The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Anything Is Easy For The Person Who Doesn’t Have To Do It …
September 25, 2008, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Comment


So we’ve had the morning sessions … loads of speakers basically giving their company creds, passing off other people’s ideas as their own and showing old viral pieces as if they’ve just come out.

Hey, I’m not knocking it, I’ll probably be doing the same in a few hours … however one guy has pissed me off and that’s one of the conferences “Guru’s” – Nirmalya Kumar – Professor of Marketing Harvard, IMD / Director – Centre for Marketing / Co-Director Aditya Birla India Centre, UK London Business School.

Obviously this guy is very smart and very informed – you don’t get to where you are without that – however like most University lecturers, he speaks AT an audience, he detests being questioned and he only understands life by post-rationalised case studies.

Well guess what I did!? Yep I called him on all 3.

You see it was all going well till he started talking about the fashion brand, Zara.

Without doubt they are an amazing business because like Google, they’ve come from nowhere to everywhere in about 10 years – however what pissed me off was that he said Zara has become a brilliant brand without ever advertising … they’ve just created and communicated their competitive advantage through their advanced processes and systems.

Now don’t get me wrong, process and systems has played an enormous part in creating Zara’s consistent and competitive brand advantage … however what this old school thinker fails to realize is that communication is no longer just about television spots or billboards, it’s about [as in Zara’s case] things like shopping experience, location, PR, fashion shows, magazine articles – hell, even the clothes – so whilst Zara may not use the ‘old school’ method of advertising, they still spend a shit load of cash on communicating their brand to the masses.

Of course I had to bring this issue to his attention and do you know what he did?

He grabbed the mic off me and made some glib comment that because this method of communication wouldn’t get adland the commission they demand from media channels, he was right and Zara owe their success to internal efficiencies and infrastructure.

Now apart from the fact that [1] I have seen Zara advertise in traditional channels [2] they do have ad agencies on their books and [3] they spend a huge amount in exposing their brand to the masses … the media commission model is incredibly outdated and if most agencies relied on that for their only income, they’d all go bust in an instant.

So all in all this guy has made 4 major faux pas …

1/ He has not acknowledged the role adland can have in making an efficiently run company into a brand that motivates and infiltrates society

2/ He does not understand the changing face of the communication industry.

3/ He doesn’t understand how real people think/do/act

4/ He is letting me speak after him.

Revenge happens in about 3 hours.

43 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The message I take from that is that ‘branding’ is done through so many subtle little things that it is no longer purely the domain of ‘adland’ etc as traditionally defined (however it is traditionally defined). It’s the role of the factories, the sales people, the shop staff – as well as triggered through stuff that you do which is not ‘communications’ again as I undersatand it to be defiend withtin the ‘industry’ – as you say, through clothes etc – even through things like business school lecture room discussions about them

I’d have thought he’d love that idea anyway.

Comment by Tommer

Branding has always been more than just adland – way, way more – but to imply that the communication industry has nothing to do with Zara’s success is absolutely misguided.

I pride myself on the fact that I’ve always recognised the importance of every discipline and channel in the creation things that are meaningful … and I actively encourage and involve myself and my team in all aspects of it … so whilst I appreciate I might be the exception of this attitude, I am in no means a one off and for someone of this man’s repute to not just ignore it but laugh at it, shows that if he was to actually create a business, he’d have the most efficiently bankrupt organisation on Earth.

Adland can be much more than just communication … infact with many, they’re closer to the manufacturing industy than ads … and I’m disappointed that this was not even acknowledged but don’t worry, I’ll be putting that right in about 2 hours! 🙂

Comment by Rob

Ten years? They started in 75 I believe and have been in a lot of European countries since the early 90s – another overnight success that wasn’t.

And what are retail windows if not expensive advertising media? Oh look their founder agrees with em – smart man –

Comment by John

Go get him.

Comment by Marcus

I honestly am in rabid dog mode … I don’t care if they don’t give me the award after this, infact they shouldn’t because I’m inclined to shove it down his throat.

Thank you John, I’ll be bringing that to his attention as well.

Comment by Rob

And anyway, it’s not like this is a unique retail model – Karen Millen never ran a single while Ted Baker didn’t do so for a very long time and don’t exactly spend a fortune these days.

Comment by John

He grabbed the mic off of you? In the middle of a sentence?

Comment by Marcus

No … not in the middle of the sentence, but as soon as I stopped, he grabbed it and made that pithy comment then turned to me whilst I shouted THAT’S OUT OF DATE THINKING, but the room is so large not many people heard me.

But I get the big boy mic in a few hours and
E V E R Y O N E will be hearing me then. 🙂

Comment by Rob

Any choice words anyone would like me to add to my response? I’m taking suggestions right now.

Comment by Rob

I would kill to be there Robe. Enjoy every second of your “loud man with a microphone” session.

Comment by Bazza

woo hoo! knock ’em dead rob!
if systems and processes are the only means to a successful brand, ask him why’d HE’s not leading brand – he’s an academic, his life would be centered around systems and processes [more than most i would say]. and remind him that speaking at a conference doesn’t constitute ‘leading brand’

Comment by lauren

is he flip flopping on advertising or not?

Comment by Nick Fury

war room any one?

Comment by Nick Fury

I’ve just asked our R&D deparment to invent a time and travel machine so we can all go there and see Rob kill. I’ve seen him in this mood before and he’s absolutely brilliant. Video it Rob.

