.8 million motor vehicles and hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen employees around the world could remain hidden.


Once recognised and revered, the consequences for Volkswagen of the scandal have been immediate, widespread and cascading. The “fall-out” will doubtless continue well into the future. Reputational damage extends beyond single brands. Individuals, nations and sectors will suffer the odium of reputational stains.




This case study highlights the complexity of the principle of “unintended consequences”.


Volkswagen is the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, employing over 300,000 people, generating 206 billion Euro in revenue each year, and being owner of the Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini and Porsche brands.


Germany, its people and economy will be profoundly and directly impacted. One in seven of the workforce contribute to the production and export of motor vehicles. The Lower Saxony municipality owns 20% of the shares in Volkswagen and seeks regular and consistent dividends. They too will doubtless take a hit.


Questions will be put about the integrity of all things German, with probable detrimental influences on revenues.


Within two weeks of disclosure of the scandal, the resale value of all Volkswagen diesel vehicles in the United States of America had reportedly fallen by around 20%. That represents a large pool of disenchanted financially disadvantaged customers. It will probably get worse.


Satisfaction, loyalty, respect and referral business are concepts that will carry little currency into the immediate future for the Volkswagen group of companies.




The Chief Executive of Volkswagen has resigned with possible legal action pending. Two other senior executives have been dismissed, and a further trimming of the ranks is probable.


Search for a replacement leader has begun. Any trepidation about a poor record of external appointments of leaders for Volkswagen will be tempered by recognition that the current crisis is presumably a by-product of a negative, corporate culture.


Internal promotions and appointments would seem inappropriate to government, regulatory authorities, shareholders and customers.




The inept actions of many Volkswagen decision-makers beggar belief. What were the real long-term advantages and benefits? Any short-term beneficial outcomes were, in reality, false economies.


Greater respect was needed for the long-earned and justifiably commendable reputation for engineering excellence, reliability and value which had long been associated with the brand. A heavy price has already been paid, and will be paid well into the future.




In Australia, the image and standing of the 7-Eleven convenience stores franchise network have been figuratively trashed.


Seemingly widespread, if not systematic underpayment of employees is inexcusable and unjustifiable. The image of poor treatment of “back-packers”, “short term tourists”, casuals, Indian nationals in particular, will have fall-out in the international standing of Australia, the local franchise sector, convenience store operators at large, corporate Australia and many business operators.


We deserve better than that, and should not suffer from the actions of so few.


In recent times the 7-Eleven Chairman, Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer have each stood down or resigned.


The Deputy Chairman on the Board of Directors has been promoted to Chairman. However, he has reportedly been on the board for some 16 years. Therefore, he was present when the inappropriate actions took place. It is not a good look!


The same individual was the National President of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, whose charter is to promote ethical corporate behaviour and good governance. He either “stood aside” or was asked to “stand aside”. Rightly so.


What measure of confidence will 7-Eleven franchisees and the disaffected, reportedly underpaid employees feel?


He was also Deputy Chairman of a publicly –listed national network of motor vehicle dealerships. He recently made public he is standing down from that position. What has not been publicly addressed is his chairmanship of a transport company. Actions do have consequences.


Consideration must be given to the interests and concerns of shareholders, staff members, suppliers, associates and clients of that and other entities. The lessons apply to all.


In the current global digital and open marketplace there is, seemingly, no place to hide.




There are four prevailing dominant forces in the marketplace. Each must be addressed, positively and proactively, being:


•  Fear
•  Risk
•  Trust
•  Integrity


The innate fears and risks associated with big lies will mitigate against ever attaining the exalted status of being trusted and accepted for one's integrity.


Today, as forever, there are no “white” lies or little fibs. Lies, and their consequences, are big.


There is much to commend the virtues of walking the straight and narrow line.

Differing Costs Of Production, Reproduction

The concept of, and concerns about production costs are so .... mercantile.


That was an era in commerce that is long past, and now out-dated. Arguably, the peak occurred in 1637, in the Netherlands, when the price of tulip bulbs, imported from Turkey, collapsed from 2500 florins (also known as Dutch guilders) to very little. Some people “had gone mad” for tulips. Or was it that they were simply mad? Shades of prevailing property and share prices in a range of marketplaces.


In the instance of tulips the bursting of the bubble had little or nothing to do with costs. An unexpected and rapid disruption to the supply had people take pause and re-evaluate the “true value” of a tulip bulb.


The consequences were immediate, widespread and dramatically substantial. This is a lesson relevant to all at this time.


Andrew Carnegie, the US industrialist, may well have argued that production, commerce and industrial might had attained their zenith in the late 1800s.


In reality, it is immaterial. Market presence, success, sustainability, wealth, value and intellectual property worth have evolved from material goods to the intangibles, of information, intelligence and communication.




