In this article, Kieran Perry - Sales Agent and Professional Business Mentor at Retail Sales Expert - provides guidance on the Sales and Marketing do's and don'ts for consumer goods being sold into the retail market.
To those entrepreneurs that come from a production, technical or creative background, sales and marketing can seem on one side to be a strange, arcane, almost mystical process. On the other hand it can be viewed as totally non-essential. After all, if you get the right product at the right price into the market place people will buy it, right?
A Cautionary Tale No.1
Two stories to show just how fallacious are both of these scenarios. Back in the dim distant past, television consisted of the BBC. Then, in 1955, along came commercial TV. Unlike the US, advertising on British commercial TV was separate from the programmes, so there was little expertise available on the effects of particular styles of adverts.
Rival soap powder manufacturers, Lever Bros and Proctor and Gamble soon showed how effective this new advertising medium could be. A fact noted by a small Doncaster based sweet manufacturing company called Murray. They made mints. Sugary, boiled sweet type mints packed in tubes. These were sold at the time through little corner shops and newsagents. The unit sale was small, each tube contained around ten sweets. Their distribution was not very good. Selling to individual shops required calls from travelling sales representatives.
Murray contacted an advertising agency to canvas the idea of advertising their mints on television. The brief was duly accepted, some short, black and white, line-cartoon style adverts made and a jingle written to round off the advert. Nobody could have foreseen the impact.
The cartoons were amusing, the jingle one of those short tunes which you can't get out of your head. In no time at all, the world and its dog were clamouring for Murray Mints. To no avail. Murray Mints were not to be found anywhere.
The shops that did have them sold out. Orders flowed in but there was no production capacity to fulfil the orders. Even when the production was raised, there remained the problem of recruiting, training and financing the sales force. The little sweet firm was strangled by its own success, and it was forced to merge with another company.
You can still buy Murray Mints. Successive consolidations within the confectionery industry brought the brand within the Cadbury empire, now owned by by the American Kraft group. The adverts can still be seen and heard, somebody has posted three or four on Youtube. To our sophisticated eyes now they appear naive and crude.
A Cautionary Tale No.2
The second story concerns beer. Back in the 1960's, most of the beer drunk in Britain (an awful lot compared to today) was brewed by small regional brewers, such as Courage, Whitbread, Watneys and many others around the country. The beer they sold was produced by traditional methods and each beer had its own distinctive flavour.
The beer however did require a certain amount of expertise on the part of the pub landlord. The barrels needed to be left for a while undisturbed for the beer to settle before being sold. The pipes of the pumped delivery systems needed to be kept clean, otherwise stray yeasts could find their way into the wooden barrels and spoil the flavour.
By now, advertising agencies had realised the power at their disposal. They felt confident in their ability to totally mould the public's purchasing behaviour. This was the world of Mad Men. Watneys and the admen hatched up a scheme. Watneys had a light coloured bitter which was sold to the export market.
As it had to take long sea journeys, the beer was filtered and pasteurised. This meant that it could be sold straight away and required little expertise. What little flavour it possessed could be made uniform no matter where it was sold.
Ideal, said the admen, the less flavour the better. People won't be able to say they don't like the taste if it doesn't taste of anything anyway. We'll use advertising to provide the correct premium image. In pubs, Red Barrel as the product was known, was delivered by CO? pressure, which meant no expertise was required to deliver a pint. The CO? made the beer fizzy which helped disguised the lack of flavour.
Unlike the heretofore regional distribution just through pubs tied to the Watneys brewery, Red Barrel was also distributed nationwide through off-licences, largely in giant cans known as 'party fours' and 'party sevens'. Pints that is. The product was promoted heavily through TV and other advertising media.
Watneys thought it was great. The beer was cheap to produce yet was sold at a high price, its perceived value and image engineered purely through advertising. Other brewers followed suit. However, deep in the dark recesses of the saloon and the snug, subversive forces were at work.
Some people remembered that beer could actually taste great. They formed an association, CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. CAMRA's offensive against keg beers, as they were known, is now recognised as possibly the most successful single issue campaign ever waged in the UK.
Go into almost any pub now and you will find a selection of hand pulled traditional beers. In your local supermarket, the space devoted to real ales and speciality beers overwhelms the space given to Red Barrel's successors, now more likely to be associated with hoodies and binge drinking yobs.
These two tales neatly illustrate the absolute necessity for an integrated, sales, marketing and production plan. In the case of Murray Mints, the product was fine. The advertising, designed to pull the product into the realm of public awareness and demand, was great. Everything else was wrong. No planning for eventualities. Little, if any, test marketing in small areas first. The unit packaging was too small. The distribution was patchy.
In the case of Red Barrel and the other keg beers, everything was right except the product. While the marketing, for a while, disguised how rubbish the product was, in the end reality triumphed. You can only kid customers for a while. Watneys was bought by Grand Metropolitan Hotels in 1972 and was closed, unlamented, in 1979.
These two examples have been chosen because they were failures on a national scale. For more information, help or advice on the Sales and Marketing do's and don'ts for consumer goods being sold into the retail market contact Kieran Perry on 0756 396 5175.
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