Monthly Archives: February 2013

Customer Segmentation at the sharp end

Customer segmentation can be immensely complex and involved.  It can, and should be, used to make sure customers receive great communications individually tailored (amongst many other things).

But …

… it can also be resolutely simple and yet still remain at the heart of brand communication.

I saw the opportunities and challenges this can bring first hand yesterday evening.

I do a ‘big shop’ once a month or so, I bet we all do something similar – It’s for the staples that last a while, washing powder, breakfast cereals (well in my case, Weetabix – the King of breakfast cereals!), household cleaners and toilet rolls etc. I did one on Friday evening.

I had selected my toilet rolls of choice and heard an argument alongside me.  It was quite animated and was all about segmentation.  At the end of the discussion the male party was abandoned by his female partner and was left looking a bit crestfallen.

Andrex have a very simple segmentation led marketing push at the moment;

“Are you a folder or a scruncher?”

Now to be fair my blog could descend into choppy waters here, but suffice to say the male was a ‘scruncher’ and the female a ‘folder’.  The argument appeared to be about whether the scrunching used more or less paper than the folding … but frankly that is beside the point.

How pleased would Andrex be to have heard this?  It demonstrates spot on segmentation and brand engagement all in one fell swoop.  So, inevitably, this morning, and with no small measure of nervousness, I logged onto their website and had a look.

I found some relatively engaging, but very well-integrated, marketing.  I do like the way the website makes the segmentation ‘light of touch’ and uses social media to evolve the ‘debate’.  That said, it’s not for everyone, and the TV ad is very poor in my view – and I have not actually seen it on TV. It runs a real risk of being seen as either funny or gross.  I think Andrex get the balance right on the packaging and website, but not on the ad.

Andrex web site screen shot

Andrex web site screen shot

Andrex web site

Ok, I accept it is a marketing campaign and not segmentation in a pure sense – but it seems to have a level of customer engagement and it’s a great leverage of what must have been a known internal customer insight.

I carried on my shopping, quietly amused, until I stumbled across the supermarket’s ready meal ranges.  Here I heard an altogether different reaction to the segmentation of meals – lets call them value, standard and posh for want of anything better.

The couple here were arguing about horse DNA and how the retailer had segmented them by use of these three price led options.

Now I know its topical, but herein lies a very real danger for retailers and brands I suspect.

The argument was, in my view, driven by a shifted perspective of the value range.  The vocalised assumption being that it is so cheap it must be, I quote, “ rubbish and full of horse and we are being exploited” – this is a cleaned up quote I hasten to add.

Then the conversation moved onto the risk I think has always been there with the ‘value’ lines, I quote again; “ If someone sees that in the trolley, they will think we are ok about eating horse because we can’t afford anything else”.

The trust in the value range has clearly gone for this couple.  They continued and I watched what they did next.  They bought the normal range, but put back an item, but they did compare prices across all three ranges.  I was left wondering if this was solely price driven.  The meal they did buy was chicken incidentally – bad news for chickens but good news for cows I guess!

I think there is a clearly heightened risk for retailers in the current value led segmentation of products, it will be interesting to see how this plays out as the testing results come in.  Although I think whatever they say, the market has shifted already.

So, an interesting 30 minutes in the supermarket that showed me how very simple segmentation can be engaging and fun and stimulate debate, but also how a similarly simple segmentation, again designed to meet valid insight, needs to change as customers perspectives and desires change.

Customers will, as ever, vote with their feet and pounds.  Personally I hope it provides a boost the High Street Butchers – there is a great one in the market town I live in, mind you he has lost his sense of humor over horse related jokes I noticed last weekend !  Maybe he should expand his range and sell loo rolls too!


PS – as an aside I did check the Food standards Agency website and was pleased to see that;

  • In 99% of cases tested (some 3,599) by 22 February no horse DNA was found at or above the level of 1%.  35 results representing 13 products contained Horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold.
  • No tests to date on samples containing horse DNA have found the veterinary medicine ‘Bute’ that everyone was worried about initially

Food Standards Agency Website : test results update

23 February ’13

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Stop Press: Late arriving Marketing Valentine or Part 2 of my top 10

Well its time for the second half of my Marketing related top 10 – the late Valentine card, the one stuck in the post that genuinely does have a postmark from the 13th. 

The first five flowed easily, but I have had to whittle down my list to create this second half of my mix tape and I’m wishing I was using a C-120 not a C-90 to be fair, anyway here goes, and the first two should be very obvious to readers of my blog:

WILKINSON – a brand that evolves and lives its values

I really like the Wilkinson brand – they do lots of things really well.  I like how they take unusual city centre spaces and make them usable e.g. Carlisle Indoor Market.  I like the space they put in stores.   I like the fact that they are a family firm.  I especially like that their vision is called “Delivering the Extraordinary” and is centered on delivering “Extraordinary everyday shopping in the heart of the community”.

They seem to me to live their values, one of which I especially like which is “Pull together” – how nicely phrased is that?  But more than that, you know I admire their marketing (especially their lorries) and I admire their embracing of their heritage … whilst modernising it;

wilko lorry allsorts

Check out the link below for the work Jupiter Creative are doing on a new concept store in Crawley.  Nice looking store and an interesting retail approach. And the name, well it’s what we all call them .. Wilko’s.  Nice work Jupiter ! This is yet another example of the resurgence of the brand heritage story in a way that works in today’s society.

Jupiter Creative website – news story on Wilko’s


norfolkline branding

I’m not entirely sure when I first saw this logo/brand.  In fact the colours are an unusual palette for me to like … But I do.

It’s simple and I have always liked it.  No rationale really and that is one thing that is great about being in Marketing, sometimes it just doesn’t matter why you like something.  I was driving home from Lichfield yesterday and saw one of their lorries on the A50; I smiled.


Right then the next three; these were tough to arrive at, and if I posted this tomorrow they may change… but here goes;


AMMO magazines

I am a direct marketer by nature as well as by profession I think, so, and as a consequence, I take a healthy interest in print and paper.  By the nature of the brands I have worked on it is rare for me to be able to use illustration in my work, so I satisfy my interest in that sphere in the art I collect and in what I read.  AMMO magazine is pure little bundle of pleasure that drops through my letter box every now and again.  It’s published every now and again alongside some special issues.  It’s a funny shape.  It contains some truly great work, and some I don’t like one little bit, but it’s always interesting and it is crafted with such care and attention, from the size and format to the paper stock used.   I love it.

It is all about showcasing new illustrators work : Check it out I dare you .. It only costs about £5 a copy !


David Mellor was a great designer.  He had a huge range that stretched from cutlery to traffic lights to street furniture to hacksaws.  I am a serious fan.

Interestingly I knew nothing about him until I moved to the Peak District.  He came from Sheffield and his son Corin now runs the business from the fabulous ‘Roundhouse Workshop’ in Hathersage.  Of all his designs I like two hugely:  The square post box .. It never really caught on, but you know how much I like squares … so I will move on to my personal cutlery : Its called Minimal and its simple stainless steel crafted with care and attention… even down to the hand labelled box with bespoke calligraphy.  I think it is simply gorgeous.

Minimal Cutlery by David mellor

Minimal Cutlery by David Mellor

The small design museum is well worth a visit, the shop is great, and the food in the small restaurant is always lovely and often unusual.

David Mellor Design website


I realised I had no ads in my top 10 and this came to mind straight away.  I will do a  top ten of ads in the future I think, but I loved this idea.  The oyster card when launched was indeed a thing of the future and this tie up was very forward thinking as well.  The ad sums it up neatly, and when I saw it … I immediately went home and played Animals by Pink Floyd… the power of advertising!

barclaycard oyster

So there you have it ten simple things that make me happy .. Please add a comment or two and let me know what you think

17 February ’13

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My Marketing Valentines

Given the date I think its time I shared a few of my design and marketing loves on my blog.  Valentines day is a suitable day to celebrate some of the loves of my creative mind …  you, the reader, may well feel you know me a little better if you have read a few of my blogs, so I’d be interested if any of my selections surprise you.


It does feel like a few words of explanation are needed before I get into my top ten;

  • It’s not a straightforward top ten, it is more like a 21st century version of a mix tape
  • It mixes brands, type, design and more, but all are creative related and I have a genuine love of all of them
  • These are my top ten .. In any order you like, split across two blogs to keep you guessing (ok and keep it short and readable as well !)

Right, now that’s out-of-the-way, here we go with Pt 1 – my first 5…


Ilford logotype

Ilford logotype

I adore the beautiful simplicity of this logo, its simply always stayed the same.  The font is Futura Extra Bold I think.  Its been consistent for years and has lovely clean lines … always black, usually on crisp white, which given the company focus on B&W film is entirely appropriate.  It just sums up my early photography experiences.  I love it.  Always have.  Always will.

TRANSPORT MEDIUM FONT (as used on UK road signs)

Transport font

Transport font

This is one of those familiar types that is now so common that it almost passes you by, if you will forgive the pun.  It is wonderfully clear, so very legible, and works with a  variety of backgrounds.  It is so startlingly easy to read that I can absolutely understand why it is used and why it has endured so long.  Kinneir and Calvert the designers made the font to enable readership of the words/names to be completed quickly.  The fact that it is so attractive is a happy by-product for us all.  Motorway signage in “Motorway” font by the same designers is only slightly less lovely in my view.