Quantifying the value and worth of brands, products, services and skills is increasingly difficult, and highly subjective. One person's junk (mail) is another's treasure!


Moreover, an abundance of information is readily available to all .... and sundry. What's more, a lot of it is accessible free-of-charge.


The capacity to retrieve, collate, analyse and selectively disseminate intelligence is a key determinant in a sound measure of worth in the prevailing digital era.


Typically, the cost of producing, using, sharing and supplying information and intelligence is typically minimal, marginal, or possibly, even zero.




Among the traditional, established and recognised barriers of entry are production costs. These include capital outlays, premises, materials, inventory, workforce, supply chains and distribution returns.


Individually and collectively, these could be, and were, formidable impediments, barriers and filters. Risk:Benefit analyses could be centred, and the conclusions determined, on these factors alone. No longer.


Original, “ground-breaking” products and services do require considerable investments in time, money, resources and people.


However, late-entrants into a product/service range, marketplace and sector can enjoy low-cost carriage by those “Barbarians at the Gate,” who are keen to intrude on the operations, presence and revenues of established market innovators and leaders.


The fundamental reasons are very conspicuous. While production costs can be, and often are, very high , reproduction costs tend to be minimal.


Original equipment manufacturers with enviable brand names like Caterpillar, Komatsu and the like, find it difficult to counter prompt, efficient and effective intrusions by unbranded interlopers. Today, reproduction does not imply inferior quality.


Protecting the integrity of intellectual property, design, processes and ingredients is becoming increasingly difficult. Patent– and copyright protection is difficult, expensive and time-consuming to invoke, enforce, police and maintain.


There will doubtless be increasing circumstances of “IBM-compatible” products and service offers, as a consequence of 3-D copying and similar technologies and capabilities.


Therefore, accelerated cash-flow positive returns will be possible, enjoyed and shared by “Johnny-come-lately” competitors, and substitutes.


Product lifecycles will inevitably be shortened, margins narrowed and exclusivity-price premiums curtailed, if not eliminated because reproduction is cost-free.




The increasing emergence of inequitable, low-cost reproductions in crowded, competitive and static marketplaces will underscore the need for all entities to place greater emphasis and value on enhanced productivity.


Windows-of-opportunity will be limited, product lifecycles concertinaed, investment return ratios will necessarily be refined, and risk-tolerance criteria will be reassessed.


A week may be a long time in politics. In business, the cycle may extend to, say three years, but seldom much longer.


Self-induced obsolescence will be considered a virtue.


Production costs may appropriately be outsourced, allowing product/service innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunities and needs to embrace the reality of utilising, profiting and creating wealth from stark and confronting NIL reproduction costs.


That will take a change in the business modelling and most likely a change in mindset.


Valuable Lessons From Product Failures

Product failures, it seems, are inevitable. Steven Jobs, founder of Apple had a refreshingly candid philosophy about the issue:


Fail big, fail fast and fail often.


Indeed, some iconic and global brands are serial offenders, or perpetrators, depending upon your frame-of-mind. No-one, no entity, product or service is immune.


The lessons learnt are invaluable, and accessible to all. Sadly, too few business leaders and marketers are alert and aware of the circumstances, the causes and the often very expensive consequences.


Coca-Cola, justifiably, stands proud and conspicuous among the great brands, companies and marketing entities around the world. A striking endorsement of its worth is the substantial shareholding retained in the parent company by the Warren Buffet-led Berkshire Hathaway group.


Its recent introduction of Coke Life, with stevia as a natural sweetener, has been, reportedly, less than stellar.


Sales in the first 5 weeks of trading throughout Australia achieved an estimated 7 million litres. That pales against a similarly inspired new product development, Coca-Cola Vanilla, which reportedly, registered sales of 14 million litres in the same initial period.


Coke Zero was a success story, with a reported comparative 30 million litres in sales.


A corporate executive stated recently that Coke Life may achieve a 1-2% market share of the Australian cola sector. The statement has the hallmark of a pre-emptive death notice.


What went wrong?


The global sales of soft drinks, cola in particular (which represents more than 80% of revenue in the sector throughout Australia) are declining. Indeed, 2015 will be a benchmark year as the sales of bottled water exceed those of bottled soft drinks.


Those in the key market segment, 30-45 years of age, are increasingly sensitive to weight-gain and obesity. Artificial sweeteners are not appealing and recent academic research has concluded that consumption of artificial sweeteners over an extended period of time can increase its consumers' girth.


Standard Coca-Cola has a long history of appealing to the younger, active youths. They can and do readily “burn-off” the reported 12 teaspoons of sugar in each can of Cola. For the more sedate consumers, that will require a 40-minute run ... calories are like that!


