Friday, November 27, 2009

Are Boots walking the talk?

In a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee enquiry the professional standards director for Boots, Paul Bennett may have had a Gerald Ratner moment, telling the committee that Boots have no scientific evidence that Homeopathic remedies work, but they sell them because customers want to buy them.

Gerald Ratner is infamous for his remark during an after dinner speech when he said Ratners could sell products so cheaply beacuse they were crap. Customers stopped shopping at Ratners as this insulted them, and maybe highlighted a suspected truth they were happy to ignore previously but no longer could. Similarly, the statement made by Paul Bennet of Boots can be seen to be insulting to customers who purchase them from Boots, and exposes Boots as greedy and unethical if we choose to view them that way.

So will it cause them a problem? I suspect overall it won't be an issue. Partly because reporting of the issue, to date, has been less than that given to Gerald Ratner's comments but also because the comments only apply to a small portion of the range sold by Boots whilst Ratner was refering to a large amount of the business.

However, my main concern is how the issue highlights the importance of ensuring corporate actions match words. On Boots website, in the section on CSR in the marketplace it states:
"So it's part of our heritage to treat our customers fairly and act with integrity in everything we do, rather than seizing on the quickest and easiest way to turn a profit." link here.
This statement is not reflected in that given before the committee in relation to homeopathic remedies where they do seem to be saying that they are profitable so even if they don't do what they say Boots are happy to profit if customers are gullible enough to pay.

It is all about Managing Corporate Reputation, the title and subject of one unit in the CIM Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma syllabus, completion of whihc should help students to avoid issues such as this.

Some reporting on the issue from The Telegraph and The Times

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Top International Student

Not strictly SPA Professional Academy, but a student I taught in Kiev at the International Institute of Business was yesterday presented with the award for the top International Student for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Professional Post-Graduate Diploma Managing Marketing Performance module. Congratulations to Natalia for her success - it is a great achievement for an international student to get the highest marks on any paper, especially at this level. Obviously I am very pleased to have played a part in helping Natalia do so well, but most of the credit has to go to her for the hard work which she put in for the exams. I do know from marking a mock exam paper the standard of work which must have been presented, my congratulations go to Natalia and all the other students who were successful.

It was great to meet up with so many students yesterday and be able to share in their celebration at the ceremony. I'll post some pictures up if any of my students send me some, please!

Andrew Sherratt

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All change at M&S

For the first time since the 1950's M&S are to sell branded products rather than just their own St Michael products. This represents a major change in branding strategy for the retailer. Over recent years the retailer have gradually introduced some additional brands, starting with Per Una and Autograph in their clothing department, and then selling some branded electrical items and more recently newspapers which obviously have their own brands.

The move brings M&S into line with other food retailers, enabling their customers to purchase a much wider range of products, but will this dilute a key part of the M&S experience and reason for going to them rather than elsewhere? I guess only time will tell but Stuart Rose says it is in response to customer requests, and he has done a pretty good job of turning the fortunes of M&S round so he is probably right again.

Another interesting development to watch over the coming year.

More details on The Times

Signs of recovery? Or not?

There are two interesting, but possibly contrasting, stories are in the news today from the motor industry in terms of the economic situation and how it is affecting two companies.

Firstly, the good news comes from GM who have decided not to sell their European business due to "an improving business environment for GM over the past few months". Having been one of the bigger casualties of the economic downturn it seems that GM now see the prospects improving and can manage their business without having to raise the money the sale of Opel and Vauxhall would have brought - this has to be good news for many sectors, not just the automotive industry. There are many news stories about this, one being from The Times or BBC News

The second news, which may not be as good, is that Toyota have announced they are pulling out of Formula 1 with immediate effect, citing as the reason as "the current severe economic realities" which indicates that Toyota do not have as positive an outlook as GM, in itself quite a turnaround from recent trading for both organisation. Whilst there are undoubtedly additional reasons behind the Toyota announcement, it does reflect that there are still concerns regarding the economic climate for the foreseeable future. More on the Toyota story at Autosport

Of course, there was a third story this week, which was the announcement by Ford of profits of nearly $1bn profit in the 3rd quarter - indicating that their cost cutting efforts are working and that the worst of times may be past for Ford, and linked with the GM announcement does it mean that things are better in the US than Japan? I am not sure about that as Toyota sell a large number of cars in the US, but it is an interesting situation. More on this story at BBC News

