Marketing Judo


Thursday 5 March 2009

Richard Richardson & Stephen Brown

Marketing Judo: Two high-impact sessions on sales and marketing techniques

BFI IMAX, London

Email this to a colleague

Click to pause Click to pause

Event Review

The London Business Forum gathered at the BFI IMAX to hear two marketing messages from two very different speakers: the ‘Antichrist of Marketing’, Professor of Marketing Research at Ulster University, Stephen Brown; and the affable Richard Richardson who, with his business partner John Barnes, transformed Harry Ramsden’s from a single restaurant in Yorkshire into a world-famous brand.

Stephen Brown

First to take to the stage was rogue marketing professor, Stephen Brown. Unafraid of creating a stir in the marketing world, Brown opened with a limerick challenging the most revered man in marketing himself, Professor Philip Kotler:

  • There was a scholar called Kotler
  • Who did what he shouldn’t ha’ oughta
  • He broadened the field
  • But lowered the yield
  • And led us like lambs to the slaughter

Brown urged the LBF to question the status quo and the established marketing wisdom.

“Fail Better!” exclaimed Brown. It is, he argued, the ability to learn from failure, to celebrate “flops, fumbles and fiascos” that is the real secret of success. Brown named Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Madonna, and Michael O’Leary as amongst today’s greatest marketers. Figures, whose marketing practices counter the conventional mantra of Kotler.

Brown implored us to focus on failures for they hold the key to better understanding marketing. Successful failures learn from their marketing mistakes and stubbornly persevere. They are failing better not failing miserably and they all share the true SECRET to success:

Self Belief - Effort - Creativity - Renown - Encapsulation - Tenacity

Quoting “congenital failure”, Winston Churchill, Brown concluded: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never…”

Richard Richardson

When Richard Richardson and John Barnes gave up their jobs, moved their families to Yorkshire and bought the original Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip shop, they had a very big vision but a very small budget.

The business partners saw a big opportunity. Fish and Chips, the ultimate in British fast food was yet to be successfully branded. With no money to spend on marketing, Richardson and Barnes fell into a way of thinking that they now call ‘Marketing Judo’.

In Judo it is “skill not size” that matters and you must use the weight of your opponent to your advantage. This is, Richardson continued, exactly how they went about building the Harry Ramsden’s brand. In 12 years they had increased brand awareness from 17% to 73% on a shoestring.

The first move in Marketing Judo is “Kihon wo tadashiku” - “Getting the basics right.” Richardson realised the importance of this when he and Barnes addressed the original Harry Ramsden’s staff at the beginning of their venture. As the flagship store, they not only wanted it to set the perfect example but they also wanted the staff to be fully behind their franchising plans.

“The reaction,” said Richardson, “was not exactly what we had hoped for.” Met with folded arms and disparaging looks, he asked his staff, “If there was one thing you could change what would it be?” Only one hand went up but her answer was extremely important: “The fish ain’t right.” This was the first thing that had to be changed. Any business, Richardson told the LBF, “has to get the basics right!”

The three basic principles of Judo are, Richardson explained, leverage, movement and balance:

1. Leverage

  • Pick the right Partner – it must be a win-win partnership; there must be gain on both sides. e.g. Harry Ramsden’s partnered with Ross Young’s to endorse their frozen battered fish. It greatly increased brand awareness for both companies.
  • Choose the right opponent – choose a big complacent component, a “corporate sloth.” e.g. Richardson explained that they saw their opponent as the breweries who had fallen asleep. He stressed that it was important to avoid challenging companies with skill as well as strength, such as MacDonald’s.
  • Get the crowd on your side for emotional leverage – not just customers but staff and media must support you.

2. Movement

  • Don’t stand still – businesses must be fit, fast and flexible at all times.
  • Training is vital.

3. Balance

  • Keep your balance when being attacked.
  • Minimise the unexpected and be prepared – think about how you could be knocked off balance.
  • Do the unexpected – catch your competitors off balance. e.g. at Harry Ramsden’s each week the directors would call one customer who had registered a complaint, offering them a free meal. Such small actions can result in the disgruntled customer becoming a huge fan.