Thus, the potential lure of stevia, the new sweetener, is only a marginal factor in marketplace appeal.


Another issue is the green labelling. Green is not a good merchandising colour for products that are consumed into the body. The late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop has a lot to answer for. Her use of green did introduce an acceptance of the colour for products that are typically applied to the body, not ingested.


Green may also be acceptable for BP (British Petroleum) in its implicit and explicit positive message about the importance of ecological sustainability.




The success rates of line-extended products and services are declining. It is important to be true to the market positioning of the product and the target marketing of primary consumers.


Colgate-Palmolive's entry into the microwave-heated snack market was somewhat less than a resounding success.


It seems that was simply a “bridge too far” for consumers, who were happy to brush their teeth and to clean their crockery with Colgate and Palmolive products but not ingest such. Gulp!




Good, relevant market research minimises risk and improves the prospect to attain the status of relevance. It does not ensure success.


Projective research, in which respondents are asked to project their actions, buying patterns and behavioural traits, is of questionable value and accuracy.


Steven Jobs declared that is was not wise to ask people what is was that they most wanted, given that which they were not able to presently get. He concluded most people didn't know, had not thought about such, and didn't have the answer.


It was his contention that entrepreneurs should develop products, services and applications, then “tell ‘em” and “sell ‘em”.




In 1975 Coca-Cola responded to the Pepsi-Challenge, in which consumers were invited, to nominate their preferred “blind-tested” cola drinks that they tasted from unlabelled thimbles.


Not surprisingly, over 75% nominated the Pepsi-Cola, with its higher sugar content (reportedly 14 teaspoons per can).


Coca-Cola rapidly introduced New Coke, with a higher sugar content. It bombed. Moreover, it was withdrawn from the market after just 79 days.


The key lesson learnt was that Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are not typically consumed by the thimbleful. A full can of New Coke was just too sweet for its target audience.


The traditional Coca-Cola recipe had been retained and branded Classic Coke. Very appropriate - a classic case study on the need to manage and to meet consumer expectations.


Pepsi-Cola didn't learn those valuable lessons. It subsequently introduced Crystal- Pepsi which was a clear cola drink. Consumers, it seems, knew that real cola drinks were never transparent. The product stayed stuck to the retail shelves.




Success can be so fleeting.


John Sculley was the Pepsi-Cola executive who led the Pepsi-Challenge campaign. He was lauded internationally for his marketing and leadership brilliance.


Sculley was subsequently recruited to lead Apple. He supposedly conducted a forensic strategic audit of the company. A major weakness was identified ... Steve Jobs.


The founder was sacked. Sales fell, so too did the company share price. New products development dried up.


John Sculley soon joined the ranks of the unemployed. After several years in the corporate wilderness Jobs returned to Apple. It was a key factor in the introduction of iPads, iPods and iPhones.


On a platform of fail big, fail fast and fail often , Apple has become one of the world's highest capitalised entities and a brand leader.




The probability of product/service failure can be lessened if one asks the right questions of the right people.


Arguably, the biggest marketing failure in Australia during the twentieth century was the product of extensive and intensive research.


Leyland, the British-based motor vehicle manufacturer, asked Australians what they least liked about their present motor vehicles.


The findings were resounding. Put simply, the boot (trunk in the American vernacular) was not big enough.


Leyland promptly designed a big boot, attached an inadequate vehicle to it and launched the P76.


Alas, the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and is no more.


What questions were not asked included whether car owners would compromise aesthetics, leg room, space and power. Clearly they would not, and did not.


Ironically, the few P76 sedans that remain in Australia command a hefty premium ... good for some quirky individuals, but not for a corporation seeking volume sales.

Misleading Business Statistics

Statistics can be confusing, contradictory and difficult to comprehend.


Single-set figures and ratios can be, and often are, outright misleading.


Take for instance the recent national and state-based retail turnover data that was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Retail sales for the past 12 months were reported to have increased by 4.3%. Very commendable, on the face of it.


However, that raw data belies the realities of the national, state, regional and local retail sectors. Increasing bankruptcies, store vacancies, widespread rent abatement and peppercorn rental payments are symptomatic of an industry under pressure and challenge.




Achieving growth in top-line statistics is relatively easy to achieve. Many retailers are implementing such strategies.


Discounting prices by 20%, 30%, 40$ and 50% can do wonders for turnover.


The disturbing downside consequences are evident in appalling margins, profits and financial viability.


Each of the four statistics so far mentioned are not the fundamentals required to be measured, monitored and optimised.


Many businesses, retailers in particular, do not recognise, respect and utilise the three sets of statistics which can, and do, materially influence and improve turnover, margins, profits and substantial finance viability.




