You know the saying. If a bough breaks in the forest and no-one hears it, does it make a sound? Well. Marketing can be a bit like that. There’s being heard and there’s being heard. And then there’s people listening to you.
Once when I worked in the University of Ulster, we were charged annually with the job of marketing the institution’s nursing programmes to the local profession. The course offered included undergraduate programmes, postgraduate courses and programmes that were specialist in nature.
The latter were aimed at nurses already qualified who may wish to add further specialisms to their skills portfolio. It was all dressed up in very serious and sententious descriptions like those I have just used.
Each year we would churn out what was called the nursing prospectus, basically a fairly drab printed volume in which was abstracted the various nursing programmes. I remember once a colleague – actually I wouldn’t call him that, another employee in the University we’ll call him – picked holes in the project because he said it hadn’t been validated. Validated was a laborious process whereby the validation wonks read the material to make sure it complied with various strictures imposed by University statute.
I was more interested in the effectiveness of the marketing and the way in which we spent the budget. We developed advertising that presented the nursing career in its true light. Caring, professional, well trained dedicated. A true vocation.
As part of the marketing mix we arranged for flyer insertions in the professional nursing publications. The Nursing Times etc. The lady I worked with was a very petite professor of nursing. She was waspish is you didn’t know here, capable of the most scathing comment and caustic to those who crossed her. She and I got on very well.
With our plentiful marcomms mix we had the media booked, the material printed. We were all set. The on uncontrollable in this process is that inevitably someone somewhere screws up and the likes of myself were left to pick up whatever pieces there were.
This lady, we’ll call her Liz, was looking forward greatly to her copy of Nursing Standard or whatever her professional publication was. I had assured her that we she opened the cellophane the University’s Nursing flyer would very obtrusively fall into her lap.
Relaxing at home on the evening of D Day, the day we had planned when the campaign would break and nurses everywhere would be assailed with a barrage of UU themed nursing material, I was unprepared for the call I received.
The envelope stuffers of the publication in question had neglected to place the promotional material in the one envelope that politically I need to be bursting to the seams with University positivity.
A barbed and caustic phonecall from my hitherto nursing colleague, previously collegiate in the extreme, informed me the material wasn’t in her envelope and queried further how did I know it was anyone else’s package? The answer was of course, I didn’t but I had been reassured by the publication and the fulfilment house. The goodwill and positivity that had been built up evaporated in an instant.
Of course we tracked the problem down, one or two technical hitches had deprived Liz of her material and holed our marketing cred just above the waterline. Enough to destabilize but not sink us.
The lesson in all of this, is to ensure that irrespective of target audiences and demographics, make sure that the person writing the cheque and paying the bill has clear evidence that your marketing is happening.
It is a simple truism, but if they can’t see it, it isn’t happening. Even if it is the most hi vis campaign ever and you feel you have the world covered, make sure the man or woman with the money sees it in the real world. They may not be in the target audience but by hook or by crook, if the boss is driving home, make sure you have one of your 48 sheets at the side of the road so he can see it. Otherwise, it just ain’t happening.
The current horsemeat scandal is an issue of food labelling and traceability moreso than bad taste. The other overriding concern is that the nag on your plate is drugged up on bute or some other substance. We’ve been eating it for years and it hasn’t done any harm.
The episode has created an unrivalled opportunity for local butchers to assert their quality, their independence and their traceability. Ever since BSE when people madder than their cows were feeding them bits of other cows the meat industry has cleaned up its act, so we are told.
I have not consciously eaten horsemeat, although the chances are I have consumed it masquerading as something else. Once as a consented adult I ate a feed of calf brains. There was no masquerade there. It was vile in taste and texture but each to their own.
I enjoy a burger and it appears that a few of the burger emporia I frequent occasionally have been adulterating their produce with a little bit of Dobbin. I haven’t noticed myself moving any faster though not have I had an uncontrollable urge to clear fences.
I don’t share the public outrage, to be honest in general I am fairly sceptical about what I eat. As consumers for example we know little of the domestic conditions of the chicken we consume. Having owned a few hens for while I am also highly sceptical of the freshness of local farm fresh and free range eggs.
We ourselves are to blame. Us the consumers. In the demand for ever cheaper food, we consumers are driving down the price we are prepared to pay for our food. When farmers cannot produce food for the price they are forced to sell to major multiples then there is something wrong. How can you produce milks for a higher price per litre than a large supermarket will give you? It can’t be done.
