<trp-post-container data-trp-post-id='24380'>Les small nonsense from marketing by Catherine Heurtebise

Catherine, after years in journalism, you published Marketing's little nonsense What prompted you to write this collection?

It was Georges Lewi who came up with the idea of writing a book about marketing flops. The idea came just at the right time, because after I left Marketing Magazine, I was as free as a bird (to use the title of my friend and ex-partner Babette Leforestier's blog) to say what I wanted, without being dependent on any media. Also, nobody talks about flops because in France, unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries, failure is taboo.

What's your favourite marketing nonsense?

My favourite is the most blatant example of the amnesia that seems to be Nestfluid's failure in 2010. How, after the flop of LCI de Chambourcy (a company acquired by the group) and Essensis from its competitor Danone, could Nestlé have stubbornly stuck to its guns on nutraceuticals? That's what I call amnesia, a disease that always affects general management and marketing.

What about marketing research?

I (unfortunately) didn't say anything about the stupidity of marketing research, because the field of research is still very secretive, much more so than that of 'products'. But for every (or almost every) consumer product launch that fails, there is a pre-test. After that, as we know, the failure is generally due to a 'go' or 'no go' decision, which is more the responsibility of the advertiser than the research company. The probability of a product's success depends on an in-depth and mature analysis of commercial performance, which is often a weak point in organisations.

On 21 January, you'll be a keynote speaker at Research Day: what's your view of this market, which you've been following for many years?

My main message is to combat the cult of secrecy surrounding failures that still reigns in our country. At a time when more than half of all innovations in the consumer goods sector end up on the shelf. And these flops don't just concern marketed 'products', but also distributors, the media, medicines, advertising, tweets, pseudo-innovations by the state or public institutions, etc. Of course, you learn from making mistakes. What triggers a flop is a false promise. Consumers are becoming more and more adult, and if your offer is not honest, if it does nothing for them, they will reject it. Why don't managers ask themselves the simple question: what's in it for the consumer? But then, as in politics, everyone wants to mark their reign: I'm the one who came up with new product X, which revolutionised the washing powder or soft drinks market... I quote Marcel Proust: "there are no easy successes and no definitive failures". Let's dare to make mistakes, while remaining honest. It's not that easy!

Secondly, we need to be able to talk and laugh about (almost) anything, especially when marketing professionals want to surprise us with their fake innovations. All the more so since bad buzz is making us laugh (sometimes yellow) more and more....Finally, when it comes to research in particular, more and more of it has to serve a purpose. A lot of progress has already been made in this area, driven by budget cuts and competition in terms of specialist offerings and methods. With the maturity of consumer expectations and those of marketers, we are doing less 'alibi' research. But we need to keep up our efforts, because we are still seeing some abuses.... Respect for the consumer, transparency... these are words that need to be at the top of the agenda.

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