Increasingly, astute business leaders are looking beyond accountants, advertising agencies and digital marketers to formulate, document and implement strategic marketing and business audits. Seven key statistics highlight the fact that we do not operative in a two-dimensional world or marketplace.


Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555



Aldi Under Attack

Well intentioned, but questionable information.


Supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths were recently recipients of some free, unsolicited, public advice from an investment bank analyst.


He proposed that both should attack the smaller, but growing presence of the German-based interloper, Aldi, by attacking the network where it was weakest.


Apparently, extensive and intensive analysis had identified four strategic inadequacies in the market presence of the discount supermarket group. They were nominated to be:


•  Limited product range – around 1350 SKUs (stock-keeping units)
•  Dominance of house brands
•  Lack of partially-cooked and prepared meals
•  Poor customer service






It is not difficult to identify and appreciate the strongest attributes of Aldi. They are:


•  Limited product range – around 1350 SKUs (stock keeping units)
•  Dominance of house brands
•  Lack of partially-cooked and prepared meals
•  Poor customer service


Collectively, they enable Aldi to offer the lowest competitive prices to Australian consumers. In some price-surveys the differences in individual product and basket-prices can typically be as much as 28%, and in isolated instances up to 40%.


Consequently, the advertising and marketing campaigns of Coles (Down, Down, Prices Are Down) and Woolworths (Cheap, Cheap) have been ineffective against the smaller competitor. Put simply, Aldi owns the market positioning of “cheap”.


Unquestionably, Coles has taken the lead in supermarket presence against Woolworths, because of its sustained and expensive advertising theme and campaign.


On balance, it is probably widely recognised as “the cheaper of the two more expensive big chains”.




Since its introduction to the Australian marketplace in 2001, Aldi has grown its footprint among the eastern coast of Australia to number some 350 stores (in June, 2015).


A total of 50 further outlets are planned for South Australia and approximately 70 for Western Australia.


The growth rate appears relentless, reflective of and driven by consumers' acceptance and demand.




Those consumers who are attracted to the value-offerings of Aldi recognise and accept that the four “strengths / weaknesses” represent the constraints within which they make purchase selections and decisions.


An overwhelming majority anticipate and do visit competing, if not complementary, supermarkets to make “top-up” purchases. They are typically for branded products which are not available at Aldi.


Therein lies the marketing dilemma and challenge for Coles and Woolworths.


At present, and in most instances among a select and growing target audience of consumers, they are second-choice outlets.


That limits scope for impulse and spontaneous purchases. Those stimulants are usually triggered within the Aldi premises.


First choice should be a goal for both Coles and Woolworths, rather than the trading name of a liquor store network owned and operated by one of them.


A fundamental marketing, business and life principle is that it is better and more advantageous to be first, the most preferred and top of the shopping list.


That is best achieved, and sustained, by a strong focus on, say, 2, 3 or 4 strengths.




Military strategies tend to focus on the desirability of attacking the opposition where it is weakest. Identifying, isolating and accurately analysing those weaknesses are imperative.


A wrong call can be expensive, the consequences long-lasting and, all-too-often, the outcome fatal.


Therefore, value must be correctly assigned to intelligence, differentiating it from readily available information.


In this case, what is a weakness and what is a strength?


Objectivity, detachment, considered and informed decisions are called for.


The same fundamentals apply to banks, retail pharmacies, jewellers, financial planners, mortgage brokers and accountancy practices.




On the fields of battle, and in the prevailing marketplace, there is considerable fluidity. Forces ebb and flow. Contingency planning, delegated authority, integrated communication networks, unimpeded chains-of-command and short supply lines, competitive advantage and sustainable market dominance need to be deployed adroitly.


It is inconceivable, if not improbable, that Coles and Woolworths, responding to advice about the nominated weakness of Aldi would decide to substantially increase the presence and percentage of house-brand products.


For both chains that category has increased in recent years from around 12% to 25% of the product range and sales.


Besides, it can be reasonably argued that it is a strength of Aldi.


Similarly, narrowing or expanding the current product range of Coles and Woolworths to attack Aldi appears, on the face of it, to be meaningless. It is difficult to identify and quantify the purpose and the probable or desirable outcomes.


Increasing the offering of partially-prepared meals should be a decision determined by consumer demand.


Previous attempts to launch, promote, expand and highlight the DIFM (Do It For Me) category, have been met with tepid consumer responses.


The one non-negotiable, acceptable and laudable proposition is enhancing customer service, extending customer engagement and upgrading the total retail experience. That is demanded, expected and will address a prevailing deficiency in many sectors of retailing and businesses- with or without the presence of Aldi.


Care would have to be taken to avoid the temptation to refine the marketing positions of Coles and Woolworth to more closely align with that of Aldi.


