STRATEGISATION - The Art of Mobilising people to Implement a Winning Strategy


– Colin Gordon

Recommendation: HIGH – a fascinating look into where it’s all gone wrong for Marketing and ten practical steps to address the issues.

Key Comment: How we got here and ten steps to get us out

Marketing – it’s meant to be at the core of every business. Bridging the gap between product and customer and transforming that into sales. But somehow, marketing today is in crisis – how did it get here, and how can we fix it?

Colin Gordon has over 35 years of experience leading some of Ireland’s and the world’s best-known businesses and brands. Through a series of unique research case studies and personal anecdotes, he explores the world of marketing and how it lost its way, ultimately boiling it down to its one core purpose: to make selling easier.

Colin likens the role of Marketing within an organisation to a shepherd – marketing minds the sheep (the company’s revenue stream, its brands and so on), while the pastures (commercial conditions) are right, but it will lead the company to newer, better pastures (new market sectors, new products, new geographies) if needs be.

The burning question Colin seeks to address is – what happens when the shepherd loses his way?

After providing context through exploring some of the histories of marketing and where and why the problems have arisen, we arrive at Page 110 and a neat summary of ten recommendations to help address them. (Colin, I hope you don’t mind, they are word for word from the book.)

DEFINITION: Get to a simple understanding of what you’re about.

Marketing doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate function or a specialism, but it is about MAKING SELLING EASIER – today, tomorrow and all the tomorrow after that.

STRUCTURES: Keep it tight, and don’t get sucked in.

If Marketing is at the core of the company’s strategy and is there to make selling easier, it’s important to ensure its location within the organisational structure. It is important for marketing to be represented at the senior table – not merely in a discrete role or function.

RANGE: Diversity is core to delivery.

All the evidence points to the benefit of a broad range of skills as a marketer. Develop a range of experiences & exposures, not of expertise. Marketers must be able to work across the organisation on the full value (or supply) chain. Marketing departments should not be populated solely by marketers.

MEASUREMENT: Align is to define.

Once you have an agreed definition of what you’re trying to do, you will find it much easier to measure effectiveness. With all the talk of likes, followers, retweets, opening rates, and so on, it remains that at the end of the day – it’s all about sales and measuring them. Be it by volume or revenue – this is the ultimate measure that matters.

BRANDS: Get to really know what you’re managing.

Marketing parents the organisation’s commercial programme. As parents of our brands, we must love them all equally – even if not in the same way. They deserve attention & must not be ignored. Everyone in the organisation must know the role each brand plays as part of the overall strategy.

RESEARCH AND LEARNING: It can be as informal as you like, so long as you keep doing it.

Be inquisitive of things inside and outside the organisation – don’t be afraid to keep learning & challenging yourself & others based on new insights.

DEVELOP MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS: Partners bring everyone to one position.

Marketing cannot be a separate, distant group if you want the organisation to be wholly customer focused. Marketers must work with cross-functional colleagues to hear what they are saying and likewise make sure they can listen to the marketer. Relationships take time, so give it to them – both internal and external to the organisation.

ONE BIG NUMBER (OBN): A sense of focus and common purpose.

What’s your OBN (or OBT, One Big Thing)? What would it take for you to achieve it? What’s stopping you from achieving it? Often a good understanding of the touch points will help answer these questions.

ACTIVITY DOES NOT EQUAL PROGRESS: Don’t just do something, stand there!

How much activity in your marketing is really worthwhile? Do your team know what the real contribution(positive & negative) is from each of their marketing activities? Does anyone know what the purpose of the activity was in the first place? Leaders are often unwilling to say STOP!

LET THE PROCESS BEGIN: It’s all about a mix of the 4P’s.

Why does marketing rush to change the principle of where product, place, price & promotion combine to act as a catalyst for the whole company, keeping both the customer in focus and the long term on the planning horizon?

The point that most resonated with me is number 3: Range. I may be biased but coming to marketing via a degree in chemistry, followed by time in QA, R&D and then procurement within a consumer goods business, gave me a lot more insight into what makes a brand and business tick than if I had come straight to marketing. It highlighted the importance of all 4 P’s, not just the promotion and how to drive better advertising.

Point 7: Developing meaningful relationships also stuck a chord as it aligns closely with the philosophies in our book, Strategisation. The case study we share from National Foods illustrates how when I joined, marketing was isolated from the rest of the business and brand values had declined.

In ‘Marketing is in trouble’, Colin uses his wealth of experience to identify and unpack the journey that has led to Marketing’s current state, offering anecdotes, case studies and personal experiences to demonstrate his point of view. Then, in conclusion, he provides ten achievable solutions to address the issues.

His final sentence in the book (before the case studies section) completely resonates and neatly encapsulates the key takeaway message, to me at least, that it’s time that ‘marketing gets back to basics and puts the process and discipline of the 4 P’s back into its way of working.’

I would strongly recommend reading this book to any CEO who wants to get more from marketing and any marketer who wants to understand more about what marketing should and could look like and how it can be at the core of a business’s strategy.

I had the pleasure of working with Colin while he led the Glanbia consumer goods business in Ireland, and not only does he practice what he preaches, but he’s also a great bloke!

Orpen Press



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