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Work within a brand vision

To keep employees productive, the whole company must embrace its values, writes Jennifer Hiscock.

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How many companies do you know where a list of values - pasted on the wall in reception or unseen on the opening page of the annual report - are no more than words? Although many firms treat their values, mission statement and vision as little more than a mantra to be trotted out at presentations or recruitment drives, there are some who live and breathe those values - from the chairman to the office junior.

When Marketing and The HR Consultancy, part of the Stopgap Group, set out on the inaugural search to find the Best Marketing Employers 2002 from agencies and client marketing departments, it was these companies we were looking for. The ones that clearly communicate their vision, mission and values to their marketing staff. Those that set out clear business objectives and make sure that everyone in the marketing team knows what they are and how to achieve them.

Those that have clearly defined internal company values and reflect those values in everything they do. Those that instill trust and confidence in their marketing teams. And those companies where the management leads by example.

Not only do the results enable us to see who the top marketing employers are in terms of how well management engage staff with the business, they also allow us to gauge what these provide in terms of benefits and support.

In the second part of the questionnaire, we asked about practical factors such as financial rewards and benefits, pension, and private medical and dental care provision.

Companies did not have to perform equally well in both sections of the survey - a high score in either one affected their position. The results reveal that while agencies are better at engaging their staff, client-side departments provide more of the basics.

The questionnaire was completed by 1250 marketing personnel in 285 companies. To qualify for inclusion, a company had to have completed questionnaires from at least five members of its marketing team. The majority of companies generated at least ten responses, with one client-side department receiving 61 completed forms. Ninety-five companies qualified.

The more staff understand the vision, mission and values of the company, the healthier the bottom line. It is not a soft option, but a business tool, just as much as a company's IT strategy.

"Wherever the company is heading, the people who are part of it need to know," says Claire Owen, managing director of The HR Consultancy. "They are not only more likely to work harder to get there, they are also more likely to contribute to getting there faster. Pinning down what makes your brand special is not easy. This is why the senior management team needs to make the time to explore the essence of the brand and to capture it for everyone."

With a score of 135 out of a maximum 138 for staff engagement and 18 out of a maximum 27 for providing the basics, direct marketing agency Presky Maves emerged as the Best Marketing Employer in 2002. It has grown from two people to 20 in its four years, with the goal of creating a "a team of marketing experts".

Each time someone joins the company the vision is explained, and it is communicated to the company as a whole on at least a quarterly basis. But co-founder Robin Presky acknowledges that the vision to have the entire agency working as a cohesive team will need to evolve as the company grows.

Communicating the vision

So how should management go about communicating the vision and engaging larger groups of people, a department of 140, for example?

This is one of the challenges that Philip Gladman, marketing director, Smirnoff and Archers at Diageo faces.

"Rather than being communicated to, the marketing department is integral to how the vision is created," explains Gladman. "I was at Procter & Gamble for four years and in the marketing department our objectives and the targets just arrived and we got on with achieving them. But here, it comes from the bottom up, and marketing and sales work together on business plans which go into the marketing executive. They then get passed up to the board. Nine times out of ten what is recommended by them happens."

Empowerment and involvement in the creation of the vision, strategy and objectives have emerged as key factors. One member of the marketing team at Virgin Mobile, the second-highest client team, wrote on the questionnaire: "As a company, Virgin Mobile is prepared to give people a lot of autonomy and the chance to prove themselves. That faith makes us as employees want to do the best job we can. There is no blame, which means we are not scared of messing up and ultimately develop and learn at a faster rate."

Individual rewards

A similar culture has been taking shape at Guide Dogs for the Blind, where values of openness and trust have been fostered by chief executive Geraldine Peacock, who heads a marketing team of nine. "It is not a blame culture - if we fall flat on our face we learn from it."

But to reach their goals, marketers first need to be aware of what they are, and how to reach them. "No communication is bad communication," says The HR Consultancy's Owen. "What's not said will be guessed, and nine out of ten times this will be wrong. People need to know what they can contribute and can be expected to contribute; it makes them more productive."

Dunnhumby, a direct marketing agency with 200 staff, provides six-monthly one-to-one discussions for each of its staff where it sets goals and measures their delivery against an objective set of competencies. Edwina Dunn, co-founder and chief executive, believes this is effective in driving the motivation of her employees.

One of the principle factors in attracting, motivating and retaining employees is the company values, which help give people direction and identify how things should be done. "If a company has 'teamwork' as a value then individual reward programmes won't work," says Owen. "If they have 'openness', they can't have the board directors having clandestine meetings. If one value isn't lived up to, the rest will be ignored."

If the brand values have been communicated effectively and bought into by everyone in the company, says Owen, they act as a checklist for decisions that are made.

