Column Ronald Jansen – Consulting Partner
Recently the Top 100 Dutch Marketers was published. For years The Top 100 has been a great overview from Adformatie of the current standings and who is innovating in marketing. An article from Mark Ritson in Marketing Week triggered me to look at this list from a different point of view. To analyse it and to look out for the emergence of the founder as the new ‘supermarketeer’.
For years the Top 100 list has been giving a great overview of the best marketers. But are they the 100 marketers that let brands grow? Let’s start with number 1 this year: which is Raymond Cloosterman from Rituals. Cloosterman is an entrepreneur, not a marketer. He went against all odds and grew Rituals to 130 stores and 150 shop-in-shops. His 3 pillars: distribution, innovation and campaigns. When it comes to brand growth, we often think of a large-scale media deployment to bring attention to your brand. But, do you remember a big national RTV-campaign from Rituals? Right, this entrepreneur seems to have a completely unique and creative approach that led to the brand Rituals – which is now present in 28 countries! – having created an own market.
A unique story, you would think. But is it? Let’s take a look at the Top 100 Marketers list again. It seems there is a climate change going on. The Top 10 Marketers of 2019 consists of only 4 ‘real marketers’. The remaining are founder and/or CEO. Quite striking. Let’s move on. In total the list consists of 26 non-marketers. In 2018 there were 25 non-marketers, with 3 marketers in the Top 10. And in 2017 there were 22 non-marketers, with 2 marketers in the Top 10. What’s going on?
The Gordon Ramsey of marketing professors, Mark Ritson, explains the reason perfectly in his Marketing Week article from the 4th of April: ‘you don’t fuck with the founders’. Of course, the founder has the power. The ultimate power which leads employees to follow them like half-gods. And this often goes for financial markets and consumers too. According to Ritson, the brand runs through their veins. They can – if the company is not doing so well – change direction completely. Returning founders seem to confirm this. Ritson describes in his article the return of Dunkerton at Superdry to turn the tide. And we all know of the successful return of Steve Jobs at Apple. But he also describes the limited expiration date of the founder. The founder that has built the company from the ground, knows from that time what is relevant for consumers. But oddly enough, Ritson says that money and age will be a hurdle at some point in time. They are out of touch and that’s the point when an organisation can keep remembering the successes of the founder and use them, instead of calling in the founder no matter what it takes. Thankfully, marketing does seem to be indispensable at that time.
Founders and brand growth
It will be interesting to see in DVJ Insights’ Brand Growth study if there is a climate change going on in marketing, or if we’re dealing with a temporary effect. With our Brand Growth concept, we interview 50 CMO’s each year, followed by a large-scale study among marketers. The results of this study will be published after the summer, and on our Brand Growth Event in October. Every year we look at the differences between companies that grow, and companies that don’t grow (winners and losers). So far, we notice a difference, for example: growing companies apply marketing science more often. And although the role of innovation in marketing is the theme for this year, we will also specifically look at organisations where the founder is at the helm. And find out whether it is an ingredient for growth.