Types of Client-side Marketers – Part One

Client-side Marketers, in my experience, fall into a number of natural roles.  In Financial Services the impact is amplified by the presence of an unusually specific role relating to product management.

So, what are the role types?

  • Product Marketers
  • Comms Marketers – broken down into Marketing Services/Operations and (pure) Marcomms
  • Brand Marketers
  • Commercial Marketers

Product Marketers
In FMCG this is not a role you will see commonly, it is a role that has a specific focus and resonance to the complexities of financial services and particularly to the regulated nature of the products.  The core accountabilities for these marketers typically include;

  • Product build and management – by this I mean design and build of the product from concept to live status to archival as an historic product
  • Pricing – all aspects, be it cost or return, fees or charges.  In some complex products this is in harmony with Actuarial support and in the case of Investment businesses the Product Marketer might be a Marketing actuary
  • Delivery of the sales, engagement and retention targets (when the Comms Marketers are operating as a marketing services function)
  • Technical and regulatory expertise.

It is a fascinating role, one I have carried out with full commercial accountability in some cases and in other brands acted as an SME whilst the Comms Marketers have held accountability for delivery of sales, retention and other metrics.

Experience tells me the following 6 aspects of the role are the critical success factors:

  1. Really understanding the product is crucial from a  technical and regulatory standpoint – it helps hugely with the second CSF…
  2. Understand what makes your customer buy/cancel/avoid the product

    These two areas may seem obvious, my point is the depth of skill and understanding is really important, you can’t ‘blag it’.

  3. Understand the value engineering of the product i.e. know and use what value your customers place on all elements of the product versus your cost to build.  I wrote a post on this topic some time ago, you can read it here. Without this your pricing decisions run a significant risk of simply being hit and hope
  4. Understand the channels of delivery available to you.  There is a holy trinity in most businesses that you would do well to note:  Product Marketers & Comms Marketers & Operational/Channel capacity planners.  The multiplicity of levers you can pull across these three dimensions to establish your price elasticity and deliver your plan is considerable 
  5. Measurement.  Product Marketers generally have Excel open permanently on their screens and are likely to be the only people other than your data team that prefer to use pivot tables!  Joking aside a good Product Marketer understands the measurement across the key areas of new business and stock. The really great ones work further down the value chain and understand the impact of how changes in the product dynamics can be used to improve profitability, customer satisfaction, retention and so on.  This is one area where ‘geekiness’ is a highly valued commodity.
  6. Product Marketers hold the keys to many an armoury.  They will be able to deploy any number of tools to improve product design, attractiveness, beating the competition and so on.  It is possible to design great products and services from the gut, but the weight of P&L accountability usually weighs heavy enough in risk management terms to ensure that a more scientific approach is applied in Financial Services. 

    Here are some links you might find useful in this specific area

Tool 1 – Analysing the marketplace and your place within it

Tool 2 – Strategy sizing and assessment of profitability

Tool 3 – Product Strength scoring

Tool 4 – Value engineering & Good Better Best Product assessments

Tool 5 – Product Pricing

You will note that I have not discussed propostion build in this role. My strong belief is this sits in the brand space and I will cover it later in this series.

If you have any thoughts on my post, then please spare a moment to comment, I would love to hear your opinions.

Paul Hemingway
13th Feb 2020
Photo by Lukas from Pexels

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Client-side marketing

There are many blogs, posts and books devoted to the art and science of marketing but the area of marketing I choose for my career over the last 30 odd years has been client-side marketing.  Specifically B2C, and specifically Financial Services, and there are many fewer guides to marketing in these areas.  

Whilst marketing principles and theory have a huge part to play naturally, the nuances of my area of specialism are, I think worthy of comment and a little exploration.

As regards my own qualification to make such observations I can only ask that you read the posts to come and let me know your own views and experiences.  

For myself over the last 30+ years I have been lucky to work alongside some great marketers from whom I have always been able to learn.  The brands I have worked on are many and varied, some still exist, others have been subsumed into other brands, all have been different and rewarding in equal measure.

Where to start then?  I will sketch out a broad outline below on the key topics I plan to cover.  They should, I hope fit neatly with the series of posts on strategy development I made some time ago. Click here to read the first of my 7 steps.

Topics:

  • The key types of client-side marketing
  • Product led vs.proposition led
  • Structures
  • Customer closeness
  • Marketing communications
  • Focus (on the task in hand)
  • Financial Services vs. the World!
  • Stakeholder management and governance
  • Measurement and Review

That is my starting point for a series of posts which I hope will be interesting, informative and, just maybe, a little help to those embarking on their own marketing career.  I have been doing this for some time so where appropriate I will compare and contrast changing approaches, but my starting point will always be to stay as current as possible.