In terms of the GM story, I hope the UK Unions are right to be pleased with the decision, although unfortunately I don't really see the prospects for long term UK jobs being any better under GM ownership than they would have been under Magna ownership. But that is a subject for another area completely!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Student Award Winner

At the CIM Yorkshire and Humberside Celebration Evening in Leeds last night one of our students was awarded Student of the Year for CIM Professional Post-Graduate Diploma in the region. Our congratulations go to Alice for the recognition of the determination she showed through her studies, for which the award is well deserved.

In addtion to Alice winning the award our students were nominated for awards in both Professional Diploma and Professional Post-Graduate Diploma categories - indeed, every student nominated for the Diploma award had received tuition from tutors used by SPA Professional Academy so congratulations to the tutors in addition to the students.

We are delighted that our students can be recognised in this way, the results achieved are largely down to the commitment shown by them, although we hope that we contribute some great information and guidance which helps along the way!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Call the Lawyers!

Whilst in Kiev at the weekend teaching CIM Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma I saw posters for "McFoxy" with a picture of cooked chicken on it. I thought it might be a new variation of McDonalds food but didn't understand where the Foxy bit came in.

However, when walking through a shopping centre I saw this place, and realised that it was a fast food outlet, which presumably competes to some degree with McDonalds. I wonder how long it will survive with the name it currently has? As there is a McDonalds in the same food court of the centre where I saw this I guess they must know about it, and I can't imagine the brand lawyers will be too pleased.

I am back in Kiev again in January so will be interested to see whether it is still there and has the same name - I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

iPhone wars ahead?

Interesting to see that Apple are ending their exclusive distribution deal with O2 for the iPhone in the UK. This week Apple have announced that the iPhone will be available on both the Orange and Vodafone networks.

For the last two years the exclusive deal has meant that pricing of the handset could be controlled and maintained at a premium level. It will be interesting to see if that continues once there is competition in the market - customers will have more choice of network offers with more variety of the bundles of minutes and texts available to them. Will the outcome be that prices will go down?

In terms of distribution strategy this is a significant change for the iPhone. O2 are saying that they always knew the deal was not necessarily exclusive long term, but there is no doubt that they have benefited through the sale of 1.5 million handsets and the associated income from the contracts which accompany them. Some commentators have made the point that the O2 network has struggled to cope with the amount of data which iPhone users have consumed - more than predicted apparently - so the move to more operators will spread this.

So far, I haven't seen any information about the situation regarding retailers of the handset - to date it has only been available directly from Apple, through O2 stores or Carphone Warehouse. If that changes it will certainly put further pressure on price - witness the heavy price promotion tactics of some retailers.

An interesting one to watch over the coming months.

Monday, September 21, 2009

No such thing as bad publicity?

As an avid fan of motorsport I have been following the recent investigation into alleged cheating by the Renault F1 team. Whilst there are many issues at stake in this, not all of which are as logical as the FIA as governing body of Formula One would like us to believe, one thing which is definitely at stake is the reputation of Renault.

I have read many people question why an organisation such as Renault should be involved in F1 - does a manufacturer of family cars benefit from association with F1? The link for Ferrari is reasonably obvious - supercars are perceived to have a lot more in common with race cars than a small hatchback. Renault, having been involved in F1 for many years on and off presumably understand the benefits they receive and weigh these up against the costs.

However, the allegations of cheating have potentially given the impression that Renault are not to be trusted, hence the title of this post - has the very large investment Renault have made to gain a reputation for technical exellence with a wide potential customer base could actually mean they are gaining bad publicity, at a high cost both in terms of the team ownership and loss of reputation.

Time will tell if Renault think this makes the sport less attractive to them, certainly the CEO of Renault - Carlos Ghosn - is known to not be a fan of motorsport, but has recognised the benefits to the organisation. Maybe the publicity and ruling from the FIA giving a suspended ban will change his mind over the benefits. There are lessons all organsiations can learn from this in terms of Managing Corporate Reputation - co-incidentally the title of one of the CIM Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma units - and how the actions of employees at all levels can make a difference to the organisation.