Wikipedia entry on Transport typeface


What I love about Leica is the unashamed confidence in its own design aesthetic and principles.  The cameras are fabulous to use, I own quite a few in my collection.  My favourites are the pre and postwar Leica rangefinders.  They epitomise solidity, luxury and function, all in a quite wonderfully proportioned body.  They have always been a luxury camera, they have always been resolutely faithful to their design beliefs and considered by some to be constrained by their design and resolve to stay close to their heritage.

1955 Leica IIIF red dial

1955 Leica IIIF red dial

They have made great SLR cameras as well … but just look at a Leica IIIF red dial, or IIIG or M6 or the latest digital Leica.  Stunning looking designs that also perform to the highest standards and do so whilst looking genuinely tactile and absolutely beautiful.  Leica as a brand to camera enthusiasts comes very close to the cult status Apple enjoys today.  Which brings me to …

APPLE specifically my iMac (but equally my iPhone, MacBook and iPad) BRAND

My iMac looks beautiful, it is solid, confident and with a lightness in design that makes me forget the aluminum case is so heavy – I found out just how heavy when taking it to my local Apple store for a replacement hard drive recently.  Leaving my iMac was hard .. I had to plan the visit and time it properly … and yes, I do know this makes me sound sad, I do have a life honest.

A quote from Simon Sinek in his book “Start with the Why” sums it up nicely for me:

“Their products unto themselves, are not the reason Apple is perceived as superior; their products, WHAT Apple makes, serve as the tangible proof of what they believe. It is that clear correlation between WHAT they do and WHY they do it that makes Apple stand out.  This is the reason we perceive Apple as authentic. Everything they do serves to demonstrate their WHY, to challenge the status quo.”

Simon Sinek on TED Talks

A long quote I know .. But I like it.  I’m typing this on my iMac on Apple software and that makes me happy.  On reflection, another reason it makes me smile is because I estimate I know only a good third of what my iMac is capable of and that’s after a good few years use.

ECM (record label) DESIGN and BRAND

ECM website – company history pages

This is a close as I get to cool I am afraid.  ECM was founded in 1969 by Manfred Eicher.  ECM stands for Edition of Contemporary Music and as a music label it does just that.  I came across it through my love of contemporary Jazz, and Tomasz Stanko in particular, at the CCA in Glasgow in the late ‘90s.  I bought the CD, Suspended night, and was blown away by the album and the design principles the label follows.  The website is clean, minimal and packed with concise, clear information – just like the CDs themselves and in some cases the music too.

The cover art is stunning in its simplicity and appropriateness to the music is prefaces.  The fact that the label hosts Steve Reich (a new love following an introduction by a friend) and Manu Katche, EST, Tomasz Stanko etc (some of my favourite jazz artists) is a happy coincidence, even if they stopped recording those artists I would still love this serious, adventurous and ‘cool’ brand.

TS simple album cover


Well, that’s Pt1 completed … let me know what you think so far please, Pt 2 to follow in due course .. oh and Happy Valentines day !


14 February 2013


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Brutalism, Boxy Charts and B Block

I was thinking about design this week having come across a photograph of one of my old schools.  What struck me was how much I liked the building, and how consistent it was with the buildings I love now.  In turn that led me to think about whether nurture has a greater influence on my design preferences than nature.

B Block at John Port School

B Block at John Port School

B Block, as it was known, at John Port School, seemed a lot bigger in my mind than shown here in the distance, across the school pond, but the most striking thing to me is the similarity to the CIS Tower on Miller Street in Manchester where I work now.  Both have tower structures and a plinth extending the ground floor footprint.

CIS tower showing plinth

I have blogged on here before about how much I love the CIS Tower as a building, but by far and away my favourite building is the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich. It is simply, to me, the perfect example of Brutalist architecture.  A stunning symbol of modernism rising from the green campus like a cruise ship coming in to harbour.  It’s a great big 3D boxy chart of a building. I have taken a lot of photo’s of it – some may argue too many !

UEA July 2011

The Architect Denys Lasdun constructed his ziggurat walkways and terraces with thought and the campus and buildings of 1964 still seem fresh and relevant today.  The concrete is suffering a little, but its weather-beaten patina just adds something extra to me.  I have a painting of it in my living room. I have restricted myself to a couple of pictures here, or concrete may take over completely !

UEA detail July 2011

So if my love of the CIS Tower comes possibly from going to B Block everyday for a few years, maybe my love of boxy charts and the UEA is born of something in my childhood as well.

Kodachrome 64 may be the answer.  My Dad loved photography; he was very good at it too.  I remember from being very young that slides were his preference and family slide shows became annual events – wedding fashions usually getting the most laughs at the Christmas slide show with my dad as head projectionist.  He only ever used Kodachrome when he could get hold of it – he was very brand loyal.


