Taek a break: Now's not the time to cut marketing

2009-03-23 00:00

ONE of the great paradoxes of capitalism is playing itself out as we speak: that of businesses cutting back on their marketing spend at a time when it is needed most.

The context is a tightening economy, a concomitant slowing of available cash and reduced revenues. Confronted by a list of costs, marketing typically is the first led to the guillotine.

If anything, marketing is a popular sacrificial lamb of a management under pressure to be seen to be doing something, anything, to counter prevailing business trends. This rationale also may include a reference to cutting expenses that are not directly related to operational costs, and ticking off a relatively big number on a budget makes for good reading, if poor business sense.

The irony is that marketing is often seen as a necessary, and even unnecessary, evil, and not a critical precursor to a successful business, irrespective of the operation. Without being sidetracked by the various manifestations of marketing, it's worth bearing in mind that businesses with a strong word-of-mouth reputation will survive, and quite possibly thrive, in a recession. The reason? They're not spending any less on their marketing!

The same unfortunately cannot be said for businesses that rely on advertising, promoting or generally needing to be in the front lobe of the public's brain.

In here lies the second irony, in that companies needing to promote themselves also tend to have disproportionate marketing budgets that get the chop when the going gets tough. Little wonder that the going gets tougher for some, while those that continue to market themselves do better in what amounts to an empty arena.

The point is that people still buy things, and not only their daily bread, fuel and other necessities. As was pointed out by American marketing strategist Michele Pariza Wacek, it was the Great Depression that launched the cosmetic industry.

Consensus among business strategists and experts is that the time has come to intensify marketing efforts, and not necessarily concentrate on costs. This may take different forms and may well represent a mix of established and new measures.

This would extend to a greater marketing nous, for example, by drawing on the expertise of friends or one's networks, but not necessarily network marketing.

More importantly, develop a hunger for marketing that will help you sniff out promotional opportunities in places others don't even know exist. And don't be scared to knock on doors you don't know; you just don't know who may open them.

Lunching by weight

THE last time I bought anything by weight was a pile of second-hand magazines from a shop in the Berea Centre in Durban. This allowed me to pay for a collection of stunning overseas magazines of my choice at a price greatly more affordable; in other words, a product of superlative quality at excellent value.

These thoughts came to mind when Martin Maltby of Essence in Victoria Road suggested we join him for a lunch where you pay per plate weight.

Foreign as the concept was to us, we were blown away by it.

Essence serves up delicious fusion fare that includes salads, quiches, health breads, bakes and speciality dishes. Patrons serve themselves a plate and are charged accordingly. In my case, a plate positively brimming with goodness came to R56,45, while a more modest serving was R36,50.

The selection of dishes varies from day to day, and includes perennial favourites and enticing novelties, decided by Courtney Dutton and Robyn Flint, both of whom have been professionally trained at a fusion cooking school in Westville.

"We monitor very carefully what customers like, and use their preferences as a basis for our daily selection," said Dutton.

Flint said the by-weight method minimises the pressure on the lunchtime shift.

The relaxed ambience one Friday noon certainly suggested a happy clientele that, judging by our meals, has plenty to smile about.

Hard-time talk shops

THE plight of the provincial economy will come under scrutiny during a series of sectoral workshops in Durban and Pietermaritzburg aimed at assisting businesses to cope with difficult times.

Organised under the auspices of the Department of Economic Development, the workshops will be conducted by high-level experts and feature discussions about possible interventions to stimulate the economy.

Starting tomorrow, the capital equipment, metals, minerals and beneficiation sector will be discussed at the Suncoast Casino, followed by the rail, transport and logistic sector on Wednesday (Royal Hotel in Durban), chemicals and plastics on Friday at the Southern Sun Garden Court on the Marine Parade, automotive next Monday at the Royal Hotel in Durban, tradable services (Royal Hotel in Durban) on Tuesday, and finally, timber, forestry and wood on April 2 at Redlands Hotel in Pietermaritzburg.

Anyone involved in these sectors is welcome and should contact mngomam@kznded.gov.za or Sibusiso Gumede at 033 264 2725 or gumedes@kznded.gov.za.

Benefit of history

LET it not be said that the Old Prison doesn't take history seriously.

On Wednesday, the people running the city's latest historical attraction will host a teachers' day, the second one this year. The aim of the visit is to inform teachers about the educational tour through the prison.

The greater objective is of course to motivate teachers to organise for their pupils to visit the Old Prison and understand its hugely undervalued role in the history of the city and indeed South Africa.

For more information, contact 033 845 0400, or sibiyas@projectgateway.co.za The website is www.projectgateway.co.za

Last word

THE difference between try and triumph is a little umph. - Author unknown.

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