Matt Le Tissier was an attacking forward who had amazing technical skill, he could strike the ball accurately and powerfully over long distances, he could deliver pin-point crosses all over the pitch.
So how come he wasn’t a fixture in the England team?
Terry Venables, who was manager at the time, explained it like this:
“You think I didn’t admire Le Tissier’s ability and skill, of course I did.
The trouble is, at international level he’d have been marked out of the game.
The other team would put their worst player on him to stick to him like glue, and he didn’t move quickly enough.
Then we’d be playing ten against ten, they’ve lost nothing and we’ve lost our playmaker.”
So there are more dimensions to football management than just picking the best players.
As Venables knew, there’s also how the other team reacts.
He learned that from watching Alf Ramsey manage England 20 years earlier.
The Germans thought Bobby Charlton was our best player, so they put TWO men on him to mark him.
England were 2-0 up when Alf Ramsey decided to save Charlton for the next game.
He knew Germany couldn’t come back from two goals down.
So he substituted Charlton, which seemed a reasonable move, except it now freed the TWO men that had been marking him.
With two players back in the game the German team went on to score three goals, beating England 2-3 and knocking them out of the World Cup.
What Venables learned from Ramsey’s mistake is that concentrating solely on your own players is one-dimensional thinking,
There are other dimensions to consider.
For us ‘brand’ is our version of one-dimensional thinking.
Conventional thinking is that, if we just understand the brand and do ads about the brand, that will solve everything.
But brand is just one of the dimensions we need to think about.
I found that out a few years back when we were working on Marston’s Pedigree.
It was a premium draught beer so I started by finding out everything I could about the product.
By going round the brewery and talking to the head brewer I found they used a strain of yeast that wouldn’t survive in massive metal vats like other beers.
Pedigree had to be brewed in a system of large wooden barrels unlike other beers.
“The only beer brewed in the wood” was a great product-difference to build a brand on.
The most powerful place to launch a brand campaign was obviously TV, so we got Paul Arden, to shoot a series of stylish ads for us and we ran them in prime time.
We’d ticked every box about brand-building, but it did nothing for sales.
Because in advertising there are three dimensions: 1) brand, 2) consumer, 3) competition.
Obviously I needed to work out what the other two dimensions were.
I visited a lot of pubs and found out the Marston’s font was only on a few bars.
You don’t have to be a genius to know if the beer’s not on the bar you can’t buy it.
So I spoke to some of the sales force, they said publicans didn’t see our ads because they weren’t watching TV, they were working.
So now we know what the other dimensions are.
The real problem is to get the fonts on more bars, and our real consumer-focus isn’t beer-drinkers it’s publicans.
So we shifted the campaign from TV to posters, and we ran the posters around all the pubs so the publicans would see the campaign.
When the publicans began to see the ads we got more fonts on bars, so more drinkers could buy it, so sales went up straight away.
All because, just like Terry Venables, we started thinking in three dimensions not just one.