Comment by Bazza

You caused me to open for the first time this book I got at a lecture last year for the first time. Hmm what does it say …

“Zara spends only 0.3% of sales on advertising, usually to emphasize the attractiveness of its copycat strtaegy…

For Zara the store window dispaly is the major vehicle for advertising to the consumer. The windows, refreshed every two weeks, are large and dramatic, and feature the merchandise as the star.”

(p39 Private Label Strategy by Kumar and Steenkamp.) Any help?

Comment by John

Ask him about Easy Jet. I am confident you can take it from there.

Comment by Lee Hill

Mr Kumar should visit their flagship store – passeig garcia, barcelona. (or at least the Zara website!)

The store and the windows and even how everything is perfectly color co-ordinated with bags on shelves above and shoes below tell us (young people who love fashion and don’t want to spend a fortune) exactly what the brands values are. Up to date interesting fabulous outfits.

I love how Zara stores are well laid out so they always feel premium (vs H&M which is cheap and fun but complete chaos usually) – Their dressing rooms are bigger w enough space to move around vs tiny cubicles. it’s tangible stuff like that which makes a real difference. Does this guy really believe it’s not part of their conversation with people who shop there?

And ofc they do grand fashion shows and are seen in all the right magazines…. celebs constantly seen in their outfits etc

Back the point, enjoy your time up there Rob!

Comment by Kajal

fuck me its like miami all over again. theres going to be a riot theres going to be a riot. do us proud campbell forget your italian roots and verbally fight like a proud fucking englishman. what an old school view on adland this prick has, let everyone know it and see it

Comment by andy@cynic

Go Rob Go.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Of course the founder isnt going to say “our clever PR made our company great”…

Someone please film this. Please.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Wonder what this guy teaches ‘young’ minds !

off with his Rob 🙂

Comment by bhaskar


Comment by Nick Fury

Having lived through the drama of the battle of Miami I should not advocate what I know Robert will be doing but it will put him in a good mood for a few weeks as well as defend the honour of advertising so I see Nirmalya Kumar’s pain as fair and just collateral damage. Yes Andy, Auntie George has gone nasty.

Comment by George

only when mary tells you you can 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

This is what I like about you guys, willing to fight for what you believe is right (almost) regardless of cost.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

that chap should consider himself lucky that Boucher isn’t there.

Comment by Marcus

Do we know that for a fact Mr Brown? Suprise suprise..

Comment by Nick Fury

george!!! welcome to the fold…. i’m well impressed 🙂

Comment by lauren

some things are worth more than money mortimer and verbally happy slapping some management consultuing academic is one of those moments. how do i get to india in the next 15 minutes, ideas people

Comment by andy@cynic

call Rob and let him give the phone to the guy. tell him it’s his daddy calling…

Comment by Nick Fury

just spoken to campbell and hes not just carpet bombed the prof fucker but hes dropped a few scuds on the ceos of the multinational agencies.

when will people learn that campbell with a microphone is a scarier proposition than fucking terminator?

well done campbell just tell us where to post bail

Comment by andy@cynic

He’s probably still gripping the microphone and ranting like a madman. Wonderful stuff.

Comment by George

I look forward to the legend.
I hope it was recorded.

I do recall asking a question that slagged off Kevin Roberts at the Future Marketing Summit on behalf of Mr C

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Without reading all the comments: That’s the Campbell I love. Can you please record your revenge on video, it could be a brilliant opposite to the horrible fuckload of shit awaiting me on Friday.

Comment by Seb

I seriously hope Campbell videoed it.

Comment by The Kaiser

Good news bad news … I didn’t record it but apprentely the conference organisers did so I’ll see if I can get it. Too tired to talk anymore, speak tomorrow you lovely people.

Comment by Rob

This Harvard professor is not unlike many people you encounter in the ivory tower. But he deserves a big kick between his legs for grabbing the mic from you.

Comment by Mark

Hi Rob!
I was there in the conference and guess what? Mr. Kumar is not from Harvarad, he is from LBS!!! Does he not know that wrong communication is the biggest of the cardinal sins in BRAND MANAGEMENT???


Comment by Sidcruise_24

Hey Robert,

Your presentation resurrected the 1st day’s session for me. I’d almost sunk into a deep depression with all the ‘erudite’ thoughts that were being flung around like confetti. Wanted to chat up with you later but didn’t get an opportunity.

Comment by Bluemet@ll

Is Sidcruise_24 and Bluemet@11 my mother in disguise? Seriously, that is very very kind of you to be so complimentary – I appreciate I sort of went off on a rant because he pissed me off so much, but if it woke you up, that’s better than the normal response so I will gladly take it. 🙂

Feel free to say ‘Hi’ whenever you want or you can email me at “rob at cynical-world dot com” and we can talk more privately, ha. Thanks again, it means alot …

Comment by Rob

Hi Rob of sunshine. I see other people have past praise on you but I want to also. You were the most exciting and interesting presentation and made the entire conference worthwhile. I hope you come back to India soon and help us do more becuase we have the desire but you have the skill and creativity. Come back soon.

Comment by BombayBoy888

holy fuck campbell has groupies. have they got no fucking taste at all? well done campbell sounds like you did us all proud. makes a big fucking change. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me. […]

Pingback by Love Works In Strange Ways … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply