FEATURE1 July 2011

Ups and downs – Chris Molloy


Research practitioners share their career highs and lows. This month, Chris Molloy of Brand Potential warns of the dangers of haircuts before important meetings.

The best advice I’ve had is…
when we set the agency up someone said, tongue in cheek, that at the end of the working day when you’re on your way home and reflecting upon what you’ve achieved that day, if you haven’t done something to move the business forward, turn the car around, go back to the office and do something about it. If you have, go home, have a beer, put your feet up and watch the football. While said in jest, the essence does resonate.

“We’re growing up as an industry and I believe we have a brilliant decade ahead of us. We’re marching towards insight being a constant thread throughout a business”

…and the worst advice I’ve had is
I’m not sure I’ve had poor advice but I’ve certainly ignored some good advice that has been given to me and later come unstuck.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
It featured a year or so ago now, but I was impressed with the way Danone repositioned Activia in response to tighter guidelines for functional claims from the European Food Standards Agency. The brand had benefited from having already established the functional benefit so when it became more emotional with the TLC campaign the core message was maintained.

…and a campaign that needed more research was
when Premier Foods tried to reposition Mr Kipling as more of a premium brand. Not only was it a questionable leap that lacked credibility, it also promised to leave the brand’s core customers behind. There’s something very familiar and everyday about Mr Kipling. Consumers buy into it for the comfort the brand provides – it reminds us of how things used to be. The rationale for migrating any brand to premium is usually motivated by targeting newer, higher-value consumers, yet brand migration from mainstream to premium is fraught with many challenges.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
The industry could use more of its growing confidence in being a pivotal and integrated marketing function. Someone interviewed in this feature a little while ago said that the industry has spent too long navel gazing, which is true.

But there is now an ever-stronger headwind moving away from worrying incessantly about new methodologies and towards how we can use creativity to embed insight within and transmit it through clients’ businesses. Insight and strategy aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if you can’t do anything with them.

…and one thing this industry could use less of is
Linked to the above, less negativity about what the industry is doing wrong. We’re growing up as an industry and I believe we have a brilliant decade ahead of us. Insight, or what was then termed research, was the specialist function, not really understood and a bit of a bolt-on. Whereas now, we’re marching towards insight being a constant thread throughout a business, with perhaps in time more boardroom representation.

One thing I hope to do is…
Have a football club as a client. One of the areas we focus on at Brand Potential is helping private equity companies and manufacturers prepare brands for sale or purchase. Our role is to look for the potential in a brand over a three- to four-year timeline. So the perfect brief would be to conduct a brand due diligence for the sale or purchase of a football club – any one would do.

…and one thing I wish I?hadn’t done is
Forgotten to put the grade three blade on my clippers when I travelled with my then chief executive to Paris to attempt to sell a division of the business I worked for to Ipsos. We had a meeting with CEO Didier Truchot and the grade zero tramline down one side of my head looked ridiculous, but no one said anything. And we did the deal so it all worked out OK.

If I hadn’t become a researcher…
I was a point away from studying geography at Leeds University so perhaps a career in town planning for the likes of Harrogate Borough Council would have beckoned. I also started my career in clientside marketing for a computer retailer and then tech advertising, and only later made the leap to agencyside research, so perhaps marketing director for PC World.

…and on the other hand if I hadn’t become a researcher
I wouldn’t have met my wife. We met on a media research course in Banbury when she was at the Radio Times and I was working for an ad agency.