Society in flux, says Bendel

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Recession has fueled massive societal change, according to international chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart, Rick Bendel.

Speaking at the 2010 IGD Convention this week, Bendel said society was fed up. New Labour had been found to have no substance and the opportunities for freedom had been abused.

“Cool Britannia is suddenly not cool any more,” he said.

Added value services had not added value, he argued, and people were angered that bankers had not been accountable, jobs were no longer for life and children’s right to higher education was gone.

At the same time, there is a new generation of leaders, he said. All three political party leaders, for instance, are under 45 years of age; and former grocers are running ITV and the Post Office.

Bendel cited several reasons for failure in the sector including rewarding the disloyal, pricing strategies based on boom or bust and the separation of responsibility from accountability.

Bendel said there should be a new business agenda which was honest, accountable and responsible.

“We should not think any longer it is a good thing to subsidise alcohol to get people to buy milk,” he said.

Bendel said there was a need for instant gratification but sustainable innovation.

“Everybody wants everything now,” he said, “but we are going to have to change to create instancy.”

Consistency and excitement are key and what people want, he added.

He urged delegates to explain rather than disclaim and claimed devolution to local authorities will put a focus on local services.

Bendel said convenience innovations would be the most successful in the next five years and cited Heinz beans fridge pots – “so much better than a half empty can in the fridge” – and prepared cut fruit as great examples.

Bendel said future innovation should simplify and create transparency; lead to incremental, natural demand; reward the loyal not the disloyal; strengthen brands; enhance convenience and access.

“Societal change should be an opportunity for all of us to create a new era of sustainable innovation,” he said. Creating artificial, short-term demand is counter intuitive.

Bendel said the sector had done a great job and made a positive effect on society. Only real innovation, which enhances convenience will drive the market in future, he said.

“We are in a unique position to help shape our society, let’s ensure regulation doesn’t.”