Marketing Institute ups its game

Marketing Institute Ireland has a whole new strategy as the MII’s recently-appointed chief executive David Field explains in an interview with Michael Cullen

Core boss Alan Cox could hardly have imagined the degree of interest the paper he delivered to delegates attending the Marketing Institute CMO conference in the Google Foundry a couple of years ago would generate. During his talk, Cox emphasised the point that we in Ireland need to raise marketing standards by launching a formal programme for continued professional development (CPD).

Cox’s sentiments sparked a contretemps with delegate Dr Damien McLoughlin of UCD. The speech got marketers talking way beyond Grand Canal Dock. People thought, if marketing is serious about accessing boardrooms, the bar must be raised. A formalised CPD programme for marketers had never existed in Ireland. It was clear to most observers that only one entity could manage the challenge.

David Field became CEO at the Marketing Institute – or Marketing Institute Ireland (MII) to give its official title – in April last year, just as the pandemic was taking hold and marketers were clearing out their office desks to work remotely. Field had already chaired the MII board, so he was au fait with what changes members wanted to see. CPD was up there, along with several other pleas.

Field adopts new stance: David Field, chief executive, Marketing Institute Ireland (MII), has a new strategy to help marketers build great brands and careers by sharing best practice, insights and expert content, building the community of marketers and aiding their careers. The three themes of content, community and career underpin all institute activities. The institute owns and operates the AIMs awards, CMO Summit and DMX Dublin.

Field and his team ramped up engagement with members through a series of webinars with 60 hours of content, including the annual DMX Dublin event and its recent All Ireland Marketing (AIMs) awards which again was attended by everyone who is anyone in Irish marketing.

MII’s new strategy is based on four pillars. Firstly, there is education and lifelong learning. Member experience revolves around giving members access to a network of likeminded marketers through events and learning. The MII aims to be the voice of marketing in Ireland and strengthen the profession’s standing. The institute’s new identity was curated to reflect energy and fresh thinking.

As part of its CPD drive, the MII, unveiled a new corporate strategy aimed at driving economic growth, helping business leaders achieve better business performance and positioning Ireland as a global hub for marketing expertise through its landmark initiative with Berkeley Global, University of California.

Field says the Global Marketing Leadership Programme (GMLP) will be the only marketing course of its kind in Ireland, specifically designed to propel marketers to the next level, equipping them with the tools for leadership roles and gain passage to boardrooms. The content and curriculum are the result of a research study into digital transformation management and marketing.

David Field is excited about the Berkeley Global, seeing the programme as a game-changer 

The Berkeley course, which is open to both MII members and non-members, connects CMOs with Silicon Valley. The strategy is the culmination of over a year’s engagement with Irish business. It sets out a roadmap for strengthening the contribution of marketing in creating value and providing the wherewithal to drive business performance during a time of profound and rapid change.

When Field took the job as CEO, the institute was loss making and there was a general acceptance that it was losing relevance and needed some new vim and innovative thinking to remind marketers about the important role it can play in their careers. There was also a recognition that the MII needed to appeal to a wider audience by improving its services and supports to members.

The MII launched its new corporate strategy in June. Field says it is aimed at helping business leaders achieve better business performance, supporting marketers at every stage of their career, positioning Ireland as a global hub for marketing know-how and thereby driving economic growth nationally. It is vital that marketing is acknowledged for the tangible value it brings to Irish business.

Field is excited about the Berkeley Global, seeing the GMLP as a game-changer when it starts next January. The programme’s content and curriculum are the result of an in-depth study of the latest research and practices of industry experts in digital transformation and management and marketing. Berkeley Global and MII identified four core competencies empowering marketers.

‘At the core of the programme is an innovation project enabling participants to apply the learning from the programme to solve real world problems’ – Field

The four competencies comprise data-driven business intelligence, customer-centric and tech-conscious marketing, strategy and leadership and organization and change management. The tuition combines live online learning with experiential activities, culminating with a visit to Silicon Valley. Students will be exposed to tech and innovation trends and case studies on digital transformation.