Please let me have your thoughts and observations as I go!

Paul Hemingway 
03 February 2020

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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When to change marketing creative

As a client-side marketer this has been a constant balancing act for me over the last 30 years.

It is easy, on the one hand, to suggest the only time to change creative is when you have evidence it is no longer working as you would expect … or is it as it once did … or is it as it did last year … or even the year before.  I hope you see my point, context as well as rational argument is required.

At this point I will say that I am steering clear of brand identity creative, iconography and logotype in this post.  After all where would we be without those brands who have been so consistent since the birth of modern advertising such as Pears, Coca Cola and so on? 

I will assume the brand is in rude health and that the consistency of its delivery is at the heart of why the brand is successful.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of drivers of change, but the timing of when to ‘press the change button’ is perhaps just as important as the drivers of change themselves.

In direct marketing terms your key goal will be to generate a lead, a sale or some other form of conversion, so the key driver of change is likely to be ineffectiveness or at the very least declining effectiveness.

This can however take many forms, I hope my check list below may be helpful in establishing whether you should indeed change creative;

  • Increased Cost of Acquisition in the sense that it is no longer on plan – this likely to be your most important internal measure.  There is a tipping point where the marketing pound can be better spent elsewhere either in a different channel or on a different line.  Your task is to determine what is driving the downturn of course, the answer may not drive a creative change, it may drive a channel change or a targeting change that is more appropriate, at least in the short term.
  • Response rate falls – in a pure math sense this still may be giving you an acceptable cost of acquisition.  In a mature business with a longstanding creative, or one with integrated high cost assets alongside such as TV, this is a complex challenge because you may not be getting the volume to support your business plan.  Looking at targeting and channel is crucial because if one element is not working to plan but other channels or targeting are, there may be a compromise to be had with creative, or your cost of acquisition target.
  • Customer feedback – a difficult one as this is very subjective.  Complaints about creative (over time) are most often driven by external changes in my experience.  There may be an emerging risk around climate change and sustainability for any advertising which does not reflect the current societal view/mood as I write this post.  In my experience customer feedback driving creative change is infrequent and rare in practice.

    This could of course be related to the answer you give to the question “Do you ask your target customers what they think?”  I have done this consistently in the past on only one of the brands I worked on, with a dual objective of looking at TCF ‘compliance’ (note small c) as well as being driven by a desire to demonstrate “outside in” thinking.  It was refreshing and drove change, but came at a cost of course.
  • In some cases creative change will be driven by a need to express the proposition differently, this is most common where either a product changes for the better internally or there is a market shift which necessitates a refresh of the positioning of the product or what element of the proposition you are highlighting.
  • I did say earlier I would ignore brand, but if there is a change in branding or brand standards then of course your direct creative will need to be sense checked.  If it jars in any way then you should invest in a refresh that can leverage your fresh new brand assets and/or design.

So, there are my five checkpoints for positive creative change, but it is worth looking at what drivers of creative change are (likely to be) inappropriate or at the very least less valid;

  1. Executive whim/new broom – usually a new ‘Head of’ or New CMO and often a symbolic act and usually not grounded in the metrics but based on their last brand.
  2. Silo’d working – where a solus asset stops working as expected and drives wholesale change. Your risk here is of being backed into a ‘consistency corner’.
  3. New Year new challenge – there is a temptation to make a change just because you think it’s time. That’s dangerous unless it is backed up by hard metrics that show a decline in effectiveness.
  4. Old creative. This could also be called ‘New Agency New Creative’. There are many reasons to change creative agency and many reasons to review creative that has been around for a while, but please, if you are going for the shiny new agency pitch creative, remember they will in all likelihood know less about you than you’d like (so make sure you immerse them in the business before changing the creative … in this instance pitching can be dreadfully misleading). If a creative is old but still hitting your effectiveness measures then save yourself the extra time, cost and effort of changing it.

As ever if you have any comments on my post I would love to hear them.

Paul Hemingway
27 January 2020

Image courtesy of @bamagal via https://unsplash.com/@bamagal

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Personalised Marketing

Marketing as a discipline thrives on buzzwords, how many times have you heard or seen ‘Content is King’? ‘Big Data’? or even ‘nano-influencer’ or ‘geofencing’?

One term though has been consistent for a number of years and remains the Holy Grail for many a Marketer: Personalisation.

The body of evidence is clear, the more personalised marketing is, the more responsive it is, be that driving sales, enquiries or some other form of conversion.

This post is not about how to personalise per se, maybe that will be a later post, but it is about providing inspiration as there is growing ubiquity for meaningful and engaging personalisation in very simple, straightforward ways, often using nudge theory or our natural bias to make the ‘point’.

Let’s look at some examples;

NIKE
Nike set the tone in 2014, a full 5 years ago now, but the benchmark it set has long lasting reach.  Nike are always a brand on the edge, one which concentrates on engaging its audience with quality marketing across the mix.

Their fitness app, and running monitoring / mapping have become a staple for Nike over the years but their use of personalisation in 2014 was ground breaking.  It ticked many a marketing box, but at its heart it is great creative execution harnessed to great data insight.

Simply, they crunched everyone’s training data from the year and created a personalised video, and then shared it with their users – easy and devastatingly simple. 

The personalisation aside – I liked the element of challenge added by Nike – a real life example of a well located ‘nudge’ and one where the context matches the theory neatly.

Have a look…

SPOTIFY
Spotify have been doing something similar and extended their idea in 2019 with some great engagement driven marketing that had two plays really … they created ‘my playlist for the year’ (see Nike inspiration) and then gave subscribers the opportunity to share their most listened to tracks and artists.

This is powerful and simple, and it was designed to enable everyone to share their own lists, and so support the bands and artists they love, the trick to success was making it very easy to download the visuals and then click to share.

This facilitated a broad engaging conversation between the artists and their fan base … and no doubt pushed streaming up at the same time.

Check out the detail here it is a great leveraging of the story bias … ignoring the cost of the subscription and crafting a story that you can share, and it plays a little, in the sharing element, to the confirmation bias we love as Marketers. This was noticeable to me as one of my top played artists in 2019 was Honeyblood, who shared lots of insta screen shots of people’s top 5s with them in it. This made me feel closer to the band and made me think I am listening to the ‘right’ band (they are great by the way, trust me).

M&S
The prompt for this post was the simple email shown below ..

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How good did this make me feel! Yep, pretty smug as you can imagine.
It ignores the actual cost of my spend but focuses down simply on the amount I saved using their 20% off vouchers (whenever they come through).

I feel £97.30 richer, so it’s worked. On another level the Sparks card needs greater relevancy, something M&S have been open about. This use of data and the improved ‘birthday bonus discount’ are steps in the right direction in my view.

McDONALDS
Perhaps the cutest personalisation I have seen for a while is from McDonalds. A simple app let you film your own living room and superimpose a reindeer – a lovely extension of the TV advertising running at the time featuring the carrot hungry reindeer. The idea being you can then share with your children as definitive proof Santa does exist!

This is a long term play; parents will think better of the brand and children will love it and, I would suggest, remember it as well.

As always please feel free to leave any comments on my post.

Paul Hemingway
20 January 2020

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Single Customer View post GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have led most companies to review not only their marketing consents and processes, but, based not least on the veritable explosion of requests in my email inbox just before, on and indeed after, May 25th 2018, to more fundamentally consider the state and value of data as an asset.

This is the real positive of the regulation in my opinion. I wonder if it may, in time, lead to a balance sheet thought around data equity in the same way as ‘Brand Equity’ was considered in the 90s as something that had a tangible and quantifiable GBP value.

The challenge facing marketers post GDPR strikes me as being initially straightforward, but time will tell if the impact of the changes makes this more complex.

In my view the single view of a customer (SCV) is becoming paramount in ensuring the valuable asset that is personal data, works for the benefit of the business concerned post GDPR, and does not adversely jar with customers. It is trying to create the dreaded ‘win win’ scenario in a landscape where the value paradigm has shifted significantly, and that is never an easy balance to strike.

In my view the twin and very simple benefits of a SCV of customers are:

the customer enjoys a consistent experience with the company concerned that they attach a value to, and
a ‘knowing’ personalisation level is possible and can be expressed in communication which the business can attach a value to (relating to relationship or sales and so on). The key word here for me is knowing.

The SCV should demonstrate the company knows the customer in a positive and unobtrusive manner. GDPR empowers the customer to manage their relationships more proactively and transparently. The value of an individual’s data to any company is more visible and obvious post regulation to the customer. For some the value of their data may be surprise, but the volume of email and white mail will have fuelled that understanding (or at least awareness) in a way that if not acknowledged is a risk for business success.

The emails, direct mail, calls and texts we have all received have created a long-term impact in changing the dynamic of the relationship, the paradigm shift is that SCV should now be read as Single Company View not single customer view: The dominant partner is now the more educated customer or prospect, one who will recognise on some level the value of their personal data.

