Don’t put marketing before product

Green & Black's former chief marketer reveals how he grow the company from £3 million to £55 million.

Green & Black’s former chief marketer reveals how he grow the company from £3 million to £55 million.

Former Green & Black’s marketing director Mark Palmer tells GB why growing businesses should focus on product and staff before committing to expensive marketing campaigns.

During Mark Palmer’s time at Green and Black’s, turnover grew from £3 million to £55 million. He was the first marketing director of the luxury chocolate brand and was named Marketer of the Year in 2005. So it comes as a surprise when he downplays the importance of marketing campaigns in getting a company established.

‘Have a good product in the first place’, says Palmer. ‘Many companies want to raise money or say they need money for big marketing campaigns at the early stage, but what they should be doing is focusing on product quality because quality is what brings customers back.’

Speaking at an investor showcase organised by angel network Envestors, Palmer adds campaigns won’t be fruitful unless the business has properly developed the product and supported the ‘the back end of the office’.

Palmer joined Green & Black’s from Burger King in 2001 after starting his career at United Biscuits. Aside from the big increase in sales since that time, Green and Black’s has recently been voted the UK’s ‘coolest food brand’ in a poll by marketing industry group Superbrands – for the fourth year running. It’s now owned by food giant Kraft following its acquisition of Cadbury.

According to Palmer, marketing Green & Black’s chocolate bars, as with many other premium brands, centres on the ‘physiology of trading up’ by informing customers why they should pay more for the product. To achieve this, he explains, businesses have to understand the product and the customer’s motivations in choosing one offering over another.

He adds: ‘If you are ever considering doing some research, talk to people who love you and talk to people who think you are hopeless. Do not talk to anyone in the middle because they will give you a very bland answer that doesn’t really tell you very much.’

Palmer, who now runs his own marketing consultancy, says the key to the company’s success is sampling of the product because while the brand’s organic and fair-trade messages are important, taste keeps customers returning. ‘Sampling is critical to the brand. Tasting makes you a believer: it is far more powerful than advertising. We do now do advertising, it makes the process go faster, but we found the best way to recruit customers was to allow them to taste the chocolate.’

He says people can become confused about marketing into thinking it is ‘advertising or promotion’. ‘Marketing is about the fundamental things that underpin the service or your brand – I like to say it is the DNA of a company.

‘Sometimes we are not really clear who we are targeting – to say we are targeting people who like chocolate [in Green and Black’s case] is too broad. You have to know who the customers are so they can respond to what you do. Understand who they are, what they do, where they live, and you have to stalk them – that’s what marketing is all about – and find a tone to bring them in.’

Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital.

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