There are many links to this story, one of which is from BBC Sport and another from the FT

Monday, September 7, 2009

CIM Postgraduate Diploma - Emerging Themes

I have just returned from a trip to Kiev to teach the Emerging Themes Postgraduate unit at the International Institute of Business. This was my first delivery of any of the new syllabus CIM qualifications, I will be starting the CIM Professional Diploma in addition to the Chartered Post Graduate Diploma shortly in the UK at our usual centre in Leeds.

In addition to the usual cultural differences between Ukraine and the UK it was fascinating to get into discussions with the students about what constitutes an emerging theme, and which are "emerged". In some instances issues are emerging in the Ukrainian market which have already emerged elsewhere - one student who is involved in tobacco was talking about increases in tax levels and a removal of the ability to promote tobacco products (well past being an emerged theme for tobacco companies UK operations) which are rapidly changing the way she can operate.

A major issue, however, is whether the current financial situation is an emerging theme. My own view is that it is not "emerging" - it is here and we know about it. Within the situation, however, themes which specifically impact on specific sectors are emerging and changing the way organisations need to operate in the future. These themes include exchange rates, the current very low interest rates and, as a side effect of other issues, a degree of national protectionism.

For those taking the CIM qualification I will be clarifying the definition the Senior Examiner is placing on "Emerging Themes", however, for marketers it is as essential to consider what may happen in the future with issues which are emerging now, and may be important later as it is to respond to the now. I am reminded of the quote from James Goldsmith - "If you see a bandwagon, it's too late"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

International Emerging Themes

I am off to Kiev tomorrow to teach the Emerging Themes unit from the new CIM Chartered Postgraduate Diploma syllabus at the International Institute of Business. I am hoping for a really interesting weekend with lots of discussions with students about the emerging issues which are affecting them - it will be interesting to compare them with those which come out in discussions with SPA Professional Academy students in a couple of weeks when we start our own CIM Postgraduate course with this unit.

This is my fifth year of teaching in Kiev - it is certainly noticeable how the promotional activity has changed there even in that time, and the way my students have changed along with that. I may not see things in the same way as the locals who are on the course but it will be interesting to see what the main areas they consider are. That will depend upon the sectors they work in and I haven't got information on this yet.

I'll report back on my return.

Race for Success

I've been at the CIM Race for Success events over the last three days, Manchester on Tuesday, Durham on Wednesday and Sheffield today. I had some interesting conversations with prospective students and it is really encouraging to see how many people see the value of the CIM qualifications.

There were recruitment consultants at the events and it was good to hear that they are seeing an increase in the numbers of marketing jobs available, hopefully a sign that the economy is turning the corner and organisations are recognising the value of employing marketers to help them with the upturn.

For anyone that visited the events and would like more information about our courses have a look at our website - - for full details.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Internet Piracy?

There is a disagreement at the moment between the UK Goverment and Internet Service Providers (ISP's) about the issue of internet piracy and file sharing and how to deal with the issue. Whilst both parties have valid points (can't believe I am saying that about Government!!) could the whole discussion be avoided by different thinking?

I am just reading the book "Wikinomics" by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams which is one of the core texts for the new Emerging Themes unit for the CIM Chartered Postgraduate Diploma. The main subject of the book is mass collaboration and it covers many examples of how working together can creat great beenfits to organsiations and individuals, and this includes opening up and offering things for free. There are examples provided of how giving things for free makes people more willing to spend money and but other offerings.

So can the entertainment industry develop different business models which reflect the way many people now live their lives, rather than trying to enforce laws which are possibly out of date? I don't know the answer, but think that the efforts being spent on protecting a position which could be considered untenable may be better spent on finding new ways to operate.

Some links:
Wikinomics Book - here
Article about the situation - here

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Product Portfolio Change at P&G

Interesting to see that Proctor and Gamble must have been considering their business portfolio, they are selling their pharmaceutical business to the Irish drugmaker Warner Chilcott - see story here

This is a classic example of an organisation considering the future, presumably based on the factors typically included in the various portfolio matrices which are considered in the CIM qualifications from Certificate through to Postgraduate Diploma, the main reason cited in the story being the level of competition from generic drugs. This indicates that P&G feel their competitive strength lie elsewhere so they will be concentrating their efforts on other business activities.