To not recognise this shift is a high risk strategy for any data led business.  Customers are choosing to ‘freely’ interact with a company and this choice can be reversed easily and quickly if the company forgets the customer is dealing with a single company in that moment. If the SCV acronym we know and love as marketers is to stand, it must recognise the power shift to customers and be read as both single customer and single company view.

My thoughts on some post GDPR imperatives are below:

Seek to acknowledge the value of data
reassure the customer or prospect by dint of action, value offered and by not overusing the data. Thinking of the data as fragile and easily damaged is more likely to be a winning formula.

Make sure the personalisation is appropriate
a fine balance to strike and however good the marketing asset the best way to monitor this is likely to be opt out rates within the campaign decay curve and customer feedback. Thinking of the data as an asset to be retained for longer term value becomes more important, cherish it!

Make sure the personalisation has a test (and then test some more)
and use a control cell, this will give a quicker read on the level of personalisation that resonates and will protect the single view of the company by the customer (but make sure it is statistically significant).

Make the content rich and relevant and balance sales to service
Post GDPR service contacts can be an opportunity to drive marketing consent, but be careful, it is possible to damage consent levels if legitimate interest is abused for the sake of a quick sale. Remembering the customer may not have freely volunteered marketing consent for a reason …making the service contacts valuable may reverse that.

Remember the data has a value and that can be eroded
This mind-set change here is as important as thinking SCV is a single view of the company (in the moment) for the customer or prospect. Thinking of data like this should ensure the business considers its actions more deeply post GDPR and not lose long-term value by short termism.  Remember a chipped china cup might still function but it’s value is much less than the perfect version.

These thoughts are my own, and I would love to know yours, if you get chance send me a comment or two and thanks for reading.

Paul Hemingway
01 June 2018

Image courtesy of Pexels.com

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Disruption


Disruption is an often used term in marketing but it is rarely seen in reality.  For many, in the hurly burly of marketing communications, it remains talked about and revered, but not delivered.

When it is seen it is rarely from a ‘smaller’ brand, but where budgets are bigger and the Agency voice may be more compelling and passionate it does show itself more frequently.

Disruption as a technique for me has a number of elements to it, a good disruptive execution will combine these rather than rely on just one factor;

  • Breaking the norm … if the world is beige then paint your comms or idea bright red, make it stand out.
  • Intensity … make your creativity stand out through intensity or through a ‘laser’ focus on your target audience
  • A novel delivery … make the delivery stand out through exaggeration or media choice or even solely by design, make the audience curious to find out more about you or the offer you are making

The aim of such disruption, for me, is always only appropriate if you have an end game that is  driven by a desire for an increase or a reinforcement; disruption should not be an end in itself.

Increased sales and/or revenue are the obvious objectives of disruptive activity in marketing, but consider also increased curiosity and memorability as well as overall awareness.  These latter elements may be a precursor to the increases in financial returns which are your ultimate aim and can be used to reinforce the brand image or values which may be necessary in some cases.

If the offer itself, be it a product or a service, is truly innovative that may itself be disruptive enough. If, however, your task is to disrupt your audience through the communication then the process of disrupting may take more time as you establish the brand credibility through communications designed for memorability and cut through.

This reinforcement is required in my opinion to ‘mask’ the ‘me-tooness’ or ordinariness of the actual offer in many cases.  This is a strategy with a higher risk but the advertisement I saw recently, and which prompted this post, is really interesting and I think falls into this category.

It is interesting enough to drive me to post again, having been quiet for a long while on my blog.

The category:​  Car sales

The offer:  No different to any other car dealer, albeit I am sure they are a good company with a good offer

Disruptive comms? Hell yeah !

The ad is from Trade Centre UK, its disruption … silence !

TV Ad for Trade Centre UK

The silence is incredibly disturbing, the TV going quiet in an ad break is so unusual and the result initially, and repeatedly, is to watch TV while checking it’s not on mute.  The result being you watch the ad itself. The disruption is complete.

This is clever, low cost, disruption and my out-take … they have good prices.  Job done I expect.

Paul Hemingway

03 May 2018

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Paperless office reality

The paperless office was a phrase I first heard in anger when I was working at the Halifax in about 1989. Email was being rolled out to the great and the good in the business. Up to that point we were still issuing Memo’s and I fondly remember the Manilla reusable envelopes with a string and cardboard circle lock. The army of Internal Post workers did a great job of shifting paper around the business supporting the vast amount of memos generated.

The internal training confidently predicted the end of paper in short order. I instantly embraced this new cutting edge technology and found myself typing memos and then attaching them to these new-fangled emails so the recipients could print them out. I did the same when I received them. I think at that point I realised the sunny upland of the paperless office may take some time to achieve.

As you will know from my last post on this blog, I now work from home. This gave me a fresh opportunity to see if I could work in a way that removed or at least reduced the volume of paper I use to achieve my work outcomes. I came up with four very good reasons to do just that:

  • Space – selfishly, I did not want to add a second printer into my study and clutter things up – I like a clean organised workspace, and was trying to minimise the need for a filing cabinet and drawers
  • Cost reduction – if I could save the business some money by not having a printer and not supplying me with ink and paper etc that would have to be a good thing
  • Security – I am mindful that the security of work documents in my home, despite the alarm system, is less than a document held on our office IT filing systems
  • Collaboration – my team and I work remotely from each other and it’s quite hard to efficiently and effectively share pieces of paper: electronic files are much easier to ship around, update and share.

In the scheme of things I know that I am only making a small dent here, I still use my Filofax classic for notes, having tried Moleskine notepads and School Exercise books in recent years (actually very good and very cheap! and a reaction to everyone else using Moleskine books). So paper has not been completely eradicated. I’m also fond of a flip chart as my team know only too well.

I’m doing pretty well though. In the first 6 weeks of working at home I printed 6 pages of A3 paper on my weekly visit to Lichfield Head office. I am pretty proud of that.

I have found the experience liberating and it has given me a really good feeling, this is a good thing to do; for me, my business and the environment. For example I know that I used to print emails off and read them later, but that often included pages and pages of footers, and as much as I recycled this paper securely it was still using energy for the printing, costing the business money and was often stored in drawers until a convenient reading slot opened up … sadly the email had often been updated by then, so rendering it useless, or in need of a reprint. So all in all not a very environmentally friendly activity.

I have found the following invaluable in achieving and managing my own paperless environment:

  • My slightly larger than normal (24 inch screen) makes life a lot easier if reading long documents or in fact any document at my desk
  • Use the zoom sliders/facilities actively – it is so simple to increase the scale, and of course it retains the kerning on screen, it does help considerably
  • If reading web pages on your laptop or desktop why not save it as “Web Page, NAME” somewhere in your document folders (I created a folder called reading). You’ll get an HTML file and a folder full of images and other data contained within it don’t delete this. When you want to see the web page, just double-click on the HTML file and you should be able to see it just as it was when you saved it, whether you have a connection or not. Simples.
  • I make notes as I go to inform any response that is needed – I use a Sticky attached to my desktop (called scribble pad) or my Filofax. Tracking changes on a document is helpful too … just add your comments and save it down as your version in the correct folder will keep your thoughts front of mind even if you don’t need to send a tracked document back.
  • I have the advantage of a laptop… so I use it as such … I take it off the dock, sit down and read. That really helps me focus too, I wrote in my last post about the need to ‘change state’ and manage your mindset, this is another good example of how I find this can be achieved.

There are some traps to avoid however:

  1. There is a temptation to skim read and jump ahead, slow this down or you’ll miss things, I find I’m more prone to this on screen than with a hard copy for some reason
  2. There is no margin to scribble in so think how you want to make notes – I use tracking comments in the main at the moment for words and paper for calculations
  3. Think about when and where you want to read, you have to be a bit organized if you’re reading on a laptop… it’s bulkier than a sheet of A4
  4. Don’t be afraid to print, remember all the times you aren’t printing and for my ‘on a page A3 Marketing calendar’ it’s a must really
  5. Think about your filing – and then keep that folder clean, don’t replicate an over flowing filing cabinet – the IT team won’t thank you!

I would welcome any comments on your own ‘paper’ challenges, thank you for reading.

Paul
04 May 2017

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Top tips for working from home

I now work from home.  There I have said it. The last 6 weeks or so have been an interesting change in my working life because, after over 30 years of leaving home and going to work each morning, I now don’t, I work at home.

Change is good and I embrace it, knowing what the change is helps me accelerate through the change curve at a fair pace, it is unexpected change which takes me time to get used to.

This change though was planned, thought through and delivered in relatively short order, so that helped.  I did what most people would do when this became a real possibility I googled the subject.  More than once.

I also asked around and whilst I found some information this is inevitably a subject that is intensely personal and so it’s variable and in fact what I found was not very practically informed, a lot of theory in fact.

I haven’t posted on my blog in a while – apologies to avid readers – work and family have been all-consuming with new homes, new jobs and changes in my family too.  All positive but they occupy the mind and the body a little.