Few win in such circumstances, and in the short-term it is the cheapest who comes out on top: Read: Aldi.


Moreover, look over the horizon in the global economy. German discount supermarket group Lidl has just announced its intention to enter the Australian marketplace.


Alas, another guerrilla in this crowded Australian retail battlefield or is it a further Barbarian at the gates?


This situation calls for more strategic thinking, marketing intelligence, leadership, discipline and differentiation... built on, say, 4 discernible strengths.







Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected strategic planner, consumer behaviour analyst, author and high impact conference keynote speaker.

In The Know

Big data is big on ... well, data. In other words, information. What it lacks is intelligence.


The leaders of customer-centric entities will fully comprehend these sentiments, and their implications.


It is rare that a consumer or client exclaims: You lack information.


They do, however, repeatedly declare that service providers lack understanding.


Big Data, and data at large, provide insights and, more particularly, overviews on what happens. To a limited extent they can and do offer perspectives on how things happen. Thus, for those who do not have access to Big Data, all is not lost.


However, like surveys, they have innate biases, limitations and differences.


Take for example, on-line after–sales surveys. They appeal to and attract a limited segment of customers, and an even lower percentage of people in general.


Time-poor individuals readily dismiss the opportunity to dedicate 10 minutes or more to complete a survey, with little evident, immediate and direct personally beneficial outcomes.


Time-saving initiatives in survey designs, like providing pre-coded answers, seldom, if ever, provide a complete and meaningful insight. They imply the researcher or the company already know the answers and are simply seeking to assign percentages. If it's communication you wish to promote, then be sure that it is two-way.




A meaningful understanding of the needs, wants, values, aspirations and action determinants of customers is derived from a focus on the question, WHY?


Attitudinal (or qualitative) research is invaluable. It complements and adds both data value and meaning to the data which is retrievable from sales, service and call records, much of which is accessible from the cloud and is referred to as Big Data.


External professional researchers can be retained to formulate, document and conduct both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Their skills, experience and detachment provide for objective and pertinent analyses and conclusions.


However, that professional input should complement, not replace, the insights and understandings gained from the interactions between internal service providers and customers, clients, suppliers and associates.




Personal, informal interactions offer scope for recognising, responding to, comprehending and influencing a broad spectrum of nuances, perspectives and expressions.


People - customers and clients – feel valued when they are heard, respected and directly responded to.


Relationships are founded and enhanced, trust is promoted and integrity established and sustained when time, effort and resources are dedicated to encouraging and enhancing relationships.


Big Data is one thing. Attention to the little points of detail is another. Remember, little things mean a lot.




The prevailing straitened times ensure that the margins for error are typically wafer-thin. Strategic and operational decisions are most effective when they are founded on well-informed analyses.


Big Data provides invaluable, but only partial information. So too do statistically based surveys. Both provide perspectives on the big picture, even with one-on-one relationships.


In many instances, the findings gleaned from Big Data and surveys identify their intelligence gaps and necessitate engagement with existing, prospective and past clients, to address the issue of WHY?




Those businesses whose leaders encourage, facilitate and support increased interactions between their service providers and customers - external and internal - inevitably enjoy greater sales, customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, referrals and stability.


Specific skills, qualifications and training in research methodologies, practices and analyses can be, and are, readily complemented by the heightened sensitivities of engaged team members.


Those in the know generally seek more, achieve more and are more motivated.


One can never over-allocate time, money and resources to studying, understanding and intelligently interacting with customers. They will ensure that knowledge about the big and the small things is retrieved and can be utilised to refine philosophies, beliefs, policies and practices.




An eminently sensible approach to pursuing more information, intelligence and understanding of existing, prospective and past clients is to deploy efforts and resources to utilise and to integrate Big Data, qualitative and quantitative research and interpersonal interactions and relationships.


The most readily available pool for such is held by staff members. Leaders need to be selective in the questions. Many answers will be forthcoming, so that all will be “in the know!”

Save Face

There is increasing use of brand, product and company ambassadors by companies, governments, professional organisations and not-for-profit entities.


It can be an effective means to enhance profiles, elicit responses, increase uses and generate financial contributions, as well as communicate with select target audiences, at discrete times.


The options available to choose and use a “face for the purpose” seem boundless. Such is the nature of the celebrity era in which we live and operate.


However, the practice is fraught with dangers. Inappropriate behaviour, conflicting values and variable presentation standards on the part of individual and group ambassadors can, and do, have immediate and lasting consequences for the sponsoring entity, product, service or sector.


Look no further than the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) which has been a serial offender or victim, dependent upon your point of view.


Multimillion dollar advertising, marketing and promotion campaigns have been significantly compromised by the behaviour of and the circumstances surrounding chosen high profile players. Read: brand-damage.


