The marketing gospel according to Creed
The KFC recipe for an exceptional run of 16 quarters of consecutive global same store growth is no longer a secret and it’s not KFC’s infamous mix of eleven herbs and spices. In a bold and altruistic rally cry to Australian marketers at AANA’s RESET Conference two weeks ago, outgoing global Yum! CEO Greg Creed disclosed there are only three ingredients - people, culture and brand building. His message was finger lickin’ good and the room knew it. If you missed RESET, this article is the best next thing.
- The basic tenets of marketing remain unchanged. We’ve over complicated it. Keep it simple, keep it bold.
- Challenge the investor/analyst bias of efficiency and process. Growth comes from people and brands. The two greatest assets a company has are notably absent from the balance sheet.
- Building brands today is not easy but Creed provides a simple roadmap, an operating framework for his people to use to filter how to make marketing decisions.
- The philosophy is brilliantly simple and one he teaches around the world to his marketers: SOBO – sales overnight brands over time and RED – relevant, easy and distinctive.
- But a framework is not enough. Talent drives success. His CMO is powered by a 14 strong marketing strategy lab of anthropologists, sociologists and DJs.
- Cost-cutting will not drive shareholder value. Repeat.
- Innovation has to be in the spirit of the organisation, not what you do when you’re not running the business. It’s a hallmark of Creed’s ‘growth’ leadership and the driver behind the rampaging success of three world class famous brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
The marketing narrative, once about capability, is now about courage. Courage to defend the value of marketing as a driver for sustained growth.
Creed's keynote at RESET was evangelical and punchy – something as an Australian expat he was dismayed to say we’ve lost in this market. He called out marketing’s spiritual confusion, chastised his RESET congregation for becoming increasingly secularised and disassociated with the core beliefs of marketing and pervasively over complicated. The worshippers, I was one of them, craved the message. Rejoiced even.
But this was a message we’ve heard before, from the Gospel according to Mark Ritson, and there was unmistakeable familiarity. Creed’s preachings were mesmerising, entrenched in practice, proof and good ol' Aussie chutzpah. Professing the same credo, consistently, emphatically and for well over a decade, Ritson now draws upon 50 years of Effies winners for those of us that remain a doubting Thomas.
Both eulogise the same message and demonstrate unarguable results from big, courageous, disruptive decisions anchored in the basic tenets of marketing effectiveness.
- Spend time on diagnosis - Creed credits his powerhouse strategy lab anchored in real consumer insights which remain with humans.
- Focus on one (max 2) strategic problems to solve.
- Deliver the long and the short – sales overnight, brand over time. It’s both. Not either or.
- Aim for distinctiveness, salience, consistently codified
- Produce astonishing creativity - who could argue?
My sense is that both are preaching to the converted. As I said earlier, the marketing narrative is moving from capability to courage. Courage to defend the value of marketing as a driver for sustained growth.
Ritson calls it the ‘squeaky bum time’. Of course he does.
Belief is today’s fix, so say our marketing evangelists. It’s in line with the zeitgeist, Nike got there spectacularly, first with Kaepernick, ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’.
But for marketers, that’s a big ask and it has personal repercussions, Spencer Stuart tell the story well.
Courage and belief are all well and good, but the whispering in the pews is ‘what do you do when the three line whip from up high is - just make the number’. That’s the reality.
Creed acknowledges brand building today for marketers is hard, bombarded with so many alternatives, the basic tenets are not always simple to execute. Ritson admonishes marketers for not withstanding the temptation to discard everything that has been established and chase the attraction of new gods.
Perhaps the solution is in the numbers? There are lessons already emerging from the US as a way forward. 181 CEOs last month via the Business Roundtable have united and committed to the broader responsibilities of the purpose of a corporation and to long term brand value. Beliefs embodied in a written manifesto. It’s courage from the collective.
Most religions build around a creed as a statement of faith that enshrines the doctrines of the faith.
The poetic coincidence, is gold. Or is it a sign?
If belief and courage driven through a broader marketer cohort is the new fix, we could do worse than to unite behind the learnings of our own Greg Creed, arguably Australia’s greatest marketing export and enshrine a simple list of what we believe in for our profession that will instruct and guide businesses to defend marketing being able to answer the most important question of all ‘What must we do to grow?’
And what do we need to re-engage our CEO’s? Do we have the courage? It’s a big mandate.