What is the value of marketing spin?

Isn’t it interesting how we use words for their effect not just the communication of ‘content’

I read today’s BBC business article about Virgin Australia in which the company explained poor results as:

“weak consumer sentiment, overcapacity in the market and carbon tax costs for the loss”

It would be great if Google Translate had a business speak translate option. Weak consumer sentiment?! Our customers don’t like our product. Over capacity?! The sector is too competitive. Carbon Tax?! Our cost base is too high.

No wonder Chris Hackley says marketing has a bad rep’ for being mendacious.

Does your business add value or omit value

I was reading a recent article about the losses Serco prison services had accrued and it got me thinking.

Putting aside any ideological preference you might have for public versus private sector provision of social services there seems be an interesting issue in relation to the language we use to explain what we do as managers and the effect such language has on reality.

The idea of adding value (cf Anderson and Narus) is an everyday business term that is wide open to interpretation and meaning. It is also a rhetorical term used to infer and draw attention to the ‘extra’ things that are provided with a product or service delivery. The term is trotted out as something that is a ‘self evident’ reason for improving solutions.

The problem of course is what we mean by value and this slippery term refers to a range of economic, perceived, experiential and contextually dependent phenomena. One persons value add might result in another persons value omission.

In the case of Serco the provision of an outsourced prison service might have added a lot of economic value through process management efficiencies however other aspects of service value might have been omitted as well.

Value add and value omission are two sides of the same value coin. Communicating the added value is however a persuasive tool used to emphasise the ‘upsides’ and background the ‘downsides’. By focussing attention on adding value the risk for managers is that they develop an unbalanced perspective on value.

Too much economic emphasis and you loose the invisible and experiential aspects of value. In the case of prison service this might be deeply held intuitions about how to successfully navigate the culture of prison life. Too much emphasis on experiential ‘warmth’ factors and being obsessively ‘customer centric’ (cf Gummesson) and you risk blowing the budget and going out of business.

So what if I introduced the idea of ‘Omissioning’ to describe the solution design process that considers both value adding and value omitting? In this way a considered view of all dimensions of value are invited. Instead of outsourcing and the implication that all will be good because ‘we’ll save money’ we think of ‘omissioning’ our services and therefore the consequences for every aspect of the value offer.

One final thought too concerns whose value are we most bothered about? Which stakeholder figures the most in our thinking? The quote by Serco CEO is

“Many challenges remain, and we have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that, in time, we can restore the company’s fortunes.”

Who is the intended audience for this remark? No comment here about providing a prison service that helps to reduce crime in society or provide a safe environment for prisoners and staff, or a reassuring sense of safety for the general public. Do I only hear the echoes of economic value dimensions in this utterance? What value has been omitted?

Plagiarism in higher education: advancing your knowledge or advancing your career

The recent case of the allegation of plagiarism against US senator Joe Walsh reveals the unintended albeit to be expected consequences of smudging together academic with career achievement.

Many organisations are socially constructed to unthinkingly promote ‘competition’ as the mantra for success. This favours the style and ambition of self serving individuals.

In that world plagiarism is ‘just another way of getting on’. Here we have a clash of ‘orders of interaction’ (cf Goffman 1959) where the norms and values of some corporate/political social settings clash with the norms and values expected in higher education.

Leaders might consider how to balance the need to compete with the values of honesty and humility?


Tesco boss Philip Clarke to leave

From the BBC website

Dave Lewis brings a wealth of international consumer experience and expertise in change management, business strategy, brand management and customer development.”

I wonder what comes first management practice or business school ‘speak’ about how managers think they should talk about their practice?

What if below par performance is in someway related to the organisations and structures that come from the confines of management speak?

What if there is something other than brand management and change management that makes a difference?

What if business leaders realised the assumptions upon which conventional management speak is built and the consequences of those assumptions for running (nearly wrote ruining) businesses?

How about attention to customer selectivity rather than the goods dominant mantra of differentiation? How about Value Proposing capability instead of the mantra Brand Management? How about Using Imagination instead of the mantra of Customer Development?