International gold-medal swimmer, Stephanie Rice experienced the immediacy of public and sponsor responses to what many considered where inappropriate tweets about her then beau, Rugby Union Wallaby player Quade Cooper.


Her use of a three-star luxury imported German motor vehicle was withdrawn. Hurt was inflicted on a lot more than emotions by the instance.


More recently, the Australian Federal government, through the bureaucracy and its external advertising agency, appointed media identity, scientist and academic, Professor Karl Kruszelnicki to be the face, voice and presence of an expensive, extensive and intensive multi-media campaign, “The Challenge of Change”, to promote the virtues of the the 400 plus pages Intergenerational Report .


Karl's satirical statement was louder than his voice. It did grab attention, if not induce the masses to seek out, read, comprehend, embrace and support of the projective text.


It then emerged that after accepting the brief, the commission and the very substantial fee, Karl had not read the full report. Hardly a positive reflection on an established scientist.


Dr Kruszelnicki then publicly distanced himself from the report because, in his assessment, there was insufficient emphasis given to climate change.


Brand-damage has been inflicted on the Australian Federal government, the bureaucracy, a specific adverting agency, the report itself and on Dr Karl.


The resultant publicity generated in this case study was substantial, immediate and lasting. Sadly, much of it was unfortunate, negative and compromising.


It should be a lesson well learnt. The criteria applied in the selection of ambassadors must necessarily extend well beyond past and present achievements, profile and the capacity to be an effective mass – and multimedia communicator.


Consistent, compatible and integrated values, beliefs and philosophies are fundamental. There should be no gaps between those of the sponsor and the ambassador.


A further consideration on this topic is the use and profiling of business owners and managers.


In the former case, the issue of succession planning is very pertinent. Retention of an individual's name in the corporate identification package, whilst using next-generation family members in mass media advertising considerably lessens the impact and relevance of the communication.


That is self-evident with a national tyre retail group and several motor vehicle dealerships. There is confusion about who is the image-maker, the ambassador or the advocate.


The typically short tenure of senior office-bearers in corporations raises questions about the advisability of utilising such individuals as the public face of an entity, a product, a service or an application.


Mortality is a reality, particularly in marketing life cycles.


Ambassadors are usually best employed for time-specific tactical initiatives and campaigns. That is, for intra-generational campaigns rather than for the promotion of inter-generation projections.


Their selection warrants the investment of considerable time and contemplation.







Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is a consumer behaviour analyst, business strategist and former university lecturer and organisational behaviourist.


He is an internationally recognised and respected conference keynote speaker and business development workshop facilitator.

What Industry Are You In?

It is a great question. It is challenging, confronting and often affronting. Contemplation on that fundamental point often leads to reviews, reflections and determinations on the current business model.


Corporate history is littered with examples of economy-leading and dominant sectors and entities rapidly becoming redundant and irrelevant.


In the early 1900s railways confronted a significant change in the competitive landscape. Motor vehicles and societal mobility necessitated a change of track, so to speak.


More recently, the appeal and presence of 6-and 8-cylinder “gas guzzling” family motor vehicles have been impacted by the sophisticated innovations of high-powered 4-cylinder vehicles and the ubiquitous SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles).


Light bulb manufacturers have had to gear up and retool to embrace technological change. And what of the humble printing machine. 3-D has been a revolutionary addition to printers, manufacturing and medical implants.


Bicycle-powered couriers, who were once conspicuous in most cities are, today, a mere fond memory.


Charge-card services like American Express are exposed, threatened and losing appeal. At least five significant mobile payment systems, including those being promoted by Apple, Google and Facebook are in advanced stages of development. Many people and business will reasonably ask why they should retain and accept charge-cards, like American Express.


How ironic! Kodak, the very essence of traditional photography, developed digital photography. The company did not readily and quickly embrace the concept. That was left to competitors and, more significantly, substitute entities, including electronic and mobile phone manufacturers. Modern photography is not reliant on silver and paper-based reproductions. It is a whole new industry.


Protecting long-established products, practices and applications can be laudable. It can also be ill-advised. Recently, Kodak had to seek and to secure Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in the United States of America, to enable it to continue to trade. There is a long return journey to be negotiated.


And now, the august institution, Australia Post, has heralded a pending 43% increase in postage costs for letters from 70 cent to $1:00, with a lengthening in delivery times from “next day” to 3 days.


Can and will post ever effectively compete with - and, possibly beat - emails, texts and the spoken word? Efficiency, effectiveness and cost comparisons imply it is a formidable challenge.


In recent times Australia Post has been progressively refining its business model. This is evidenced by the introduction of digital post office boxes, and the broadening of the product/service mix available from Post Shops. The typical range totals some 1300 SKU's (Stock Keeping Units), of which fewer than 60 relate to postal and philatelic merchandise. That is around the same product range as an Aldi discount supermarket.