"In terms of company values, we don't have anything written down on a bit of paper - our values are inherent in our daily behaviour," says Lawrence Bate, category director for clothes care at Lever Fabergé. "We have three main points: a focus on delivery, results and accountability; a customer and consumer orientation; and teamwork and fun."

Bate believes that Lever Fabergé's values are reflected in its people. The company holds a Consumer Connection programme where marketers talk to consumers to get their opinions and feedback.

Defining values

The values of the Virgin mother brand: - fun, quality, innovation and consumer champion - translate into Virgin Mobile's marketing methods, says James Kydd, brand director. "Having simple tariffs, a human approach and fighting against what we call 'mobilitis' - getting obsessed with mobile technology and jargon. We try to make the values come to life rather than just having them written down on a bit of paper. So they also carry through to our treatment of staff, with the casual dress code, open plan offices, music and flexible timekeeping."

Diageo's Gladman says its people-focused values are reflected in its "vast commitment" to training and development in the marketing department, and in its celebratory culture. "We have developed marketing training courses, and we as marketing directors have pledged to put the whole marketing department through this course by Christmas," says Gladman. "So many companies sit around and say 'oh yes, people development is so important to us', but at Diageo it really is important."

Bernice Lovell, founder and director at marketing agency the Haygarth Group, believes that values should be inherent in a company. "The more you define values, the more you lose them," she says. "We lead by example and don't stand for much hierarchy - no one has an office and we mix levels of staff on desks."

As a company grows it becomes harder to hold on to the essence of what made them great in the first place. Little surprise then, that the top three companies in the main table are medium-sized and owner-managed, with the visionary that established the company leading from the front.

"My job is to work at how to communicate the vision," says Matt Kingdon, managing director of brand consultancy ?What If! "Not by some corporate method like e-mail or a plaque on the wall - but by role-modelling and making heroes of people."

But it is possible, and some would say essential, to lead by example in much larger organisations. "We don't just have face-to-face meetings to communicate market share figures," says Bate. "We talk about long- and short-term goals and big launches - all the razzmatazz and commitment comes from the top down. We've found that where people feel dissatisfied in their jobs, it's generally down to not knowing what is going on in the company."

With the launch of Persil Aloe Vera in May, the Lever Fabergé marketing team was encouraged to go out and demonstrate the product alongside the in-store demonstrations that were organised as part of the campaign. The chairman, Keith Weed, also got involved in these demonstrations, going out and talking to consumers, who were unaware of who he was, about the product.

At Guide Dogs for the Blind, the management practises what it preaches by building trust and integrity, says Peacock.

"When I first came here I encountered a feeling of fear and a lack of openness. The way the building was laid out smacked of hierarchy. I moved off the top floor to the ground floor where I have an office with glass walls and my door is always open. I moved the marketing team to the same place because I want the whole organisation to see marketing as a resource, supporting staff in what they want to achieve," she says.

Although brand values need to be created from the bottom up, they have to be lived from the top down. And, according to Owen, if management is not prepared to embrace the values on a daily basis, it might as well not have them.

CASE STUDY: PRESKY MAVES

Presky Maves, a direct marketing agency established four years ago, has 20 staff based in London. As the highest-scoring marketing employer in the table, the company prides itself on teamwork and whole-company involvement, operating a flat structure, with open plan offices and no job titles.

"Our goal was to put together a team of experts," says co-founder Robin Presky. "We have built up a clear vision and philosophies, and each time someone joins we communicate that vision.

"Recruiting is not only about their abilities, but also a matter of how they will fit in with the culture and values. Everyone knows what is going on as we are so small, but we do have an annual review of the business objectives and it's also done every quarter so that everybody knows each other's role and business goals."

Although Presky acknowledges that communication will get tougher as the agency grows in size, he says currently the entire agency is able to work as a single team.

The agency provides official performance reviews for each employee, and uses a ten-point chart to measure people on a six-monthly basis. It offers flexible home-working and has several staff who work from home for part of the week, using remote server access to stay connected.

"We have lunches and away days and two formal whole-company get-togethers where we share in our successes," says Presky. "Meeting socially helps to support our professional teamwork."

CASE STUDY: LINKLATERS

The top-scoring client in the survey, law firm Linklaters has doubled in size over the past three years, and now employs more than 5500 people in its 31 offices around the world.

With a marketing department of 50 people based in London and another 40 in the other offices, constant communication of the firm's business objectives is a top priority.

"It's quite difficult to achieve marketing consistency across 31 offices while also working within cultural parameters, but as a partnership the firm is consensus-driven, unlike a lot of corporations," says Anne Marie Stebbings, global marketing director.

