All I want for Christmas is…

As I tick off yet another year on the career calendar, my thoughts turn to what the year 2015 has in store, and so what, in an ideal world, I'd like to put on my Christmas list. So here goes…

Online/offline balance

The torrent of comment about the next social media channel, the next mobile device and the latest gorgeous gizmo threatens to loosen our grip on commercial reality. According to a recent U.S. study, 90% of American retail sales still happen in stores.

What's more, the seemingly unstoppable advance of the discounters is producing seismic shifts in market share, sales, profitability and thus share price for companies that for years have been the giants of the UK grocery retail scene. It seems to me that unless the big four turn their business models on their heads and become discounters themselves, they have to find radical new ways to retain shopper loyalty, and fast. Most things in life are cyclical, and a few decades ago the grocery retail market was enlivened by exciting, colourful, innovative promotional campaigns that drove basket value, brought in new customers and encouraged regular weekly purchase. In the new environment of, for some consumers, almost daily shopping trips to their local convenience store, there might well be a place for a return to that previously vibrant marketing activity, driven both by retailers and brands, and now enlivened by data driven online communication that enables a brand to identify and connect with its audience early in the buying journey.

Real briefs in real time

Please Santa, can you ask clients not to contact agencies unless they have a real brief with an approved budget? It's an industry-wide issue and agencies will tell you that they spend thousands of pounds every year answering requests for information (RFIs), attending mass agency briefings and responding to what are often just fishing trips by curious marketing executives. It's unproductive both for clients and agencies, and does nothing for the relationship between marketers and agency people which is so important to the creative process.

Investment programme or commercial bullying?

The IPA's condemnation of Premier Foods' tactic of demanding up-front payments from all their suppliers is timely, and the resulting withdrawal will be welcomed by every company with whom they trade. Over-riding discounts have been a feature of retailing since the seventies but this was clearly a step too far. It remains to be seen how that company will strive to replace the revenue it expected to gain from these ill-judged RFIs…that's requests for income!

I hope that the season of goodwill to all men (suppliers) will extend beyond December, so that the many SMEs who trade with the big corporations can see their businesses grow as a result of, rather than despite their sales relationship with them.

Go tell the world

For years the UK creative industry has been recognised as pre-eminent globally, but it is in danger of being subsumed by the dumbing down of the art into a process-driven commodity. Ironic when you consider that some of the most successful 'new' brands, like Carphone Warehouse, Amazon, Facebook and many others have created billion pound businesses by a combination of innovative product development, excellent customer service and outstanding marketing. So my hope for the New Year is a return to the recognition of the valuable contribution, not just to short term revenue, but also to the lifetime value of a business that innovative advertising and marketing investment can make.

Equally, agencies are sometimes at fault for not publicising their campaign's achievements. Whilst marketers understand the value of marketing in building a long term brand, some CEOs, finance and production directors still see it as an unmeasurable cost rather than a necessary investment. So let's celebrate our successes, not just through award schemes, but where it matters, in the boardroom and throughout our clients' companies.

A very Merry Christmas and, above all, a happy and prosperous New Year.

Roger Hyslop

The Ups and Downs of Retailing