People cannot expect to pay £1.50 for burgers and expect serious quality. Our wallets, not our palates dictate what we buy in the high street and in the supermarket. There is nothing instrinsically wrong with horsemeat. The French have eaten it for years. They know a hell of a lot more about food and taste than we do. Our palates tend to be dulled from years of bland food.
The lesson is simple. Shop at your local butcher and ask them where they get their meat.
Next week the Camogie teams of Rower Inistioge and Castlegar take to the field in Ashbourne Donaghmore to contest the All Ireland Intermediate Club Final. Later that evening Milford of Cork and Killimor of Galway will contest the senior final in Croke Park. The senior game is a precursor to one of the Dublin football matches in the Spring series in which they face Mayo. For the last two years these games have been played as a showpiece double header at Croke Park.
This signifies a downgrading in the importance of the Club Camogie finals which is not good for the sport. The reason for this change I have been told is the costs of opening Croke Park are prohibitive. Shame on whoever has allowed this situation to develop. Surely some accommodation could have been reached?
In 2011 and 2012 both finals were held in Croke Park in early March and were allocated a Sunday all of their own. I know because I was there. There is an irony in that – the two years the intermediate finals were played at Croke Park we won both them. ‘We’ being the Eoghan Rua Camogie squad that I have the enjoyment and privilege of coaching. Arguably I have nothing to argue about.
Those two Sundays in March were among the highlights of those girls’ lives. Indeed our double winning captain Méabh McGoldrick said as much in her post match interview. It was certainly a highlight in mine.
The usual procedure was that the finals were run off in November and that is what we were preparing for back in 2010. I remember clearly when I learned that the 2010 final was being pushed back from November in that calendar year to March 2011. It was a stunning opportunity.
The reason? Solely because Croke Park had become available to club Camogie teams. It was considered a seminal moment in the promotion and status of the game.
The then President Joan O’Flynn said:
“The opportunity is now with four further teams to play in this fantastic stadium. Clubs are the backbone of the Association and play a thriving part in communities all across Ireland. March 6th will bring together families and communities to support their camogie club side. There is a strong pride and interest in the players’ achievement in representing their clubs and county on our finest stage in Croke Park.”
That sentiment applies now as much as it did then. Although it was a prestige target and meant winning a semi final had even more at stake, the repercussions for our club were serious. The new schedule caused untold logistical issues.
The squad had to furlough their training because of the break in matches from October to February. When we resumed training it was in the worst winter in decades, and our girls trained in the worst of weather conditions, snow, frost, temperatures down to minus double figures.
Hiring facilities and lights was a concern. It cost us in excess of £100 a week to hire a pitch with lights at the local rugby club keep our squad in preparation for the semi final, and then the final in Croke Park. That didn’t include food every night at training, other costs of coaches and travel, gear and so on. In total the experience cost around £13,000, all of which was fundraised. It was worth every penny.
This is including the costs for accommodation and travel when our semi final was postponed the morning it was due to be played, wiping out £3000 costs in an instant for an overnight stay we didn’t need and for which we received no recompense.
But the experience for our players could not have a price put upon it. To win in Croke Park is every player’s dream and to do it twice was a serious achievement.
A week or so back I learned that this year’s Intermediate finalists will not get the chance to play in Croker. I couldn’t believe it. Also, the two matches have been decoupled. What was a brilliant day out for Camogie and a celebration of the sport has been diminished and done away with. And why? Apparently the costs of opening Croke Park for these games are prohibitive. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of that, the question has to be asked when did the Camogie authorities make this decision? Players have been training over the Christmas period and into the New Year because the final was scheduled for Croker. If that was not the case why was the tournament not run off prior to Christmas?
Croke Park may belong to the GAA. The GAA is all of us, we are all part of the same community and part of the same clubs. And in the spirit of integration the players that have qualified for these finals should have been given their day in sun. Not booked ended onto a Saturday night GAA fixture and elbowed out the road to Ashbourne.
Would it not be a suitable gesture from the GAA to ensure that these competitions and the ladies football finals are given their day in the sun in Croker? The girls train just as hard and display the same commitment as their male counterparts.
All I know is that out players were privileged to win their finals in Croke Park. Other girls deserve the same opportunity. It will not take away the gloss of winning but it adds an undeniable glamour.
Instead, Camogie once again sucks the hind tit. So much for integration.