"Marketing is involved in business development with senior management and the partners, and we facilitate the business path with the key stakeholders in London and around the world. The marketing managers talk to their teams about the firm's business plans and adhering to objectives, and the global marketing objectives can be accessed through a secure network."

Stebbings uses a weekly international electronic newsletter for communications across the global marketing team, which is open to anyone to provide contributions.

In addition, international business development and communications telephone conference calls, involving the international offices as well as London, take place fortnightly.

In July, the firm unveiled a branding exercise designed to emphasise that Linklaters is 'known for being the firm that can achieve the unachievable for its clients'.

This positioning, says Stebbings, is reflected in the work the firm does for its clients. "Linklaters helps its clients solve their most difficult problems. For example, the first hostile takeover in Germany where we helped Vodafone acquire Mannesmann. Linklaters has done things that our competitors said could never be done."

CASE STUDY: VIRGIN MOBILE

Launched three years ago, Virgin Mobile has kept its marketing department as small as possible in order to foster effective communication.

Rather than a hierarchical structure, the 16-strong team has been built around experts in disciplines such as direct marketing, design, content, planning and sponsorship.

"People join Virgin because it's entrepreneurial, so business objectives are seen as a good thing, not as incomprehensible dictums from management that don't mean anything to people's working day," says James Kydd, brand director. "They are tailored messages that allow people to interpret them as they will - they're not too prescriptive."

"We try to make the values come to life rather than just having them written down on a bit of paper. So they also carry through to our treatment of staff.

"The irony is that being a good marketing employer is simple," says Kydd. "It's just treating people like human beings, not corporate automatons."

CASE STUDY: IPC MEDIA

Performance and career development has played a key part in developing the 90-strong IPC Media marketing department for the past two-and-a-half years since Philippa Brown became group marketing director.

"I developed a marketing culture at IPC, which was something it had not had before," says Brown. "The first thing I did was to devise a strategy, a structure, and employ the right people. I chose a diversity of skill sets to ensure a fresh approach was applied to our marketing thinking."

Brown devised a career development tool-kit known as the 'matrix', which outlines the performance standards for each job level. As Brown explains, this makes it easier for those in the marketing department to pursue their chosen career path. "People can look at it and say, 'I'm a marketing assistant now, I want to be a marketing executive, what do I need to do?' and the matrix identifies their next steps," says Brown. "Complete career development is vital as it motivates people. I am creating a culture of marketing excellence."

IPC Media holds monthly 'learning lunches' for the 90-strong marketing department, where Brown talks about the vision, values and purpose of the marketing department. In addition, external experts are also invited to present on topical industry issues, allowing the IPC marketing teams to remain completely up-to-date with the marketplace.

To reward success, there is an annual marketing conference and awards event containing 16 categories with prizes ranging from between £500 to £2000.

Brown has also set up a 'marketing executive', made up of 11 people from the department. "We practise what we preach - our values are not just words left in the reception area," says Brown.

"For example, we aim to develop a cultural feel in which the team can work that is both creative and innovative, so to facilitate this we have set up 'innovation workshops'. Another key example is the six-monthly one-to-one reviews that are held with line managers. These meetings ensure they can both assess whether their career development is on track."

CASE STUDY: 23red

Having been up and running for two years, 23red is one of five finalists in the National Business Awards for SMEs due to its human resources policies. It qualified for Investors In People certification after two years and, with 30 staff, it is one of the smallest companies to do it.

Its staff policies and initiatives, built into its business plan when it was written two years ago, have led the agency to record staff turnover figures well below the industry average - 0% staff turnover in two years - and gross income per head far higher than the industry average.

"Commercial success comes as a direct result of investment in our people," says chairman Jane Asscher. "We have set out rigorous performance standards that are regularly reviewed against the marketplace. We have a great vision, but unless we tell our people about it, it's no use. We have quarterly meetings where we tell people about the numbers and the qualitative aspects of the business. There is a large emphasis on performance - clients know what our budgets are."

Its values are: self-realisation, ingenuity, vitality, pride, curiosity and freedom. "It's touchy-feely, but there is a necessity to communicate them to staff," says Asscher. "They are not just words on a page, but real values. It's not only about telling all this to our employees, but about getting them to listen."

As a reflection of these values, the agency operates two-way appraisals and has a strong commitment to training and development.

In addition, everyone that joins the agency is asked to design a postcard showing what the agency means to them. New recruits are given a creative brief for the postcard, their ideas are executed by the creative department and the postcards are used as promotional tools.

To ensure creative juices are kept flowing, everyone at the agency has an allowance of £20 per month to spend on cinema or theatre tickets, so that employees can bring ideas and fresh thinking back to the company.

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