A significant growth in the home deliveries of products purchased on-line reflects the dynamics of the prevailing market forces. And yet, on-line sales still only represent 6.3% of total resale sales.


The cascading effect on the supply chain highlights the importance of logistics and distribution.


Little wonder that Japan Post has recently lodged a reported $6 billion takeover for Toll Holdings, Australia's largest logistics company, with operations that extend throughout Asia. That is a pending threat to the presence and dominance of Australia Post within Australia.


Future enhancements in nano-technology will inevitably result in smaller products' services, applications and, yes, businesses. Prices too, will become smaller. Increased productivity will result in more free-time and better timing. Skill-sets will vary.




The true measure of relevance of a company, product, service and application is often determined by its “fit” to the marketplace.


That is, the context, which can be, and often is, more important and influential than the content.


Indeed, the former can and does impact directly on the latter.


For instance, are postal services redundant to most? Some 98% of mail-usage is generated by business and public sector entities complying with regulatory obligations and practices. To many the service offering that is not pertinent, nor applied by individual consumers.


Therefore, why persist with the trading name:

Australia Post


It is as relevant as Post and Rail Fencing is to urban residents. What does it all mean?




These case studies are further evidence that the changes being experienced at present are not seasonal or cyclical. They are indeed structural.


It behoves all business owners and leaders to reassess and redefine:


What industry are we in?


The answer will inevitably evoke a lot of questions ... and changes.

So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur

“Windfall” wealth and profits do not an entrepreneur make.


Windfall events are welcomed and rewarding for those who are blessed with them. The nature, emotions - and probabilities of such windfalls are similar to winning lotteries, tote and lotto.


Entrepreneurism is an entirely different scenario. It is not a product of accidental or fortuitous good fortune – if you will pardon the unintended pun.


At this time Australia, New Zealand, Britain, North America – indeed, the world – needs more entrepreneurs.


Fostering, supporting and endorsing the endeavours of genuine entrepreneurs rewards many. Why? The very essence of an entrepreneur can best be expressed as:


With vision and commitment, to create wealth and generate employment, for the betterment of all.




Many business leaders and Boards of Directors are understandably timid, sensitive to and exhibiting a low tolerance for risk.


This pervading attitude is having widespread impact on new product development (and investment), growth, improvement and productivity enhancement.


Debt levels are being lowered, and reliance on bank funding is conspicuous.


The current state of the marketplace can be best and most accurately described as:




Decisions are being made and policies are being implemented, dependent upon positive cashflows, guaranteed pre-orders and approvals from lending sources.


True entrepreneurs, those who have established positive track records of success, exhibit a strikingly common characteristic, being:




They typically do not seek or are reliant upon the permission of those who are external to their entities.


Looking over one's shoulder for permission, approval or endorsement takes the eyes and the focus off the customers, clients and opportunities.




Extensive and intensive study and analysis of the umbrella term, “entrepreneur”, has led one to conclude there are four strata, categories if you will, of these people. One sweeping general conclusion is that most individuals who describe themselves as entrepreneurs are, in reality, not.




The entry-level strata is numerically the largest, possibly around 70%.


These individuals are the Enthusiasts , who posses abundance of energy, exuberance and expectations.


They are excited about the term entrepreneur, the concept and the perceived benefits, advantages and rewards.


Like comets that enter the Earth's atmosphere, they generate a lot of heat and light, before quietly burning out.


They typically leave little trace or legacy.




Creatives represent around 15% of the targeted population. They have a creative idea, but no actual product, service, application or entity.


Creatives are deficient in their capacity to transform ideas to an income-generating, needs-fulfilling reality.


The essentials of capital, operating capacity, logistics network and infrastructure are mere entries on rudimentary business plans and spreadsheets.


Above all, these individuals typically need input from experienced, qualified, caring, supportive and understanding professionals who have the capacity to provide a master-plan of sequential steps to the market.


Many creative ideas, probably more than half, do not develop beyond the cerebral energy of the creative visualisation.




Innovators are the survivors from the attrition process of many enthusiasts and creatives .


They have usually invested considerable time and available (but often limited) funds into the production of a model, system or application.


The world awaits, together with the potential for profits, wealth, success and development.


However, there are barriers, filters and impediments to be negotiated, addressed and redressed. Not the least of which are adequate capital, operating capacity, integrated infrastructure, extensive logistical network, a retail presence and, most important, a marketplace which is willing to pay.


It is at this time that many innovative entrepreneurs are distracted, overwhelmed and relieved of considerable funds by patent professionals, lawyers, funding intermediaries and quaintly titled “Angel Investors”


Few of these spheres-of-influence have the skills or make promises to progress or to expedite the development of the product, service, application or entities. The ideas are often overwhelmed by the process.