“At the core of the programme is an innovation project enabling participants to apply the learning from the programme to solve real world problems,” Field says. “At the start of the programme, each learner will present a challenge they currently face in their job.” Tied in with the GMLP is the MII’s latest diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative around support for Ireland’s SMEs.

A new course is tailored to provide small and medium businesses with the skills needed to drive sales through strategic marketing. The ‘Growth Marketing for SMEs’ programme is developed in tandem with Etain Kidney, who heads up the School of Marketing at TU Dublin. Due to Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Springboard funding, the cost of sitting the course is minimal.

Coinciding with its new strategy, the MII hired the Richards Dee agency to create a brand identity centred around its new moniker, Marketing Institute Ireland. Established in 1962, the MII now has around 2,500 individual and corporate members and supports marketers in every stage of their career, including through its university links with TU Dublin and its various level nine programmes.

                     ‘If we’re to be the voice of Irish marketing, we need to do more research’ – Field 

In June, Ogilvy Group vice chairman and consumer behavioural expert Rory Sutherland presented one of his inimitable master classes to the institute’s CMOs. Sutherland regularly draws big audiences to his talks in Ireland as he shares many interesting insights and observations. No stranger to Irish marketers, he has also been a guest at IAPI Adfx and TAM events in recent years.

Sutherland works with a consulting practice of psychology graduates who look for “unseen opportunities” in consumer behaviour, small contextual changes which can majorly affect people’s decisions. For instance, tripling the sales rate of a call centre by adding just a few sentences to the script. He studies business culture that preaches rational decision-making and his tips pay dividends.

In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Sutherland shared his take on marketing by comparing it to economists. “My definition of marketing is simply the science of knowing what economists are wrong about,” he remarked. “The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol… large numbers of people in business don’t really believe in economics – I don’t.”

During the course of his CMO masterclass, Sutherland talked about brands like Zoom, Red Bull, Uber and Nespresso. He explained why they have been so successful when, in some cases, there was no actual market for them. Field has extensive experience in consumer and retail marketing from his time working with Superquinn, Glanbia, Brown Thomas and, most recently, Eason.

He also worked on contract for TV3, now Virgin Media Television (VMTV). “It’s important to point out too that this new strategy we now have in place is aimed at making the MII a more national body, rather than just servicing Greater Dublin,” Field insists. “We want to get the brand out near and far and fulfil our function of helping marketers to build great brands and great careers.”

Using brand identity to great effect: Brand identity is hugely important in marketing. As international author and university lecturer Jenny Romaniuk always says, marketers need to be consistent with their brand of voice. David Field says the Covid-19 crisis showed up some brands for not taking advantage of major opportunities, while others, like An Post and SuperValu, put their savviness into action and connected well with consumers during the pandemic.

Given his background in marketing, it is no surprise that Field is a devout advocate of brand identity and in how it can give a product or service that extra oomph. “It’s massive,” Field says, “brand identity is crucial to any campaign. Jenny Romaniuk (Ehrenberg-Bass Institute in Australia) talks about it all the time and urges brand owners not to forget to be consistent with their tone of voice.”

With talk about sustainability all the go everywhere these days, the MII is organising its own conference on this subject in November, which will address relevant issues and give marketers advice on how to shape their business for the future. “If we take on initiatives like this, marketers will engage with us again more,” Field says. “While we’re a not-for-profit organisation, we’re also not-for-loss.”

Field is thriving in his new role. His passion for the job is exercised by the fact that he is working with his peers. He tries to see things and gauge needs from their perspective. He is a great believer in the power of research in developing brands. “If we’re to be the voice of Irish marketing, we need to do more research. But you need a balance, you can’t bombard people with questionnaires.”

Which brings us nicely to the perennial query: What is the likelihood of the MII and the Marketing Society merging? Never one to kick an awkward question to touch, Field replies diplomatically by saying he would be open to having the right conversations with the right people. If the two marketing bodies can work closer together in the future, so be it, who knows what might happen.




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