Archive for March 31, 2015

Courtesy of Bryden42 on DeviantArt.com

Posted: March 31, 2015
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Are you in touch with your brand’s feminine side?

I’ve said innumerable times that the relationships we have with brands are in many ways like those we have with each other. I call them brandships rather than friendships. However, despite the similarities in the emotions involved in these connections I see brands not as individual people, but as communities.

You choose your brands using the same criteria that you use to select your friends, but you occupy them as you do the district where you live. Some of us are city livers, others urbanites and village people. Some folks like to see trees outside their windows, others skyscrapers some places are just right for families, but there are places where only a singleton would feel at home. The other people inhabiting the place (your neighbours) are part of the story of course. The places we choose to live are defined by and also define them and it’s the whole package that represent your values and beliefs.

I know that a there are still business people out there who think this is all a bit to touchy-feely and feminine, but there is no denying that brands are very emotional. It’s not news. Kevin Roberts already told us about “Lovemarks”, Seth Godin introduced us to the concept of “tribes” and no end of people, including myself have presented brand theories based on all manner of emotional stuff.  Brands aren’t about rational thought, but primal instincts, our inherited need to belong, to live in groups and there’s no way we are going to change or deny it. Nevertheless, if you are still not convinced, science has now pledged its support to those of us who are in touch with the feminine side of brands.

This week B&T published an article by Jennifer Faull about a piece of research by the London creative agency Hey Human that looked into the relationships we have with some of the world’s best known brands. The results aren’t surprising and, though I’m sure there are aspects of it that need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but the interesting thing for me (and the thing that underlines emotional nature of these relationships) is the language people use to describe their brandships. Terms like “a friend with benefits” which was used to describe Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s airline EasyJet or “enemies”, the term used to describe O2 HSBC, British Gas, Visa and Barclays (unsurprisingly the demon telco and a load of financial businesses dominate here) underline the way we relate to the brands we use and endorse the concept of “brandships” and the personal connection integral to my Brand Discovery philosophy. This not rational, it’s all emotional talk.

The agency employed neuroscience to understand the behaviour of customers at the point of sale. One point that I certainly agree with and which was highlighted by Hey Human’s Neil Davidson was that brandships are complex and brand managers need to get wise to this. They need to stop treating the subject as a simple, rational, process-driven affair and delve into a few subtleties if they want to achieve brandships with the strength to enable them to stick around in the future.


Clive and Edwina Humby

Posted: March 17, 2015
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Where next DunnHumby?

If you are unfamiliar with the data management company DunnHumby try reading the book Scoring Points by Clive Humby and Terry Hunt. For anyone in data management, retailing, loyalty or any other form, of marketing for that matter, this is a must read.

In essence this is the case study of how Clive and his wife transformed the fortunes of one of the world’s biggest and most successful retailers and in the process, built for themselves a unique consultancy that turned data management on its head.

To those in the know, the Tesco Clubcard programme is an icon of modern marketing and, in my opinion despite having already been the key to the Tesco turn-around, still has plenty of room to develop.

The DunnHumby approach to data and loyalty continues to set the bar for every practitioner. I’ve developed a number of loyalty programmes and talked to more data management companies and loyalty consultancies that I care to count and I can tell you that even today few get it like Clive and Edwina did back in 1994, when, just five years after setting up shop, they pitched Terry Leahy the then Tesco Marketing Director.

Tesco started protecting it’s secrets way back in 2001 in a series of acquisitions of DunnHumby shares until finally acquiring the whole business around 2006. Thus, the business that prompted the Tesco chairman of the time Lord MacLaurin to famously say to Clive Humby “What worries me most about this is that you know more about my customers after three months that I do after thirty years” was guaranteed international expansion on the back of that of Tesco. However, knowing Tesco’s customers meant that DunnHumby also knew the customers of just about every fmcg manufacturer and to this day it is generally accepted that the organistion knows more about all the manufacturers’ customers than they do themselves.

However, we are facing the dawn of a new era as Tesco, whose new CEO Dave Lewis is remodelling the business in the face of changing market dynamics and the challenges from budget supermarket chains. He’s set to tighten the focus of the business and is divesting non-core interests including DunnHumby now valued at something around £2billion. So where will they end up?

Favourite this week is WPP whose Chairman Martin Sorrell has admitted he’s keen. Frankly, I can’t think of a better host for the business and I sincerely hope WPP pull the deal off.  DunnHumby aren’t the only switched in data management business around these days, there are very interesting operations like SkyIQ where ex-Experian man Tony Mooney is in the driving seat, but DunnHiumby were the first of a breed and there’s no doubt with the right ownership they have the capability to continue to innovate. WPP clients on the other hand would benefit greatly from the insights that a deal like this might provide and I’m sure every one of them is pushing Sorrell to nail the deal.

