News Exchange: Reputations on the line
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News Exchange: Reputations on the line

A weekly update on the latest headlines and highlights from the marketing sector

Making diversity a marketing priority

Charity Stonewall has named law firm Pinsent Masons the number one LGBT employer in the UK. CIM marketing director Gemma Butler believes the accolade has great reputational value – which some organisations are only just waking up to.

In announcing its top 100 list, Stonewall’s executive director Darren Towers said Pinsent Masons knew that “helping staff feel that they can bring their full selves to work doesn’t just make a huge difference to individual team members – it makes real business sense too.”

At a time when talent shortages are being hotly debated – the oil and gas sector declared a skills crisis just last week – this kind of visible openness has been applauded by marketers and recruiters alike who see the bigger picture. “Sadly, there is still a great deal of discrimination in the workplace. As well as doing the right thing from a business point of view, a serious commitment to equality and diversity can open up significant new talent pools. It can also catch the eye of potential new clients,”said Butler.

At least 16 law firms made it into Stonewall’s top 100, who were chosen from a long list of 445 organisations that applied. “Increasingly, ‘traditional’ sectors are investing substantial time and money in eradicating the view that they are not inclusive. For example, we’ve all seen the Army’s recent attempts to appeal to new demographics in its recruitment ads, which was praised by some and criticised by others.” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone. “Taking a step forward in diversity will certainly be of increasing importance to today’s candidates, and marketing should lead in communicating this message at all stages of the recruitment process.”

Volvo changes direction

A long-term strategy is starting to pay off for the Swedish carmaker, which has updated its middle-of-the-road image and now sees a bright future for itself.

In a shrinking UK car market, Volvo has posted a 9% jump in year-on-year sales and is predicting it can grow them another 20% this year. “But this is not an overnight success story,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler.

Back in 2017, Volvo made a big statement about taking its fleet electric – by 2025, half will be fully electric, half will be hybrid – and it has backed that promise up with tangible environmental action. Last year, it opened its first climate-neutral factory, became the first carmaker to endorse the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter, and even published an inspirational children’s book, ‘The Day the Ocean Went Away’. “They have made a massive commitment,” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone, “and it resonates with consumers because they have fully embedded this commitment into the brand – it’s more than an add on, or an afterthought.”

Volvo has also been making significant changes to its business model. It has pioneered Care by Volvo, a new kind of subscription service for drivers, as well as targeting a younger, family audience. But there is mileage too in its old reputation for safety – as Lee-Boone points out, it should play well when consumers are asked to trust self-driving cars.

Suddenly it’s easy to see why Volvo’s leadership is so bullish about the carmaker’s prospects.

Poundland takes a pounding

One of the retailer’s Valentine’s Day products is attracting more hate than love and offers a valuable marketing lesson for any business.

Wrapped in plastic, Poundland’s heart-shaped ‘Gift of Nothing’ stands accused of creating unnecessary waste. Friends of the Earth went so far as to call it a “symbol of everything that is wrong with our view of the world”.

“I’m speculating, of course,” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone, “but I think they knew what they were doing. Their previous marketing activities would suggest that they’re not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and that they consider this style of marketing to correlate with their brand positioning.”

‘Elves behaving badly’, the retailer’s Christmas 2017 social media campaign, which returned in 2018 despite widespread criticism. It was deemed “irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence” by the Advertising Standards Authority and subsequently banned.

At a time when Collins Dictionary has just picked ‘single-use’ as its Word of the Year and the Royal Statistical Society has made plastic waste its stat of 2018 (more than 90% of it has never been recycled), it seems Poundland has erred again. “From a product perspective, you can see the comedic edge,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler, “but I don’t think they predicted the massive outcry this wasteful packaging has garnered, which goes to show the prevalence of this matter in the mind of consumers at present, and how sure-footed businesses need to be when it comes to issues such as this.”

At the time of writing, Poundland’s social media accounts are silent on the fallout and it is yet to publicly acknowledge the reaction. Butler believes an acknowledgement is needed and it may yet come. In the meantime, says Lee-Boone, “No matter how jovial the message behind a product may be, this misstep is a lesson to all businesses: execution is key.”

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Tobias Gourlay Journalist
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