This is an ideal topic to share as it becomes an increasing reality for more workers in the UK.  In fact a year ago it was reported that 1.5m people work from home – a rise of 250,000 in a year.  I hope my tips below help anyone embarking on the same journey:

01.  I still commute to work

Ok, that sounds counter intuitive, but I do; my commute happens to be quite different though.  In some blogs I read it recommended this and I do find it works.  I choose to leave my house and go to the gym for an early morning workout.  If I can’t do that for any reason, I walk out of my house and down the lane to the fields near my house.  The reason? To change my mind-set and to recognise that for 30 odd years I have been doing a commute that in some way prepares me for a day’s work.  I would also recommend in the same vein making sure you dress for work, maybe lose the tie, but you are at work after all.

02.  Prepare your physical workspace

This is not quite as simple as it sounds.  My study at home is now my place of work.  My wife and I agreed not to refer to it as my ‘Office’ as this is a shared space.  We still have our own iMac etc on the desk next to me. This is where my wife and I edit photo’s use the web and so on.  Thus, I have to keep my ‘work’ element neat and tidy and organised and, crucially, separate.  It is important I follow the same clear desk policy at home as I did in the office.  This both helps security and keeps work life running smoothly alongside home life.  I did buy a larger desk and that has worked a treat in fact as I chose a bench style deliberately i.e. no drawers to fill to over flowing!

03.  Get the right equipment

This was out of my control to a certain extent, but I had great support from my company.  I used two screens in the office and have a powerful laptop but, and bearing in mind my tip above, I don’t have room for that at home, nor would I want to fill my home with work equipment.  The solution for me in my role, and thinking about using the design software we use, is a slightly larger screen and having a clear enough desk to use the laptop screen as an email view alongside it if I need to.  The use of a Bluetooth headset with our Skype for Business solution adds kit to my desk and uses another plug socket, so I use a simple USB headset now.  My team and I have also chosen to embrace a paperless strategy, more on that in my next post, so no printer – another reason the 24 inch screen has been a tremendous choice.  Collaboration software, to support team working, is next on my list to crack.

04.  Use the technology to its fullest extent

In the same vein challenge the status quo, see what can help you.  At the most simple level what I am trying to say is: treat remote working as an opportunity to use the best of what you have.  Try and use video rather than just audio calling and definitely try not to hide behind email.  That’s a very easy trap to fall into and if you are used to working at home every now and again it is often to complete a specific piece of work, meaning the phone may be turned off and email checked infrequently.  This is different, guard against being an email warrior!  When working at home you are likely to have many fewer interruptions so it’s easy to respond instantly to emails, but it will break your efficiency.  In fact it is one reason I like the single big screen and I’m not currently double screening my email, as I used to in the office, to help me manage this. I am looking at how I might use chat rooms in Skype or SharePoint to help collaboration.

05.  Move about a bit!

This has been important to my well-being, in the office I always tried to have face to face conversations, go and see people, rather than email them.  This is no longer an easy option, so I have had to adapt a little and take a five-minute break every now and again to get away from my screen and change my state.  However this has led to an interesting learning … see my next tip

06.  Don’t be paranoid, be organised

Big Brother is not watching you!  One of the helpful things about our software choice of ‘Skype for Business’ is that it shows your availability.  It also shows if you are ‘INACTIVE’! This is my equivalent of the ‘big red button’.  Finagle’s Law means every time I nip to the kitchen to make a coffee or go for a 5 minute break … I know my phone will ring, I know my boss will email me and he will see I’m inactive having checked my diary, he will think I am bunking off watching the TV.  Clearly none of these things is actually happening but I think it is.  This is a factor of working alone and in isolation and is a perfectly human reaction. My only advice is to recognise it, and try to manage it and, well … try not to be paranoid.  My team and I have talked about this in our weekly team meetings.  I will address managing a remote team in a future post, but in the meantime we have agreed a simple but effective solution; diary notes.

Ok it’s not that elegant but it does work.  I simply add to my diary what I am doing if I think it’s going to be helpful to others e.g. if I’m taking an early lunch to nip to the local shop I diarise it,  If I’m going to be writing a paper, I put it into my diary as an appointment, and I have an open diary.  See, I said it was simple.

07.  Don’t expect it to be easy to start with

Even if you have worked at home intermittently, don’t expect this to be the same, it is not, it requires a mind-set change just as much as a physical change.  It can be lonely undoubtedly and for a creative role like mine the lack of conversation / someone to bounce ideas about with is hard.  My advice is to simply be open and talk about how it feels not just with your boss but with colleagues, try not to bore them though!  My post on team working will look at this in more detail.

So those are my tips, I hope they help you or are at the very least of interest, you’ve got this far after all!

The obvious question you, my reader, may be left with is simply: am I enjoying it? Honestly, I’m not sure, I do know it’s harder than I thought and I am having to change how I work more basically than I expected, I need to set more short-term goals I find and work in short 30 minute bursts, but overall it’s been a good experience so far.

I am indebted to one of my colleagues who gave me some sage advice having been a home worker himself by the way, a reminder that in the words of the late Bob Hoskins “It’s good to talk”.

If you have a few moments please share your thoughts on my post.  Thanks.

Paul Hemingway
24 April 2017

PS here’s my space – see I told you it was neat!

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Brand development in California

On vacation in Cambria, California, last month I came across a lovely example of branding in action. One that I think so exemplifies certain areas of brand success and risk that it’s worth thinking about in some detail.

First of all some background:

Cambria is a lovely little seaside town in San Luis Osiba County in California, USA. It’s population is c6,000 but that is swelled somewhat during the summer season each year as surfers and ‘west coast road trippers’ use it as a stopping off point. It’s location next to William Randolph Hearst’s castle and Moonstone beach make it a great place to overnight.

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Branding means many things to Marketers it has categories such as sub-brands, brand extensions, product as brand and so on. It is however, most Marketers believe, much more than mere communications and messages. It is an end to end experience of a company or in some cases of a product. For an example of the latter, think product as brand like Hoover or Google.

Town ownership or control by a family is somewhat more common than you think. In the UK we have Bournville the West Midlands town created by Cadbury’s for its workers and Port Sunlight on Merseyside, created by Lever Brothers. In the USA it is most common in agricultural or industrial towns. Wilson in Arkansas is one example – owned for 125 years by the Wilson family and run for years by Boss Lee (I’d like to apologise to his family if you now have an image of Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard in your mind … I know I do). Interestingly it shares a common, strange, architectural preference for mock Tudor buildings with Cambria.

Oregon State University is in Corvallis, Oregon and has an enrolment that dwarves the population of Cambria at c27000+. It has a tradition grounded in agriculture and in developing sports stars – NBA, MLB and NFL especially. Significantly for this post it has extensive and significant levels of research funding.

Ok, so those four pieces of background information, seemingly disconnected are a simple set up to a story of The Linn family and Olallieberries in Cambria and their brand and the brand experience. I found it fascinating and I hope you do … It’s a tale of innovation, branding and marketing with lessons aplenty.

I am indebted to the Linn family for providing the following background to their story and how they have developed Cambria, their brand and their brand experience. I will summarise the story but you can find more information here.

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In the early 1970s John and Renee Linn determined that they wanted to be farmers. It took a lot of hard work and planning to create the reality In 1977. The intervening period involved buying a gas station, finding a plot of land in Cambria during a visit for a friend’s wedding and stretching their finances to the limit. Their 5 year plan was coming together.

Farming is a tricky business and despite all of their graft and commitment, by 1979 things were becoming a little ‘sketchy’ as Californians are wont to say.

The turning point was turning the farm into a ‘pick your own’ concern, both vegetables and soft fruits. It was the latter that kick started the dynasty they have now created. At this point you know why I talked about Cambria.

To the University of Oregon now; in 1949 the University, funded by the US Dept of Agriculture developed the Olallieberry They are a cross of a Loganberry and a Youngberry, in essence 2/3rd blackberry and 1/3rd raspberry. The Linn family farm specialised in this crop, it took an innovation and turned it into a commercial success for them. It was, and still is, a rarity, so the competitive advantage and brand experience is fairly unique. It provided them with brand differentiation and a USP.  Now you know why I talked about the University of Oregon.

The Linn family has a heavy presence in Cambria – it has a Olallieberry monopoly and four distinct businesses – a cafe, a homewares store, a restaurant, and a gourmet foods business as well as their farm and farm shop. So a little way off town ownership but they are on their way I would contend. Now you know why I drew your attention to family owned towns.

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So, to the brand lessons themselves.

BRAND DIFFERENTIATION AND UNIQUENESS

It is clear that the choice of Olallieberry gives the family a clear and almost unique advantage. The soft fruit is still rare and it lends itself to multiple uses as well as supporting the core PYO business. This will allow pricing advantage and the development of a cult following; gold dust in engagement terms.

BRAND EXTENSION

From the simple fruit comes jams, and other foodstuffs, the fruit pie is truly outstanding by the way,  I have first hand experience. The opportunity to build out into the deli and into gifts is natural and the restaurant is a clever way of offering Olallieberry gifts alongside fine dining. This increases the value engineering off a simple soft fruit crop. It also allows a degree of balance that smoothes the cropping season challenges (in income terms) across the year.