The perils of buying into a discourse


I just love John Naughton’s last comment:

“US business schools are sausage machines for the production of soi-disant big ideas such as Christensen’s. It’s a pernicious genre based on one simple principle: the “idea” must be big enough to seem profound, but it mustn’t be so profound that it cannot be memorised by halfwits and used in PowerPoint presentations.”

Thanks to John Fredericks of NTU for sharing originally.

Social Media Meets Event Management

Had a great time working with Phil Crowther and colleagues at the Sheffield Business School Event Management Hub today. Practioners and academics with an interest in event management and social media came together to consider the role of business to business social media in the context of event management.


The audience was a mix of communications experts very familiar with the role and tools of Social Media to less experienced, interested to find out more people.  The event was sponsored by Eventbrite and as well as me doing a short intro talk giving a 10 min view of the world of  B2B social media from my perspective there were interesting talks from Paul Webster of Learning Pool.com who you can follow @watfordgap and Sally founder of Social Bean a brilliant event based community network.

As for me I noticed in my research prep for my 10 minute stint that there was actually very little if anything published by academics on the role and effectiveness of Social Media in B2B context in terms of buyer usage and perspectives.

What I tried to convey was the significance of the growth of Mobile search and the changing character of people who were now controlling budgets. The Facebook Generation are now emerging as a powerful force in B2B management and they are changing the way solutions are sought and chosen.

I was lucky to stumble across a top line report from Base One which outlined their survey of social media and b2b buying.

I also mentioned a couple of cases where social media novices had seen an impact on their activities. The first was beekeeper Ken Ward in Shropshire who noticed a tweet from a local farm shop which meant he could approach them to supply honey. The other was his son Simon who owns an office refurbishment company.

Ten weeks ago Simon had no on-line presence. Today he has an NJRcoolspace website, Twitter account @NJRcoolspace which he uses to tweet images of jobs he is working on and sharing useful articles he finds, he has a Pinterest account, a Google+ page etc.

For Simon this activity has to be so much more than just getting the message out. It is an integral part of his sales strategy. Does it work? It certainly does already online inquiries have resulted in two projects and interestingly 40% of searches have come through mobile!

The Dread Of Going Shopping

On Saturday I visited a major outdoor clothing retailer. The experience confirmed why I dread shopping and got me wondering about the management thinking that underpins and drives the activities of sales assistants.

Much has been written about the changing role of the retail outlet in the context of increased online shopping. It seems apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of retail changing to suit changing shopping behaviours and the death grip of a pushy sales mentality.

Retail psychologists will recognise some of the irks I have. Firstly the experience of being mugged the moment you step across the threshold with the notionally friendly greeting of ‘are you alright there?’ . Whilst the content of the communication is friendly, it is socially inappropriate and is not an expression of interest in my welfare. It is a vacuous utterance from a shop employee who really wants to ask me if I’m going to buy anything from them. In that sense it is deceptive.

Talk about ‘processing’ customers as resources to extract their value. Step one open the ‘process’ with a technique that obliges people to say ‘yes’ because pop psychology tells us this is a good thing. Good for who? The customer?

Having resisted the urge to run out the store because my need to privately explore the product range I have been browsing on the Internet is stronger, I am then confronted with my ‘new best friend’. My new friend wants to follow me around the store to notionally help me but the ‘spider like’ attempt at constraining me in a silken cocoon of product feature verbiage is suffocating.

I just want to escape. I don’t want to be in the place. I don’t want to ‘helped’ to make a buying decision as if I’m suffering from a knowledge and capability disability.

When will retailers learn that sales assistants (sic) driven by an aggressive sales philosophy sugar coated with facile friendliness is bad for business?

People are going shopping for different reasons now. They are going informed and they are going to explore. In that exploring they will use their own capability as thinking adults to buy the product they want.

This was a black experience for me and one that might just stop me exploring the outdoor brand I like in that retail outlet even though the T shirts tell me I shouldn’t.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 143 other followers

%d bloggers like this: