Simon Ward discusses partnership with boutique retail agency, Vitamin.
Giving retailers a boost
Some of our biggest retailers are facing major challenges: the prevalence of no-frills, lowest-price-focused competitors; the increase in online purchases from retailers with lower overheads, and often more favourable tax regimes; and from innovations in marketing technology, whether it’s more interactive digital POS or the rapidly changing advertising environment.
These challenges permeate from the marketing department to the shop floor, and creating a joined-up strategy to tackle them all in a coherent manner involves input not only from marketing and the Board, but from multiple departments. And as many businesses operate in silos, each packed with people who are busily firefighting their own challenges, it’s no wonder some retailers are struggling to manage change.
As a marketing support company with a range of subject matter experts to call on, we have often stepped in to help our retail clients. It can be helpful to consult with someone not charged with tackling business-as-usual, who can step back and look at specific problems with a clear perspective.
Nevertheless, the challenges have now become so great that you now have to provide experts who are not just at the top of their game in one or two related disciplines, but across every aspect of retail marketing. Unless they have the experience and expertise to see the whole picture, they’re not going to be able to tackle the massive challenges that might be afflicting the company.
So what to do? Even an agency of our size and expertise would struggle to independently grasp every issue. We could put in large teams of experts in different fields, of course, but that’s a big resource to commit – and to charge for – so to tackle this problem, we decided the best course would be to seek out someone who has a proven track record across every aspect of retail marketing, and who is canny enough to be able to see all problems, great or small, and advise on how to tackle them.
But where do you find such a person?
We were lucky. We found two. I had met Natalie Somerville and Claire Roshanzamir before, and was extremely impressed. They have impeccable pedigrees in retail marketing, but from the inside. They have worked in senior positions at several big-name retailers. They met when working for Tesco, where Natalie was head of group brand and Claire head of communication planning.
Fortune, it seems, was shining on me. Both had recently left the client environment to set up their own boutique retail agency, Vitamin. Dissatisfied with some of the retail agencies they had employed in the past, where often theoretical marketing ideas rule over true, in-the-mud experience, they decided they would bring all their wide experience to bear in helping other retailers through these difficult times.
I immediately saw a synergy between Vitamin and ITG. As a boutique agency, they can concentrate more of their time on their core roles than they might if I offered to bring them into the company. Instead, by buying into Vitamin, I was able to offer them the substantial backing of a large studio and multichannel subject matter experts, as well as our technology proposal, buying power and financial expertise.
They in turn have taken our already impressive retail marketing offering to an even higher level. We now have a much-strengthened, more strategic team, which can advise and guide our clients across all retail marketing disciplines, processes and the latest in executional innovation. And in a rapidly changing retail environment, that’s a good team to have.
Until next time…
About Simon Ward
Simon Ward ITG – Simon is the founder and CEO of pioneering technology-led marketing company, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG). ITG delivers best-in-class marketing software, procurement and studio services to dozens of blue-chip clients, including Audi, M&S, KFC, PUMA and Heineken.
Simon Ward SP Group – Prior to ITG, Simon founded SP Digital in 1998, and in 1999 bought SP Print to form SP Group, creating innovative marketing and point of sale displays for some of the world’s best-known retailers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Calvin Klein.