Innovators soon learn to recognise that many from whom permission, approval and tolerance are sought are necessary, but not essential to success. The future is not determined by the ability to comply and conform.


Little wonder that so few innovators and creative ideas reach the marketplace in the first instance.




Genuine entrepreneurs total no more than 5% of those who claim, or strive for the title.


With “unconditional boldness” and driven by self-belief in their vision, complemented by an uncompromising commitment, entrepreneurs do create wealth and generate employment, for the betterment of all.


There is little or no socialistic idealism in that statement. At best, they are first among equals; they revel in power, authority and the exercising of personal choices.


Evolving philosophies and models, centred on emotional intelligence, social responsibility and even philanthropic corporate behaviour can be embraced - but only as addendums.


The six fundamentals of sustainably successful entrepreneurs detailed in the book The Jindalee Factor retain their relevance.


Being “non-competitive” is an imperative, whether it is by a negotiated exclusivity clause, like that of the 20 years for the Perth's Crown Casino, or by overwhelming market dominance.


“Planning long, managing short” reflects the importance of strategic malleability and tactical financial prudence. Cashflow is second to none. Too many past, fallen entrepreneurs did not recognise or respect the fact that when they run out of cash, they run out of time and usually run out of business.




So you think you are, or intend to become an entrepreneur. Undertaking a scenario planning exercise is an appropriate first step.


Knowing the destination – entrepreneurism - is one thing. Establishing the starting-point and determining the pathway to success are essential prerequisites.

Be Careful, And Sensitive....






Differentiation is an important concept in marketing.


So too are segmentation and categorisation. However, each can have a limited, and in some instances, a limiting role to play.


Like most things, the initial principles and applications are being progressively superseded and rendered obsolete. It is a common phenomenon in the current dynamic, digital marketplace.


Intimate knowledge of one's customers and clients is a marketing imperative.


Evolution, sophistication and information (data) explosion have been instrumental in the eclipsing of many previously sound management, marketing, selling, service and interpersonal relationship practices, including market segmentation.


The study of demographics is a case in point. Today, access to information on the age, sex, occupation, education standards and residence of existing, prospective and past clients and customers is, today, inadequate.


A more comprehensive, multi-dimensional profile improves the capacity for effective target marketing. It in turns enables, and influences, the determination, nature and content of communication. However, care and sensitivity is needed to avoid inadvertently precluding potential prime customers and clients.


It is prudent to be aware that many chronologically older individuals pursue and enjoy young lifestyles. The use of social media and e-commerce channels among consumers aged 50 years and older is more pronounced than thought by many. Similarly, an increasing number of younger consumers are discovering, exploring and enjoying music and fashion from the 60's, 70's and 80's decades. Look no further than the surging sales of vinyl records and vintage style stereograms. Old is new!


To ensure effectiveness in all marketing endeavours it is now important to avoid overly simplistic market segmentation, categorisation and stereotyping. Each can, and does, impact on sales generation, revenue stimulation, as well as the establishment and maintenance of sustainable, profitable relationships.


Overt and often unintended nuances in written, spoken and visual communication alienate potentially prime and profitable target audiences. Existing and prospective relationships are fractured because of what are received and perceived to be, slightss, offensive statements and inappropriate premises inherent in key messages. It is indeed a complex world in which we operate. Financial planners may well ponder what the label ”High-Net Worth” individuals really means. Does it mean the same to prospective clients who have funds to invest, but don't feel they qualify to be included in the category “High-Net Worth”? Many messages will be needlessly lost.


Marketing campaigns and strategic plans can readily miss out on customers based on shallow, often historic and traditional images, profiles and stereotypes.


Talk-back radio is a fine example. The typical audience demographic centres on the age distribution of 55 years- plus. However, the often unrecognised potential which exists with the 30-year-old and younger consumer group, represent immense, untapped potential.


A similar case is the emphasis by advertisers who are keen to connect with the “high-spending” 25 to 54-year-old age groupings on free-to-air television channels. The innate contentions are simply too black-and-white for communities that live, operate and buy in differing shades of grey.


Technology, innovation, digital enhancements, social media and the internet have individually and collectively, fragmented communication channels and consumer groupings. Micro-focusing on market segments can inadvertently fail to recognise value and miss out on a host of prospective new customers, clients and spheres of influence.


The value of all business philosophies and practices is largely determined and influenced by measures of relevance in marketing. It is as important to broaden the relevance of the messages and promises of benefits and advantages of products, services, entities and people as it is to be precise and to focus on the narrower target-marketing of all endeavours.


Therefore, when undertaking market segmentation, categorisation and stereotyping do so with care and sensitivity.