Slides, especially in the quantity my Dad took, are a nice boxy shape and if you file them, as he did, and as I do, (yes I still use slide film!) then they look like this (… for those brought up in a digital age);

slides filed

Nicely structured I think you will agree.  Slides, slide shows and the catalogued boxes were a constant in my childhood.   The grey magazines he, and now I, keep slides in, remind me of the CIS Tower even now.  They also satisfy my, nature driven, desire for rigour in filing, but don’t tell anyone.

agfa slide mag

If I go back even further Lego played a major part in my younger life … ok I am going back a fair way I admit that, but in those days I used base plate to build on – Lego was the same, but simpler in the early 1960’s:

lego board

You see the similarities I am sure.

This is not an overly scientific assessment, but I enjoyed revisiting some nice memories as I wrote it.  I’m not sure if my love of Brutalism, boxy charts and concrete is born of nature or nurture, but I am leaning to the view that nurture played a big part now I come to think about the influences in my childhood. Right, now I’m off to see when I can go visit the UEA again …..

10 February ‘13

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Online customer reviews in 35mm perspective


I went to see a brilliant musical show in London on Friday night at the Pleasance in Islington.  Its called 35mm and I really enjoyed it.  More of the show later, but I learned an unexpected lesson from two of the stars of the show – Niall and Rosie – I learned the true impact of a review and I got, first hand, a good insight into how a singer thinks about customer service.

Reviews are a phenomena that has really grown in the last few years, and it is an activity that shows no sign of diminishing in volume or impact.  Only the other day I was reminded by Amazon that I had not yet reviewed a Jazz album I had recently purchased …Amazon are just one retailer that recognises the importance of these reviews.  Think about your research when booking hotels … I imagine, like me, you check out the reviews first !

Lets look at some stats:

  • The marketing research website Emarketer reports that in the US 3 out of 4 people (Sept 2012) buying an electronics product read reviews as a key part of their research prior to decision making.  There is some interesting divergence of views when it comes to professional reviews … more of that later …  but that is a massive percentage.
  • Why should Amazon encourage me to place reviews … well there is plenty of evidence that this increases uptake.  In September 2011 Bazaarvoice were reporting that order values of people who have read reviews of their intended purchase have a 6% higher average order value (Sept 2011) and at the same time customer satisfaction is reported to be higher with the purchase – plus 11% according to eMarketer.
  • The killer stat for me though is that the 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey shows a positive shift in the trust and appreciation of on ine reviews … 72% of consumers said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

So it seems fairly clear .. If you read a good review, you are more likely to visit or buy, and you will be likely to get a higher level of satisfaction.

To the show then… I loved it, it was unusual in construct and it featured some great songs and some excellent performances from two of its young stars, Niall Rooney and Rosie Ward.  It has been a success off Broadway and Ryan Scott Oliver who wrote the musical has set his songs and music to a series of 15 Photographs.  I really enjoyed the show it balances some tender songs – especially Seraph – with some amusing and fun songs and some really emotional ‘belters’.  All backed up by a seriously funky band (which reminded me of George Clinton at the end and which I am now streaming as I write).

The conversation with Rosie and Niall after the show though was very insightful.  They were both concerned primarily about customer service  “..did you enjoy the show?” this is clearly one thing that drives them as performers; ensuring that their paying audience have enjoyed the show and had a great night.  That focus is brilliant, it must be very exposing to perform so close to your customers … you really can see the whites of their eyes from the stage I imagine.

The second thing that concerns them is their reviews.  This is both personal and practical.  The personal desire of all of us to satisfy our ego, to be reassured we are good at what we do, but they very directly recognise the impact of critical reviews of their work on ticket sales and the length of the run they will have in the theatre.  Its an independent affirmation of their talent and in the success of the production.

They both had a real focus on it, they are self critical anyway (neither need worry in my opinion) but the direct nature of what they do and the history and tradition of theatre reviews give them a focus that as a Marketer I find really interesting.

Retailers like Amazon clearly understand, but I’d argue that the producers of the service or product, should perhaps start thinking about how their review scores are built into 21st Century KPIs and marketing dashboards, that may be a bit radical … but the stats I referenced earlier seem to support a need to consider how they are used to better positive effect by Marketers.  Theatre critics are professionals and the research by eMarketer suggests they carry less weight than consumer reviews (not in theatre reviews I suspect however) and I think if Marketers can find a way of exploiting this consumer trend better it could give their brands a powerful low cost credible boost.

Go see the show if you are in London, I hope you will enjoy it as much as my friends and I did.


3 February 2013

Useful links:

Theatre Link – the Pleasance, Islington

Niall Rooney

Rosie Ward

Emarketer website

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