Magazine article Marketing

Who Dares Wins

Magazine article Marketing

Who Dares Wins

Article excerpt


It is New Year's Eve, 1992. Midnight strikes and the single European market is born. Promotional activity breaks through the remnants of international boundaries and Eurobrands are drawn from producer to consumer in ever increasing volumes.

It is an exciting thought, but misguided. No-one is more aware of that than the UK heads of established European sales promotion networks. "European client companies have been exploiting a cross-frontier strategy for years. It is complacency for UK firms to think they can gain that experience overnight," says Doug Hamilton, chief executive of Cato Johnson, the Young and Rubicam subsidiary which has been operating in Europe since 1976.

KLP International's director Iain Arthur, too, refuses to be seduced by the allure of 1992. He claims that only a limited number of companies may benefit from cross-frontier sales promotion, because behavioural marketing demands strong local thinking: "Some companies will always require local, tailor-made marketing," he says.

When harmonisation is finally achieved, those who choose to brave the frontiers will face a confusing hotchpotch of legislation for some time to come, as well as a potentially paralysing legal code. Roy Piercy, chairman of the Institute of Sales Promotion, returned from his first bout with the European Commissioners to acknowledge that only a strong consensus between the countries outside Germany will deter wholesale restriction.

German law forbids free premiums and "attention getters" deemed "an over inducement to buy". Sampling devices too are unlawful if the promoted product has been on the market for some time. If restrictions like these come into force throughout Europe, UK-based sales promotion networks will have to ditch old friends and learn new skills.

Piercy believes some areas of business are doomed at the outset.

"Tobacco is a lost cause, even for sponsorship, and there's bound to be action taken against alcohol promotions."

Green-oriented promotions will be next to come under scrutiny, followed by promotion of products which until recently, have been considered safe. Rising concern about the quality of foodstuffs could limit activity. But harmonisation might open up new mechanics to UK firms like the state lottery, which is legal in every other European country.

Even under a liberal harmonised regime, most practitioners acknowledge weighty limitations to their trade - differences in brand positioning, in price positioning, in distribution chains and retail outlets, and the logistics of packaging a premium in Birmingham with an Italian copy line, to name only a few. …

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