Interestingly I think the next category, whilst on the surface contradictory, is actually still supportive…

BRAND CONTRACTION

Simply, the law of branding contraction states that the greater the focus the brand becomes stronger. I would contend that in this instance the brand extensions reinforce the focus rather than take you down a riskier brand expansion route. The tightness of the extension and its roots mean the dominance gives a clear focus …

BRAND DOMINANCE

The brand dominates the town, it feeds off Cambria and Cambria feeds off it. The multiple family outlets, and the brand extension work to ensure the Linn family and the Olallieberry are synonymous with each other, interchangeable almost.

SACRED WORDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BRAND

Clearly Olallieberry is a sacred word for the Linn family brand and the abbreviations, the pies and jams continually reinforce this. I am a big fan of the Primal Branding approach, and that theory from Patrick Hanlon, fits this brand really well: there is a clear creation or heritage story, obvious sacred words and Icons ie the berry itself. The development of a creed is inherent in the family’s decision to embrace farming and is central to its creation story.  Finally there is a clear use of the berry as an icon and that is reinforced with offers to have your photo taken with a life-size ‘cuddly’ Olallieberry at one of the family venues. The pie itself is an icon to and trades on the law of publicity…

BRAND BIRTH THROUGH PUBLICITY

Brands that are borne of publicity and word of mouth last longer and are generally more successful – as well as being very cost-effective in revenue to advertising cost terms. The publicity courted by the family on TV and entering it for accolades was a wise move.  It has allowed a supportive tribal following and enabled the brand to extend further by selling branded goods through other stores in wider California. The Food Network TV channel has been a rich seam, well mined.

This has also given rise to third-party brand credentials that are very believable…

BRAND AUTHENTICITY

The whole operation is driven by authenticity and the family connection and heritage story play well alongside the publicity to make this a very authentic brand. The understated packaging and shop fittings as well as the restaurant decor suit the town of Cambria and are not too modern or over designed, so they fit well with the brand rather than jar. There is a feeling of homespun authenticity that works really well.

I hope you found this post interesting, the brand, the product, the experience itself is an interesting one due to its uniqueness of offer, its clear sacred words and icons and it is a brand that ticks many boxes that a good brand marketer would strive to achieve. I suspect that the Linn family know exactly what they are doing but may not have expressed it quite as I have here. I have mixed and matched brand theories from the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Primal Branding, the Philosophy of Branding, and others, and I have tried, like Plato, to look below the surface of this brand.

I’d like to leave you with these final three thoughts:

1.  If you are passing then explore Cambria and just check if the family ownership of the town has grown
2.  Try the Olallieberry- the pie is delicious, trust me
3.  Avoid the pre-starter in the Linn Family restaurant! I’m used to bread and butter before my starter but this was bread and jam !! A brand extension too far in my view !!

Paul
24 June 2015
PS try Mozzi’s saloon over the road from the Linn family restaurant for a truly great beer (the 805) served icy cold

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Ageing population response

There has been much written about the UKs ageing population.  I am indebted to the Royal Geographical Society for this link. Please check it out.

In short, it summaries the challenges we face as the number of over 65s grows in volume, and over indexes as a percentage of the population as the birth rate drops.

I will not recreate all of that story here, please click the above link, it is a simple 60 second read on the 21st Century challenge of an ageing population.  It explains it far better than I can.

So why post if I think someone has already written so well on the topic? Well, I have seen a response, and I like it !

That sounds very grand, especially given I saw this response about 5 minutes walk from my home in Norfolk, and trust me it is very simple …

The East of England Co-op have created this value add service for their shoppers…

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It is so simple in fact, I am going to leave it to you to read the poster, rather than explain it.

It is available in my local convenience store, which sort of makes sense … as an ageing population drives less, the convenience store market will undoubtedly grow.  The nice thing for me is that it is a response from a smaller business.  I have yet to see similar tests from the bIg supermarkets.

The whole business is less than 200 stores and whilst you would expect this sort of member focused activity from a Co-op it still really demonstrates that they know their customers – there is no point adding these in a city centre store with footfall with an average age of under 25!

I work for a smaller business and one thing that I have noticed is that I have a more detailed understanding of what makes our members tick, you feel closer, you don’t rely on the big omnibus surveys and full-blown presentations.  You are inherently closer to your customers, and, if you have support from your Exec to test and learn, as I do, and like East of England Co-op clearly do, then it makes sense to try new things.  This is a great response, I for one hope it works well for them.

Paul
10 June 2015

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