The official news release from P&G and Warner Chilcott can be seen here or here

Monday, August 24, 2009

Course enrolments

We are really pleased with the level of enrolments so far this year, they are exceeding expectations for this stage of the process. The weekend courses are doing particularly well so if you are considering joining our CIM weekend workshops for the new Chartered Post Graduate Diploma or Professional Diploma make sure to complete your enrolment soon to secure your place.

We will be at the CIM Race for Success roadshows in Manchester, Durham and Sheffield on September 1st, 2nd and 3rd and woudl be delighted to chat to any prospective students at these events.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CIM Coursebooks

You can now see, and purchase, all the recommended texts for CIM qualifications on our website at - hope everyone finds this to be a useful resource, there are certainly some very interesting books on the lists.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Interesting promotion

I have been meaning to post this for a while - I saw this advert for specs from an optician whilst in France earlier this year and thought it was an interesting way to promote something, a twist on sales/price promtion that Ihaven't seen elsewhere.
Whilst my French isn't brilliant, just in case you need a translation the basic line is the you get a % reduction on the price equivalent to your age, the woman saying that she is flattered to be offered only a 30% reduction. There were other variations on the theme which I spotted.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New website

I have finally got our new website live - there are still a few pages which need more detail but information about courses for the new CIM Professional Diploma and Chartered Post Graduate Diploma are available. You can see it at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Book!

I was delighted to open a parcel today and get copies of a book with my name on the cover - little things please sometimes! After quite a bit of work, especially by the other authors, over a pretty short space of time it is really good to see the results, and I am pleased with it:

Many thanks to Richard and Francis for their assistance in writing the text - hope anyone studying the new Managing Marketing CIM Professional Diploma module finds the book helpful. Any comments gratefully received.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

End of term

Yesterday was the last teaching day for SPA Professional Academy this term with exams coming up shortly for students, resuming again in September with the final module of the current CIM Post-Graduate Diploma and the first modules of the new Diploma and Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma.
The current Post-Graduate Diploma students are pictured during the session held yesterday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CIM Professional Post Graduate Diploma

Details for our courses for the new Professional Post Graduate Diploma and Chartered Post Graduate Diploma should be available soon - we are working out the delivery schedule and timetable for the courses which we will be starting in September.

The issue we are currently dealing with is how to ensure we deliver in a way which gives the students all the information and capability to get top pass grades, whilst ensuring it leaves as much flexibility as possible to minimise the impact on busy work and social lives.

Full details should be available in early May.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Google and Sony

Interesting to read an article from The Sunday Times - link here - about Google and Sony joining forces to offer the book library created by Google available for the Sony e-reader. As a strategic move this could be very significant; the critical mass which both Sony and Google should gain from this will give them the ability to become the dominant player in the online book/reader market. After losing out with Betamax video and Sony were smarter with high definition DVD and gained critical mass through incorporating Blu-Ray into the PlayStation 3 to make it the default choice, winning the battle with HD DVD.

Maybe the link with Google will allow Sony and their e-reader to win the battle with Amazon and the Kindle. Time will tell but it could be a good strategic marketing decision.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New CIM Syllabus

In the last couple of weeks I have spent a few days at Tutor Training events for the new CIM syllabus at both Professional Diploma and Professional Post Graduate Diploma levels. Both look very good, and I am pretty sure they reflect well the challenges faced by marketers at present. The units within the syllabus have been developed in conjunction with employers to incorporate things which they want from their staff.

I have been involved in the Professional Diploma level more closely as a Senior Examiner for one of the modules - Managing Marketing - so the training this week to learn more about the Professional Post Graduate Diploma and Chartered Post Graduate Diploma was really useful.

It mght sound sad to say this, but I am excited about delivering the new courses and plan to spend time over the next few weeks putting together a package which I hope will offer students an exciting and informative course which will increse their ability to deliver successful marketing. Stay posted for more details.


I plan to use this blog to keep you updated about activities at SPA Professional Academy, and news relevant to marketing professionals. Today has been a bit of a social networking day - I have created a Facebook page - and a Twitter account - now I need to make sure I keep them, and this blog, up to date.