Acquisition of DunnHumby would certainly make sense for WPP from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is the reality that big agency groups simply have to strive for a full deck of marketing disciplines if they are to make any sense in the new marketing paradigm.  The next few weeks will surely decide where this is going, but it’s certainly interesting for all concerned as well as all us onlookers and I for one would be saddened to see WPP let this one go.


sea of content

Posted: March 17, 2015
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When content marketing really works

I’ve been on a mission lately to raise awareness among marketers of the difference between good and bad content. Like any new toy, now that the dust is settling on the content marketing thing a few people are getting to grips with questions like “what makes content good or bad?” or simply whether it works at all and it’s no surprise to discover that its just like anything else. Good content works and bad or even just mediocre content is nothing more than a drain of your resources and can actually do you harm.

However, I discovered that even when I’ve sat with some people and feel they’ve “got it” they go off and make the same mistakes again. It seems some of us just can’t connect brand attributes with the kind of actions that represent supportive content. Maybe it’s just a personal thing. Let’s face it, some people are just socially inept and if they don’t have the sensitivity to manage their personal relationships we can’t really expect them to manage their “brandships”, which are after all, just the same thing

My thoughts go back to numerous conversations I had with a particular company CEO in recent years. He nodded a lot, but simply had a disconnect between brand theory and the understanding of how content represents the values and beliefs inherent in any brand. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. His personal life was a shambles and I guess this could be as good an indicator as any. With this human weakness in mind I incorporated into my Brand Discovery programme a device that my clients can use once their brand is defined, to help them differentiate between initiatives that support or reinforce its values and promise and those that don’t. This is one of the keys in the broader operation of the business to achieving the efficiency that, more than ever, defines successful organisations these days

However, there are businesses that really get it, one of which, it seems, is Aussie TV franchise “Selling Houses”. With entrepreneurialism that revives your faith in programme makers, Selling Houses has differentiated itself from the plethora of increasingly bland home make-over shows around the world by partnering with relevant brands representing the products they use in their transformations. It leaves you wondering why so few shows like this have adopted such an obvious idea.

The reverse side of this arrangement is priceless content that can only enhance the value of the sponsors’ brands and provides them with endless opportunity for extensions into other areas of brand enhancing communication – brilliant!  I love he way that Taubmanns the paint company in particular get their name on screen each time the interior designer explains the colours and finishes she uses, the Volvo car the presenter uses is everywhere, the blind company is featured in the very best light. This is content worth having for any consumer-facing business, but you could achieve the same kind of impact with a bit of imagination for BtoB too.

So, don’t tell me that content marketing doesn’t work. If you’ve tried it and you are still thinking that way then it’s a safe bet that you didn’t get it right. Then again, judging from the comments I get in my mailbox a lot of marketers are still struggling with the concept of brand character and how that translates into content.


referrals edit

Posted: March 16, 2015
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Customers with 25% more value. Just another benefit of a strong brand.

If you  ever had any doubts of the value of a strong brand new research from the AMA Journal of Marketing will surely put paid to them.

I’ve written at length about the areas where a strong brand comes into play in securing the success of a business. A strong brand contributes more to the efficiency of a business than anything else. It eliminates wasted time and effort by making sure that everyone in your organisation is clear on their role and halting non-aligned initiatives before they leech away valuable resources. Investors back businesses with strong brands more readily and will support new initiatives and suppliers will have the confidence to deal more openly with you all because of your strong brand. And that’s before you even get to the many ways in which your brand works to make customer retention and acquisition easier and less costly.

When your brand is strong customers know what to expect from you and will more readily accept new products and offers from you, reducing the need for launch advertising. It costs ten times as much to sell to a customer for the first time than it does to repeat sell to an existing customer, but if you can reduce the cost of acquisition too, you hold all the aces.

We have always known that loyal customers will recommend you to their friends, which, straight away further reduces the need for all that up front acquisition cost, but the AMA research shows that referred customers are even more valuable than those who introduced you to them in the first place.

According to the research referred customers are 25% more profitable per year for the first two-and-a-half years of your relationship with them.  They are 18% less likely to churn and they have 25% more lifetime value, plus, of course, they are going to continue the snowball process of referrals that reeled them in, in the first place. It’s a win – win that no business can afford to ignore.

Now more than ever the single biggest factor separating your success from your chances of failure is efficiency and a strong brand contributes more to this than anything else you may do.